Rue’s video montage from the 1st half of 2013

A follow up from yesterday’s written summary of the last several months, I put together a video of the highlights from the first part of 2013 for Rue.  She’s done some amazing stuff so far this year!!


Home sick, hello blog!

A friend recently encouraged me to get back into writing my blog.  I find that I end up posting so many things to Facebook, that I don’t even think about my blog.  However, when I looked back at “recent” blog posts, I realize just how helpful it is to me to see what was going on.  The purpose of this blog has always been more of a record keeping journal….data collection….stream of consciousness type of thing. So anyway, here we are.

Last time I visited, I spoke about my back injury.  Ugh, that was a LONG road.  I ended up leaving the chiropractor I had been seeing and went to physical therapy.  I spent about 6 weeks in PT with twice weekly visits while also continuing to see my massage therapist about every 3 weeks.  Finally, I got strong enough to be discharged from PT and found a wonderful personal trainer who I’ve been with now since the beginning of January.  I see him once a week on Wednesdays after work and boy does he push me!  I also found a new, wonderful, chiropractor who I see once a month and still see my massage therapist with the same frequency. I finally am feeling like I’m getting stronger…and faster.  Since my injury was born from running distance, that’s been the slowest activity to recover.  However, I’m now comfortably running 5 miles twice a week….a far cry from what I used to do, but at least I’m running!  I plan to add another day of running in soon and see how I do.  And now when you see me at trials, I’ll have an agility ladder, lateral resistance bands, and a foam roller….all to help with good warm up/cool down.  One thing I learned through all of this…I ain’t gettin’ ANY younger, sigh.

And now to the dogs 🙂  Both are healthy and crazy as ever.  Miles’ little back thing in October was pretty short-lived and he’s been back to his regular activities since November.  After a long period of internal debate, I decided to NOT take him to Reno, NV for AKC Nationals.  It was a very difficult decision for me, but ultimately I felt that the stress and cost of the travel was too much for an event that I wasn’t sure I cared enough about.  His performance at the NAC in 2011 was stellar, but something told me that it wasn’t worth it to go this year.  So I chose to focus on local AKC to get him qualified for Tulsa in 2013 🙂  Yet, poor buddy….I’m not totally sure what has happened to us as a team, but we’ve been out of sync much more than we’ve been in sync which is not helping me mentally.  I’m starting to lose faith with him as a partner and don’t look forward to my runs with him as much as I know I should.  I desperately need to fix this, but I’m really not sure how I can.  He is a stellar dog and he deserves for me to be 100% for him.  We are so connected mentally that I know he’s feeling some of this as well.  I’m seriously considering a mental game coach at this point.  But, on the positive side I’ll share videos from two trials in the past few months where I felt we were really connected.  I watch these often to try to channel the emotions.

Here he is at BRAC USDAA in December.  Miles was teamed with Tracy Hirsch and her BC, Pilot.  Miles and Pilot ran great together and ended up taking gold.  Miles actually got the Top Dog award too!  He also played in PSJ and PGP.  He came in 2nd in both rounds of PSJ and missed the second to last jump in PGP.  BUT, this was the first trial that I’ve seen him hit ALL of his up contacts, woohoo!

And then there was the AKC trial in Chatham, VA in mid-March.  Again, just felt really in sync with him.  I had some errors, but Miles was brilliant.  No bars all weekend and he placed 1st in all Standard classes.  On Sunday, he had his fastest yps Standard run ever at 5.05yps earning 32 points!  Miles also earned his 2nd QQ for Tulsa at this show.

