Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Doctor!

Jonah had to go to the vet today.  He was actually quite brave at first.  He walked happily up to the door and into the waiting room.  Then he was perky and attentive while we waited.  When it was time to go in, he only balked for a second and then walked bravely into the examining room.  In the room, he kept looking at the door, but he politely said hello to the doctor and was doing alright.  Then he had to get on the scale.  No thanks.  I had to pick him up, and from that moment on he looked like he might cry at any moment.  He stood there with his back arched and his head down.  Of course, he didn't even flinch when he got his shots, but the whole idea of just being on that moving scale/table was clearly terrifying.  As soon as he got off he was back to his normal, happy self.

The report is that he's looking good and healthy but he shouldn't gain much more weight.  He's always been right around 33 pounds and usually the vet tells us to fatten him up a little.  Today he weighed in at 36, and that's apparently the upper limit.  Diet time!

Once we got home we did some agility work.  Mostly I did wrap work, again with the jump between two trees, and me jackpot-ing him for turning inside the tree.  I'm not sure he really 'gets' it (it being taking a nice tight line), but we'll keep at it.  I'm hoping it will click at some point.  

Monday, January 30, 2012

January Gambling

We just did a short session today, but we worked on some good distance challenges.  Here was the setup:

I would send him to the tunnel, which he never has any trouble with, and then give him a command for the weaves as he was nearing the end of the tunnel.  The first time he came racing back to me and never saw the weaves, but I could stay a ways back and send him to the weaves individually.  After a couple tries he was racing directly to the weaves.  He didn't have any trouble with the entry.

Then, once he was conditioned to turning right and going to the weaves I practiced sending him straight ahead to the jump.  This was harder for him.  He really wanted to come towards me, and even started the weaves a couple times.  We eventually got it.

Next I put it together as tunnel-jump-weaves.  It was a tough entry if he jumped big over the jump.  I had to stay still while he went out and jumped, and let him find the entry before I started moving down the line, or he ran right past the entry.  He got it several times, though.  Good boy.

After that I went on to do some wrap practice.  I set a jump between two trees, with about 2 feet of clearance on each side of the jump.  Each time he wrapped tight enough to come back inside the tree, I would jackpot.  His success rate was a little lower than I would have liked, so I might need to find trees slightly farther apart.  Our last gamble was on the other side of the line.  I sent him to the jump, then out to the tunnel headed away from me, and then he finished fast through the weaves.  No problem.  He was great.

So, distance is definitely a skill we're still developing, but it's fun to set different things up and keep practicing.  The weather looks like it's still going to be warm enough to be outside (grr...I want winter!), so the upside is that we can do more agility.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

More Gambling, and Wraps

Today Jonah and I played around a little with some gambles.  Here was our setup:

We started with just the jump to weaves or weaves to jump (1-3 or 3-1).

Then I worked on 1-2, which was actually difficult for us, as Jonah was then conditioned to turn to the weaves.

Then I put it together 1-2-3.

We also did 3-2-1.

1 to 2 was definitely the hardest for us.  That will be a good winter project for us to work on.   

After doing gambles, I worked on some wraps.  Jonah just doesn't wrap jumps very tightly, so I set up a jump next to a tree, with about 2 feet in between the stanchion and the tree.  I would send him out to the jump and jackpot when he would turn back to me inside the tree.  We only did a few repetitions each way, but I thought it was good.  He was better turning to the right than the left, which I thought was surprising given that he typically prefers his left lead.  Anyway, we'll keep working on it.


Dave and I cleaned out the house because we had some guests coming over.  In doing so, we realized that one of Jonah's bones smelled wretched.  So, Dave threw it away.  Jonah was sad.  He went looking for it.  It was cute, in an unfortunate sort of way.  This incident happened late at night when the pet stores were closed, but we promised Jonah that we would take him the next day to let him pick out his own new bone. So, we did.

Jonah was amazing.  It's funny to say that your dog was amazing going to a pet store.  That seems like it shouldn't be a big deal.  For Jonah, though, it's a huge deal.  He used to HATE the pet store.  It has automatic doors, aka zombie dog crushers.  It has birds that squeak.  It has overpowering smells.  It has people, some of whom try to be friendly to you.  Sometimes it has other dogs.  Basically, it's the scene for Jonah's horror movie.  Or, used to be.

This time, Jonah walked happily in front of us.  He knew where he was, and he showed us the way through the parking lot and right through the doors.  He came happily around corners that used to be sources of terror.  He sniffed politely at various toys and bones.  He selected his favorite.  He met several nice people, including a child (usually children are not especially high on Jonah's list).  He met another dog.  He got a cookie from the man at the cash register.  Then, he walked on a lovely loose leash back out through the zombie doors (which apparently no longer have zombies.  strange.) and out across the parking lot back to his car.  If you have a dog that was well socialized from the start, maybe this seems like an exaggeration, but I kid you not.  This was a momentous occasion.  Jonah is growing up in the world.  It made me actually wonder if it might be possible for him to get his CGC one day.  There's dreaming for a reactive dog, but this was certainly a step in the right direction.

At the pet store, we got Jonah a new toy:  a frisbee.  Now, Dave and I play ultimate frisbee so we've never let Jonah play with our frisbees, because in that sports world dogs mean teeth marks in nice pieces of plastic.  However, we got a nice little fabric frisbee that looks nothing like ours.  We took Jonah to a new-to-us conservation land (where there were goats.  on leashes.), and Jonah got to play with his new toy.  He loved it!  Before long he was actually tired (a rare occurrence), and we came on home to a nice, happy, tuckered-out dog.  Good day.

Friday Run Thru

On Friday Jonah and I went to run-thrus at DogStar.  I'd hoped that run-thrus would go like last time:  nice and smooth--confidence builders.  Well, they didn't.  I tried handling some different ways and it rarely seemed to go well.

Here was our first issue:
On Thursday I'd handled this as a serpentine, with Jonah on my right the whole way.  At run-thrus I wanted to try it with him on my left.  Well, despite deceleration and lateral distance on my part, he jumped 2 really big so he was already pretty much past the weave entry, which made the turn back to the weaves really awkward.  He was just so excited (these were actually the first three obstacles of the course) that jumping out of collection was not what he wanted to do.  I'd really like to have the skill of handling this on both sides, but it didn't work for us this time.

