Silvia Trkman Seminar 11/22-23/09

For the past four days, Sivia has been hosting seminars at PBH.  This is her second trip to our club, her first was March of ’08.  I attended her Novice Handling seminar at that time with Miles and the poor guy was so overwhelmed by the auditing crowd and her difficult sequences that he could barely even jump.  What a difference 1 1/2 years can make!  It’s always nice to be able to look back at something like this and remind yourself just how far you’ve come.  Not only have I improved as a handler, but Miles’ improvment in attitude and skill level is just incredible.  This time I signed up for 3 days worth of fun:  Advanced Handling for Miles (wanted to do Masters, but T-day traveling conflicted with that), Contacts and Weaves with both dogs, and Young Dog Experienced Handler for Rue.

All day Sunday was the Adv. Handling seminar.  Silvia actually gave us some pretty difficult European style sequences…I definitely didn’t feel like we weren’t challenged.  Miles really aced all of the sequences and Silvia even said that he was fast, wow!  I think he was the only dog that hit every single weave entry too…and they certainly were some zingers.  Not much else to say about the day really.  It seems the last couple of seminars I’ve been to with Miles (Daisy Peel’s and this one), neither one had much to say about him other than how good he is at following my motion and how I make good handling choices for our team.   He’s such a good boy 🙂  I know I definitely have more work to do with him, but it’s comforting to hear these folks saying such positive things about us. 

We got a 2 hour break after the daytime seminar before returning for the Contacts and Weaves workshop.  I took the dogs for a short woods walk and grabbed a quick bite to eat on my way back to PBH.  Silvia spent some time talking about her methods for teaching running contacts, 2o/2o contacts, and weave poles.  She then wanted to see each dog perform the dogwalk with and without turns in order to figure out what we might need to work on.  Rue was the only dog out of seven with running contacts, so she wanted to see her first.  I was excited to show her off, but also a little concerned as there were folks lined up on both sides of the dogwalk which would definitely add pressure to Rue’s performance.  Amazingly, lil’ Rue came out of her crate ready to play and tugged vigorously with me despite the close proximity of the crowd.  Her dogwalk performance at first was less than full speed, but she she was doing the correct striding although hitting high.  After several more reps, she extended enough to start hitting nice and low and then we showed off some turns.  All in all I thought she did a fantastic job considering the environment.  She worked probably for 10 minutes all for a tug toy, woot!  Miles got to go last and I really wanted to get Sivia’s opinion on his dogwalk and how I could speed it up.  She actually said to me as I brought him out for his turn, “do you have any problems??”, ha!  I explained that I wanted to find ways to increase his speed and ideally get him cantering the length of the obstacle.  She relayed that he actually already was quite fast even though he was trotting.  She said that I could start playing with him on the contact board, like how I started with Rue’s running dogwalk, and see what I get.  If nothing else, it should help his confidence with running on a narrow board.  For the rest of the workshop we were able to pick to work on the aframe, teeter, or weave poles.  I chose to work the teeter with Rue because I wanted Silvia’s opinion on her conflict between that and the dogwalk and whether I should be keeping a stop on the teeter.  Of course, I hoped that Rue would do the teeter at all!  She again was a tugging fool when she came out of her crate and had no issues doing the teeter both alone and with the tunnel to start.  Silvia thought her performance was good…she was driving to a good position on the board and then running off the end.  No need to keep a stop unless I need a place to “catch my breath”, but I think I’m fast enough to be able to handle all running contacts with her 🙂  Rue also showed off her aframe performance and weave poles (both just one rep) and she thought they were great.  With Miles, I again wanted Silvia’s opinion on his teeter.  She suggested that I continue to reward low in practice and also possibly say “contact” while he’s performing it to break his stride just like I do on the dogwalk.  I tried it and it worked 🙂  She also gave me some ideas to try to proof his “running” aframe (running a bit ahead or a bit lateral) so that I might be able to have a little more freedom there.  I left feeling very proud of both dogs, but particularly excited for Rue.  Not only was she able to work through all that pressure, but she did it enthusiastically and for a toy!!

