Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Enough of all this blogging, I'm not...

...writing another blog until next year. That's it. I'm holding firm. No more blogs. No not gonna do it. Can't make me. I'll be back in 2010, but not before!

An interesting thing happened today. I logged into facebook and found out my nephew (my darling loving nephew who I love dearly) is engaged. Nope, he didn't call anyone. Just posted it on facebook. I'm wondering if the invitations will be through facebook as well. If you want to attend the wedding, just friend him I guess. These times, they are a changing. Sometimes I'm feeling quite old.

This week has been about getting rid of clutter. Clutter I have alot of. Yesterday took EIGHT large boxes to good will. I know that I could find homes for most of this stuff, but I just need to remove it from the house.

Found a few old photos while cleaning. Many memories in this pile of stuff. Some make me smile, some make me sad, some I'm like, "why'd I keep this?" But all of it is good. Been in this house 10 years now and have moved one persons stuff in and collected a few other peoples stuff and just accumulated alot of my stuff. I'm into clean lately so the clutter must go.

The hardest part is that I have made a mess in trying to get the place clean and I have a bunch of people coming over to celebrate Christmas on new years. It is time to stop the organizing and just get the place clean. Oh well. I knew this vacation couldn't go on forever.

Fin's contacts are looking good again. This weekend will be a good test. Next week it is back to regular classes. Can't wait.

Happy Holidays to everyone. I'll be writing more in the new year and send you best wishes for a safe and celebratory new year!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

today my pups learn patience while I clean my office...

I haven't really cleaned my office in a few years. My office is not only the place I work from, but also the place we toss things when we are cleaning the living areas for unexpected guests...or expected but house cleaning procrastinated.

I'll admit, I don't get rid of things like I should. I just found an entire box of mail from 2001!

Oh well. I am working hard at filling up all of my recycling boxes. I can see that this is not a one day type of job. Decisions about what to keep are difficult and I am leaning heavily on the "we don't need it" scale of decision making.

Hopefully when I am completed, my office will feel new and wonderful, I'll be able to see the floor, and the dogs will have plenty of space to lay their sorry little heads.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The day we woke up and still had christmas shopping to do.

We had a nice quiet Christmas. Really nice. Mom and sis Peg came down for dinner and to trim the tree on Thurs. Ginger beef, a big salad, and rice...yum! Breakfast the next morning, hit the gym, then off to see Avatar (first for mom and sis, second time for me). Home again, sent them on their way, and a nice relaxing evening summed up our Christmas. Next Friday, we have the big Christmas celebration with the entire family coming down. Presents will be opened then.

Today is the first day of Kels vacation so we took a hike. Last hike with Kel at Harvey Bear I was charged by a cow. I have been to Harvey bear since that time, but I will say, I have developed somewhat of a fear of the cows now since my friend was chased by a cow last Wed.

The hike started out GREAT. No cow sign. Just sheltie plumes.

Getting the kinks out of the old bones and burning calories. My kind of fun.


Lots of gates keeping the cows confined. Still no sign of any cows and I was beginning to think that we chose our hike well.
I love a clear day. In the distance we can see the pointy hill and our house is at the base of that hill.

About 3 miles into the hike we are on the loop taking us back to the main trail to go home and what do we see in the road. Pretty much the biggest cow I ever saw in my entire life. He is sitting in an area of the trail that has a huge gully to the right so very difficult to get by.
Well turns out it is a bull not a cow and all around it are cows with babies. I'm like, turn around Kel we have to walk back. It's ok. It is a nice walk with no cows. He is like let's just go forward.
Turns out the big bull wasn't a problem. I had Kel go first (good thinking on my part) and as Kel approached the monster (I made him carry Fin), the big guy got up and took a couple steps. Not quite off the trail, but at least we could get by. However, one of his cows wasn't so nice. As we approached the big guy, she comes trotting down the hill mooing at us. I got so scared, I pick up Tazz and started to run. Kel was just walking by the bull I think just amazed at how big he was and I'm like, "Run Kel, Run!!! She's coming for us!" We jogged about 100 feet and I passed Kel (not easy jogging while carrying Tazz) and Kel stops to look back and says the all clear. We had a few more cow encounters on the way back to the main trail, but no more scary run ins.
They are some scary girl cows for sure.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yee Gads! The days are flying

This year my family is coming down for Christmas on New years. It will be alot of fun as everyone gets to come. Pot luck, Presents, then they'll be on their way. This means we'll celebrate christmas TWICE in 2010. What a happy year it will be.