Onto lil’ Rue.  WOW, is all I can say.  Something has kicked in with this girl and we are having the time of our lives out there.  Between November and January, Rue finished her qualifications for USDAA Nationals in short order, including a win in PSJ Round 2 at BRAC (Miles took 2nd due to a bar) as well as a PGP win at CPA in January to earn a Regional Bye!  Rue also teamed with Tracy/Pilot at the January CPA trial and their team took bronze.  Also, since January, Rue has earned 9 QQs, her MACH, qualified for 2013 AKC Nationals, and earned her way into the ADHF with 3 double placements!!  She is on a roll and I don’t believe it’s ending anytime soon!  Not only has she been consistent, but dang she’s gotten SO fast.  I know she still has more in her too so I’m very excited for our future.  In February I decided to try entering Rue at 24″ in AKC.  She’d been practicing at this height for over a year and was very comfortable with it.  I am quite pleased with the results of her at 24″ and time will tell if I keep her there for a while or if I move her back down.  She’s certainly faster at 20″, but she is still turning in yps over 5 in JWW and over 4 in Standard at 24″ which have been our goals.  Granted I believe Rue could certainly go faster and should be closer to 6yps in JWW and 5yps in Standard, but that will come in time I’m quite certain.  I could post a zillion videos of hers, but I’ll limit it to her MACH video and her runs from the Palmyra (Mid-Atlantic) Regional.

Her MACH came over the weekend of AKC Nationals in Reno.  Didn’t I say that *something* told me Reno wasn’t the best idea????  I think this was the way it was supposed to be.  Not to mention, I found FIVE 4-leaf clovers on one walk during the week preceding her MACH.  I had found two of these in my entire lifetime before that walk.  How weird.  Anyway, here’s her video.  Not her fastest runs, but I think this was one of the only times I’ve ever felt pressure to “go clean” with Rue.  I tell ya, I don’t like that feeling.  But, we got it done 🙂

And now for the Regional.  Rue competed in PVP Pairs with Mardi Closson and her young boy, Screech. This was a “just for fun” team and despite Screech E’ing in Standard, me scratching Rue from Jumpers and Screech only getting 1 point in Snooker, our team finished only 2 spots below the Q cutoff!! On Day 1, Rue flew through Gamblers and earned a shocking total of 69 points for a Q and 2nd place (for comparison, I ran Miles on the same course and only got 49 points…she was flying). Rue also went clean in Standard and was one spot out of the Q. I pulled her from team Jumpers b/c it was a terrible course for her. Amazingly, Screech pulled out a 2nd place finish on that course…wow. On Day 2, Rue flew through Snooker with a respectable 43 point finish and a 5th place Q. Rue and Screech then got to run Relay and finished 6th out of 31 teams!!

Also on Saturday, Rue competed in Round 1 of PGP and PSJ. I am pleased to say that she was clean and fast in both earning a 4th place Q in PGP and an 11th
place Q in PSJ to move on to Round 2/Finals in both events. Rue was the ONLY non-Border Collie in the finals!!!

Sunday was Rue’s time to shine. The courses we got for finals were very very friendly for her skill set and running contacts. I had full faith in our team
and in her. Stepping to the line with her in PGP Finals was such an honor. She was SOOOO fired up. I attempted to do a short lead out, but she was having
nothing to do with that. I remember saying “oh God” as we both shot off the line….off to the races! What I planned to do after the DW didn’t exactly
happen, but somehow a combination of ninja moves and Rue’s brilliance, she got into the correct tunnel hole. We lost a bit of time b/c I was shell shocked at
what just happened and then ran the wrong side of the next line forcing a rear at the chute. She still finished 9th out of 19 dogs and got a freaking Bye to
Semi-finals at this years Nationals!!! OMG, wow. Only non-BC to compete in Rd 2 and she beat more than half of them with a messy run??? I’ll take it!

Our last (and 8th) run of the weekend was PSJ Finals. Again, Rue was really over the top fired up. She really feeds off the energy at these big events and
it is so fun to see. It was so cool to be the first team to run our jump height (we were seeded last going into finals). Holy poo, she ran like the darn wind
and put in a time of 28.44. I watched team after team E or get faults and Rue hung on for a long time in the top 5. However, two really fast BC’s ran at the
end including Paulena Simpson’s dog, F5 Tornado, and those dogs shot the qualifying time down to 28.42. OMG, we missed the cut off by .02 seconds??? No
PJS Semi finals Bye for my girl at this show, but holy cow…. .02 seconds???  What is that, a fraction of a sneeze?? She finished 6th in a sea of fast BC’s,
my little Golden Retriever. SOOOO proud, so proud.

Here is part of her run from PSJ Semi-finals.  It cuts off the beginning of 3 jumps, aframe, jump.  Rue squeaked into Finals based on this run and was the only non-BC to do so!

