Fun with dogs

Monday, May 30, 2011

Eugene Kennel Club, AKC show, Day 4

Wow, tired this morning.  It's the last day of the EKC Memorial Day 4-day trial.  We loaded up early again, and I worked Novice and Open FAST early to get my working obligations out of the way.  Picked up the maps and was totally stoked for the courses.  The judges seemed to realize that by day four neither the handlers or the dogs would be 100% so the courses looked pretty straight-forward.  Standard was up first again.

Excellent B Standard

On walking this course, there were a few handling choices to make.  After walking both a front and a rear between the teeter and #3 I chose a front cross.  We went with another front cross after the A-frame before #6.  Jump #9 (triple) landed them looking right up the A-frame, so to avoid that I threadled and gave HP his weave command.  He pulled into me nicely and did his weaves well.  People were walking the serpentine (11-12-13) in a variety of ways, I chose to handle it from the front side, sending him over 11, threadling back over 12, then sending him over 13 with a rear cross right behind him (between 12 and 13 jumps).  The rest was smooth and easy, with a front cross after the tunnel(#18) and on to the finish.  We Q'd for our 7th MX leg and 16 MACH points!

Video of our run:

Excellent B Jumpers with Weaves

Boy was I glad to see a nice, easy jumpers course!  Walked this and thought we might actually have a chance at a QQ today.  So my plan was:  Front cross (FC) between 2-3, another between 5-6, another between 9-10, then run for the end.  I had seen lots of dogs take the off course #2 jump on the run to the finish, between 16-17 so I knew I had to work that hard.  We were doing great, and on plan until 9-10, for some reason, after the FC HP turned toward the 15 jump.  I screamed his name, he turned and took 10, and we were still in it.  On the run to the finish (15-16-17-18) he did look at #2, but I called him and he focused back in and finished strong.  We Q'd for another QQ!  Woot!  MXJ leg #3 and 4 MACH points!

Video of our run:

I am just beaming, astounded, astonished, and so very proud of my boy.  Talk about an amazing weekend.  Three MX legs, three MXJ legs, two QQ's, and a HIT working group all in one trial.  How spectacularly awesome. 

I think I'll give HP a break and skip practice tomorrow, he deserves it after how hard he worked this weekend.

MACH totals: 97/750 points and 2 double Q

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Another good agility day, EKC, Day 3

We had another good agility day.  I showed up early and worked the FAST classes.  Big mistake as Lexi did NOT like being left alone that long.  Oh well, lesson learned.  Time to run!

Excellent B Standard
This looked to be a fun course.

We had problems from the get-go with this one.  HP didn't hold his start stay.  He crept foward, had to pogo-jump over the #1 jump, didn't get enough speed and lift for the triple (#2), knocking a bar on the triple.  After that it was a beautiful run.  He handled the serpentine 4-5-6 great, his weaves were awesome, we front crossed between the weaves and #9, the rest was smooth sailing.  Lots of dogs took the off-course jump #1 after the dog-walk, but he pulled back into me easily.  I was pleased with the run, even with the knocked bar.  The only disappointing thing was he was MOVING, and would have gotten 20 MACH points if we'd Q'd. :(  Oh well!

Video of our run:

Excellent B JWW

I have to admit I was really worried about this one.  The 20 inch crowd that had run it before us were complaining that it was difficult, and very unlike Paula's normal courses.  We walked it, I didn't think it was THAT bad, and figured we'd just see how it went.  HP held his stay this time, and we threadled jump 2-3 so as to avoid the off-course #8 option.  He nailed his weaves, we front crossed to jump 7, then another front cross (FC) between #9 and #10.  FC's between 12-13, 14-15, and 16-17.  Whew!  Lots of front crosses!  Then a straight sprint to the tunnel and the last jump.  We Q'd!  Yay!  MXJ leg #2 and 7 MACH points!

Unfortunately the batteries died in my video camera for this run so no video available. :(

MACH totals: 77/750 points and 1 double Q

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Eugene Kennel Club, AKC show, Day 2

There is only one word to describe our day today.  Awesome.  Just awesome. 

We arrived early as usual.  I got the dogs settled, maps collected, and set down to study maps.  They were doing general briefing, as well as High in Group awards.  I was sitting at my crate set-up only half listening.  Suddenly my friend Beth comes over and says, "Why are you sitting here?  You have a ribbon!"  When I walked over, it turns out we had taken High in Working Group yesterday!  Wow!  Awesome!  Funny enough, our only other HIT Group was last year at this same show.  We got an awesome ribbon for it.

Needless to say I'm thrilled, and it was totally unexpected.