Once we got started on that course it ran well until I tripped over a cone that was numbering a jump.  It was kind of embarrassing, but not a big deal, I suppose.

Our second course started on an only slightly less confused note.  I forgot mid cue that I wanted to handle a threadle a different way, so ended up giving Jonah very conflicting directions.  Poor guy.  He was generous, but I felt really dumb.

The middle of the course ran great, but then I wanted to run the last line (see the drawing from our last post of the weaves to the three jumps) where I'd get a FC in between the last two jumps.  Well, I busted my butt to get there in time and then forgot I had to support Jonah taking the correct side of the second jump.  Doh.  I tried it again and got it, but I'm not sure that line will ever be pretty--it's just difficult!

After running the courses I tried some gamble practice.  It was...humbling.  First I layered the DW for him to do a jump and a tunnel (1-2):

He missed the jump the first time but got it the second time.  I just needed to make sure he had enough gas going into the tunnel, and give the command for the jump early enough.

Next I tried the A-B (tunnel to weaves, with me on the far side of the DW).  Well, we never got it.  I tried throwing my bait bag out in that direction, but it proved just to be too tough for us right now.  He was confused and tried everything he could think of.  We'll have to keep working on that one.

Our third gamble was a push out to the teeter, layering a jump.  It was about 15 feet, I think.  The first time he drove right out to it, put one foot on, and then realized I was far away and came running back to get me.  The next time I came right inside the layered jump and he was fine.  Third time was the charm, and he took it confidently.

The last gamble of the day looked like this:

At first Jonah turned towards me after 2, but then he was happy to drive out to the weaves.  After a couple tries he was happily turning left after two and going to his weaves.  This was the same distance as the layering of the DW, but for some reason, even with the RC going away from me, it was easier for him.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hard Class

Wow, Grace's courses last night were very difficult.  We did alright, but it was messy.

The first course involved a threadle, a stretch where the dog had to be out ahead of the handler, a tough serpentine from the DW to a jump to the weaves, and then a hard jump line at the end that looked like this:
We managed to get through the course without any official 'mistakes,' but there was generally a lot of confusion.  For this last line (above), I did a BC out of the weaves so he was on my left for 2 and 3.  I stopped dead while sending him to 3 and called 'here' as he was landing.  Then I flipped him on the flat to 4.  Like I said, it worked, but it wasn't pretty.  Neither was most of the rest of the course, although our first threadle was quite nice if you ask me.

The second course was easier, but for some reason we had trouble at one point where Jonah just didn't see a tunnel.  This happened a few weeks ago, and I can't figure out why sometimes he just misses them.  We did a jump and then he had to turn about 90 degrees to the left into a tunnel while I kept running basically straight.  I called 'tunnel' and angled myself towards it, but he just stuck to my side and ran right past it.  He did that twice!  It was funny.  I'm really not sure what happened.  Usually he's very good at finding tunnels :).

Anyway, we didn't get to run very much last night but there are run throughs today so we'll get a few more tries.  I want to try some gamble practice, too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


I just want to say that it is hard to plan ahead when you don't know if you will get into a trial or not.  Last week AKC people were complaining about that at class, but now I'm starting to feel the same way about CPE.  For the third time in five tries, I didn't get into a CPE trial.  Humph.  I mean, it's certainly not the end of the world, but the trial is only three weeks away, and so there's not a lot of time to come up with alternatives.  If I'd known, I would have signed up for the USDAA trial in two weeks, which was still taking entries as of Sunday.  Now I'll sign up for a USDAA trial in four weeks, but that will mean three trial weekends in a row for me, which I don't really like to do.  I'm lucky that I'm able to sign up for the one in four weeks--the entry time has already past for the trials in five and six weeks.  Logistics are complicated.  I had decided that I wanted to focus on CPE for the spring, but now it looks like I'll be doing more USDAA.  I like USDAA, so that's not really a problem, but it's definitely a change of plans.  It also makes me a little bit nervous about having taken down the A-frame, since I won't be able to give him repetitions at 5'11.  Oh well, such is life.

If I were running trials (which I'm very glad I'm not!  It's so complicated!), I would want to see online entry that would be able to process entries more quickly so that people would know within a couple days whether or not they had been accepted for the trial.  It would help a lot.  Maybe some day...

The Time Has Come

Yesterday I made the leap and brought in the contacts.  It was a funny day to do it, as it was nearly 50 degrees and all the snow had melted.  The ground was so muddy, though, that the space was nearly unusable.  So, with a forecast of cold temperatures and having some time yesterday, I went ahead and took things apart.  It's sad, and a little worrisome especially for our A-frame contacts, but hopefully it should only be about 6 weeks or so until I can put them back up.  It's frustrating to have mud right now, because there isn't much we can do.  I almost want things to freeze so we can do some light jump work, practice some gambles and weave entries.  


As I mentioned in the last post, we were up in Vermont last weekend.  There wasn't a ton of snow, but there was enough that we were able to try out our new snow shoes.  It was, quite simply, awesome.

We got there late on Friday night so it was already dark.  So, rather than be put down by the lack of sun (and moon--it was really dark), we strapped on our headlamps and headed out.

It was spectacular.  The snow glistened in the light of our lamps as we walked along through the fresh, clean snow.  Jonah stayed much closer than usual since the snow did slow him down somewhat, but he was still able to explore and sniff, bound and run.  About half an hour was plenty for us and we were rather cold, so we headed back and went to bed.

On Saturday Dave and I went out without Jonah and had a great time.  We were out for 2 hours or so and covered a lot of ground.  Great fun, but we missed the puppy.

Then the three of us went back out Saturday night and went even farther.  We ended by the side of a stream.  It was frozen over, but the water was still running underneath.  We turned off the lights and just stood there listening.  The stars were as bright as could be and the sound of the stream was so soothing.  What a good life.

Now if only it would snow at home so we could use the snowshoes more!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jonah AD

Well, we did it!  All of the practice getting ready for running pairs paid off, and we got our Q.  I guess I'll walk through the day sequentially, because it was a little unusual.

