Monday, June 24, 2013

Today is my Birthday!!!! says the one and only Tazz...

Today is Tazzies day.  He is NINE!  I can not believe it.
A most beautiful dog.  Tazzie can be the most loving creature you've ever seen.

He loves humans.  All humans.  Humans that are in his house are considered his.  He will give you the best lovies of all my dogs.

He has the sweetest expressions.  Then as well as now he can look at me and my heart swells.

Tazzie did agility and taught me so much about dog training.  I wouldn't be half the trainer I am today without my little turd.  Love him to pieces.

Tazz is great fun.  He loves to play and will go with me anywhere as I work in the back yard.  He likes to swim with me, dig with me, pick up poop with me, all things with me (notice I'm not mentioning the other dogs).  Tazz is my little napoleon.  It's all about him.  Laura Hartwick captured him perfectly when she made his little cartoon last Christmas.  I sure hope she does it again this year. 

Happy Birthday my little man.   

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Couple Steps Closer

A world wind trip brought us a little closer to the National competition in October.  My buddy Laura and I drove to Utah on Friday to compete Sat/Sun in order to bring home a bye or two.  A dropped bar in Steeple and that was that.  Speedy little 12" performance dogs kicked ass this weekend.  Fin and I had the best competition with people coming from all points north and south. 

One of the areas I want to improve on is my mental game.  I tend to make mistakes at these big competitions.  Whether I don't walk with the right mind set or I loose my concentration, I often don't bring home the bacon.

For Grand Prix, it was the last class I would be running in Utah. I hadn't really done my best up to this point. The competition was deadly.  Competitors were hanging out watching. Then all of a sudden off we went and I ran the exact course I walked.  Fin read every cue and responded.  Awesome feeling.  GP Bye...done. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Planes, trains, and automobiles

Getting ready for a new adventure.  Going to take a plane ride to a National Agility competition.  Up to this point, I've only traveled by plane with a puppy, never full grown dogs.  Always thought it was a little crazy to do so, but there ya go. 

Yesterday was the day to make all the reservations.  I was on the phone for over an hour with the airlines and still have to call back with additional information.  Traveling with my friend will make the trip easier but no less stressful.  We've decided to fly direct to a city that is close to our destination and drive the rest of the way rather than have to change planes and worry about the dogs.  Well, we'll probably worry about the dogs anyway.

Yikes.  Right now I'm planning on leaving Olive at home.  A miracle would have to occur for her to qualify for Nationals in the two shows she will be eligible for in this qualifying year.  That means it is just Fin and me in cabin.  The other dogs (BC's) will be in cargo.  If in fact Olive finds it within herself to get the 4 Q's she needs, then she'll also be in cabin and be Laura's in cabin dog.

Our first flight will be at night (harder on us but we figure easier on the dogs).  Flight home will be in the middle of the day.

Adventure awaits us!  October will be a very interesting month.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Conquering Fears

Being a bit of a bad ass, Olive surprised me by being afraid of floating on the water.  Perhaps I found out why she doesn't want to get far out there.  Olives don't float.  I did not know this until today.

Playing on the boogie board, I was getting her comfortable enough to catch the ball and give the mama kisses.  But when we moved close to the side so she could step to the edge, she took a flying leap.  She hit the water instead and promptly sunk.  No one was more shocked then me.

I grabbed her, got her immediately to the surface, and helped her swim to the steps.  I guess Olive is all muscle and no fat to help her float.

All my shelties have had great buoyancy.  This is the first dog that I've ever seen that couldn't stay on the surface for at least a short time.

Tomorrow we are getting her a life vest. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

It's been 10 months....isn't that dog trained yet?

Training for the sport of agility is a long process.  Who doesn't want to complete a six week class and then go out and compete...I know I wish it were that easy!  Many times I hear people say to me, "Where is this all going?"  I can honestly say that I often ask myself the same question.  But amazingly, if you carefully build behaviors, it magically all comes together.

I run an awesome little Sheltie.  She is six and we have an amazing working relationship.  Sure I send her off course now an again.  But sometimes out there running her, I forget how many months/years we've worked to get here. 

Last summer I thought, I need a training project.  Fin is old enough now that I need to remind myself how much work it really was to get where we are.  So somehow I decided to try a JRT. My goal with bringing home this Jack Russell was to see what I could do in 4 months.  The question "Is this breed something I would enjoy and want in my life?" was one I wanted answered.  After about 2 months my question became, "Can I live without this dog?"  Soon she became Olive and now nearly a year later she is still with me (thank you Alison!).