Monday morning I woke up to pouring rain and the prediction that it was going to continue until the afternoon.  This was Rue’s day for handling and I was sad that we’d have the weather obstacle on top of everything else.  Normally she doesn’t mind the rain and has trained with me in it before, but I was curious what she’d think about an agility seminar in the rain…would it be too much pressure?  The fields were already still soupy from the deluge we got two weeks ago, so this was just making things worse.  They moved the equipment to the top of the big ring in order to try to preserve the grass in the “real” agility area.  As is Silvia’s style, the sequences were all quite challenging for baby dogs if not used to the European style….lots of tight turns, threadles, pushing out to the back side of jumps, etc.  I’ve certainly worked on all of these handling moves with Rue, but I can’t say that she finds that kind of thing particularly motivating.  Her first sequence was quite good and she handled it with good speed and had decent dogwalk performances.  She also worked enthusiastically for her tug toy.  I was feeling good about things after that until we tried our second sequence.  This one started with a jump heading towards the dw, but you were to push them to the backside of a jump that the dogs couldn’t see off the startline.  Lil’ Rue seemed a bit put off coming out of her crate…like she didn’t want to step in a puddle (odd), but tugged well for me and ran off the line headed for the dw.  She realized quickly that we weren’t going that way and managed to do the sequence well, but you could tell someone had let the air out of her balloon.  She managed a couple of jumps and then went off to visit the crowd.  On our second attempt she was even slower and again visited the audience after the same jump.  I really think she thought we were going to the dw, then realized she was wrong and then slowed herself down so she would have time to be right.  The added pressure of the surrounding audience, the rain, the mud, and the tug toy didn’t help either.  It was obvious that her interest in the tug was waning, so I switched to food.  She was able to think through the sequence better, but was still slow.  Silvia suggested that I give her lots of rewards for situations like that where there are choices and she needs to follow me.  She needs to learn that following me is rewarding and that she doesn’t need to search for obstacles as much.  Also Rue probably needs more rewards for turns she thinks.  Silvia also suggested that if she’s going slowly to just not run her for that sequence and work Miles instead (like in class) so that Rue only does one speed in agility–fast.  One other idea that Silvia had was that if she wasn’t that into running to maybe start with something that she loves (ie. dogwalk or aframe) several times to get her going and then start adding more sequencing in to “trick” her into running the whole thing faster.  The third sequence was even more abysmal.  It was raining much harder and Rue really didn’t want to come out of her crate at all due to the mud puddles surrounding it.  Once out I did get her interested in a different tug, but as soon as I attempted to start the sequence, she was very slow, took a wrong course, but then sped up for a nice finish over the dogwalk.  Unfortunately when I tried again, she didn’t even run 😦  I tried to get her to play but then she left the ring to pee.  I thought maybe that was her issue, but I never did get her back into wanting to do the sequence.  I got a few jumps out of her and rewarded, but still kept losing her focus.  Silvia suggested that I just have her run back and forth over the aframe, but she was still not very interested, so we ended there.  I’m hoping that a lot of the issues were mostly exacerbated by the heavy rain and muddy conditions.  After lunch, we moved inside the arena to do some jump/tunnel sequences.  I elected to just stick with food for her and much to my surprise she was much happier to run even with the crowd inside and the formerly very distracting wood chips 🙂  The last two sequences we did were not so good though, but I really think she was just fried.  It was a very long day for her with a lot of distractions. 

Overall I think this was an awesome experience for me and the dogs.  Silvia offered some different perspectives and I’m going to just take all of this in for Rue and work on the things that I can work on (ie. turns = fun, only running her when she’s running fast, and/or starting to integrate sequences in after running some dw’s, etc.).  I’m going to continue to use her tug toy as I really think this is the best way to motivate her for speed.  Thankfully we have a bit of a break with Thanksgiving this week, but I am taking her to a drop in indoors somewhere new on Saturday.  I look forward to seeing what we can do there to help her.  I will certainly work Miles if I need to 🙂

Miles is signed up to work in a Masters seminar with Carrie Jones in a couple of weeks, but I think I’ll split the time between both dogs.  Seeing that I don’t seem to get much individual attention when I work Miles, it might make it more worth while to give Rue the opportunity to work in yet another new place with yet another big crowd.  We’ll get there……



Teeter musings 11/19/09

For those of you who know me or have been following my blog for a while know that I’ve had quite the journey training Miles to do the teeter.  It wasn’t until February of this year that he dared to do a teeter outside of the one I have at home.  Because of Miles’ issues with this obstacle, I felt like I did a very good job giving Rue a better foundation for it.  So you can imagine that I’m a bit perplexed to find myself back in the same type of situation again with her.

 With Rue I’m fairly certain it’s not a fear that’s getting us with the teeter, but more of a lack of confidence in her job on the contacts.  I’ve trained her to have a running dogwalk and aframe, yet she’s supposed to stop on the teeter.  I think she is just very young and hasn’t quite yet learned how to for sure tell the difference b/w the dogwalk and the teeter and so if she’s just a little stressed, she can’t think, loses her confidence and avoids one or both obstacles. 

Rue’s typical response to pressure is to leave me and go sniff and eat grass or visit whoever else is in the ring.  That’s been her way since she’s been with us.  I used to lose her to this kind of thing all the time (even during games of tug if she felt too much pressure) until I figured her out.  So I just think she hasn’t had quite enough training time yet and with the pressure of a trial and with her rapid success up to the Excellent level, it’s come to a head. 

Thankfully now that we are on a break, I get lots of time for more training!  Rue truly is one of the most self-confident dogs I know, but she also doesn’t like to be surpised by things.  So I’m sure if she thinks it’s the dogwalk and then it moves, it shakes her confidence (and vice versa).  And now for my plan to test my theory…. 

Day One:

I had the day off on Monday (woot!) so I decided that I’d bring Rue out to PBH to work on some dogwalk and teeter stuff.  I wanted to first see what she did off the bat.  I’ve noticed that the times when she’s been less confident/drivey with the teeter (and dw) are when the dogwalk is the 2nd obstacle.  If we go back and look at her trial history, she did refuse the teeter at the PBH trial on day 2 and you could argue that the spacing out during her run on day 1 had to do with the teeter/dw as well. 