We went up to Quechee for the weekend.  More on those adventures soon, but we left from Quechee this morning instead of home which added a little bit of stress just because I've never driven to All Dogs from there before.  It was fine, though, and we arrived in plenty of time.

The Starters and Advanced dogs had a later check-in time because the Masters dogs ran two classes before any Starters/Advanced started.  So, we were supposed to get there by 9, but at that point Masters hadn't even started Gamblers, and we had to wait until after 10:30 before our lower level Gamblers started.  All that waiting around made me even more stressed.

Finally we got to run Gamblers.  My whole focus for today was to have a good pairs run, and I was thinking that the less hyped up he was for that the better, so I didn't do anything to pump him up before our Gamblers run.  I asked him to sit and stay, which he did obediently, and I led out.  Then we started and he was obedient but quite slow.  His A-frames were not his typical 2-hit performance; he just trotted down the down ramps.  Anyway, he was just slow and unfocused, looking nervous.  Poor guy.  We had pretty much zero momentum into the gamble, and he was supposed to go out to a chute but it just wasn't happening.  I tried to be good and encouraging for him, but it was a round where I really had to cheerlead him around.  Anyway, it was nice that the gamblers round didn't matter for us at all because I really didn't mind at all that we missed the Q.  It just wasn't our day for that.

I signed up to ring crew for Advanced/PII pairs, and it was really helpful to see how they did it.  One dog did get loose and chase its partner.  That made me feel like, if we had a problem course, we at least wouldn't be the only ones!  I got a good look at how the transitions worked, and I was feeling pretty good.

We met our partner, and she wanted to do the first half of the course.  That was nice, because I thought the second half looked better for us.

As I was bringing Jonah in, our partner dog was headed out for a quick potty break, so they got to meet each other out in the hall, which was quieter than the arena.  Once Jonah's in the arena he's pretty sensitive to other dogs, so it was nice that they could meet outside.  Jonah was perfectly friendly and the other dog was, too.

So, before we knew it, it was our turn!  For some reason the jump crew had some confusion about what heights we were jumping, so it was a while after we went in before they were ready for us to start.  I tried to actually play with Jonah a little so he would have a little more enthusiasm than last time.  If you'd asked me yesterday, I would have said that I wanted to do everything I could to keep him calm, but after Gamblers I thought he actually needed a little more umph.  He kept looking for his dad, so I motioned for Dave to move away from the side of the ring.  That's something we're going to have to work on.  Dave says he'll come to our CPE trials and watch everything other than our Colors runs.  That sounds like a good plan :).

Once our partner started, I took off Jonah's collar and just put the leash around his neck.  The other dog popped out of the weaves but restarted just find, and then finished up nice and clean.  Half way!  Then the human went to put the leash on her dog, which was fine, but I was getting restless about the time--she forgot to give me the baton.  Once I got it, I  released the leash from Jonah's neck, asked him if he was ready, and took off.  He actually started nice and fast.  He never even looked at the other dog.  His DW was not a full stop, but he was in the yellow, he raced through a line of jumps, tipped the teeter happily and soared over the last jump.  DONE!  And Jonah hadn't barked ONCE!  Wow.  I didn't know what to say.

We checked our score and verified our Q (it wasn't the fastest time and we finished 3rd, but I'm not complaining).  We even got our beautiful new AD title ribbon.  I think this is the title that I'm most proud of.  From now on, we'll be in Advanced for USDAA...at least until we're in Masters!

Thursday, January 19, 2012


Jonah had a super night at class tonight.  I couldn't have asked for much more on the class before our Pairs debut.

For our first run, Rommy (Grace's senior dog) came out while we ran.  Jonah didn't blink at all.  He ran the course very well and wasn't the least bit distracted.  He did come off the teeter fast (I don't think it was quite a flyoff, but it wasn't the performance I would like), so he may have been a little hyped up because of the other dog, but he never even looked in the dog's direction.  What a great job.

We ran that same course again with Rommy in presence once more.  This time Jonah blew an A-frame contact (it was a long running stretch and he had a lot of speed going into it), but he still did not seem bothered in the least by the other dog.

For our third run Grace brought out Zer, her younger dog, thinking that he has more energy and might be more distracting.  Not so.  Jonah never looked at him.  This course had one tough spot that we bit.  It looked like this:

I was ahead of Jonah after the tire, and he ducked into the tunnel before he caught up to me.  Oops.  Again, though, it didn't have anything to do with Zer being in the ring.  It was just my bad.  We tried it again with me staying back and making sure he was right with me, almost Snooker style.  That worked well.

Aside from that, the course went nicely.

Oh, one more thing--I made an effort to practice sit-stay lead outs since that had been an issue for us last weekend.  He was perfect all but one time when, like on Saturday, he just did NOT want to sit.  So, I had him stay in a stand, and that worked just fine.  He didn't move a muscle.  That's something good to remember in the future.  For this weekend, I'll just try not to lead out if possible.

We ran one last sequence with the next class of dogs in the corner by the door as our distraction.  Once again, Jonah was excellent.

So, I'm feeling pretty good about this weekend.  I don't think there's any way I can keep him from barking some, but I think he'll be able to focus and do his job.  It should be interesting!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I get nervous just writing this, so I really need to figure out how to calm down and be fully present for Jonah this weekend.  Anyway, the catalogue is up and here's what we have to look forward to (note the positive framing.  look.forward.to):

Round 1:  Starters Gamblers
     I entered this just as a warmup to get us relaxed and focused.  I might like to try a lead out to try to calm him down.  I am not going to try to go all out for top points.  Placement is not my primary concern at all.  Really all I want out of this round is for us to go get a little extra edge out of the way, be comfortable in the space and have fun.  There are 8 dogs in the class and I really don't care whether or not we Q or place.

Round 2:  Starters PAIRS!
     That's right, we're entered and at this point we're planning on going.  After they set the course there are 4 pairs of PI dogs (the 4th is two of our CPE buddies!).  Then we're the first starters pair.  Our pair dog jumps 16", so I think that means we will have the decision made for us as to whether we do the first or second half of the course.  Maybe I'm wrong, but I think I've seen that somewhere before.  Anyway, that actually takes some of the stress off of deciding.  I know we can do any course they put at us.  Whether or not we do actually do it is another matter.  I really hope things go alright.  I think they will, but I'm still very nervous!