On Christmas day, my mom and sister are coming down and we'll have a nice dinner. Thurs it is breakfast then a movie. I'm voting to go see Avatar again. We'll see if I win.

In the meantime, Fin's contacts are broken. Broken as broken can be. She thinks her contact is to go as fast as she can (this is a good thing), come off the bottom and lay down....not what I'd expect, but it is what she thinks.

So we are back to basics. My good buddy from the east coast sent me a video of her practicing contacts in the SNOW!!! she had to shovel snow in a path so her dog could find the dog walk. She had to shovel snow so she could run. Her video demonstrates that there is NO excuse. We can get out and have fun with our pups. I don't have to shovel snow, so my contact practice is going to be good!

Work outs have been tough. David is showing me that I can do all kinds of things I didn't think I could do. Skip sideways on the treadmill (mildly dangerous, but he is a skilled professional so I do what he tells me), push ups (yucky, I HATE push ups), suicides (OMG could we make it any more painful...I don't think so), lifting 200 pounds (Oh yeah!), multiple variations of sit ups (ok, I know I've got some ripped abs under my belly fat!), and other painful exercises of his own making.

Trick videos are coming. Just haven't had time to play with the camera.

Interview with Ashley Deacon

You MUST read this interview with Ashley Deacon.

Laura from team small dog spent some time with Ashley and his cool canine crew.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Merry Christmas...

Today is Dec. 21. From this day forward, the days get longer. I can't wait!
Today was also picture day. We did get a tree up, but only have two ornaments. The lights are blue and white.
We may lack ornaments, but we got loads of presents.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The New Tricks Club

The Boyz may have poker, but us girls, we know about tricks.
One of my friends came up with an idea. Let's have a Trick night. So we convened our first trick night. At first we didn't know what to do so I made some soup and we sat around sipping our soup and making a plan.
We decided to pick a trick and all of us work on it. The trick we choose was put your paw over your muzzle. We came up with the idea of putting tape on the dogs nose and click for the paw swiping the muzzle. I had my doubts that this would work, but OMG did it work.

For each dog tape location played a role in success. Some dogs needed it on their ear, some on their muzzle, some on the forehead. Here is Fin modeling the latest in trick making tape.

What we did was click for the foot movement and as we fed grabbed the tape off the dog so we could capture the behavior without the tape. Each of us had two sessions with each of our dogs. All of us got the beginnings of the behavior. What surprised me the most is how little impact the tape actually had. I was convinced that Fin would hate the tape. She was extremely tollerent and had no problem of me putting tape on or taking it off.
Then we decided to change it up and give the dogs something to interact with. The idea was to have the dogs step in a bowl. Some of us had worked on this before so we had a variety of levels working. All of us progressed.
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Paw over muzzle trick.
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More Paws over muzzle.

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Putting four paws in a bowl.

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All in all a fun winter activity.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Shaping Tricks

We are working tricks for the holiday season. First up, I'm working on a left turn. I have a right turn and what you might notice in the videos is that one of the first behaviors she offers me is the right turn. I had shaped that about a month ago, put a cue on it and do not reward it unless I cue it. However, since it is one of the last things we worked on, she still offers it.

I wanted a strong right before starting the left.

In this first session, you can see how amazing this stuff is. Even though I have terrible timing, my food delivery is somewhat chaotic, she still is excited to work and eventually figures out what I want!

When she gets frustrated you can hear her growly voice. In the beginning I do my talking with the clicker. When she starts offering the behavior over and over, I also reward with my voice (last video).
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Often I get frustrated in shaping behaviors when I haven't thought out what I'm going to do. For example I really want to work on more tricks, but Fin needs them broken down. She will not continue to offer if I am not clear on what I want. She will bark, lie down, back up, lie down, and bark some more. I believe what I need is more of a written plan. This is why I'm working on right turn right now. It is a relatively easy one for her to do as she naturally has these moving behaviors.

Each of the sessions today lasted between 1-3 minutes. In between the sessions, we played tug and retrieve for 2-5 minutes. I went into these sessions with a plan to break down the turn into just a look, then a turn of the shoulder, with feet movement, then more turn, then finally all the way around.

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We did get there after 3 session today. No cue yet, I think I'll work this a few more times and in multiple places before adding a cue. After adding the cue "right" then I'll start to ask for multiple behaviors so that she learns the difference between them.