 So I brought her to the big ring where we’ve barely ever practiced, never have had class, and pretty much have only done a couple of run-throughs and the trial.  I figured this might be enough “unfamiliar” for us to start.  I brought her out with her tug toy and pretty immediately lost her to a massive sniff fest after about 10 seconds of tugging.  She spent about a minute or two sniffing all around the ring before I could finally get her to re-engage.  Well, at least I know she’s feeling some pressure 😉  So once I got her tugging again, I brought her down to do the dogwalk (I wanted to do dw first then teeter since this has been the trend for her issue).  I did dw-jump-tug twice, then a short sequence of jumps, aframe, and dogwalk, then tried to get her to do the teeter.  She was successful, albeit slow, and didn’t tug right away.  I got her engaged, then tried jump, 180, teeter….and she left.  Took herself to the kiddie pool…yes it was hot out, but still… curious.  She then had a few successful reps, but then I ended up losing her again to sniffing.  The video is long, but I think gives a good overview.  Nearly all of our training sessions when she was a pup used to look like this….thank goodness we’ve moved forward from that!  It’s hard to say whether this was all teeter stuff at the end or just waning motivation from me using a lower value tug or it being hot out.

After letting her cool off in the pool I thought I’d try to see what I could get using food.  Historically she pays better attention and learns better with food, but is way more motivated/faster when I use the tug.  Perhaps I should have started with food today, but who knows what would have happened.  I actually found it relieving to be able to reproduce some of her stress in training.  Here she is with food….

Then I played a little with the bang game…

We ended the session with some fun tug/chase games designed to help her want to go past me better and to build drive.  She thought it was tons of fun and boy was she racing me to the toy!  In the end, I think this was a very important lesson to have had for both of us.  It’s more clear to me now that it’s not a fear, but I still need to figure out how to help her feel more confident.  I’m now toying with the idea again of not keeping the stop on the teeter.  At least or until that becomes a problem for us due to her flying off….

Day Two:

I debated about bringing the dogs to Bon-Clyde for our usual Tuesday night drop-in class, but on our lunch time hike Rue was favoring her right rear leg a bit.  After examining her, all I could find was a little abrasion on one of her pads (probably from the astroturf over the weekend) and thought the sand surface probably wouldn’t do that any good.  So I decided to bring them to the Masters level run-throughs at PBH.  I figured that I could have some folks act as a judge in the ring to add the pressure I needed around the teeter.  Much to my delight, my friends had set up the European Standard course from 2009 USDAA Nationals.  I thought that course looked fun on paper and I was right!  Very fast.

First time through with lil’ Rue I made sure to reward her with tugging after the obstacle before the teeter.  I wanted to reward her for all of the hard work she did leading up to it and also break her speed so that she would have time to process.  I had a classmate acting as judge who she doesn’t know well too.  Not suprisingly, when I set her up to do the teeter she left and started sniffing.  She did end up having to go potty, but I really think that was a secondary reason to sniff…the primary being the teeter, but I’ll never know for sure.

Once she relieved herself, she was more than happy to tug again and then had no problem doing the teeter and the rest of the course.

And one more teeter for good measure…

For her second turn, I decided I would run the course through the teeter and reward after it, instead of before and after.  She showed no issues and ran like a missile!

Day Three:

Last night, before teaching my class, I asked one of my students if she’d stand near the teeter for me while I put Rue over it.  She kindly obliged and as seems to be the pattern, Rue went to visit her and avoided the teeter the first time.  I got her back with me and she got right on, no issue.  Then I did a little sequence and ended with the teeter…again, no problem.

So now what am I to do with all of this information?  For one, I’m for sure not concerned about it being a fear and that I don’t need to go back and retrain the teeter from the ground up.  I think I simply need to continue to bring her out to as many new places as I can and have folks in the ring with us.  When that ceases to be a problem, then I’ll need to up the distraction/pressure ante for her some other way.  In the meantime, I’m not going to ask for a stop at the end.  I also need to figure out if I need to somehow signal to her ahead of time if it’s the dogwalk or the teeter or whether that will just resolve itself in time and with more experience.  I’m also debating about entering her one day in a local NADAC trial.  Even though there are no teeters, it could possibly help by just getting her more trial experience, but with easier courses.  Of course it certainly doesn’t hurt that Silvia Trkman’s coming to PBH this weekend and Rue is working in a contacts seminar and in an all day handling seminar.  We’ll see what the queen of the running dogwalk has to say about the little Miss 🙂

That’s all for now…..



GMCKC/FKC AKC trial 11/14-15/09: Miles gets QQ#3 and Rue earns her OAJ!

We headed out to Concord, NC Friday straight from work and arrived at the arena around 7:30pm with enough time to get in and set up crates.  I also wanted to bring the dogs in so they could both reacclimate to the sights.  Miles was a bit concerned when we first walked in, but as soon as he saw the agility equipment he forgot all about it and became a bouncing fool.  Rue, as expected, was completely unphased.  After setting up, the pups and I headed to our hotel and were surprised to enter into a smokey, loud, dog and people filled lobby 😦  I couldn’t get to my room quick enough only to find that it was a wheelchair accessible room complete with the tallest toilet I’ve ever seen and a large seat in the tub/shower.  The bathroom door also didn’t stay open by itself so I needed to prop it open with a chair just to make the room seem a wee bit bigger, sigh.


I was rudely awoken at 5am by what had to have been a 5000lb person moving around incessantly in the room above me.  This got Rue very excited and she took herself off the bed grabbed a toy and preceded to whine and wag at the door.  Begrudgingly, I got up and decided to start the day.  Of course, even with all of that extra time, I got to the arena later than I had wanted to.  They had two rings going at once and, you guessed it, I was supposed to be in both right away.  I managed to walk the Excellent Standard course for Miles and the Open JWW course for Rue in about 10 minutes and then got Miles out to run. 

The Exc. Standard course by Christie Bowers was very fun with room to open up and only a few tricks.  Miles absolutely nailed the course to come in 3rd out of 45 entries at over 4yps!  This made MX leg # 5 and gave us 18 more points.