That’s about the best recap I can give of the last 6 months.  There are plenty of other videos to watch on my YouTube site (tailsofgold).  I’ll be back later to discuss our next set of training goals.  Now that we’re past our “goal” trial for the spring, there is lots to do to get ready for Cynosport in September!!!

Happy training!

Charlotte Dog Training Club AKC trial 3/12-14/10: Rue gets her AX and Miles earns QQ #5!

A little delayed on this trial post due to a new computer and issues uploading my videos to YouTube, gah.  Things finally seem to be working, so I will give this a shot 🙂 

The pups and I headed to Charlotte last Thursday evening for 3 days of AKC agility.  I was looking forward to seeing some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and I just generally love this trial.  They always have great judges and awesome prizes.  Things typically run very efficiently as well. 

Furthermore, I had set this trial as a goal date for putting Rue back into the Standard classes.  She had been showing me that she was comfortable with the teeter in several different settings, so I was visualizing nice drivey teeters for her.  I was also excited to see if we could get a good startline routine going.  The weekend before last I brought Rue to a local CPE trial to give us an opportunity to work on this in a low stress environment.  What I found was that if I crated her very close to the ring, took her out 10 minutes before her run to potty and get some food rewards for the practice jump, let her rest and take her out just before run and jazz her up with her fav tug toy then she was really excited to run!  I was excited to try out our new routine here in Charlotte.


No video for today unfortunately 😦  I entered both dogs in FAST and JWW, but only Miles in Standard today as I didn’t want to overdo it with the baby dog.  Exc. FAST was first and I planned a fun opening which went easily in the send bonus.  Miles handled it all like a champ and also had a gorgeous aframe in the opening.  He won the class with 74 points!

Lil’ Rue came out next for Open FAST.  I got her jazzed up with her bunny tug outside of the ring, then stole the toy, ran in the ring while simultaneously removing and dropping her leash.  We had a nice transition into running the course and she was wicked fast.  She did a 2 strided a-frame with incredible air time and landed in the yellow, whoa!  Unfortunately the send involved a forced layer and she did the offcourse jump (she actually did the Excellent send, hehe).  I was very proud of this run.

Next was Miles’ standard run.  Randy Reed typically has really nice big dog courses, but this one was a little tricky.  Miles handled a short lead out very well and flew over the dogwalk and nearly into an offcourse tunnel.  I probably didn’t decel or he was too far ahead to read it and I ended up calling him off the tunnel very very hard 😦  He had his snout in the tunnel hole and I admitedly thought we got called for the offcourse.  I was so pissed at myself for calling him off that hard that I forgot to handle and pulled him around a jump with ultimately NQ’d us.  Again he had a brilliant a-frame in this run.

Last to go was Exc. JWW and both dogs were entered.  It was a pretty tricky course by Tracy Hanna with 4 boxes that we had to navigate through, bleh.  I decided to do a lead out to a lateral send with Miles and then planned to just try to show the correct line of motion through the rest of the boxes.  He did a fantastic job and took 2nd place earning himself 12 points!  However, at only 4.75yps, I’m not sure where we lost time on this course…definitely bummed to not have video to look at his striding. 

Rue and I did the same warmup/startline routine as we had done for FAST, but this time unfortunately we went to the line too soon and we disconnected.  She took the first jump and then stopped to stare at a piece of bar tape that was hanging down off the second jump.  She stared at it for probably 4-5 seconds (again wish I had video), but then went on to blow the course away.  I think she probably would have had a time very close to Miles’ on this one if she hadn’t have stopped since her official time was 38 seconds 🙂


It poured rain over night so the fields were a bit sloppy today, but the air was brisk and the sun was shining so we were off to a good start!

Excellent FAST was first and I wanted to just try to rip it up with Miles and have a fun run since yesterday’s call off probably had caused him to slow down in JWW.  I left him in a stay and he really was moving out!  He had a fabulous send and we took 3rd place with 71 points.  I had to repeat the teeter since he got on it from the side at the pivot, silly boy, so that cost us time.