This is the first dog that I've really tried to document what I'm training so that I could see how far we come.  Over the past 10 months, we have been building skills to work together in order to play this fun game called agility.  But in fact, we are right where we started:  I love this little Terrier and she can do no wrong.  This blog post is long.  The intention is to summarize what I've done.  Keep in mind not everything is here...tricks, hiking, arguments with the shelties, struggles with potty training, frustrations, all happened.  My life is not without the little struggles, but despite the struggles Olive and I have made and continue to make progress to my first big agility milestone "Competition!"

I brought her home and started to get to know her.  What stuff does she like and how can I use those things to get her to do the things I like.  Stuff like potty training, taking food nice, walking on a leash, waiting for a cue to go outside or inside, staying near me when off leash...just the stuff that everyone wants to have in a great dog.  During this month I introduced shaping training and started on some tricks to teach her to enjoy learning.

Having a ton of fun learning.  This month we did loads of tricks.  I also started her on circle work and restrained recalls.  I also worked on a ton of exercises around just coming when called.  In addition we just simply had fun doing searches, going places, meeting new people, and snuggling.

When she was 7 months we were doing much of the same things that we did at 6 months but I started on some sit stay recalls to side, with a front cross, and a shoulder turn.  In addition I did many acceleration drills (all on the ground, no jumps).  I played a little with wobble boards and balancing as well as pivoting.  Mostly I just played and played working on her retrieve (at this point it was only a ball) and the joy of training so she would seek me out to work with her.

Participating in a real class (and having her bestie in the same class) was a really good thing as starting in October she really was seeking out reinforcements from the environment.  If I didn't have the perfect toy or food (in her mind) off she went to go visit other dogs and handlers...cause their stuff was so much better.

Group class really helped me to refocus and charge my training making it super fun and continuing to build on the behaviors she already had.  More circle work followed by accel/decell drills...every morning tons of running around the back yard before work, on breaks, and after work.  No sexy weaves or contacts or jumps...just a lot of fun on the ground.

I wrote in my log for November, "I'm am totally smitten."  Pretty much sums it all up.  In preparation for some jump work, I started having her go around things (chairs, cones, trees) and then added shoulder turn and front cross to that.  Still doing many accell/decell drills, circle work, and play.

OMG we did our first jumps!  What a thrill.  Adding jumps to accell/decell can be such an exciting time.  I also was doing nose touch targets in preparation for contacts.  In addition I was doing bang game on the teeter to get her used to the movement and noise.

First jumping class happened in December!  Yeeha we are doing AGILITY!

I stopped all jump work in January deciding to focus on some of the basics again.  It is a good month for reflection.  I noticed that I had started to rely too much on food and the ball and other toys had lost value for Olive.  I continued my play with her, body awareness, accell/decell and circle work, but I started to work really hard on retrieve of anything I tossed (building the value back into other toys).

Bang game and targeting is happening!  Yipppee!  I also took another jumping class and actually raised the jump standards so she was jumping 12" (she'll eventually jump 16" in USDAA).

March & April

No video for these months (I must have been busy.  I continued jump exercises, my contact training for Teeter and dog walk (both stopped) and also started the box training for a running A frame.  Sometime in April I started 2x2 weaves.  She was weaving within 2 weeks!


Now we are here in June.  Teeter is pretty good.  Dogwalk contact...a ways to go.  A frame...sorta stalled cause I didn't keep working her and I need to get back to this.  Jumping and weaves, AWESOME!  All that accell/decell work is paying off in jumping and I think we are ready for some fun matches to actually run short courses, still need a ton of reinforcements to continue to build value, but Olive is showing me everyday she loves the training process and wants to go play agility. 

We started 10 months ago with a blank slate.  Each month the most important thing to me has been to build that working relationship.  I try to take time to just simply play with her everyday (wrestle, kissy face, tug, whatever).  Even though I'm on a journey that takes a while, I can see improvement every month and I see a huge milestone of an actual trial in my near future.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Change in Agility Organizations

Today on this blog action day we are talking about things that would improve your favorite agility organization.  Read more blogs on improving your agility organization here.  For me this is about change and how can we effect it.  For example, can I get my agility organization to change from metal jumps to something safer?  Could I get my agility organization to change jump heights so my little 13" dog can jump 12" instead of 16"? 