I then had to litterally throw him in his crate and bust it over to Ring 2 with Rue for Open JWW.  I thought Dan Butcher had some really interesting courses this weekend and this was one of them.  I wasn’t sure what she was going to think of running indoors or even if she would run based on her varying responses last weekend.  Much to my surprise, she came off the line fast and didn’t slow down once.  She had beautiful weaves too (last weekend she popped out in the middle 2/3)!  This earned her OAJ with a 2nd place finish at a blistering 4.7yps!  Her fastest trial run to date 🙂  Even better, Rue tugged with her new toy before and after her run!  She wouldn’t tug as we got closer to our turn, so I did switch to food once I could tell her enthusiasm might have been waning.  Furthermore, NO MORE CONFLICTS!!

Pretty quickly I had to walk for the 20″ Exc. Standard class.  I didn’t plan on doing anything different with Rue than I did with Miles so I just hoped that she’d have fun with this course.  The start was tire-dogwalk, which was similar how it was last weekend when she refused the dogwalk.  This time there was no refusal, but she didn’t explode off the start like I had hoped and her dogwalk was half trotting.  She picked up speed and seemed very happy….until she saw the teeter.  Immediately she went to visit the judge, then found a child standing outside the ring to go see.  She came back and I tried to get her on again, but she took off to visit a ring steward.  I got her back again, she took herself in the tunnel and as she was heading towards the teeter but before she could refuse it again, I told her to sit and then went on with the course.  I wanted her to do something correct and I also wanted to reward her going towards the teeter by relieving the pressure.  She finished the course very fast and again had a brilliant set of weaves.

Lastly I had to rush over to walk for Exc. JWW.  I got half way through my first walk through and they whistled us off the course, gah!  Fortunately, the judge was nice and he allowed me to walk with the 20″ dogs and put Miles at the start of that class.  I admit I was a bit consumed with what I was going to do with Rue that I didn’t give this course the attention it needed.  With a QQ on the line, I really should have concentrated more on what I was doing.  He got the opening brilliantly and then all of a sudden I became afraid that he’d take the start jump again that I pulled him off the preceding jump, argh!  The rest was perfect except he pulled off the finish jump…dunno why?!  He had fun though 🙂

With all of that rushing around, I was done for the day at 11:30!  Since I had planned on it being a fairly early day I had gone ahead and found a park online called Reedy Creek Park in Charlotte that promised to have nice trail running/hiking for me and the dogs.  On our way there, I got a bit lost and ended up having to backtrack a little.  In doing so, I unfortunately witnessed a very fresh accident that no authorities had responded to yet.  It appeared that an SUV when through a brick wall and hit another car and someone had either been thrown from one of the vehicles or bystanders had removed the person from a vehicle.  It was clear that there were plenty of folks responding, so I elected not to interfere.  Ugh, I hope everyone was okay 😦  Anyway, I finally did find the park and was excited to explore the trails on such a beautiful afternoon.  We got about 15 minutes into it when I decided to check to make sure my car key was still in my pocket…..nope.  OMG, you have to be kidding me!!  Lord I had no idea where I was, where I could have lost it, or even really knew exactly which trails I had turned on.  I immediately started backtracking and found a young family to whom I explained my misfortune.  They felt sorry for me and relayed that I probably would never find my key out there in the woods (um, thanks for the vote of confidence folks!).  However they graciously offered for me to use their cell phone (mine was in my car of course) and to help me in my plight.  Their young kids were actually excited for the scavenger hunt 🙂  We ended up scouring the trails for over an hour when I expressed that I wish I had taught my dogs to track.  Suddenly I started paying attention to the times that either dog decided to stop and sniff.  Mostly Rue was searching the sides of the trails for who knows what, but finally Miles put his nose down.  I stopped and what do you know….about 3 feet in front of me, in the middle of the trail, laying face up, was MY KEY!!  I quickly ran back and hugged/thanked the family for taking so much time to help me and offered to do something for them, but they insisted that they were just happy to help.  Phew, what a day!


Since Rue moved up in JWW from yesterday, and they were running small-tall, I didn’t need to get to the arena right away today.  I ended up arriving around 9am and glad that I did because the Standard course was moving very fast.  I got to watch the 16″ dogs to get a bit of a feel for it.  My plan for today was to get Rue on the teeter and then leave the ring.  What do you know, Dan Butcher put the teeter as the next-to-last obstacle, wow!  My luck really had turned 🙂  Unfortunately, Rue was not too thrilled with the course and moved very slowly throughout most of the run.  She trotted even more slowly on the dogwalk, but did have some areas of speed.  I got her down the line to the teeter fairly well (although I wish I had just serped it b/c I think the 2 fronts slowed her down), but as soon as she saw the teeter her nose went straight into the astroturf….for 17 seconds (1 second of processing for each of the preceding obstacles I guess, hehe)….and then she looked up at me as if to say “hi mom, I’ll do the teeter now, lets go” and over it she went and then flew to the finish jump for a mega reward.  I was so proud of her for doing it, but also definitely concerned about what’s going on.

Miles’ run was just gorgeous though!  He turned in his fastest Standard run to date on this course at 4.25yps for MX leg #6, 20 points, and 3rd place!  I can see areas where we could have gone even faster too, but I don’t like to push for tight turns on the slippery turf.