Excellent B Standard
After waiting around through FAST.  We were up for Standard.

This course was nice and flowing, with a few challenges.  When walking this course, there were only a few places where I considered a couple options.  The front cross after the 180 and before the teeter was a no brainer.  Between the A-frame and the chute I walked it with both a front cross after the A-frame or a rear cross before the chute.  In the end a front cross won out, as I don't like rear crossing the chute.  The dogs don't know where you are when they come out, and unlike a tunnel, if you call them while they are in the chute they can get tangled.  The other area where there were options was the 14-15-16 sequence.  I walked it with both a front cross between 14-15 and a front cross between 15-tunnel.  We ended up doing the front cross between 14-15 and it worked well for us, I think the other option would have been fine as well.  Either way, we had an awesome run!  We Q'd, giving us our 6th MX leg and 17 MACH points. 

Video of our run:

Excellent B Jumpers with Weaves
I was pretty stoked after our Standard run, and we only had to wait an hour and a half to run Jumpers.  I was REALLY hoping to break our Jumpers curse.

This course was pretty complex.  I walked it with a front cross between 2-3, another between 6-7, another between 9-10.  My areas of concern were 13-14, where the tunnel was a definite off-course option,  15-16 because outside weave entries are NOT HP's favorite, and 19-20 where again the tunnel is an off course option.  I chose to threadle 13-14, as well as 19-20 to really pull HP in and get his focus on me so he wouldn't take the tunnel.  For the weaves challenge, I allowed HP to run out straight towards the wall until his body was in line with the weaves, then pull him in and tell him to weave so that he wouldn't miss his entry.   I watched several dogs before us get a lot of off course tunnel suck, so I was worried.  Turns out I didn't need to be.  WE ACTUALLY Q'd!!!!!  He ran great, was totally focused, read my crosses and threadles really well.  We got our first MXJ leg and 5 MACH points.  Yay!!!!!  After our run, my former instructor (we changed due to a move) stopped me to tell me what a great job I'd done handling the course.  Since she is not the type to be over-effusive with praise, I was thrilled!

Video of our run:

So we now have our first QQ, and added 22 MACH points to our total today!  AND a HIT working group!!!!  Woot woot!

By the end of the day I had two very tired boxers. :)

MACH totals: 70/750 points and 1 double Q 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Eugene Kennel Club, AKC show, Day 1

Yay for local trials!  This weekend is our 4-day Memorial Day weekend local trial put on by Eugene Kennel Club at the Lane County Fairgrounds.  Love, love, love this venue.  I went over early on Thursday (since it's only 15 minutes from my house) and set up our mat and crates so we would have premium space.  Judges this weekend are Bob Long and Paula Ratoza. 

We arrived early, about 7:30am.  I took the dogs for a nice long walk because FAST was running first and we weren't entered in FAST.  We have our Open FAST title, but HP's strength is not really distance work, and I'm focusing most of my training Standard and JWW in order to get our MACH.

I walked Lexi around for a while, so she could play with some of the puppies in attendance.  We also ran into another boxer person!  She had a 9 yr old that was running preferred.  She thought Lexi and HP were just GORGEOUS.  I'm a little biased, but of course I agree.

Standard ExB
So after picking up course maps and getting everyone settled, I sat down to see what we were in for.

Nice course.  We headed over to wait for our run.  While waiting, I saw a guy videoing for the local news.  He started talking to me, then asked if I'd wear a microphone while I ran.  I was a bit flustered, but said yes.  Turns out it wasn't a problem, I forgot about it once we started running.  I set HP up in a startline stay, led out to Jump #2.  On the ok, he released.  The first surprise was the A-frame.  At the end of the A-frame I released him, and before I could head for jump #4, he headed for the chute!  I yelled his name and he stopped inches from going into the chute and came back to me.  Luckily, no fault so we continued on.  The rest of the course was fairly smooth.  We did a front cross between the weaves and jump #9, a rear cross between jump #11 and the tunnel, and one more rear cross between jumps 16 and 17.  Harry Potter did a great job, we got another MX leg (#5), 4th place, and 10 MACH points.  At the end of the run, the news guy came up and wanted a quick interview.  Of course right after my run I looked awful but oh well. :)

Video of our standard run:

The news show we were on can be accessed here.

Jumpers with Weaves ExB
The jumpers course actually looked pretty challenging for the first half. 

It was basically a figure 8 to start.  I walked this a couple ways.  The first one was with a front cross between #6 and #7, the second way was with a rear cross between #7 and #8.  I really wanted to get the front cross in if I could, as it made the pinwheel (7-8-9) much smoother.  Turns out it worked and I was able to get it in.  We also front crossed between 9 and 10.  At this point I was thrilled, HP was handling well, we were done with the difficult part of the course, all that was left was weaves and a quick run around the edge of the ring. 

