Friday, January 29, 2010

Fitness for Agility moving right along

Working out, eating right, and long term goal focus.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Back to Zink

In our last episode, Christine was saying, "structure affects function, function affects structure." I say, "Nothing replaces good timing when it comes to a front cross."

Part of day three, we talked about jumping. Much of what was covered I'm familiar with. It was fun using trot bars and playing and jumping.

Later, when we were talking about indicators of lameness, Christine wanted to show lead change and how lead change can be an indicator of lameness. One of the problems I had with the exercises that we did was that too much could be explained away by bad timing of the handlers.

For example, the above exercise was to show lead change. Fin and I have done a bunch of these types of exercises and my timing was not terrible. A couple of handlers were late and so the dogs lead changes were late. It doesn't mean that my dog isn't lame but theirs was.

Her point was that it was one indicator. If a dog is willing to lead with one leg but resists leading with the other that this should be looked into. I totally agree. But pure lead changing and the timing of that lead change can be attributed to other factors.

We had a Corgi that had a mystery limp. Limp seemed to move around from leg to leg, go away for a while, and then mysteriously come back. We did alot of stuff watching the dog walk, trot, and stand still. Then we put the dogs rear feet in corn starch and measured the stride. Lastly we had the dog spin.

Totally lame on right rear. The corn starch test was pretty cool. It was clear that one leg was not striding like the other. The twirl test showed the weakness.

One last area we covered was conditioning. I'll talk more about this next time.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Could it be?

The rain has stopped? Ten days ago the rain started. Today I actually see a speck of blue and the doppler shows a clear heading.

Zowza! I might even have an agility class tonight.

I know that some of you are deep in snow. Others don't see the sun for months. Some don't know what it is like to do agility all year round. Here, we aren't used to this rain day after day. And now that we see some clear sky's, there is rejoicing to be had.

I don't mind the rain. I love to stand on my deck and watch it fall. I'm fascinated by the weather. But when it stops. Wow, it is nice.

Sunday, January 24, 2010


Tazzie gets a couple Q's!!!! Jumpers and Snooker. What a guy.
Fin gets a Super Q! Good girl.

First video is Tazzie jumpers. He is a good boy and is moving well throughout this entire run. Even though I was a little late on my last FC, he just kept his speed.

By contrast, I'm posting Fin's run. She is running the exact same course. I was late indicating a turn and she was a little naughty (combo) and these two things caused a refusal. But the run was exciting, even if we didn't Q.

A fun day even with falling in the mud and being embarrased (luckily I had an extra pair of pants!).

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The return of Fitness for Agility

There are many reasons to get fit. The age old question, how do I meet long term goals that are harder than short term rewards. I am coming to the realization that I live my life indulgently and I'm not sure why. I really want it to stop.

The Zig Zigler saying, "Don't give up what you want long term for what you want today" is extremely relevant to me. I often catch myself sabotaging my long term goals for gratification of a "food" nature", sometimes I do this without even acknowledging the consequences until the food is in my stomach.

I have in the past set weight loss goals. I have been successful as I've lost alot of weight, but I haven't really moved in a downward direction in a few months.

Circles of regret and failure seem to be my theme.

Ready to make a change? I sure am. I am on a 50 pound weight loss challenge. This 50 pounds will not get me where I need to be, but this 50 pounds will get me within tossing distance of my goals.

USDAA Nationals. In Kentucky. Really far for me. I still wanna go. Pretty expensive. Still wanna go.

Here it is: If Vici meets her 50 pound challenge by July 17, she is allowed to go to Kentucky in October (of course she must keep those 50 pounds off during the time between July-October or she forfeits). Kel has agreed. Friends are watching me. Here we go.

This week 3.5 pounds. Each week I will post my progress. The table below shows short term goals as well as long term. I need to meet my short term or I will not meet the long term. The plan should be to exceed the short term goals every month because as I lose more, I would expect it to be harder to maintain higher weight loss numbers each week.

I will post updates regularly but for sure on the short term goal dates. My strategy is to weigh in and attend weight watchers meetings, eat a balanced diet, and exercise regularly.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Structure affects function...

...function affects structure - the Zink seminar continued.

On day one in the afternoon, we started to analyze gate. Dogs have a number of gaits:

  • Walk (amble=fast walk) or

  • Pace - sometimes confused with a amble (fast walk)

  • Trot

  • Rotary Cantor

  • Gallop

Walk is shown when the dog has 3 feet on the ground at all times. Pace happens when dogs go to a fast amble (3 feet) to a faster amble (pace) 2 feet. Trot is a proper 2 foot gait and the cantor and gallop are one foot.

