Fun with dogs

Sunday, April 24, 2011

What an awesome trial weekend....

This weekend was the German Shepherd Dog Club of Oregon/Portland Agility Club trial.  It takes place in Ridgefield, Washington.  Nice venue, indoors, with lots of crating space.  We arrived Friday night at my friend Kennedy's house around 9pm, she's nice enough to let me crash on her couch when we have Portland area trials.  Lexi and Vegas (Kennedy's Great Dane) had the most awesome time chasing each other around the back yard, I wish I'd had a video camera.  We crashed out around 10:30, as 5:30 am comes VERY early on Saturdays!

Saturday April 23, 2011

Up at 5:30am, arrived at the trial at 6:30am.  Set up the soft crates and began the wait.  The run order was totally screwed up, and we ended up doing our ExB Standard run at 10am and our ExA Jumpers run at 4:30pm.  Made for a VERY long day.  HP is very chill at trials and Lexi is getting much better about relaxing in her crate.

The first thing we heard when we got there was how difficult the courses were on Friday. :(  After this weekend, I can say these judges were tough, and you could tell they don't run big dogs.  The courses were very challenging, and some didn't have great flow.  Oh well, it happens sometimes.

ExB Standard

On walking this course, I noticed a few spots where things could go bad.  First double jump #4 to tunnel #5.  I was on the inside (right) of the teeter and needed to cue the outside tunnel entry.  Luckily momentum carried him into that entry fairly easily.  The next tricky spot was jump #8 to the #9 triple to the #10 table.  I decided to use a deceleration cue (slowing down) and NOT crossing the plane of the #9 to avoid him taking the #11 jump, then I used a lateral to pull him to the table.  He read this well, it worked great.  Lots of dogs either took the #11 (bypassing the table) or knocked the #9 triple due to too much of a decel cue.  The last tricky spot on course was #15 A-frame to #16 weaves.  This one wasn't expected, but lots of dogs took the #18 or #19 jumps after the A-frame instead of pulling into the weaves.  We almost had that problem.  HP ran through his contact and started towards #19 when I yelled his name and front-crossed to get him into the weaves.

This is a link to the video:

We Q'd for our MX Leg #3 (of 10 needed) and 11 MACH points

It was a beautiful day in the northwest, 60's and sunny, so since we had so much down-time, I walked the dogs up to the top of the hill where they romped across the fields in the sun.  Lexi also had some fabulous play time with a doberman and with a little spitz-type dog.  She's becoming a trial pro. :)

ExA Jumpers with Weaves

For this course, we were still chasing that elusive last AXJ leg for our AXJ title.  The first challenge was the 4-5-6 pinwheel,  the off-course jump after 5 got several dogs.  The 8-9-10-11 also got a lot of dogs.  Because of the distance 7 to 8, many dogs either were either pulled off or pushed off the 8 jump.  There were also lots of opportunities for getting the wrong ends of both tunnels.  Because it had warmed up quite a bit, HP was not running his fastest.  While it slowed up our time a bit, it did make handing this tough course easier.

This is a link to the video:

We Q'd for our AXJ #3 (of 3) and our AXJ title.  This meant we moved up to ExB JWW for Sunday!

Sunday, April 24th, 2011

Luckily the running order was in our favor today and it looked like we'd be done early.

ExB Jumpers with Weaves

Since we'd achieved my big goal for the weekend (AXJ title), today was just icing on the cake.  This course presented several opportunities for off courses.  Our trouble came at the 6-7-8 sequence.  I walked it with a front cross between 6 and 7, a rear cross between 7 and the weaves, and a rear cross between the weaves and 9.  The problems with each were as followes:

  • Front cross between 6 and 7 - sets you up for an off course jump #11
  • Rear cross between 7 and the weaves - HP's rear crosses into weaves are not that strong.  Unless he's really driving through the weaves he will get distracted by me crossing behind him and pop out.
  • Rear cross after the weaves before jump 9 - puts you WAY behind your dog for the 9-10-11-12-tunnel sequence, which a lot of dogs were having trouble with, the 11 jump was angled wonky and forced people to push their dogs back out to jump 12, several dogs missed the 12 jump because of this
So in hindsight, I should have done the rear cross before the weaves.  Instead we tried a front cross between 6 and 7, I *think* I was probably late, and we got the off course jump at #11.  HP knew when I called him we'd gotten the wrong one, he came up and kissed my nose, I told him it was ok and we finished the run.  Otherwise our run was fast and gorgeous, my inept handling messed him up, so we celebrated anyway. :)