Open FAST was next and I was excited to see what Rue thought of yesterday’s runs as it would be evident in this run today.  I decided not to do the teeter in either FAST run just to keep it fun and motivating for her.  We started out great with good speed over the aframe, but then she started to slow down.  This is odd as the frame usually propels her into high gear, so I figured something was wrong.  Well 1 jump later and Rue took herself to poop, oops!  Poor little girl was so embarrassed 😦  I must say this was a first for me….hopefully I won’t have to revisit this again.

The day was running Small-Tall, so for the next two runs I knew that I’d have to run Rue before Miles.  I was a bit nervous about her Standard run as it was, but now even moreso due to the events of FAST, ack!  I forced myself to let it go and just visualize a happy dog who wants to do the teeter.  Well I guess it worked because she was brilliant!  We started out a bit slow and she was looking around and the judge and ring crew, but as soon as she hit the poles we were off to the races.  She had an amazing dogwalk and gorgeous teeter, yahoo!!  This earned her her 2nd AX leg and she got 1st place!

Next I got to run Mr. Miles.  I planned a lead out push past the 2nd jump, but I could tell he was not comfortable and he got up out of his sit so I just released him and did a forward motion front cross.  He was slow through the beginning of this course and then took 10 seconds to lie down on the table, sigh.  He managed to still make time and earned MX leg #9, but I was worried that something just wasn’t right with him.  Either it was still the call off from yesterday, or maybe it was too many lead outs, or maybe god forbid something physically awry.  He got 4th place and 4 measly points for this run, bleh.

The last run of the day was Exc. JWW.  The opening was a large circle of jumps and then a pull into a tunnel hole before opening up into a really fun a fast course.  Both dogs found the opening demotivating and Rue did some trotting, but then really opened up at the weaves.  This earned her MXJ leg #2 and 4 points 🙂

Miles and I managed to pull out a QQ with this run despite me nearly pulling him off the second-to-last jump.  He had an amazing save with that one!  I made sure to start with him on this course.  No placement, but 5.2yps and 11 points for my boy!


Even more rain overnight made for really sloppy fields this morning.  The club put a lot of mulch down which helped a bit, but wore down pretty quickly.  I knew that I wanted a motivating run with Miles, but also didn’t want to push too hard for speed for fear that he would get injured (his fall in Savannah really messed up his front end according to our massage therapist).  I led out about 1-2 steps just to shape his approach to the teeter a bit and he did a really nice job with his course.  I predicted that we’d have an issue with the rear at the jump before the poles and we did.  I need to learn to be more patient with those crosses and I also need to teach him to have more obstacle commitment in those scenarios.  Overall a great run!

Next was lil’ Rue’s turn to show me what she had for this course.  I decided to change my warm up a bit with her and instead of tugging outside the ring and just running in, I decided to engage her with the bunny tug and then transition her to tugging on her leash so that we could tug into the ring.  This seemed to work really really well for her as she didn’t trot once on this course.  She again had a brilliant teeter and awesome dogwalk despite me getting behind due to the soggy ground!  She actually beat Miles’ time by a fraction of a second on this run, wow!!  This earned her the AX title with another 1st place!!

Our last run of the weekend was a fun JWW course by Tracy Hanna.  I was psyched to not have to lead out with Miles and was looking forward to a really fun and fast run.  Miles looked great on this course, but I got a bit lost after the first tunnel and got caught a bit behind a wing which made me push into his line a bit and sent him offcourse, dang!  He recovered from that fine and really motored for the rest of the course 🙂

Rue’s run was pretty good, but there was a small delay at the start that caused us to disconnect and for her to stop tugging unfortunately.  I’m hoping that this was just a situational thing and that I’ll be able to use this routine with her in the future!  Overall a great run, but she had some trotting in the beginning.  This did earn her MXJ leg #3 and 4 more points.  She now has 17 points and will start going for QQ’s from here on out!  How did that happen so fast?!?!