This last video, I get a little too enthusiastic. I generally like to keep quiet during shaping sessions, but I couldn't help myself. I was so excited that we got "behavior" in 3 sessions today that I was "good girly" a little too much.

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Other things that I am working on right now are retrieve, backup, situp, and my recall.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Screeeeeming Monkeeeee's

The Screeeeming Monkeeees made their debut this past weekend. Our lead singer Gustavo rocked the stage with his moves. He had high notes and low notes but throughout it all entertained the crowd. Millie our tambourine player kept the beat and was our steady eddie, with her "Hello Kitty" accessories, she was absolutely fabulous. Fast paws Fin rocked the keyboards, but in her enthusiasm missed a few notes. All in all, the musak was entertaining, but the critics are saying the Monkeeees aren't ready for prime time just quite yet.
Our motto "the most E's in Agiliteeee" was true. I've often heard from people, if you don't come in first place in DAM, last place is the place to be. True to our name, we screamed into last place.

If they gave "Q's" for cuteness, our pups would have come in first. If they gave "Q's" for team support, our team would have been up there. Unfortunately, they give "Q's" for correct completion of the course and the screeming monkeee's just didn't get the job done. We are not disheartened and will be working on the band songs, tuning up the instruments, and heading on the road again soon!
Here is one of the stars of the show, "Otterpop," doing tricks at the start line. She was a superstar this weekend and is loved by her owner Laura of Team Small Dog.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Year is Almost Up

We've had a world wind of agility extravaganza these past few weeks all culminating in a USDAA tournament weekend. Tazz will be running on Sunday, but his team mate is hurt so he is sitting out Saturday. Fin is running with the Screeeming Monkeees (aka team small dog and Millie the sweetest dog in the world) on Sat. It is bound to be a fun exciting day - will we qualify? who knows and who cares...we are all about the fun! Sunday are a couple games classes and Steeplechase and GP. We are hoping for some Q's Sunday, but for us we want to run to the best of our ability and grow as a team.

This is it till January. We feel we've done real well this 1st year of Fins career. We've started in Masters in USDAA and in Excellent standard and open JWW in AKC. Haven't competed in any other venue and have not done a ton of shows. Baby steps.

Areas I want to improve:
  • Run faster - take off the weight and add more sprinting to my workouts
  • Decision making when walking a course - I am still making mistakes when I plan my courses. I want to get better at following a specific system. It is ok to experiment, but not ok to think I'm doing something right but end up screwing it up.
  • Excel at distance work - still not really doing well here and I need more practice.
  • Independent obstacles - I should be able to be anywhere and my dogs should finish the weaves and contact correctly.
  • More tricks - as an added bonus and relationship bonding experience

If I can improve in these 5 areas, next year I should have my ADCH and MACH. Each month I'll outline what I'm doing and plan to put in place measurements to demonstrate improvement.

New Coat for a Hair Challenged Sheltie

Fin's new coat arrived in the mail yesterday. It is a Zen Tek. It is supposed to be an all purpose, heat, cold, water resistant, do it all, coat. I met Janice Kajanoff at the USDAA Nationals for the second time. I had seen her at an AKC even prior to that, but didn't have my visa card with me. She is a really nice lady and knows her business. She will work hard to fit your dog into the correct coat...she is not a one size fits all kind of business woman.
I'm not really a huge proponent of coats for dogs. Tazz doesn't really need one. He has enough hair for two shelties. Fin on the other hand is quite thin and she just doesn't have that "famous" sheltie undercoat. I am not complaining. I LOVE her easy to keep wisps, but I notice that she has been getting a little chilly at some shows. I worry about keeping her warmed up for the agility runs.

I had been looking at alot of coats and I wanted one that was really easy to take off and put on. One that did not inhibit front end movement. One that would grow with her if she put on any weight. Something not too heavy, but still made of material that would last.
The new coat is all that and purple too! Fin seems to like it (she is sleeping with it on right now), or rather I should say she is unfazed by it. Doesn't seem to notice that she has a coat on. This coat is extremely easy to put on and take off. Janice custom fit it when we were at the USDAA nationals and put an opening so that I could use it with her harness. If you are looking for a long term coat solution, I recommend this coat. So far, so good.

These coats are on the higher end side of dog coats, but for Fin I think this is well worth it.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Runs From the Weekend

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A nice clean fast run. As I watch it, I see so many areas of improvement.