This is a link to the video:

ExB Standard

This one was another tough course with lots of challenges.  The first was the #5 tunnel to a 180 at #6-#7 with a wrap to the #8 tunnel.  I saw several people walking it with a front cross between #6 and #7 and a pull around to #8.  That worked well for us, he got it easily, which lead us into a nice rear at #9 and a smooth weave pole entry.  The front cross between #12 (double) and #13 (teeter) was a little rough, as HP had sighted in on the tire but pulled off it (as he should have) when I called him.  The #14 to #15 tire was also a challenge as there was about 1 stride between landing the #14 jump and the off-course jump in front of it.  I saw HP sight in on the off-course jump and I SCREAMED his name, he pulled around and took the tire!  Yay!  The rest of the course was fairly smooth.

This is a link to the video:

We Q'd for MX leg #4 and 14 MACH points!

All in all it was a fabulous weekend with an AXJ title, a double Q on Saturday (didn't count towards our MACH because one leg was in ExA and one was in ExB), 2 MX legs, and 25 MACH points.

MACH totals: 38/750 points and 0 double Q's (but it's a start!)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Weekly agility classes

Tuesday night with Harry Potter was another session on grass.  We were working discriminations (ie use your Threadle arm!).  Per the website AgilityNerd, a threadle is:

"Threadle describes the dog's path through two or more obstacles when the dog performs obstacles in the sequence in the same direction. The dog is "pulled through" (between) adjacent obstacles in order to take the next obstacle in the same direction as the previous obstacle. The entrance and exit paths may or may not wrap the respective jumps.
The obstacles are often jumps and are also often arranged in an almost straight line. Although the spacing, rotation, and arrangement of the obstacles can vary significantly. The key feature is the dog's taking the sequence of obstacles in the same direction. As best I can tell the name of the sequence refers to the way the dog's path looks as though it is "sewn" or "threaded" through the plane of the obstacles."

Two Jump and Three Jump Threadles

Threadle Sequence
Thanks to AgilityNerd for the definition and illustration.

We had a course set up that had a row of 4 jumps with a right angle into the weaves, then two jumps to an A-frame tunnel discrimination.  After the jump you use your body language to cue the dog to come in to you, then send them to the tunnel because it was closest.  The first pass was rough, with some grass eating, and then he picked the A-frame instead of the tunnel that I had cued.  I have a suspicion that I was late cuing the tunnel though, as I was trying to manage his grass eating.  Our instructor says that we need to reward the dog coming in for the threadle cue 70% of the time, as threadles are difficult for the dog.  So we restarted and he managed to get the threadle cue, then tunnel cue. 

We also worked on a sequence that required the dog to drive over then wrap around the jump to come back with the handler for the next jump.  I was worried about backjumping (where the dog goes over a jump then turns around and jumps back over it), which is a big no-no in agility.  HP actually had more trouble with eating the grass than the backjumping.  It seems like as long as I am working hard and focused on him he can ignore the grass.  However, the minute I pause to think through something or restart a sequence, he resorts to grass eating.  I guess we'll just have to continue with out clicker/reward training on grass.  Kathy gave me homework, working on collar grabs, so that when I have to grab him when he's eating grass he doesn't see it as a punishment, he sees it as an amp up to work.

Lexi's Thursday night class

Wow,  What an AWESOME class we had tonight.  Lexi was a ROCKSTAR.  Our first set up was a tunnel-jump-jump, front cross, jump-jump-tunnel.  Running start, no sit stays, just amped up running.  Lexi LOVED it.  She was driving ahead, I just had to try to get the commands out fast enough.  When she does get ahead or off course, she's whipping around back to me when I call her.  It was AWESOME.   We did our first full height dogwalk tonight as well.  She had very little trouble (after the first bail off) with it, and by the end of class was driving forward quite well, and even doing 2on2off (they are supposed to land with their hind legs on the board, front legs off) at the end.  We did some teeter work, with a little more bang than last week, and then took a look at their striding over the A-frame, which was fabulous.  Again, awesome 2on2off on the A-frame!  What a GREAT class!

Looking forward to an awesome AKC agility weekend at Ridgefield this weekend!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Agility classes this week....

Our normal schedule has Harry Potter taking classes on Tuesday nights and Lexi taking them on Thursday nights.