Those are the only two classes we're doing, so I can go collapse after we're done.  Then I start classes the next day, so it's all busy busy.  In other news, I got a job interview today with a company I'm really excited about.  Yay!

Social Social Social

We've been doing lots of good socialization lately:  3 outings in 2 days!  We've gone to Willards twice and Beaver Brook once.  All 3 times I've had food with me and we've worked on loose leash walking with Jonah's focus on me.  Then, when a dog gets close I let him go and say hello to the dog while on leash.  In general, he's been fantastic.  If he looks like he's going to run with the dog I let him loose (at Willards where that's allowed) so they can play.  He's made some good friends!

Yesterday we went to Beaver Brook and it was an especially good session.  He was great with all the dogs he met, but there was one dog across the field that was playing fetch with its person.  Every time the person would throw the ball and the dog would go flying after it, Jonah would get excited, and he often barked.  He wanted to play, too!  This was really great distraction practice for us, because in many ways it's like watching a dog do agility.  We just kept working on walking and heeling and other tricks where he had to focus on me while that dog was running nearby.  Jonah calmed down and we got to about 20 yards away from the dog.  It was a great session and I hope to get the chance to go back.  I also hope this all pays off on Sunday!

Private Class

We went to DogStar for a private lesson on Monday, and we got to practice a bunch of gambles.  They were really good.  The toughest part of the setup was like this:

After sending him in the tunnel, I would either send him to the jump straight ahead out of the tunnel or the one at the top of the map, which he would turn left to out of the tunnel.  Both were challenges for us.

When we were going to the jump straight ahead, my first inclination was to be far ahead of the dummy jump, but that didn't actually work for us.  When he came out of the tunnel he saw me over the bar of the off-course jump and would take that and recall to heel.  Instead, it was better for me to be right on top of the dummy jump with my arm out, not giving him space to jump it, and driving towards the jump I wanted him to take.

For the second gamble, I had to work it in steps.  The first time he didn't get the out command--it was just too far for us right now.  The next time I stepped over the line and sent him out, which he was very good with.  After that I could send him from the line.  Good boy.

We were going to bring one of Grace's dogs out but we ran out of time, so we'll do that on Thursday instead.

ADG Trial

Sorry I'm a little slow getting this up.  I actually wrote most of it by hand during the day on Saturday and then I just didn't have the enthusiasm to type it when I got back.  Overall it was a good day but it ended on a slightly sour note.  Here we go:

Round 1:  Fullhouse Level 5
     Jonah started fast and furious off the start line.  He was flying!  My plan was just a big loop twice, so it was very easy but a good way to warm up.  We did two A-frames that were a little bit runny.  He didn't have a clear 2-hit down side, but instead he broke out of his stride and ran through the contact zone.  It wasn't as fast as it could have been, but there was no question that he was in the yellow.  Then, after our second loop we had all the points we needed and we were just getting more before the buzzer rang.  As he finished his second A-frame I was watching his contact and not where I was going, and I almost ran right into a jump!  My surprise screwed up Jonah's line and we had to get creative.  So, our last ten seconds or so were pretty unplanned and messy, but it didn't matter too much.  I take all the blame.  Anyway, we ended up with 37 points which was enough for a Q and 1st.  We now have 2 level 5 fullhouse Q's--crazy!

Round 2:  Standard Level 4
    This was our first standard run at level 4 and I was excited to be running with the top dogs.  When we went into the ring, Jonah was so high I couldn't get him to sit.  I tried and tried and soon realized it just wasn't going to happen, so there would be no lead out for us.  This was really a blessing in disguise, because the real reason I wanted to lead out was because I was afraid of an off-course option at 3.  Without the leadout, I had to pull hard after 2, but it worked beautifully.  In fact, he didn't even look at the off course.  This way, running with him, I tested our skills and it was a great confidence builder, because now I know I can trust him in that situation.  After that (well, really including that), the course ran beautifully.  He was a little slow coming down the DW ramp.  I think he was a little bothered by the light from the window which put a funny shadow on the DW.  A bunch of dogs bailed right at that spot, so I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Anyway, he just trotted down the ramp rather than really driving, but he went right into his 2o2o and off we went.  This time his A-frame was absolutely perfect, and the rest of the course flew by easily.  What a star!  It was one of the best runs we've ever had, and lots of people commented on it.  Another 1st and our first level 4 standard Q.

Round 3:  Wildcard Level 4
     Again, Jonah was very excited to start the run, but then he came out of the tunnel (the second obstacle) slowly.  It took him a few obstacles to pick back up to full speed, but he was very accurate, attentive, and nailed a tough weave entry.  I was enough ahead that I could FC the weaves, which is unusual for us in a 6 pole set.  Then he was back to full speed, got a discrimination and found another tough weave entry.  I drifted pretty lateral while he was weaving and it was enough to pull him out.  Oops!  I honestly don't remember the last time he's done that, but I guess we should practice some more weaves as I do funny things, training more independence.  Once we fixed the poles he finished very, very fast.  It was an excellent note to end on.
     After the run, I was reflecting about the weaves and I realized that, right about when he popped out, I had a moment of panic where I forgot where I was going.  I'm wondering if he sensed that.  I've definitely noticed before that he doesn't run as well when I'm nervous.  I'm really going to have to watch that next weekend for our pairs run, because I know I'll be nervous.

Round 4:  Colors Level 3
     For every other run this trial I had brought Jonah in too early, so this time I wanted to wait a little longer.  Well, of course, now I barely got in on time.  When I got there there were 2 dogs ahead of me, which would have been fine except that the in gate was on the far side of the ring and there were crowds of dogs between me and the gate.  Jonah had been really good with other dogs throughout the day, but this was a little much for him.  We had to pass between dogs left and right and there was a fair amount of barking.  By the time we got there we were both a little frazzled.  Anyway, the course started well and I was taking things for granted and cruising for home.  He came out of a tunnel and I didn't support him enough over the next jump, so he ran past it.  Then, in turning around he back jumped it.  In colors, an off-course means a NQ, so even though the whole rest of the course was great, our one oops was enough that we did not have our third perfect weekend in a row.  Oh well.  It's too bad because we really need colors Qs, but we'll get there.  It had been a long day--we'd been there for over 10 hours.  I was just tired and didn't give him the handling he deserved.  It's a bummer, but we'll get past it.