Overall I’m pleased with my dogs’ performances at this trial.  Historically this has not been Miles’ favorite place and I need to remember a year ago here he couldn’t even go through the tire.  I do think that for the next few trials I need to just focus purely on speed for him and start with him instead of leading out.  I will NOT (I need to write this on my hand or something) call him off an offcourse that I’ve sent him to….I cannot.  It’s very deflating for him.  I was a bit caught up in the fact that he only needs one more MX leg for his title and I cannot focus on that.  If it’s speed that I want (and I desperately do) then I need to just focus on that.  His yps at this trial were definitely below average 😦  Granted I cannot base a trend on one weekend, but I do think I need to make a proactive attempt at correcting that possibility!  Miles had perfect aframes all weekend (5/5) so I can’t complain about that! 

Rue’s goals for the next couple of trials are speed and connection to me.  We will continue to work on our crazy warm up/startline routine as I really think she digs it 🙂  Our next trial, she is only entered in JWW and then she has 3 weeks off before we travel for 2 days of AKC in Columbia, SC.  She is entered in Standard there, yay!  It’s interesting to me that while it’s natural for her to run faster in class/practice when I have a reward on me, but she really really seems to dig the international style courses that we train on much more than these AKC type courses.  Something to think about as to why.  I would imagine it’s because the international style requires more quick send and chase type movements from the handler than a big ol’ pinwheel does.  I wonder how I can keep moving more in these trial situations.  Hmmmm….

Up next:  2 days of AKC indoors in a horse arena this weekend followed by Miles only in 2 days of AKC at his favorite trial location–Teamworks!  Then a couple of weeks off before heading out of town for more AKC agility!

BRAC AKC trial 1/22-24/10: Rue earns her AXJ and Miles nabs his 4th QQ!!

Last weekend we headed out to Asheville for one of my favorite agility trials in one of my favorite cities.  It’s held indoors on dirt with 2 rings and I was certainly curious to see what Mr. Miles thought of it after the 3-ring circus of the preceding weekend.  All week he had been acting totally normally and was his typical crazy self in his Tuesday night class.  He had a great experience at this trial site last May, so I was hopeful for a good weekend.  I headed out Thursday afternoon in time to set up and hit the B-match.  Both dogs did one 90sec run and they had a blast.  Miles did 2 successful teeters, but thought about the 3rd one.  Otherwise he was brilliant.  Lil’ Rue had a blast chasing me with her bunny fur tug while we avoided the teeter and hit every other obstacle 🙂  Melanie and I then celebrated by going out to Doc Chey’s noodle house downtown.


After a less-than-restful sleep (Rue was too excited by the fact that there were 4 other dogs in the room, hehe) we arose at 6am to get ready for the day.  Tall-small today with Exc. JWW first.  The course looked fun and Miles was the first 24″ dog.  We did our typical warm up and headed to the line.  Unfortunately, I didn’t support the 2nd jump and earned us a refusal.  Miles turned out a pretty decent run otherwise despite some sightseeing.

Rue faired better with the 2nd jump, but took the wrong end of the tunnel.  I honestly thought she’d probably do that, but was mainly focused on just keeping her running so didn’t do much other than run at the tunnel.  If I had rotated for a FC, she would have nailed it, but again I didn’t want to slow her down.  Just wanted a fast and fun first run for the weekend 🙂

The Exc. Standard course was very fun.  The opening was very similar to JWW, so I knew I needed to make it a point of supporting the 2nd obstacle better for Miles.  He had a great run, but got called for the up on the teeter.  He kind of turned wide and I *think* thought about refusing it, but then got on from the side above the yellow.  The rest of the run was fabulous.  A little slow on his table, but not horrible.

I pulled Rue from all Standard runs this weekend to give ourselves more time for her teeter retrain.

Last run of the day for us was Open FAST.  I planned two different courses for the dogs.  I wanted to test M on the teeter a bit and also wanted to try a 90 degree soft side weave entry with a rear-cross.  Pretty ambitious, but he handles those fine in training.  Well he had a great teeter and hit his entry, but then spaced out for a second and didn’t wrap back into the poles.  I restarted him, but then he popped out at pole 10, so we just went on.  He handled the gamble like a champ and we got just enough points for a Q and his first OF leg.