Harry Potter's Tuesday night class - Theme of the evening - Driving forward with speed

When we arrived to class, I noticed that most of the set ups appeared to be on grass.  UGH.  I hate working on grass.  HP has always trained in an arena, so this move to sometimes grass (my new trainer has a partially covered arena, but also a grass area) has been really rough on us.  He LOVES to rip out and eat grass.  I mean LOVES it.  He'd rather do that than almost anything.  So it becomes this frustration of jump jump stop and eat grass, jump weave I'd rather eat grass.  VERY frustrating.  So after a few passes of this, Kathy (my trainer) suggested a clicker.  HP is clicker trained, he loves his clicker cause it means food.  So I got out a pocket full of meatballs and a clicker.  I was rewarding him for nose-touches, heeling with focus, basically anything that wasn't stopping to eat the grass.  Finally, after about 15-20 minutes of this, we were able to move on to doing some of the sequences (specifically a line of 4 straight jumps with an immediate 90 degree right turn into the weaves, and another one that consisted of several 270's and 180's).  I was finally getting some focus, and much less grass eating.  I think we can work through this, but it is most definitely our most difficult challenge right now.

Lexi's Thursday night class - Theme of the evening - short sequences

So the baby dogs have worked their way up to short sequences.  These were set up so that it worked out as sort of a figure eight with two jumps on each end of a tunnel.  We started out working with the dogs on the left, the sequence running jump-tunnel-180 over 2 jumps-back into the tunnel-jump.  Lexi did great, stayed with me very well.  I was worried at first that she would zoomie, but quickly was able to reward her every 3 obstacles or so and she stayed with me.  I was even getting a really nice whip around when I'd call her name.  We then reversed the sequence and did it handling on the right.  We also did some restrained recalls (we did have some zoomies with these), then did some teeter work.  The teeter was set up with two different height tables on each end, so that there was some motion but obviously much less than with a full teeter.  Lexi was happy to walk back and forth on the teeter, with very little problems with the motion or the noise.  Go baby dog!

Stay tuned for next week's updates. :)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Lure coursing practice

Chintimini Kennel Club had a lure coursing practice today.  It was a straight line practice over about 150 yards.  Harry Potter has been lure coursing for a few years now and absolutely loves it.  When he even hears the lure machine he starts going bonkers.  His two runs were perfect, he was very keen on the lure, and ran very well.

This was Lexi's first time lure coursing.  The reason we went today was because I have them both signed up for the CAT (Coursing Aptitude Test) next month.  I wanted to get at least one practice in with Lexi to make sure she would chase the bag.  Her first run was with the "squeeker", which is a piece of fur that looks like a dead raccoon but makes a squeeking sound while being dragged.  She never looked back from the moment I released her.  She was on the lure, very keen, running well, and definitely wanted to catch that thing!  For her second run, we took off the squeeker and tried her on just the plastic bags (which is what she would use for the test).  Again, an awesome run. 

Luckily, because they are brachycephalic, when they do the CAT next month, they only have to run 330 yards.  From the demo today, I don't think we'll have any problems. :)  Lure coursing is an awesome sport, and I'm glad to see the AKC opening it up to other breeds!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lexi's beginner agility class.....

We went to Lexi's beginner agility class last night, even though I've been sick all week.  I'm glad we went, as we had a good practice.  After restrained recalls that is. :)

We started with restrained recalls.  The idea is that the instructor holds the dog, the handler takes off running and calls the dog.  The dog is supposed to drive to your side and play with you.  Well, Lexi's idea of a restrained recall is more like a buzz by.  She comes running at me as fast as possible, then does a fly by into large loops of the zoomies.  After a few wide loops, she comes back in and plays.  *sigh*  Boxers and their zoomies.  Thankfully my instructor is understanding.  She told me after class last night, "She has the potential to be a great agility dog, we just have to understand that she will have the zoomies sometimes and we can work through them."  The idea is to gain control without stifling her speed.  As a result, my personal homework for the week is a lot of nose touches, collar grabs, recalls, and tug work.  I want her to enjoy working with me, and come back because (to her) I'm awesome. :)  As Susan Garrett says, "You be the cookie".

After the recalls, we worked a few short sequences.  Jump-tunnel-jump and tunnel-tunnel-jump.  Lexi did well, with only one episode of the zoomies at the end of one of the tunnel-tunnel-jump sequences.  We're trying to strike a balance of her focusing on me, but still being able to drive ahead to the next obstacle.