No titles or anything this weekend, but we're 3 Qs closer to our CATCH :).

Friday, January 13, 2012

Thursday Night Class

Jonah and I went to class last night.  In general he was very good.  He did bark at one dog while I was walking the course.  He doesn't like to be tied to the wall and he's too amped in the environment to stay while I walk the course without being tied/held, so he was walking the course with me, and so was the other dog.  As a bad handler I was paying more attention to the course than my dog, and then he was barking and I looked and realized that I'd let them get especially close.  Oops.  Entirely my bad.

Our first course ran alright, but it wasn't our most connected.  It started well, including a really nice flip to a tunnel off of the A-frame which I thought was tough.  Now that we have the running contact, he flies off the A-frame and to get the flip I had to be a good ways ahead so I could get the cue in, but I also didn't want to get so much in his way that I screwed up the contact.  Anyway, the weaves were before the A-frame so I was able to get ahead and it worked beautifully.

After that things were going well until there was a table at the middle of a straight tunnel:

The tunnel wasn't quite as long as the one in the picture.  Anyway, he did a nice table performance, but then when I gave him the cue for the tunnel he was really confused.  It was like he just didn't see it, even though he's usually good at those sorts of tunnel entrances.  He turned around and hopped back on the table, then back down and went around the far side of the tunnel.  After a bit of a frenzy where he knew he wasn't doing what I wanted but couldn't figure out where to go, it clicked and he rocketed through the tunnel.

He got a discrimination for the A-frame but then I drifted pretty laterally (maybe 20'), and it made him get excited enough to one-hit-wonder the A-frame contact.  Yes, he got in the yellow, but not the way I'd like it.

Then, the last section was a line of three jumps that involved a lot of wraps and back-sides, running back and forth kind of like a suicide.  We got it done but I let my eyes off him at one point and it made his line pretty inefficient.

We did this course a second time through and it went much better for us once we got started.  The first two obstacles were a jump with a 90 degree right turn to a weave pole entry.  The first time I pulled him around to the poles with him on my left, but the second time I led out and called him into my right side.  When I did this, I was impatient and started my forward motion too soon, pushing him out of the correct entry.  I set him up in a start line stay again and he got the entry perfectly the second time.  I handled the rest of the course a little differently, and it all worked quite well.  It was a good run.

Our last run of the night went well until the very end, where we ran into trouble.  There was a tunnel under the A-frame and he was supposed to do the tunnel to the A-frame.  Well, he came flying out of the tunnel and turned too widely to get onto the A-frame.  Oops.  The next time I backed up and gave him a longer approach.  It worked.  Grace suggested that actually being closer might be more effective, too.  We'll try that today when we go back for run-thrus.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trial Preview: ADG

This is going to be a fun trial because it's the one year anniversary of our very first trial!

I don't have much exciting to say about it, so I'll just jump right in:

Round 1:  Fullhouse Level 5
     Fullhouse is fun and it's a good way to start the day.  This would be our second fullhouse Q at level five.  That seems really crazy, but that's what it is.  There's only one other level 5, 20" dog.  I'll go for high points, hopefully.  I'll look for a big, fast and flowing course and get him running happily first thing in the morning.

Round 2:  Standard Level 4
     This is our first shot at Level 4 standard.  We need 8, which will take us a while to accumulate.  I'm pretty sure at this point that Standards will be our 'lagging' Qs as we move forward, especially since Riverside trials don't offer them.  Anyway, I'd really like to get this Q and don't see much reason why we wouldn't unless we missed an A-frame contact.  Fingers crossed.  I'm also kind of hoping that it will have some decent challenges, since most CPE courses we encounter are pretty mild.  I watched one upper level standard class this fall that had a threadle and a tough weave entry...it would be fun to be pushed a little bit!  There are four other dogs in this class.

Round 3:  Wildcard Level 4
     This is our first Wildcard attempt at Level 4.  It would be good to get it and keep moving, but it's not an especially high pressure Q.  Hopefully some of our discrimination practice will pay off.  Jonah is one of 6 dogs in 20", Level 4.

Round 4:  Colors Level 3
     This would be our second Level 3 Q in colors, and I'd really like to get it so we can get our level 3 title with the next colors Q (that's all we have left to get the CL3--2 colors Qs).  Luckily colors isn't generally particularly difficult.  There are 7 dogs in the class, though, so it will be competitive!  It's funny that there are more dogs at level 3 than at level 4 and our level 5 class only has one other.  Oh well, I don't really care much about placements.

Dave and I were talking about bringing snowshoes up there and visiting a local park between rounds since these trials are usually long days, but it looks now like Manchester is only getting 1-3 inches and then rain on top, so I don't know if snowshoeing will be practical.  Some day we'll get to use our Christmas presents...

Practice and Creativity

So I'm realizing that we have limited opportunities to practice for pairs in a structured agility environment.  That means we have to get a little creative!

I was thinking that we could take advantage of local dog parks in more ways than I've been doing.  Not only can we go, walk around and meet dogs, but we could actually practice working with doggie distractions all around us.

I got to thinking how great it would be if I could bring a couple obstacles with us and set up a few little sequences while we're there.

...Unfortunately, most of our equipment is not particularly movable.