I actually planned a totally different course for Rue than the one I ran.  There was an AKC rep at the trial and he decided that the gamble line needed to be moved out which changed my whole plan for her.  I didn’t have much time to walk a new one, so I just kind of winged it.  Again just going for speed with her…I wanted to give her several opportunities to chase me (she loves that) and I wanted to give her the chance to get on her favorite obstacle, the aframe.  I think she had a blast in this run!  Look at how much speed she picks up both when I push on her line out of the first tunnel and again after I leave her after the frame.  She got her first OF leg and her picture in the Asheville Citizen Times for this run 🙂

I left the trial site around 4pm as they were getting ready to run Excellent FAST to go back the hotel, work out on the elliptical trainer and shower before meeting several folks for dinner at a local Thai restaurant.  The food was great and the converstation was even better 🙂


A bit more of a restful sleep and Small-Tall today, but still up at 6am with Melanie as she has 2 dogs in the 16″ class.  I headed to the trial site around 7:40 for the obsessive walk-through and then took myself for a 9 mile run in the foggy mountain air.  I got back in time to watch the 16″ dogs tackle JWW which helped to solidify my plan for my pups.  I walked the course again a few more times and then had to wait for the large 20″ class to be nearly over before Rue’s turn.  She handled this course amazingly well and again really accelerated when I pushed in on her line off the start.  I need to remember to go in a support her more in pinwheels and such.  She has no problem sending out to obstacles, but she’ll slow down if I’m not driving into them with her.  She was decently fast off the line with this run too 🙂 This made her 2nd AXJ leg with a 4th place finish and her best time of 5.2yps!

Miles had a great run going.  He allowed me to take a decent lead out, but I didn’t support two of the jumps after the tunnel well and he went around them.  Again, in training this wouldn’t have been an issue, but obviously in a more stressful indoor venue he needs more support for me.  I keep forgetting that he’s only 4yrs old and just a baby dog too!  However, I must remark that he had gorgeously fast poles in this run and it was actually a 5.9yps run…woot!!

I left after these runs to take a shower and collect myself for Standard.  It was going to be a long day with Excellent FAST predicted to run until 8ish.  So I brought a change of clothes back to the site so that we could all just head to dinner straight from there.

I was excited for Std with Miles because it really looked like a course that we could execute well despite having to go through a box twice, yikes.  I made sure to support and work every obstacle with him and he did fabulously.  Unfortunately he turned wide and ran around the second-to-last jump.  I don’t think that was my fault, but just that he didn’t see it when he landed from the previous jump and I was hauling butt to the finish so he just came with me 😉  He had a fabulous teeter, but was a bit tentative going into the tunnel in the corner due to the photographer.  He recovered from that despite giving them a sideways glance twice on the dogwalk and had a pretty decent down on the table.  Overall I was very pleased with this run. 

I had a conlict between his Standard run and Open FAST, so again didn’t really get a chance to walk the course much.  I came up with the same plan for both dogs for the sake of sanity.  I actually missed both of my runs while doing Standard, so they had to quickly squeeze me in at the end.  This meant that Miles didn’t get much of a break at all and then there was just one dog between him and Rue.  Miles did a fantastic job with the course that I planned and handled the gamble really well.  He got himself 73 points, a 1st place and his second OF leg!  I was super thrilled since he had zero downtime between the runs.  I had to beg for help from a friend to take him out to play fetch while I ran Rue..

Rue’s run was pretty spectacular as well.  I mishandled her weave entry so we had to reattempt them, but otherwise she was fired up.  I got a beautiful blind cross in after her frame, but then called her too hard for the tunnel discrimination in the gamble and she came to me instead of into the close end of the tunnel.  Amazingly she kept working for me, found the right tunnel hole and had a smokin’ finish.  Unfortunately, the refusal cost us the bonus and the Q.  I love how we just ran in the ring and started running the course.  I’m sure that will be difficult to replicate in the future, but she liked it 🙂

I stayed to watch my friends run in Excellent FAST and then we all headed out for some Mexican food before I retired to the room to watch the Duke game.


Finally a decent night’s sleep!  Again, up at 6am and frantically packing up my stuff, showering, and grabbing the essential cup o’ joe before getting to the site.  Today was Tall-Small and it started with Standard.  Miles was again the first 24″ dog and I just knew that today was our day.  He had been doing so well, but just little oopses here and there had been keeping us from the Q.  I was pretty pleased with this run.  He was a bit slow on the dw, but then picked up speed.  He had a gorgeously fast sit on the table and somehow avoided being called for the up on the teeter today.  He again went wide on his turn and hopped on from the side.  Something to be aware of for training, that’s for sure.  He got a Q for this run, 17 MACH points, his 7th MX leg, but no placement.  He came in 5th.