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The jumpers run from Sunday. One refusal as I rear crossed too early and pulled her off, but the rest was nice. Need to pick it up at the end so she doesn't turn and watch me.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Marco Mouwen Masters Handling workshop

In celebration of Marco Mauwen coming to us from Switzerland, it snowed here in the bay area. We were lucky and Java Dogs had an alternative place for us to train. We were able to train at the super spectacular indoor facility. It was COLD outside and nice and warm inside.
Marco is all about the dogs line. He wants you to think about where the dog is going after the jump and set up the line so if the dog is turning that you "shape" the turn using a "pre-cue" so that the dog decelerates prior to the jump turn on the jump and then takes off to the next line. We did alot of stuff with our arms that I've never done before and I must say that Fin did start to turn tighter and tighter. A very interesting day.

Fin paid attention as Marco spoke. She pretty much hung out in her green chair if she wasn't running. By the afternoon she was actually taking naps...first time I've seen her so tired that she needed naps between runs at a seminar. I felt that Marco did a GREAT job of having a plan and keeping the seminar moving. We took a few breaks and rebuilt courses a couple times, but the day flew by with alot of practice. I had a great time and the concepts were really interesting.
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Here is a sample of one of the exercises that we did with the pre-cueing. You can see that the second time Fin was turning tighter (although I think any system I used would have gotten a tighter turn at that point, it is fun to see. It goes against everything that I have learned to pre-cue and blind cross, but I thought it would be interesting to try it out for one day. I am most proud that I didn't fall down once during this seminar even though he had me running backwards, grapevining, using arms that I never use, and blindcrossing after tunnels! When I wasn't struck by lightening after the first blind cross, I was amazed.

On the way home, I found the light poles decorated with pigeons. Very festive. I wonder whether the pigeon that got the center of the pole was a special pigeon.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Tricks are Facinating...

Went to tricks seminar last night (auditor) and watched some fun stuff.

Silvia uses shaping and some lure, but mostly shaping. She is all about small steps. We were introduced to all kinds of fun stuff:
  • grabbing a pole, soda can, stuffed toy and holding it
  • walk backwards up a wall and do hand stands
  • penguin walk
  • sit up and wave both paws
  • go from sit up to stand up and back to sit up
  • back up through your legs
  • jump into your arms
  • leap off your body
  • shake your head

She is working on teaching her dogs to clean her house! Can't wait for that video.

All of these are done using shaping. Her little dog La is SOOOOO fast and trys about a billion different behaviors before I can identify one. Silvias timing is incredibly good. I took the clicker for my friend and was supposed to click when "SpaceMonkey" lifted her rear paw. She would lift her paw and I would instantly click and I still found my clicking was on the foot going down. I found I had to almost "predict" when I thought she would lift her foot and then my click would happen correctly. Really fun stuff.

No pictures...just too dark for my puny little camera. But look forward to fun tricks video. I'm inspired.

This week I have watched absolutely no TV. No time. I was busy every evening. I didn't miss the TV, but I did miss my sleep. Looking forward to some rest this weekend...oh wait, I'm headed out for another agility trial!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The team learns some new tricks...

Kipper relaxes while the intros are done. He is not worried, he's a superstar and can sleep during the instructions.
The team is fortunate to be able to attend seminars with some really cool, knowledgeable, and interesting folks. Last night we attended day one of the tricks seminar. I was amazed at how many tricks and how far some individuals were able to get on their tricks in only 2.5 hours. As it was after my usual bedtime, I found the dogs had more energy than me, but I'm glad I went and will attend day 2 on Thurs.
As we head into Winter and the world of agility slows down a little due to weather and holiday festivities, this is a great time to work on some tricks. I believe what Silvia says, "tricks build a bond" and I'm going to work on some tricks over the vacation.
The first trick sorta resembles a pole dance.

Techniques for teaching were different, but the idea is to grab the pole and hold it. Some had their dogs standing on two feet, and some just had the dogs grabbing the pole with the pole at an angle.

Yep, definitely pole dancing for dogs.
Next trick was the penguin walk. Starts with a sit up and legs extending and flapping. After a while the flapping gets crazy and the lower legs start to wiggle. The the dog starts to walk. Another variation is to have the dog stand up from the sit up and then sit back down...EXCELLENT strength training and very hard to do.