But then I realized that I wouldn't have to bring traditional dog agility equipment.  Dave and I have human agility gates that are light, small and moveable.  They look like this:

They're 12" high, so not really anything like the actual jumps he does in agility, but I figured it would be enough to give him a job to do.  Yesterday I brought out four of these little gates and set up different sequences.  We did a box, a pinwheel, a gymnastic line (line of gates at different distances to practice striding), a bending line and I tried to do a serpentine with mixed success.  I think they will be very effective training tools.  The serpentine was very difficult because these gates are only 18" wide.  If I wasn't very clear with my handling, he would just run by the gates.  It was interesting because he picked up the fact that these were jumps very quickly, and he would drive out to them if he saw the face straight on, but with the bigger angles of the serpentine he wasn't registering them as jumps.  They're imperfect because he could easily jump the full length of them, and the lack of stanchions makes it a little hard to 'read' what he's supposed to jump.  Anyway, maybe they'll never be good for work with lots of angles, but I'm confident that they will work for basic setups to practice distracting settings.

Of course, now it's pouring outside and I don't particularly want to go to a dog park :).


We went back to willard's yesterday.  This time it was morning and there were lots of dogs and Jonah was very high.  From the beginning he was a little more stressed than he had been the day before.  First we came to a big group of dogs, including the lab puppy from the day before.  Jonah was very polite at first but then he got overwhelmed and gave a single bark.  We moved away and all was fine.  Then there was a nice playful dog that he met nicely and wanted to run with so I let him loose and they lept and ran and were quite happy together.

Eventually that dog went another direction and a new one came.  It was a young dog, very excited, some sort of spaniel, and initially they ran fast and happily.  Then something happened and Jonah gave a, "Rawr rawr."  It was more than a single bark but it was a short way of saying, "Stop.  I don't like that."  The owner of the other dog, though, was very concerned.  She gasped and asked, "Oh, is your dog usually like that?"  Before I could answer that Jonah will talk like that but that he's really harmless, she continued, "My dog is very sensitive.  She will be stressed now."  Maybe that's true, but she didn't appear to be discouraged at all.  In fact, again before any words could come out of my mouth, the dog was playfully jumping all over me.  At first it was just a friendly hello but then she realized that I had food and then she got rather pushy.  The owner looked at me and said definitively, "Oh, you have food."  The person called to her dog repeatedly but it was futile and eventually had to come grab the dog's collar.  They walked one way and we called Jonah to us in the other direction.

It was a funny situation.  I guess I would prefer if Jonah never barked at another dog, but in some ways I think it's good that he will stand up for himself now.  He was not aggressive at all, he just told the dog to back off.  If I put myself in the woman's shoes, I could see that she would initially be concerned because you never know the other dog, and for all she knew he could have been starting to attack her dog and there could have been a risk of injury.  So, I'll give her the benefit of the doubt about Jonah's behavior.  Furthermore, I'm sure I misinterpret Jonah's feelings sometimes, too.  It was clear to me that her dog was not stressed and sensitive--maybe her human was, but the dog was a playful, oblivious youth.  Maybe I'm wrong.  That's just how it seemed to me.

The second part of the interaction, though, bugs me.  If having food helps my dog (which it does), I'm going to bring it.  It is not then my fault if another dog is jumping on me.  Please do not blame me because your dog is suddenly uncontrollably attached to me, trying to get into my bait bag.  I guess this is my problem now, but it is not my fault.  Granted, I don't usually mind that much if a dog is jumping on me.  I love dogs!  I just don't like it when their humans get angry at me, rather than realizing their own room for training improvement.

Ok, sorry.  Done with my patronizing rant.  I have lots of training I'd like to do still with Jonah.  He is far from perfect and I am far from a perfect handler.  Ok.  Now time to go.  More later.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Leashes at Willards Woods

After our lesson yesterday I took Jonah over to Willards Woods and he was fantastic.

I kept him on his leash, but I had my bait bag with treats.  When we'd see a dog from a ways off, I would get his attention on me and remind him that I had deliciousness in my bag.  I would let him check on the other dogs, but if he didn't come right back to me I would just say his name and give him a little cookie.  I made sure the leash was really slack.  Then, when he got close, I let him say hello but I kept no pressure on the leash.  A few times he wanted to actually run and play with the dog, and at that point I would unclip the leash and let them have fun.  If he didn't want to play, we would continue on our way after the initial hello. He was so amazingly perfect I didn't know what to do (but he got lots of cookies)!  We met 10 dogs with no stress at all.  At one point, 3 dogs came rushing at him all at once:  a big happy golden, a lab puppy (maybe 3 months?) and a little puggle.  They engulfed him and the little guy was jumping on him.  This would often overwhelm Jonah a little bit, but he was great.  Wow.  I don't know what to make of the whole situation other than I hope we have lots more experiences like this.

My concern is that, at trials, it's not practical to have him on a loose leash all the time.  Space is simply too crowded.  He's so hyped at trials and I'm nervous and the other dogs aren't necessarily friendly either.  It's just a crazy environment and I can't expect him to behave like a rock.  He's a real, live dog after all.  Hopefully, though, the more practice we can get in relaxed situations, the better he will react in more hectic ones.

We got our pairs partner assigned today.  I did a little stalking (looking on a photographer's website and searching for the dog) and found that it's a very nice looking little cattle dog.  Not a big crazy looking BC.  The handler looks really nice too.  So, that's reassuring.  Gulp.  

Fun Private Lesson

Yesterday Jonah and I had a great session with Grace.  We didn't have any other dogs in the ring, so it was just us and focusing on our own skills.

We started with a fun jumpers sequence of 11 jumps.  It included a threadle, 180, forward send to a wrap and other fun challenges.  Jonah was excellent.  The only 'mistake' we had was a dropped bar on the send/wrap when I slammed on the brakes and he was startled.  My fault.  One other time he turned left when I was ambiguous about the send (I'd envisioned him turning right).  Grace said that as I was slowing I actually drifted left, which he picked up as a RC cue.  Again, my fault.

The fun part was that Grace had us handle one section a few times and timed each one.  It looked like this:

My first inclination was to FC on the landing side of 3.  It was tight and Jonah had to slow way down, but his line was very efficient and it ran well.  5.8 seconds.

Next I did a RC over 3, so he turned left and ran the longer route.  This way he was able to really dig in after making the turn and had a lot more speed going over 4 and 5.  The longer route was costly, though.  6.1 seconds.