Change is a very complicated thing.  Change can be expensive. Change is often difficult because it not only can hurt the bottom line of a company, you also have personal egos and "it's worked in the past, why change" attitudes. 
Change trickles down and impacts organizations that support the "parent" organization.  The cost of making the change may be too much for smaller groups to meet the standards of the parent organization and resistance can be a huge barrier. 

In business change is a balancing act, change happens when:
  • The loss of revenue to the organization motivates change to occur. 
  • A business anticipates the needs of the customer and provides a service that results in getting a bigger piece of the pie.
The pie is power, the pie is income, the pie is cherry!
As an agility competitor, it is your right to try out each organization to find the one that works for you.  As an agility organization, it is that organizations responsibility to decide who their customer is and respond to that customer's needs.

Change does not occur when we stand around and complain.  Change within an organization is going to happen ONLY when that organization feels the pressure (complaining is like a mosquito buzzing around your head, action is that mosquito biting you and you killing it).  For example, rubberized contacts.  I personally stopped going to shows that didn't have them.  I know many of my friends did the same.  Pretty soon, groups in our area that had rubberized contacts were getting larger entries and groups that didn't have them started to see their entries fall.  I can't think of one group in my area that does not have rubberized contacts may have taken a while for the change to occur, but occur it did.

My favorite agility organization is USDAA.  I compete there for many reasons, but sometimes I don't like the rules.  One example is 22" weave poles at Nationals last year.  I could have said, "I'm not going."  If enough people did that, we'd see 24" weave poles in no time.  But unlike rubberized contacts, I didn't feel strongly enough to force change. I went and enjoyed myself and came home to my 24" poles.

Mostly I want my dog running happy and safe.  If I don't like what a club has to offer, I'll let the club know why I won't trial with them. Sure I'll miss out on some fun trials, but by not participating and communicating clearly is the only way organizations/clubs will spend the $$ to make those changes we'd all like to see.

So bottom line.  If you'd like your favorite organization to change, make it happen starting with the clubs that form the foundation of the organization. Money speaks way louder than complaints.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Grateful for a healthy Fin

Petaluma is a fine place with California Cows eating on luxurious plentiful fields of hay and wildflowers.  About 40 minutes north of San Francisco it is well known as a vacation destination with it's close proximity to winery's, shopping, hiking, and all else vacationers want out of a destination.  Since most agility trials I go to are located in areas of California that are not so pretty, it was fun driving through the beautiful hills and valleys that made up our route to the Petaluma fairgrounds.

Due to the expense of hotel rooms, Laura and I drove up and back both days (about an hour 40 with no traffic).  We knew the risks, traffic in the afternoon can be hideous, but it turned out the traffic gods were kind and we got there and back again with minor traffic.  In fact, we probably saved a couple hundred dollars and about a billion calories as we didn't pay for hotel or go out to dinner at our favorite fancy places we usually frequent on agility weekends. Getting home before 6pm both days and sleeping in our own beds made the weekend even more sweet.  Waking up at 4:30am seemed a minor inconvenience when looking at the big picture.

A huge scare on the first run on Saturday left both Laura and I in tears and Fin recovering from a very scary crash.  She sliced jump 3 and hit the metal standard with her left shoulder, taking the jump down on top of her and leaving a massive amount of hair on the jump and holding her foot at a very awkward angle.  Two hours later after rest and ice, she was game to go.  A miraculous recovery if I ever saw one.  I kept her out of most classes that day and ran her in Standard and Gamble.  In both runs she was crazy wild and enjoyed life tremendously.  Last class of the day was pairs and I couldn't keep it together for my 10 obstacles.  She ran off course into her favorite tunnel and that was the end.  (So sorry Joan). 

Sunday I checked her out and she was good to go.  We had an amazing time out there with much brilliance.  We just had trouble keeping it together for an entire course.  She somehow came away with a standard and snooker Q, but minor mistakes kept us from qualifying in most classes. 

The master challenge courses were so much fun!  We were one tunnel entrance from clean in the challenge jumpers, but an off course in Master challenge sealed the deal for the master challenge classes.  I will say that following the off course in Master Challenge, an amazing weavepole entry made  the off course a distant memory for me.

For this weekend I take away that my dog is one hard core, flying, zooming, barking, sometimes biting machine.  I won't share the crash, it was horrible and I don't want to watch it again.  What I will say is that I am grateful.  So Grateful.  Fin is healthy and that's all that counts.

Grand Prix

Master Challenge Jumpers