Pacing or ambling is not really a gait that helps the function of the dog. It is better to teach your dog to trot beside you. She demonstrated this with a sheltie and poles.

Today I took Fin for a long walk during a break in the storms. I tried to analyze how she was moving beside me and what I noticed is that when I walked my normal walk, she either was pacing or ambling. I really would need someone to look to tell me. If I sped up a bit, she immediately went into a trot. Based on Chris' recommendation, I can use the pole exercise to walk my normal stride (about 3.5 mph) and she can learn to trot rather than pace next to me. The trot is a great gait as it is easy on all the joints and balanced. The pace or amble puts more stress on the body.

The cantor is the gate that is seen most on the agility field. One of the interesting things is that most of us are familiar with a horses cantor. In the case of a right cantor,

  • the horse leads with the right for both front and rear.
  • the dog leads with the front right and they will lead with the rear left.

I'm sure if I had read Christines book that I own I would have been familiar with this concept, but it was new and fascinating to me. She showed a number of videos demonstrating the rotary cantor and it was very clear the the rear lead helps with the turn indicated by the lead change of the front.

Tomorrow, conditioning.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Coaching the Canine Athlete

Headed to Reno for the weekend. For us a 4.5 hour trip. We drive over Donner Pass (elevation 8000) then down into the valley. I will say, the weather surprised me. Except for 1.5 hours on the way home (an adventure for sure), the weather was mild with no snow on the ground in Reno. We had beautiful snow up at Donner pass, but nothing below 5000 feet (until our drive home, through the storm, with snow chains, driving 25 mph, slipping on ice.....).
Chris Zink D.V.M., PhD is a canine sports medicine consultant. She has written a number of books and I first heard of her in late 1990's when I was active in APDT and she was one of the individuals that spoke about dogs jumping at one of our conventions.

I really didn't know what to expect. I took Fin with the idea of learning about structure and getting better at evaluating structure for when I finally get my next dog (very far away, in the future, not soon, husband if you are reading this I have no plans for a puppy!).

I didn't expect to learn so much new information.
I didn't expect to have some myths debunked.

Chris has opinions. What I liked most about her is that her opinions are backed up by studies. If you ask her a question, you will get a direct answer. If she doesn't know, she will tell you.

Day 1 started with the importance of structure to agility. Loads of information. We learned about body type, rear angulation, and shoulder angulation. In addition, growth is a huge factor and we talked nutrition, spay/neuter, body structure and stress on that structure.

What was a realisation was the data she presented regarding spay/neuter. It is interesting to see the data and what it shows is that spay/neuter isn't necessarily the right answer for our canine athletes. As a matter of fact the behaviors that we think we are repressing by neutering were more common in neutered male dogs. Debra Duffy is doing work in this area and the research is enlightening. If you want to read a 16 page PDF from her, click here.

Another area of interest was dew claws. She really believes that the front dew claws are incredibly important to prevent rotation of the wrist and arm during turns. She showed photos of flyball dogs and it was clear that the dogs without dew claws showed more rotation of the front legs (in awkward ways) then the dogs with dew claws.

We had a working session were we were grouped so we had a number of different dog types in each group. Our group was to analyze angulation of the rear and shoulder and she came around to test how well we did.

The first morning proved to be extremely interesting. A short 30 minute break to walk the dogs and we were back at it.

Tomorrow I'll write about locomotion and lameness.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Road Trip

Off to Reno. All about structure and gait and jumping. Seminar. Christine Zink. Gonna learn some new things.

Can't wait.

Sure hope Fin will potty in the snow.

Take a moment

We are truly lucky. Help those that are not.

Think about a donation to the red cross today. They do good. They are there helping the people of Haiti.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Is it true that there are no straight lines in nature?

Today was a rainy day. Oh hum. We still got out in it and trained. Got a little wet, but not so much wet that when we were done, little Fin jumped in the pool to cool off (no swiming, she's is a step kinda gal). One of the things I thought about today was straight lines and the dogs path.

My friend sent me the video tapes from the Derrett seminar. As best as I can determine, I've got some serious work ahead of me.

One area I sometimes have trouble is where to put my FC. If I follow the rule that says, "Change of arm indicates change of direction" this means I would NEVER put a front cross on a straight line. Looking at the course map, this means I wouldn't put a FC between 1 and 2 or 2 and 3. But what about between 4 and 5?

In our seminar, participants felt they shouldn't put a FC between 4 and 5 because it was a straight line (I am proud to say, I got this one right...I'm not talking about all of the ones I got wrong!). The truth is that the dogs actually turn between 4 and 5 because the dogs path is the red dotted line due to the turn from 3. So I would want to be in FC position at 5 as the dog is committed to 4.