Well, it all fell apart.  For some reason, HP popped at his #10 pole in the weaves.  I have watched and watched the video, looking to see if I anticipated the end of the weaves, if there was any lateral movement on my part that pulled him out, but I can't find a thing.  I guess I have to chalk it up to one of those things.  After he popped, we were going to re-do the weaves (even though it was an NQ at that point).  I called him back to the beginning and he began BACKWEAVING!  ACK!  I tried calling him out twice, but he was ignoring me.  In an effort to get him to stop, even though I knew it would mean a whistle, I stepped across his path.  He did stop and come to me, the judge blew the whistle, and we left the ring.  As much as it was frustrating that he popped the weaves and it down-spiraled from there, he did do a FABULOUS job on the first and most difficult part of the course.  I guess we have to take the good parts where we can get them.

Video of our JWW run (even though it's embarassing):

We still have 3 days left, so that's 3 more chances for those elusive MXJ legs and QQ's!

MACH totals: 48/750 points and 0 double Q's

Sunday, May 22, 2011

First CAT legs for both Boxers!

While I'm a little behind on my agility updates, I do have some great news from yesterday.  Both boxers picked up a Coursing Aptitude Test (CAT)  leg yesterday.  My local all-breed club consists of a LOT of sighthound owners.  As a result, they do a lot of lure coursing trials.  Yesterday afternoon (Saturday), they held their first CAT.  It was limited to 25 dogs, and run at the end of the first day of their lure coursing trial.  The premium suggested we show up at 2, I got there a little before noon because I'd planned to help out if needed.

Well, when I arrived, I could tell things were running late.  They had an unusually large number of entries for the regular trial, so the CAT wasn't going to start until much later.  Thank goodness it was a breezy, 58 degree, overcast day, so I could crate the boxers comfortably in the car.  We sat around and chatted with friends for a while, and watched some dogs run.  A friend that graduated vet school a year ahead of me (Roberta) was running her Ridgeback at the trial.  Saucy (the ridgeback) was out running, somehow managed to "cheat" and jump across some brush, as well as catch herself on the line.  Lure coursing can be a dangerous sport.  When she finished her run, Roberta noticed Saucy had a laceration running vertically about 3-4 inches along her chest.  Neither of us had the materials to stitch up a laceration that big, so I told Roberta I had my vet clinic keys with me, and my clinic was 20 minutes down the road so we could go stitch her up there.  I knew I was risking missing my CAT runs with the boxers, but Roberta would do the same for me if my dog needed stitches.  We hauled butt down to the clinic, local blocked the area with lidocaine, then cleaned and stitched it up.  We made it back to the trial just in time for our runs.  Obviously poor Saucy is out of the trial for the weekend but at least we got it cleaned up and stitched up.

So after passing our lameness check (you have to gait the dog in front of two officials to make sure they are fit to run), we were set to course!  The boxers have been to practices before, Harry Potter has done a lot of practice coursing, but Lexi has only been to one.  Practices only consist of 100-150 yard straight courses.  The CAT was a 300 yard oval course for small dogs under 12 inches and brachycephalic breeds, all other dogs run 600 yrds.  I figured Harry Potter would do it, but I did wonder about Lexi.  Turns out I didn't have to worry.  She took off like a shot, chasing the bag with determination.

You see in the video that she almost caught the bag several times, the people watching were yelling at the guy running the lure to go faster. :)  I am quite sure he didn't expect such speed out of a boxer!  She ran the 300 yards in 30 seconds.  As she came around towards the end where I could catch her, I could hear her squealing at the lure.  Talk about an excited, happy boxer!  We passed, and she qualified for her first CAT leg.  For our title we need 2 more legs, which we hope to get in June.

Photos of Lexi from the professional photographer that was there

Harry Potter was up next, but I had no worries about him.  He's always been excited about lure coursing, to the point of screaming and lunging when the machine starts up.  He ran really well, was nice and tight with good follow.

He finished the 300 yrs in 27 seconds to get his first qualifying CAT leg.  Hopefully he will finish his CAT title in June as well.

Photos of Harry Potter from the professional photographer that was there. 

It was an awesomely fun day, spent with some great dog friends, and I can't wait to do it again in June!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Wow have I been ignoring my blog....

Sorry for the lateness in posting training updates.  I've been procrastinating quite a bit.  Probably due to the training issue we've been having lately, and the fact that I've worked 6 days a week for the past 3 weeks.  Very exhausting schedule.  So I'll fess up, stop procrastinating, and update my blog.