This is Silvia's dog La doing the penguin.

And demonstrating the handstand.
All of the tricks demonstrated can be found on her website, click here. She has tons of video demonstrations.

Christmas challenge: Teach your dog a new trick or more and send me a YouTube link and I'll post all the holiday tricks we are teaching our dogs.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A beautiful fall day and a tricky Trkman tonight

Another beautiful fall afternoon at the teams secret hideout. Ok, maybe it isn't too much of a secret, but we like it anyway.

The leaves are falling and darn it, we can't help but get out there and play in those leaves. No raking for this family, we LOVE the leaves.

We all get into the whole leaf experience. Perhaps not as pretty as the east coast and other parts of the country, but we love our leaves.

Rocky would rather have balls fall from the sky than leaves. But whatever. The leaves are pretty and crunch when you walk on them.

Some like the leaves more than others. Maddie is looking for the last of the pears that have fallen from the sky recently. Fortunately for her diet, there are fewer pears in December.

Fin loves the leaves. She likes the crunching and swishing sound they make when she runs. She also is now attacking the leaves as we walk. Notice the pictures of Fin are her NOT standing still. Hmmm....
video

Tonight we are headed out for an evening seminar by that trickster Silvia Trkman. We'll see what tricks she has up her sleeve and try to come home to practice over the next couple days. Since I also need to fix my weaves AND my contacts, it is a busy week for training.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Team Visits with Silvia Trkman!


Edited: Thanks to Laura from team small dog we got a picture!!! She posted a bunch on facebook.

Someone forgot to check the batteries in the camera so no pictures of Silvia. However, I know of a few other bloggers out there that were taking pictures and if you visit them (team small dog, Taj Mutthall) you may see a few photos of the event.

She set up some really tough sequences. One of the first things she said was, "if these aren't tough enough, I can make them harder." Since I was at that point trying to figure out how in the heck Fin and I were going to make it through, I did not think it needed to be tougher.

If the goal was to show your weakness so that she would be able to help out, I achieved my goal. Fin had no contacts, couldn't finish her weaves unless I was right there and I was late, late, late, and even later. Oh vey!

Basically what she did was evaluate the path you chose to run your dog and show you a better path (this usually involved the handler being somewhere they weren't the first time). Every person improved their line due to her advice. Even top handlers that were there benefited from her eye.

I didn't think her advice was totally new. What was new was the way she set up the course to challenge us. Weave entries were really troublesome and exits weren't much better.

For me, basically the advice was to:


  • Move smoothly (I tend to run fast and stop). My motion was pulling Fin out of weaves and she wanted me to move quickly but more consistently.

  • Timing needs to be better. I need to be aware of my timing and how it is effecting her line (wide turns).

  • Run faster. Hmmm. where have I heard that before.

  • Send on straight aways, keep closer on tight turns. She is in a position to help her dog in turns. She wants our position to be in a place to guide more than I was today.

  • Independent obstacles. Hmm. I thought were were better than we were today. Some body better get out there at noon and do some training!

All in all some really tough courses and some sage advice. I had a great time even if I was late on a serp and fell in front of EVERYONE AND my friends took photos!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Team Visits an Equine Facility..

...in the middle of nowhere, California.
We went for an agility trial. For the AKC. Four runs, one Q. But that Q was a good one.
This was one nice place. Fin and I walked alot as there was much waiting for our turn. Neither of us minded. We enjoy our walks.

We got to see babies! These little tykes were probably only 8 or 9 months old. Fin wasn't too sure that she wanted to get close. But far away was ok.

The walks were tree lined.
We even walked with friends who took our picture.
Fin was trying to mimic the big bull standing in front of the bullish on America sign. She wasn't too impressed.

What impressed Fin were the leaves. She could NOT get enough of the leaves. The wind was pretty terrible on Saturday and all the leaves had gotten blown into these huge piles like snow drifts. Fin was all about the leaves.
We walked all over. This area was for eventing. Fin had to show that the jumps aren't "that" high. The ground had chips or saw dust on it and was really spongy. I bet the horses think it is heaven.
Oh, I almost forgot, we were there for an agility trial! It was in the indoor arena and even though it was a bit cold, it was really nice. Fin had nice runs, but mistakes took us out of the running in all but one.
She's like, why didn't you tell me the correct way Mama? Yeah, right. It's all "my" fault! Fin is still a rock star. I can't fault her for having a GREAT time.