Things were moving quickly today, so it wasn’t long before we were walking for Excellent JWW 20″.  I was excited for this course by Christie Bowers for both dogs.  There were lots of fast parts and only a few areas of twirling for me 🙂  This was Rue’s first time in Excellent, but I was confident that this was a course that we could execute well.  I was right 🙂  She still was slower than normal, but I expected that based on the last two runs being Standard runs with a lot of stress.  She ran with me though and only trotted once (I think she saw something/someone outside of the ring as she was going into the tunnel and felt some conflict because she came out trotting).  I could have done a better job with showing more motion in the pinwheels, but we ended up finishing under course time for her 1st AXJ leg in 2nd place at 4.1yps.

Seeing how well Rue handled this course, I was even more excited to run Miles on it.  Well, he crushed it 🙂  Again, not pushing for tight turns so we lost some speed there, but still ran it in 5.25yps.  This made QQ #3 and MXJ leg # 6!  Unfortunately a lot of fast dogs Q’d in this run, so we didn’t get a placement.  However, we still got 12 points 🙂  I’m so proud of Miles for doing so well on this surface in this high pressure environment!  He was the fastest non-BC in this large 24″ class all weekend!  He really is becoming unflappable.

We now have two months until our next AKC trial, which I’m happy about.  I may enter Rue in a NADAC or CPE trial in the interim if I think it will help us on our journey, but for now I’m concentrating on training with her.  We’ve got some exciting seminars coming up including Silvia Trkman this weekend and Carrie Jones in a few weeks.  Then we’re heading to Tampa, FL for an Awesome Paws camp with Linda Mecklenburg and Wendy Pape in February, woot!

Teeter question is answered, but now I need a solution!

rue teeter refusal

For those who read my last trial report, you know that Rue refused both the dogwalk and the teeter in her last Standard run of the weekend.  At the time I was wondering if it was a specific teeter issue or if it was just a baby dog issue.  I’ve been doing my teeter at home for her breakfast this week and she’s been super drivey and really slamming the end down, so I wasn’t convinced that there was going to be a real problem.

Well, last night I brought her and Miles to a drop in class that we’ve been to before and lo and behold, she refused the teeter.  This was after running the first half of the course twice at a blazingly fast speed (I think her fastest yet), so she was certainly motivated.  However, when we ran the second half of the course she took one look at the teeter and quickly diverted to go “say hi” to the instructor and the rest of the students.  I got her back with me, she got on the teeter and then bailed off before the pivot.  So I got her back again, she refused, but then decided to get on and did the teeter slowly.  I immediately rewarded her with tugging and then sent her back to the tunnel to approach the teeter again.  This time she diverted to the instructor, but then fairly quickly came back to execute it with no problem and we went on to finish the course.  Unfortunately she must have still been stressed because she went around the middle jump of a serp.  We finished and I rewarded her and then took her back to try again.  Same thing the second time, but this time she just left and went into a major sniff fest in the sand.  It took what felt like eternity to get her re-engaged with me and then I just tugged and played with her before putting her back.

For our last turn in class we got to run the whole course.  I was a bit leery if she’d do the dogwalk at all, but she did and had a beautiful performance!  I rewarded her after the weaves and then it was just a few obstacles to the teeter.  Again she refused, but this time it was less dramatic.  She only went close to the instructor and wagged for a second before coming back to me and doing the teeter.  Again I rewarded the teeter alone and then sent her back into the tunnel, over the teeter and this time we completed the course including the serp!

After class I put her back on it a few times using a food reward and jackpotted the drivier attempts.  I think she left feeling good about the obstacle, but I’m certainly concerned about this weekend.  I’m going to try to squeeze in as many other teeter opportunities that I can before we head out of town, but with all of the rain we’re getting that might not happen 😦

So I am going to be visualizing a lot of  fast drivey teeters this weekend at the trial!  Hopefully that and what she worked through last night will be the end of it, but if not I have a plan.  Obviously, I don’t care about the Q at this point with her so if she’s at all skeptical about the teeter, but decides to perform it, we’re leaving for a major party!!  I will not have another teeter phobic dog 😉

Youngsville Agility Club AKC trial 11/7-8/09: Rue and Miles earn their NF titles!

We had a gorgeous weekend for trialing with beautiful sunny skies, low humidity and high temps between 65-75.  The mornings were nice and cool, which the dogs appreciated and with the swim pond on sight, the afternoons were quite tolerable as well.  Blair Kelly was the judge this weekend and boy was he fun!  Really interesting courses and just a nice nice guy.  He worked his tail off to keep the trial moving as efficiently as possible too, which was a blessing.  So onto the report….


FAST was running first Exc to Novice, so I had time to do my training run in the morning before heading to the trial site.  It was 30ish degrees when I got up and needed a hat and gloves for my run, but boy did things warm up quickly!  Should have brought shorts to the trial because I was a bit too warm in the black pants I was wearing, oh well.  Even for NC this weather was unusual.  Anyway, FAST looked fun and the send portion was pretty easy to get to in flow.  I don’t really go for points in FAST, but more just let the dogs have a nice fun run with the minimum points needed to Q.  I also like to use it for training if there’s something that I might want to work on for the Standard run. 

For this course, I ran it the same with both dogs except I wanted to work on a tunnel hole discrimination for Miles.  With Rue, I just kept it really flowy.  She was in a silly mood and came into the ring wanting to say “hi” to everyone.  I got her attention on me at the start, but unfortunately the judge was standing perfectly in line with the first two jumps, so Rue went jump-jump-judge and visited with him for a few seconds until I could get her back with me.  Silly puppy.  Once she refocused, she was blazing fast!!  Only the last several obstacles are on tape, so you don’t get to see her little flirtation with the judge…..