After that we did stations with partners.  We worked on chute, which she was fabulous at, a pinwheel of 3 jumps (she's only jumping 8-12 inches right now, as she's still a baby dog), and a teeter board that was basically lying on the ground with a very small fulcrum.  We were pretty successful at the pinwheel, with her being able to complete it a couple times, and after being introduced to the teeter board and realizing it's similar to the one at home, she excelled on that as well. 

The last thing we did was work on contacts.  We did several dog-walks, with her driving ahead nicely, and her 2on2off is looking good.

All in all, another great class!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Countdown to MACH...CRAC AKC trial, Albany, April 1st & 3rd

Friday, April 1st

I think I'm going to make less ambitious goals for my blog posts.  The busy life of a veterinarian doesn't leave a whole lot of time for blogging.  Harry Potter, Lexi, and myself did attend the Columbia River Agility Club (CRAC) AKC trial last weekend.  HP was the only one running, Lexi was there for atmosphere.  I love this venue, indoors and on dirt, but crating space is limited.  We arrived early and grabbed one of the last set up spaces along with my friend Kennedy and her Great Dane, Vegas.

Harry Potter waiting to run

Lexi's first weekend in her "big girl" soft crate
The dogs had a lot of sitting around to do unfortunately, as we arrived around 6:30, but because it was small to tall we didn't run until around noon.

So we goofed off, chatted with friends, tried going to the park (where HP was too interested in the ducks and Lexi was too interested in everything else but me).  Finally time to run.

First course of the day was ExB Standard:

Unfortunately I knew from the first tunnel that it was going to be a slog.  For some reason HP was running REALLY slowly.  I felt like I was dragging him around the course, which is very much not the usual way we run.  He was accurate, and we did Q, but it was painful.  Time was 62.65 (SCT 68), YPS was 2.91.  Yes, 2.91.  He normally averages somewhere between 3.5-4.0.  Well, it was still a Q, and earned us our first 5 MACH points.  Yay for MACH points!

Second run of the day was ExA Jumpers with Weaves:

This one was unfortunately a disaster.  While it looked a little difficult on paper, it walked quite nicely.  We need only one more ExA JWW leg to get into ExB and start accumulating MACH points in JWW, and those elusive double Q's.  That's why I was so disappointed with our performance.  I set HP up in at start stay, released him, he went over jump #1 then pulled into me and started sniffing.  He never sniffs!  After that I knew the run was blown, but figured we'd finish the run at least.  I should have just quit while I was ahead.  After that refusal, we also got one between 7 & 8 because he didn't drive ahead of me so I could get in a rear cross, then we got an off course at 18, when he took the 7 jump instead (totally my fault, I mishandled it because I was so disgusted).  Big, fat NQ on that one.

I was a little PO'd after our lackluster performance.  Then I was reminded that HP had raided a canister of cheeseballs the night before and eaten quite a few of them.  Maybe it was an off day due to an upset tummy.  Well, we'd be back again to try Sunday (due to my having to work Saturday).

Sunday, April 3rd

This day started out a lot better.  Because it was small to tall again, we didn't even bother showing up until after 9am.  It was still a lot of waiting around, but not as much as Friday.

ExB Standard

So after a pokey standard and a crash and burn jumpers on Friday, I was hoping for something better today.   I really liked the judges this weekend, as they planned courses with good flow, but several challenges.  There were some definite opportunities for off-courses on this course.

We were definitely faster than Friday.  We Q'd with a time of 56.09 (SCT 65), and a YPS of 3.12.  Not as fast as usual but still better than Friday.  Gained us 8 MACH points for a total of 13 MACH points for the weekend.  And at least I hadn't felt like I was dragging him through the course.

ExA Jumpers with Weaves

Again we were trying for that last elusive jumpers A leg.  This course looked pretty nice.  My plan was a lead out, with a front cross between 3 & 4,  I'm not sure if I got in his way, or if I didn't cue him soon enough but he went in the second pole on his weaves.  I restarted him, then he popped out of pole 10.  We restarted once again and he got them.  This was the first time we've had weave problems for a couple trials now, so I'm not sure what's up with that.  After the weaves he also took the off course jump #20 instead of pulling with me to #5.  We really pulled it together after that one though, with him running accurately and fast for the rest of the course.  Oh well, another NQ in ExA jumpers.

Maybe we'll get that AXJ at our next trial on the 23rd/24th.

MACH totals:  13 MACH points, 0 Double Q's