The third way I did this was to have lateral and forward distance over 1, drift into the pocket between 2 and 3, rotate towards him and send to 3 with my left arm as I'm facing him.  Then I tucked close to 3, did a BC and picked him up on my right as he wrapped 3 to the left again.  Thus, he was running essentially the same path as last time, but the BC encouraged a shorter wrap.  It was also 5.8 seconds.  

The first handling was definitely the easiest for me, but I think he might have liked the BC best because he didn't have to put on the brakes so hard.  Anyway, it was lots of fun to have a stopwatch on us.  My perceptions of what was fastest weren't always the reality.

After working through this sequence we did some gamble work.  It was just a box of jumps, where you sent the dog across the box ahead of you (you can't go into the box), and then have the dog do a 270 and jump across the box the other way:

Conceptually pretty basic, but it proved to have some challenges for us.

The first time Jonah did not send out to 2.  He started that way but got concerned when I stopped at the line and turned back to me.  We need to work on forward sends (and we did, today, if you read our last post).  The second time and from there on out he got 2, but he was not as confident as I would like.

The first time we tried to go across the box 3 to 4, we got it.  It was a bit of a timing game, where you had to wait long enough for the dog to commit to the correct side of 3 (without support Jonah would have come in the gap between 2 and 3), but then you had to get moving to show movement forward and not let the dog curl in over the backside of 1.  As I said, the first time we got it, but subsequently I screwed up the timing a few times.  

I realized that I could sort of cheat a little bit.  If I was patient, I could wait for Jonah to come back towards me, coming past 3, and then I could re-set the line for 3 and 4 starting with a send out to 3.  This worked pretty reliably, but it would be nice to not have to do that.  I think I'll set this gamble up again some time.  It was a nice one--not too hard, but hard to do really nicely.

Then, at the end of our lesson, the dog in the next slot came into the ring and Jonah didn't bark once!

We're Alive

I have some updating to do, I realize, but first I just want to review the session we did this afternoon.

First we did this gamble.  Jonah was very good.  The hardest part was getting the second jump, but he only missed once, when I stayed well behind the line (it was 21 feet from the line to the second jump):

Next we took the tunnel to the contacts and did discriminations.  Jonah was super except one time he took the DW instead of the tunnel when the tunnel was closer to me.  I guess he has a little bit of DW suck.  Also, one time on the A-frame he ran down the ramp and his nice 2-hit rhythm broke down.  He was still well in the contact zone, but not a perfect performance.  All his other A-frames looked super.

Then we took the tunnel back to the jumps and did this gamble:

He was pretty good with this, too.  A couple of times he turned towards me after 2 and sometimes it wasn't a smooth turn from 2 to 3, but generally it was quite good.  I like this gamble.  I decided that if I were ever a judge I might set up this as my gamble:

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sometimes Things are Really Hard

Grace brought her older dog out today while Jonah ran at class.

It was much less dramatic than yesterday, thankfully.  Jonah did bark when he first saw Rommy, but nothing too bad.  I thought he was actually going to run alright, but it turned out that even just having a happy, relaxed senior dog in the ring was a huge distraction.  Here's some footage.

Aside from the problems with the second jump (so weird!), he clearly takes a look as Rommy moves later on in the course, and then he barks on course, which he never does once he's started.  He was generally slower and more distracted.  It wasn't too terrible, though.  I'll try again :).

Our later rounds were just me and Jonah on the course and he was good.  He did pull a bar.  I have it on video but don't have time to upload it right now.  Even looking at the film I can't tell why he pulled it except that he had to chip in a lot, but he pulled it with a back foot so who knows.  It just might be one of those fluke things that happens every now and then.

It was a good lesson--not for the usual reasons, since Jonah didn't have any beautiful and super fast runs as I might have liked, but I feel like it was excellent practice for him to work through having another dog around.  I'm thinking we really might have to scratch the pairs run in late January, but I think we'll be able to do it down the road if we just keep practicing and he gets used to the idea.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ups and Downs of Socialization

Yesterday Jonah and I went to DogStar to practice running Pairs.

It was kind of a disaster.

Jonah barked when Grace brought her dog in, and I thought that was pretty much to be expected, but then he slipped out of his collar and was free, sniffing the other dog's butt.  Luckily he was great, but it was a bad start.  I thought I tightened the collar enough but soon he slipped it again.  I think from now on I'll just bring our agility collar/leash to classes since our 'around the house' collar pulls over his head too easily.

So, for our first run we went first.  We just did a super easy loop around the outside of the ring.  Jonah looked a little concerned that there was another dog in the ring at first and he started a little slow but picked up speed and looked really good.  As we were heading back towards the 'exchange area' the last obstacle was 6 weave poles.  Jonah saw the other dog and just got super excited and distracted.  He ran past the weave poles twice before he even saw them.  Goof.  At least he wasn't running over to the other dog--he was just clearly over stimulated.  After he did the poles he sat nicely and I handed over the baton.

I thought we were free and clear until our 'partner' dog started...and Jonah decided to follow!  I wasn't holding onto him tightly enough and hadn't gotten the leash hooked on yet, so before I knew it both dogs were in the tunnel, with Jonah chasing the other!  Yikes.  I called him and he came back afterwards, and thankfully the other dog was very generous and didn't react.  I was really shaken after that.  Yarg.

We did do two more runs as a pairs team and both of those went smoothly aside from some excited barking.  Still, though.  It was not what I'd had in mind for the lesson and I was pretty disappointed.

It was encouraging that Grace doesn't think we're crazy to try pairs, though.  She said that we just have to be heads up, because he won't be the worst dog out there.  That was encouraging.  We aren't the only crazies :).  The thing is, I know Jonah would never go after a dog to hurt it, he's just talkative.  The concern is if another dog is aggressive and Jonah's barking sets the other dog off.  So, we just need to be careful.

Things we learned:
1.  I can (and should) have Jonah on leash the whole time except while he is running his part of the course.
2.  I need to think about where I throw my leash when I run so I can get it easily after we finish.
3.  If I go first, I need to tell my partner to please wait until I have Jonah on leash before she/he starts.
4.  We need to plan out where the dog who is not running will wait while the other runs.
5.  Pairs is a time + faults scoring, so you can Q if you knock a bar or something so long as you're fast enough (I've never actually read the Pairs rules yet since I haven't run it yet).