Miles’ run was also blazing fast, but I had a little difficulty cueing the turn after the tire to get him into the other tunnel hole, but he figured it out just fine.  Should have led out a bit to get ahead to cue the turn earlier.  He also did something very funky at the end and should have bounced the last two jumps, but instead added a stride and then was forced to jump in a very odd fashion.  Thank goodness he understands the value of keeping the bars up!  Otherwise a fine run for his 2nd leg.

Quickly it was time to run Excellent Standard.  This was my first time running two dogs in the same class (other than FAST) and I really struggled with my mental game.  I found myself focusing the majority of my time and energy on walking it for Rue when really I need to focus on Miles.  Obviously I want to do my best for both dogs, but right now he’s more important.  She’s so young and has plenty of time to get those Q’s 🙂  Fortunately there weren’t too many differences in my plans for this course anyway, but it still messed with my head.  I was very glad that it was small to tall today so that I could get Rue’s run out of the way and then have time to revisualize for Miles.

I have to say, Rue did an amazing job on this course.  She started out a little slow, but after the second jump she was really moving!  I’m very impressed by her dogwalk contact (a LOT of dogs with running contacts were missing it for some reason) as well as her weaves and aframe.  She seemed a bit concerned with the teeter (probably due to the rubber making it move different) and didn’t want to get off the table because she was eyeing the judge 😉  She was very smart to think about it for a second and then choose to come with me.  She got a 1st place with this run for AX leg #1.  She ran this in 3.5yps, go baby dog!!

Mr. Miles decided that he needed to go extra fast on this run, hehe.  He was actually kinda crazy and in no way was going to stop on his dogwalk (but he cantered all but the down ramp, woot!), silly.  Somehow he managed to get a rear toe in the aframe contact too, gah!  I was certainly very impressed with his start line stay, how fast he went into his down on the table and also how nicely he rode the teeter down considering how crazed he was.  He finished in just shy of 4yps for a 3rd place by 10ths of a second, 17 MACH points, and MX leg #4 🙂

After a bit of a break it was time to run Excellent JWW.  The course was really tight and only took up maybe 60% of the field, so you can imagine there was a lot of twirling going on out there.  I again chose to lead out and was so impressed with the lateral distance I got off of the #2 jump to get in position for a front between 3 and 4.  He was moving so well that I actually thought to myself “wow he’s a brilliant jumper” and bam, he dropped a bar, doh!  I must’ve hestitated in my cross while marveling at his skills 😦  Otherwise a beautiful and fast run for the boy.  Only the last 1/3 of the run is on tape, unfortunately.  This was a 5.4yps run!

Last but not least was Open JWW.  The course wasn’t too horrible, but I was having a really difficult time wrapping my brain around how to best handle it for Rue.  I’ve been trying to keep her in extension as much as possible, but honestly have just had a very difficult time conceptualizing where to put the crosses in, etc.  I admit I was a bit panicked for this course and just couldn’t get my mental game in check.  I got Rue out way to early for this run too and could tell by our warm up that she was just not as into it as she could be and it showed when we got in the ring.  She took the first 2 jumps slowly and then veered off to visit a ring steward.  I got her back relatively quickly but she trotted to the next jump and then skipped a pole in the weaves so I restarted her.  I’m not sure if she looked at the judge or if it was a weird point at the junction of the two sets of poles or what, but all of it ate up too much time for her to Q.  I do have to say that after the poles she got going nicely and finished very happily, which is the most important thing right now.


I spent a lot of time Saturday evening analyzing what had happened in all of our runs.  For sure I need to work more on mentally preparing to run two very different dogs on the same course, but also I am struggling a lot on the handling aspect for Rue.  I’m not convinced that she needs all of the turns on the flat at this point, plus they’re awkward for me and I’m sure she senses my insecurity.  I agree that I need to aim for as much extension as possible for her until the time comes that I’m getting offcourses due to her becoming more commited to obstacles ahead of her.  Right now she’s still focused a lot on me and my motion…not a bad thing, just a measure of her understanding.  So I decided that I was going to handle her with crosses at the jumps like I do with Miles, but just remember to support her more and go for as much extension as possible.

Excellent JWW was first today and it was tall to small.  The course was very interesting and as I’ve come to understand very typical for this judge.  Apparently he likes to make the handler think a lot, hehe.  There were 3 straight tunnels in a row in this course and the first time through you don’t take any of them, but then the ending has you taking them all in a row, yikes!  Miles definitely had a lot of fun on this course, but I was not a very good handler.  I did a start line stay, but either should have led out on the other side to do a push or led out farther on the side I was on because I didn’t get a very good turn to #3 and almost bought the obvious tunnel.  I think now that he appears comfortable with the start line stays, I need to push it farther and not feel so rushed about releasing him so early.  This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten surprised with how fast he comes off the line when I lead out 😉  Also, I didn’t support a lateral send enough and he pulled off a jump which forced a strange rear to get him in the poles.  Since we already NQ’d I tried to get lateral off the poles ,which I did, but wound up having to stop motion due to almost running into the next jump and he pulled out at pole 10.  Then he got so much speed through the 3 tunnels that I didn’t cue him soon enough in the last tunnel so he came out too far and went around the next jump, agh.  That put me in a bad spot for the ending and had to do a really funky manouver to get him over the finish.  Still with all that crappy handling he finished in 27 seconds, only 4 tenths of a second off the first place time.  This was a 5.5yps run, yahoo!!