Harry Potter
So this has been my frustration.  I've talked about his grass eating issues before, but it seems like they'd been getting worse rather than better.  I was getting really frustrated, and admittedly pissed, that he'd rather eat grass than run agility.  Classes were becoming no fun for me, or for HP.  So my instructor took me aside after class and told me I had a choice.  I could be pissed and get nowhere, or I could sit down, come up with a plan, and take this whole thing as a challenge that I have to work through.   After thinking about it, I decided she was right.  So after some thought, I came up with a couple things:

  1. Find something REALLY rewarding.  HP had already shown me that he'd rather eat grass than have treats and rather eat grass than play tug so I had to come up with something SUPER motivating that could help his focus.
  2. Reward more often when we're working on grass.  HP has trained on dirt in an arena his whole life.  He's 5 now and we're just starting to train regularly on grass.  So I need to remember this is hard for him and that I need to up my rewards to help him keep his focus.
So, I started the toy hunt.  I ordered a babble ball as well as a Crunch-n-tug.  My thinking was that he has before shown a complete OCD attitude to the babble ball, to the point of me having to take it away.  It is a small ball that talks when you bump it or move it.  He ADORES it.  We also had a crunch-n-tug that a friend bought us that he liked a lot that got stolen at a show.  I highly recommend the crunch-n-tug for anyone who has an agility dog.  She makes them specifically for your dog, you pick the type of fur, squeeker, it has a pocket for a water bottle to crunch and she'll even put a bungee on the handle for tugging.  Awesome toy!

Well, we tried the babble ball in practice last week.  I was worried that it would be TOO exciting for him, causing him to knock jumps or bail on equipment.  I'm glad to say that after a run or two, he honed in and worked WONDERFULLY for the babble ball.  We could actually do sequences without any grass eating!  I was thrilled to find SOMETHING that worked, as well as pretty proud of myself to have worked it out.  Honestly, I don't even remember what we practiced as far as sequences go, I just remember that we were successful, and after the many weeks of grass eating, I was stoked. 

We have a "focus session" today working on contacts and weaves for the upcoming 4-day Memorial Day weekend trial here in town.  I've asked our instructor to do some serious distractions while weaving, as well as work on rear crosses into weaves.  I've needed a few of those at the past few trials, and I just don't trust them enough to chance them during a run.  I'll try to put up a report when we get home today.

Lexi's class this week was a great one.  Kathy worked hard, there were several stations set up for us to work on. 

  1. Jump chute - consists of 5 jumps in a straight line, 5-6 feet apart, with bars at 8 inches.  The idea is to get your dog striding correctly over the jumps, and to drive forward in front of you.  You set a target plate at one end, then take your dog to the other end.  They are supposed to drive over the line of jumps.  At first you should stand still after you release them and they should drive to the target, then gradually add in forward motion as they become more comfortable (in order of walk-jog-run, working both sides).  Jump height is not important, and they are supposed to be really low for this exercise.  If the dog has trouble driving over 5 jumps (Lexi cheated, jumped the first and ran out around to get the food) you can place the dog in the middle with two or three jumps and work up to 5.
  2. Lateral distance - Jump set up with three cones directly in line on each side of the jump, with approximately 2 feet between each cone:

                    X     X     X     |-----------|     X     X    X

    The idea is to set the dog up with the jump directly in front of them, you walk out to the cone, stand slightly forward of the jump and cue the dog to take the jump.  The dog should take the jump, then come into you.  You slowly work from the inner cones to the outer cones, increasing distance and adding difficulty.  Ideally, you should have 30 feet of lateral distance eventually, but as these were baby dogs, we were only working to about 12 feet max.
  3. Angled jumping - Jump set up with three cones angled away from each side of the jump, with approximately 2 feet between each cone:

                      X                                                 X
                            X                                     X
                                  X                         X

    You set the dog up at each cone, move around the jump so you are slightly ahead of the jump and directly in line with the dog and call the dog to you (for example if I have the dog set up on the cone on the right side of the jump, I walk up in front of and on the left side of the jump and call him to me).  You gradually move farther and farther out to get the dog used to jumping at an angle to the jump, rather than always just straight on.
  4. Teeter - teeter was set up with tables under each end so the dogs could work on it at approximately half height
  5. Dog walk - set up to practice contacts (2 on 2 off)
It was a great class, by the end Lexi was VERY mentally tired.  A lot of the other dogs were physically tired, at which point Kathy took a small break to talk to us about conditioning, how important it is, and how most people don't do enough of it.  My boxers rarely get tired, and I try to do as much conditioning as possible to help prevent injury.  But that's a topic for another blog.