After the lesson I was feeling like I needed to give Jonah more socialization (even though in class we talked about the fact that our time in VT may have made Jonah overwhelmed and he might need a few days to recover), so we went to Petco and Willards.

It was like he was a completely different dog.  He was perfect.

At Petco he walked confidently ahead of me up through the automatic doors and met a nice lady coming out, who ooed and ahed over Jonah and petted him while he smiled politely.  We got his food and went to the checkout counter where he met three more nice ladies who all pet him happily.  I was very impressed.  Good boy.  He didn't look shy at all.

At Willards I started with him on leash but, as always, I wimped out and let him off because he wanted to run with the first dog we met.  They had a grand time and we walked (well, the dogs ran, the people walked) with them for the rest of the loop.  We met several other dogs and Jonah was as friendly and happy as could be.  I think he was sucking up after the lesson.  I hope it lasts.

Tonight we go back to Grace's and we're going to spend some time in the ring while another dog runs and also have another dog in the ring with us while we run.  Should be...exciting!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January Goals

This month is going to be different than I had planned, as I didn't get into one trial so I added another at the last minute.  I'd been thinking I'd put USDAA on the back burner for a while, but we're going to get gutsy and try to get our Starters title.  So, our big thing will be to see if Jonah can be civil for pairs.  If his manners are alright, I'm not too worried about any actual challenges the course will give us.  I entered as a draw since I don't know anyone going to the trial, but hopefully we get a good partner.  Sue has told us that she's had her partners screw up a bunch, but I really hope we get lucky.  The fewer times we have to run pairs the better!

So, here's a look at December:
1.  Develop a long-term plan for 'stepping up our game.'  We didn't do it last month, so now's really the time.
     Er, well, sort of.  I think I'm just a little too structured about this.  We'll keep going to classes, fit in private lessons whenever we can, go to trials and keep working forward.

2.  Take Jonah on a social outing at least once each week.  I have no excuses not to since I don't have school.
     Yes.  Things were a little funny schedule-wise since I was traveling a lot, but we did get over to Willards a lot this month, and it was good.  We met some nice dogs and Jonah was very well mannered.

3.  We only have one trial this month, CPE at Riverside, where we'll have shots at Wildcard, Snooker, Jumpers and Jackpot.  We'll have shots at finishing Wildcard Level 3 and Jumpers Level 4.  It would be our first Snooker Level 5 and our first Jackpot Level 4 Qs.  I 'd like to aim for 3 Qs.  For Snooker, since we're in Level 5 now, I'd be inclined to go for a more ambitious plan if it's reasonable.  
     Yes!  We got all our Qs, all 1st places, earned our first Level 4 title, and earned 50 points in Snooker.  Jonah was great and it was overall a fun day.

4.  I want to improve our on-side weave entries.  I think we just need lots of practice.
     Yes.  There's always room for improvement, but we worked on this a bunch and Jonah is doing much better.  It's neat to see such clear progress.

5.  I hope to have the teeter back up to full height and have Jonah still racing over it happily.
     Yes.  Now I have to manage the opposite problem and make sure he doesn't fly off.  He's super happy and fast.

As for January:
1.  I'd like to practice running Jonah with another dog in the ring, in a pairs-like setup.
2.  I'm hoping for a successful first pairs run.  It would be excellent if we got the Q and finished our Starters title, but so long as we don't have a terrible experience I'll be alright.
3.  Take Jonah on a socialization outing at least once each week.
4.  Bring the pause table inside and practice with it frequently.
5.  Build a weave entry trainer and use it inside.
6.  Take advantage of our contacts still being outside as long as they're there.  Maybe even do some discrimination practice.

We'll see what the weather does.  For now, it's cold but there's no snow in the forecast.  Should be a good month!

Happy New Year: 2012 goals

Jonah, Dave and I just got back from a few nice days in Vermont.  It was generally a nice time except that now I'm sick and Jonah didn't know what to think of the guests we had.  There was a fair amount of growling and some barking at two men who he decided he didn't like.  It was stressful for everyone involved.  Sigh.

Anyway, now we're back.  Tomorrow we have a private session with Grace and we're going to practice Pairs--having another dog in the ring, taking turns while one dog runs, passing the 'baton,' etc.  Hopefully it doesn't blow Jonah's mind too much.  If it does, I'll scratch him from our pairs run later this month.  More on that all later.

Now it's time for a look at the year ahead.  I do monthly goals, but it's nice to have a long-term look, too.  I wish I'd done this last year because I can only think that we would have far surpassed any goals I would have set then.  We'll have to see about the goals for this year.  Maybe now I'll be too ambitious.

A look back at 2011:

  • We went to our first trial!
  • Then we went to 19 more trials.
  • We took lessons at three different facilities, loved them all, but have now found a home at DogStar.
  • We earned our first title...
  • ...then we earned 13 more titles.
  • We started USDAA.
  • We made friends.
  • Jonah got attacked...
  • ...but he now loves group lessons.
  • We trialed in five different states.
  • We went on vacations.
  • We went running (I know this isn't a blog about me, but I'll just add a few things I did this year:  I did my first triathlon and won my age group with a time of 1:10.  I did my first 10k and my first half marathons, and I was the fastest woman at a 5k trail race.  woo!).
  • We got weave poles.
  • We built an A-frame.
  • We learned running contacts for our A-frame.
  • We went camping.
  • We went hiking.
  • We went swimming.
  • We went kayaking.
  • We did lots of other things.
Basically, 2011 was a great year.

In 2012, I would like to:
  • Have our first pairs run without any calamities.
  • Earn our USDAA Starters Title.
  • Earn our CPE Level 3 Title.  
  • Go to CPE Nationals!
  • Earn our CPE Level 4 Title.
  • Earn our USDAA Advanced Title.
  • Earn our first USDAA tournament Q(s).
  • Go to a workshop.
  • Have fun.
  • Stay healthy.
  • Continue to work on socialization with other people, dogs and cars.
That's not a long list but it's some big goals.  I'd like to think it's reasonable, but life can always be unpredictable.  Wish us luck, and we hope you have a wonderful year, too!