Next up was Open JWW and another interesting course.  One thing that I really liked about this judge was that his Open/Novice courses were very different from the Excellent courses.  Not many judges design them that way and rather just take some of the obstacles out or renumber to make the courses “easier”.  This one still had 3 straight tunnels, but was vastly different from Excellent.  I got a good plan for Miss Rue that would allow extension, but with cues to turn over the jumps.  I also got her out at pretty much the last second…enough time to pee, do some shadow handling and some tricks and then into the ring.  We had a slight delay of game when we got to the line because the handler before us was having trouble leashing her dog.  I could see Rue’s enthusiasm draining before my eyes, sigh.  However, she actually came off the line pretty fast and accelerated through the first turn.  I think she quite liked the earlier information about the turn and didn’t even look at the obvious tunnel.  She popped the poles in the middle again today, sigh, but quickly reattempted them and we made it under time for a 3rd place Q and our 2nd OAJ leg!  If you subtract out the time lost having to go back and repeat the weaves, this was a 4.2yps run…her fastest yet!

Excellent Standard was up next and again I found myself struggling mentally during my walk through.  I think I only walked it once for Miles….bad mommy 😦  The course didn’t look too bad at all, but since M was going first I really should have focused more of my time on him instead of just taking him for granted.  Especially with him going faster and faster I need to be on my game to be where I need to be for him.  Needless to say, I totally botched his run up.  I wasn’t in the spot I needed to be for the teeter and ended up causing him some confusion.  He saved my butt and hit the weave entry, but later in the course he came out of a tunnel and through the tire with so much extension that I couldn’t get him to turn back and he went around the aframe.  It’s become more and more clear that I have minimal time to think out there with him.  I need to be where I need to be and not wait to marvel at him.  I must say that he still got the fastest time out of the 24’s and was only a few seconds behind some fast 20″ BC’s.  Also, when I was giving him his reward outside of the ring, someone I didn’t know said “he’s so fast”….made my day 🙂  Subtracting out the time lost with the refusal, this was 4.2yps…holy smokes!

I was excited for Rue’s run because I thought we had a really good chance of doing well with it.  Even though there was a turn after the dogwak, I still could cue extension and just send her into the corner and then cue the turn.  I had a good plan for the remainder, so I just hoped that I’d have the same dog that I had in JWW for this run.  She seemed very excited before going in the ring and actually left the line quite fast, but went to the inside of the dogwalk for a refusal.  I reset her and then she did a beautiful dogwalk, got the turn, but then had to call her off a jump to cue the teeter which she also refused.  I again reset her and she got on the teeter but stopped before the pivot…something she’s never ever done.  So I took her off, skipped the weaves to keep it fun and just ran the rest of the course.  She did that all brilliantly and left very pleased with herself.  I’m still not totally certain what happened here.  Melanie really thinks that she was bothered by the teeter on Saturday and thus refused the dogwalk since she couldn’t tell the difference.  Once she realized it was the dogwalk then she knew the other one was the teeter.  I’m not totally sure just becuase I didn’t think she disliked the teeter that much on Saturday, but who knows.  I thought it was more that she was chasing me initially and went around the dogwalk (she’s done this before if I get her really excited…she goes into chase mode instead of agility obstacle mode) as she got right on it and didn’t hesitate on the upramp to see if it would tip.  I think the teeter refusal was because I called her off an obvious jump and she decided that I was garbage.  Who knows.  I’m definitely going to be getting her on as many different teeters as I can this week before our next show…

There was about a 2.5 hour break after Std. before FAST, so I decided to go ahead and get my long training run in for the week.  I figured no time like the present and plus it would give me good processing time for what may have happened in Standard and what I could do to really make FAST fun.  Well somehow in the heat of the afternoon, I managed to do 9 out of the 10 miles that I was supposed to run, bleh.  Of course I got back and they were just about to run Novice Standard…should have run farther, but it gave me a chance to let the dogs swim in the pond again and for me to lay down for a little bit 🙂

I digress….back to FAST.  I found a great plan for both dogs that had the same start to the send portion, but with Miles I wanted to run him over a different rubberized teeter and with Rue I wanted to avoid the teeter and hit the aframe instead so the ending was a bit different.  Before this run I also bought Rue a really nice braided tug leash that matches her trial collar perfectly 🙂  I was interested to see what she thought of that and see if I could get her engaged with it prior to going in the ring.  She was defintely interested, but too conflicted to tug, which I expected.  I did get a little bark out of her though, but she still trotted to the first jump.  After that she did great and I think really was the perfect way to end the weekend.  Only her run got on tape, but they both ended up with Q’s to earn them both the NF title!

So I learned that I need to manage my head better now that I have two dogs in the same class for Standard (and probably soon for JWW as well).  Miles really does deserve the most attention from me right now as far as how I’m walking the course.  It’s pretty clear to me at least for the moment that Rue can handle the earlier turning cues, so maybe there’s not as much difference between their handling as I had thought other than their contact criteria.  I realize that Miles is continuing to get faster and more confident, so I need to make sure I’m handling him proactively instead of reactively and that I can start to push him with the lead outs more.  He’s gotten faster and our Q rate has dropped significantly.  That’s to be expected as there’s now more risk of offcourses, etc because things are happening that much faster and his striding has gotten bigger, so less room for indecision on my part.  I also discovered that Rue only needs a very quick warm up much the same as Miles.  I still need to work on figuring out how to engage her more at the start line so that she’ll stop trotting through the first obstacle.  I’m hoping her new leash will help with that since she’s gotten so much more into tugging lately, however I realize that this might take time as it’s taken a while for her to be comfortable enough to tug in class/training.  She also just needs a lot more exposure to agility outside of trialing, so I need to continue to make that a priority for her to get to as many new places as possible.  Fortunately, we only are entered in one more trial until late January.