Again, Rue was not entered, so we had a bit of a wait for JWW.  This was a fun course that allowed me to start with both dogs.  Miles did a fantastic job through the box again and turned out a respectable run for MXJ leg #7, 11 MACH points, and QQ #4!!

Lil’ Rue was not as thrilled with this run.  I was admittedly worried that she’d visit the scribe right off the bat with the way the start line was facing.  So I decided to put her on my right which forced a rear at the tunnel, but also opened up a choice b/w the jump and the tunnel off the line.  She definitely is slower and concerned when she’s faced with that and I should have known better.  She released her stress by visiting a ring steward briefly, but I was able to refocus her and burn up the rest of the course.  Thank goodness she was fast for the finish because we squeeked by with a Q and her AXJ title even though she was 4 seconds over time, phew!!  She took 4th again for this run.

Overall, the dogs had a great weekend and I had a ton of fun hanging out in the mountains with friends, both new and old.  We now have a bit of break in trialing.  Miles is entered locally for USDAA just in Perf. Speed Jumping and Perf. Grand Prix on 2/13…hoping for a bye or at least some Q’s to get him fully set for Nationals.  Then we head to Florida for a 4-day Awesome Paws Camp at Wendy Pape’s place with her, Linda M., and Carrie Jones.  On the way back, I’m hitting a 3-day AKC trial in Savannah, GA.

Until then…..

Cougars and foxes

It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog, but that’s not for lack of training more a lack of time.  Here’s what we’ve been doing….


Just continues to get better and better with his adaptability to new environments and faster and faster each time we run it seems.  It’s to the point that I do not feel like we need to work together every day to maintain our skills.  In fact, he seems to be enjoying his break from trialing and frequent training because when we do work, it’s much more special.  He has become my solid dog which just blows my mind to think about really.  I never have any doubts any more when I take him out to play agility no matter where we are doing it….he’s just plain and simply a rock star.  I think he has really just been reaping the rewards of me taking Rue to as many places as possible.  Where it used to take him a run or two of looking around while working, he now is able to enter a new place confidently and work with me without concern.  This to me is simply amazing!!

While up visiting my mom over Thanksgiving I brought the dogs to a drop in class at an indoor facility that I had brought Miles to last Christmas for some rental time and run-throughs.  Last time we were there I spent a good portion of our time just playing with him in the ring and letting him explore.  I didn’t do more than jumps and tunnels and maybe some weaves or an aframe here and there.  His attitude going into the class this time was a stark comparison.  He was confident and excitedly happy.  He worked very well for me, ran fast, and didn’t give a darn about the people, the other dogs, or the teeter.  I just love when I can really *see* the improvements he’s made.

As far as my goals to improve my handling skills and speeding up the dogwalk and table, well I guess we haven’t been working specifically on the latter two items.  Silvia had suggested that I try retraining him to a running dogwalk….or if nothing else just work on running across the board to build confidence in that piece.  This is something I want to start doing, but I think I’ll wait until after the Spring trial season is over.  The weather and lack of daylight have not allowed me to do any of the daily training that is required for this type of retrain and I don’t really want to do it in the middle of heavy trial season, so I think it will be a great Summer project for us 🙂

This past weekend we attended a seminar with Carrie Jones for handling work.  I worked Rue in the morning and Miles in the afternoon (more on Rue’s stuff in a bit).  For the first time in a while I felt like I really learned some valuable tools from a seminar.  This makes me very excited to work with her again at the Awesome Paws camp in February!  My big take home from this seminar was the importance of deceleration which is something that I really have a hard time doing.  Get me running and I really don’t want to slow down 😉  However, the difference in Miles’ path on course was amazing.  The whole thing was much more smooth and it didn’t slow him down at all, sweet! 