The front cross is a tricky one for me. I am slower than my dog. My dog is faster than me. What amazed me in this box work is that I was able to get to the positions when I trusted my dog. Turns were wide mind ya (we are working on this) but I can see how there is hope in my future of indicating a line and moving myself to the next position to indicate the next line.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Mov'n Day

Sometime between Thanksgiving and last Sunday, a group of homeless bees moved into a bird house on my deck. I'm not opposed to honey bees, I just don't want them living at my house. A gal that lives locally got in touch when I sent out an email asking for help.
She arrived. Doesn't this car look like the bee removal car you'd expect to arrive to help you get rid of a swarm of bees.
Here is the bird house that must be removed. She's like, "Well, I'll have to take your bird house with me. I can bring it back later." I'm like, take it. I don't want it back! No more homes for orphans.

She wore a suit. I was the assistant. I did NOT get a suit. I did explain that if the bees started buzzing around, I would be "GONE!" and she'd be on her own. I think she thought I was kidding. I was not.
I do want to point out that the bee keepers spouse stayed downstairs with the car. I'm thinking he was smarter than either the bee keeper or me.
First thing we did was put cardboard on the front of the bird house to close the hole in the front. I think this was the most dangerous part. I tried to point out that there were also holes on the side, but she said they were all plugged up with wax.
When she put the cardboard on the front and then put the house on the side the sound was a bunch of unhappy bees. OMG my stomach started to hurt when I heard that angry buzzing sound. I was ready to jump into the house if I saw one bee. Notice the bee keeper wore no gloves. Hmmmmm.
Took a few minutes to tape it up and then the entire bird house was put into the box and then my job was taping. I started to tape and she's like, we don't need that much tape. My response was to put more tape on the box. We had to walk through my house to get to the front door. I was NOT going to set any bees in my house.
The box went into the bee mobile in a special bee area and I said good bye. The bees will go to her ranch and live on 100 acres of land with Ostriches, horses, cows, and other bees.
Before she left we both looked up and there were a bunch of bees flying around looking for the bird house. I guess "no man left behind" doesn't apply to bee keepers. The bee keeper said to get rid of the other bird houses as the bees would be looking for a place to bivouac. She said they will go away (I didn't want to ask whether they would live or not...just didn't want to know).
I felt pretty bad for the 20-30 bees buzzing around. Of course I had to go up and risk my life by taking some pictures. I did use the zoom so the photos are not that good. I value my life more than getting good photos.
Hopefully the bee saga is over. Really don't want a bunch of honey bees making their home in my home. I value bees and want them around, just not living with me. Sorta like my relatives.

Having Rules About Your Box

Sunday was all about boxes. The Derretts are in town. I am one of the luckiest people in the world that I can attend seminars and learn from the best. This past weekend Laura Derrett gave the basic boxwork seminar. I have attended the Derrett box seminars, but it has been a few years. They've been working on the "rules" and have refined them.

I'm all about a "system". I'm comfortable with rules (even when I don't follow them). I don't think one system works for everything or everyone and I believe in taking what makes sense to me and using it. What I like about the "Derrett" system is that the basic concepts make sense to me and work with my handling abilities. Now, whether I can do multiple threadles in a row properly has yet to be seen, but overall the system makes sense.

One of the new refinements of the system is the reinforcement zone. Used to be the reinforcement zone was a half circle in front of the body. I have been teaching Fin to come to my side or my front. Now the reinforcement zone has a narrow focus and is really to your front. I allows a clear distinction of come to this "spot" rather than a fuzzy distinction of come to anywhere in this general area.

Fin is confused. She says, "Whut? Reinforcement zone is pocket on right side, that's where the cookies are, NOT front of mama!"
Not a huge change but a clear distinction. Interestingly, my reinforcement zone communication "gosh you came at me when I did that even if it took a while and I can't believe you even noticed me when all these other wonderful things are out's a cookie" is pretty darn fuzzy. I should totally refine my criteria out there and expect quicker and anticipated results.
Fin likes the old mama. Just happy if she takes a jump. Now I want more. Damn the system!

Overall I learned alot. I had anticipated having fun and getting some good practice in, I didn't expect to get re-energized and excited about training the basics. I've decided to sign up for a series of Laura D's seminars (even though I don't need ANOTHER agility class and my husband is gonna be like WHAT???). It is a series of 5 classes for a total of 10 hours. Should be alot of fun.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Agility Challenges...

I think this agility challenge thing is a great idea. This one I grabbed off of Susan's comments, came through Team Small Dog via Nancy Gyes. It was one that was small enough to fit in my field (my field isn't that big). Set it up today.
The first step was walking it to ensure I could run it. It took me ALOT of walking to remember it.