Up Next:  Two days indoors in Concord for AKC this weekend, then Silvia Trkman’s seminar at PBH followed by a workshop with Carrie Jones in mid-December!

Blown away…

by Rue’s transformation over the last month or so.  She’s really understanding the idea of sequencing the obstacles together more and more.  Even more importantly though, she has become a tugging fanatic.  Rue has always enjoyed tugging with me when it’s just been for play, particularly inside, especially at home.  Yet for so long if I tried to incorporated tugging into training, it fell flat.  It was too much pressure on her and she would either do the sequence slowly and then not want the tug as a reward or she’d just leave me.  However, sometime in the last 4 weeks or so, she’s decided that tugging plus agility equals AWESOME!  Furthermore, there is a marked difference in her speed and enthusiasm when she’s working for food now versus working for her tug toy.  Honestly night and day.  This is footage from run-throughs last week….the first course was run with food rewards and the second with her tug.  What do you think?

I think she’s more accurate at this point with the food reward, but much slower.  Personally, I’d rather have the speed and inaccuracy right now 😉

She’s entered this weekend, so will update either Sunday night or Monday…..

Our first visit to the sports vet…

On Saturday the dogs got to go to Virginia to see Dr. Schwabe for an initial structural evaluation.  Neither of them have had any problems (other than knowing that Miles has mild elbow dysplasia) so this was just to get established and make sure everything was looking good with them.  The office is located on a beautiful piece of property situated in the country not too far from Lynchburg. 

Not knowing what to expect, I brought Rue in first since I knew she’d be fine with pretty much anything that happened.  Plus that gave me a chance to see what Dr. Schwabe was going to do so that I wasn’t worried for Mr. Softie (Miles).  As expected Rue went with the flow and was a perfect patient.  Dr.  Schwabe started by watching her move off lead and then proceded to bring her inside and have her do several tricks (sit-up, stand, lie down, back-up, bow) all to see how she moved her body and if she was balanced.  Then she proceded to do a full ortho exam followed by a massage/chiro adjustment.  Rue weighed 36.8lbs and according to the Dr. is “built like a Border Collie”, hehe!  She said that Rue was perfectly proportioned with excellent muscle tone and body awareness.  She feels that Rue is structurally perfect for agility (and any other sport that I’d want to do with her) and is built for speed.  In other words, Rue’s perfect 🙂 

Next up was Miles and as is typical of him, he came out of the vehicle like a spaz.  Bouncing up and down and sideways, skittering about from person to person and giving flying kisses.  I couldn’t get him to just walk/trot around at all…just bounce.  Plus since he was nervous, he was holding himself very stiffly so you can imagine her opinion of him initially was a bit swayed.  Thankfully, Miles took an almost instantaneous liking to Dr. Schwabe so he eventually was able to settle in and be “normal”.  Overall, he weighed 53.7lbs and she says that he’s built a bit like a horse (so I guess I have a horse and a BC) and holds his head very high…probably because he’s always on the lookout for boogeymen not unlike how a horse or other prey animal is.  She said that his back and hind end, including his tail, were very very strong.  She also found no evidence of any issues in his elbows 🙂  However, what she did find are weak and overly flexible shoulders, particularly on the left.  He had some significant muscle spasm under both shoulder blades, in his neck, and also in his sacrum.  She was able to work most of that out and amazingly Miles seemed to totally not mind it at all (and she said it had to hurt). 

Dr. Schwabe also watched him do a couple of aframes which she said were great and no issue with the shoulders as well as watched him do the weaves.  She thinks he’s very smart to not single-stride in the weaves because that would be putting way too much stress on his shoulders.  So my hunch was right about that… had to be something structural that kept him doing a bounce stride despite multiple attempts on my part to retrain the poles.  During this time, Miles became more and more relaxed and in the end showed the Dr. a much more normal appearing gait for him.  She was definitely relieved to see that he actually did move quite well 😉

We spent a lot of time talking about Miles and coming up with a conditioning plan for him to keep him sound and strengthen his front end.  I’ve now got a bunch of new tricks to teach him and some other fun things to help with shoulder strength and stretching.  We also switched his glucosamine supplement to Dasuquin.  I’m also going to start doing some cavaletti work to see if I can get him to lower his head while trotting, similar to what you would do if your horse (poor Miles, hehe) kept a very high head placement.  Miles is also going to be getting massaged regularly now, lucky guy! 

In summary, my biggest take home message for him is to always err on the side of caution and that with him less is always more.  So, if the surface is slick I should probably not run him, etc.  I will need to limit the number of trials we do to no more than 3/month and should avoid doing 3-day multiple run trials (like USDAA).  I can say that I’m very glad that I have Rue to run now because it will help me to fill the void of maybe not being able to run him as much as I would like.  Then again, we’ve never done that many runs in a day for days in a row, so this probably isn’t going to be too much of a shock. 

We go back in 6 months for a recheck 🙂