In keeping up with my reading of Jane Savoie’s Ribbon’s book, I’ve been continuing to work on my verbal affirmations and visualization.  To add more color into my visualizations, I’ve decided that Miles is a Cougar….slender and agile, yet extremely powerful with the ability to jump high and far.  He runs extremely fast, yet quietly, and is lethal to the competition.  Sounds good, eh? 


Oy, this little girl sure does keep me busy!  I’ll start by saying that I *think* she’s worked through her teeter issue.  I’ve been on a quest to get her on as many different teeters as possible as well as continuing to not have her stop at the end of the board.  I really think that was the major part of the puzzle.  As I’ve said before, Rue doesn’t like to be surprised by things….if she thinks something should be one way and it turns out to be different, she is quite offended.  Granted this is something she needs to work out for herself because there are going to continue to be instances when she guesses incorrectly.  I think that will just come with more experience and more exposures.  By continuing to bring her to as many places as possible and to experience as many different pieces of equipment as she can will only boost her confidence and her ability to recover. 

What amazes me is how she always keeps such a straight face…a poker face really.  This makes it very difficult to read her and continues to cause me surprise when she ends up showing her avoidance/stress behavior.  With this being so seemingly unpredictable it’s taking me longer to figure out earlier on so I can help her before she reacts.  What’s interesting too is how she can portray stress in totally opposite ways…sometimes it’s that she trots around the course or stops to sniff one spot on the ground whereas other times she will go visit people or start frantically running and sniffing around the ring.  Perhaps it’s just a reflection of her overall motivation/confidence level at those times whether she stresses up or stresses down.  It probably doesn’t matter which response she has as long as I can recognize it.

At the seminar on Saturday, Rue did amazingly well and worked happily for her tug all morning.  Her first run was a little stressy and she left me to visit the spectators and her favorite canine boyfriend.  Carrie initially had me try just running away and calling her which didn’t work (doesn’t usually, but I gave it a whirl), so I ended up having her sit so she could refocus and then Carrie held her as I ran down to the start of the sequence.  I recalled her and then started the sequence.  Little muffin found the weaves along the way so quickly completed the set of 12 before joining me for the sequence.  This time she was completely successful.  So something to keep in mind to try next time she starts visiting folks during class 🙂

Yesterday I got together with a friend to train some short jumping sequences.  This is someone she doesn’t see often and it was interesting to see that he added a lot of pressure for her.  Not only he, but the teeter was in the arena too.  She’s trained in the arena only a handful of times and it’s always been more difficult for her…the added lure of the wood chips for one is very distracting for her.  We’ve only ever done jumps and tunnels in there…maybe some buja board stuff when she was little, but the amount of time she’s been in there is not a lot.  And she’s never seen the teeter in there, ever.  I started working her with her favorite tug toy (the same one we used in the seminar and the same one I have used in class with success), but she was very distracted.  I’d get her engaged and then start a sequence, but after the first or second obstacle she’d start to sniff.  She actually hid in the tunnel and chewed on wood chips at one point, sigh.  After not being able to reingage her, I elected to carry her out to her crate.  I then brought Miles out and worked him excitedly before returning to give Rue another shot.  This time was better, but I still lost her to sniffing during a more difficult sequence.  Again I carried her out.  I felt bad because I didn’t really know what I could do to help her, but at the same time I was getting frustrated and that’s only going to cause her more stress.  So carrying her out seemed to be the best option.  I was going to just end it there, but after talking it over decided to remove the teeter from the picture.  I took her back in and got her engaged with play.  We played for a little longer than normal and then started the sequence.  She was definitely better, but still got distracted.  I was able to end her tug game while she was still engaged and then wanted to see what would happen if I used food.  HUGE improvement.  I worked some more difficult sequences than before and she was still able to run pretty fast and I did not lose her.  I even had my friend stand in the middle of the sequence and she did just fine.  I was pleased with this data for sure.  She was able to motivate for food just fine and she was also able to work past the pressure of the arena, the woodchips and a “judge”.  I probably should have brought the teeter back in, but admittedly I was pretty much whiped out 😉 

As far as my visualization and affirmations for the lil’ one, well she’s a red fox.  Resourceful, clever, sly, quick, and adaptable, yet independent and somewhat cunning.   I’m certain my little red fox will grow to enjoy working more as a pack in time……

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…..