Ran it with Fin.

First round results:
-FC at 2 was late and she flew past the weaves, came back entered at 2. Start again.
Second round:
-FC at 2 must have been good as she wrapped around and entered weaves correctly.
-RC 3 to go back to 4. Rear cross too early resulted in a flick away into the tunnel.
tried it again
-RC 3 to go back to 4 - got it. Ran down the weaves sent to 5 nice entry to 6 and promptly forgot were I was going!

Ok, my first challenge ended with me giving her lots of rewards and asking myself why I didn't walk the darn challenge better.

I did run Tazz and it was perfect, but Tazz is a slower guy and stays with me. If I run with him and point he usually gets it right.

This is a fun but frustrating challenge. There are a number of ways to handle it and if your weave entrances are shaky, it will really show in this challenge. Fin, Tazz, and I had alot of fun. We are going to try it again in the morning before I change it for something else.

Thanks to Team Small Dog for being the inspiration for the challenges.

Agility Challenges

Some really cool stuff over at Susan Garretts Blog.

Due to the inspiration of one little black dog, Susan Garrett has suggested some agility challenges. The word is going out, and some pretty cool little numbers are gettting posted on her web site. Go there (click here) and print them out and get cracking!

People are posting them in the comments section. Some courses from Nancy Gyes, Rob Michalski and others. Also links to a bunch of European courses.

Have fun.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Runs from the Weekend

AKC on Jan 2. Only went one day. Open Jumpers, last Q, Got it. Need to be faster on those long lines of jumps, she is looking back at me and we are loosing time. Open is over, on to Excellent!

The standard run was a tough one.

I feel the opening is very nice. When I walked it I knew the weaves might be a problem. They were in the corner weaving to nowhere and after the weaves was a sharp left turn to the teeter. I know she can do this and I've made the difficult decision not to babysit the obstacles. So I took my position and she popped at 10. I gave her a second chance and decided not to continue with the run as I was out of position at that point to drive down the next line. For me the best thing was to just run out rather than have a sloppy ending.

I still had fun and Fin just figured we were done and could have cared less.

And one last one. Little Maddie. She is not happy that I did not toss the ball for her. You can see that she is missing her lower front teeth. Lost in a "gotta attack the squirrels and bite the tree" incident.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

How Do They Learn

I often wonder at how my dogs learn at all. I do understand the concepts of clicker training. I often set up a plan of attack. But I am constantly astounded at how my timing sucks, I don't train often enough, yet my dogs do learn. Dogs are amazing.

Each of my dogs has their own style. They are really different. The things that motivate them are different and the things that cause them stress are different.

Tazz is 5.5 years old. Can't believe he will be 6 in June. He learns at his own pace on his own terms. Tazz is alot about , what's in it for me. He doesn't really see the fun of learning new stuff. He is a bit lazy (might even take after me). If he gets confused at all, he doesn't want to play and will shut down. Tazz does have attention issues. He is easily distracted if he is not motivated. Sometimes the motivation takes over and he can't think about anything else. It is a fine line with my Tazz boy. Tazz is mostly motivated by food. On rare occasion, will work for a toy, but it is usually for a short time and if I try to work the toy too long, he will get stressed.
Maddie will tell you like it is. She is totally a clicker fanatic. The minute I bring out treats and a clicker she is trying all kinds of stuff. Endless energy. If I'm not fast enough or clear enough, boy do I hear about it. Maddie knows a number of tricks, and she is convinced that all tricks start with the ones she learned first. Maddie will NOT tolerate other dogs getting clicker trained if she is not also being trained. No patience. All about Maddie...NOW! Maddie works for food. She'll play, but never really learned that toys = reward = behavior.
Baby Fin also likes clicker training. She is a more thoughtful dog and sometimes sensitive. She enjoys learning and as long as I am clear, picks it up. If I confuse her, she will get frustrated and either bark or get stressed. She can be motivated by toys or food. When she is stressed will run around sniffy and ignore me. My job with Fin is to keep her engaged and watch her mental status to make it short and fun so she stays engaged.

Big Boy Rocks is all about the ball. He also will work for food and will get really excited about clicker training. He learns quickly and is a happy learner. He has improved with age as when he was younger was quite moody and distracted. As he has gotten older seems more inclined to learning new things and less stressed about it.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Party is Over

Have to go back to work tomorrow. Sad, sad, day.

Did go up to AKC trial yesterday and Fin did Q in Open Jumpers and she did get her OAJ title (big smile). She is a superstar and I am inspired to be a better handler, trainer, and all around person.