Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Penultimate Puppy Class

Last night we took Nika up to Gemini for her second to last puppy class.  Right away she got to play, and she was having a total blast!  She played with lots of puppies and was really happy about it.

Then we did a lot of talking and training.  There were a LOT of puppies--at least 15, but at some point I lost track.  It's not a big room.

Right next to us was a tiny, 8 week lab puppy.  They met politely, but then when we were playing 'leave it' the puppy stole the food that Nika was leaving, and Nika didn't think that was fair.  She made a little growly snarky noise.  She didn't go at the puppy, just made a noise.  Unfortunately, the teacher was right there and it solidified the idea in her mind that Nika is a 'bad' dog.

So, when the next socialization time came, Nika and three other dogs were told to stay on one side of the ring, on leash, and practice tricks instead of socializing.  I was really upset.  I thought Nika's reaction had been completely reasonable.  I have a reactive dog, but I really don't think Nika is following in those footsteps.  She played perfectly in the first play session!

I was sitting there fuming and doing tricks with Nika (who was awesome!) and Dave gets a gold star.  He proactively, and very kindly asked the teacher if Nika could play too.  Well, we missed that whole play time, but for the next time she allowed us to walk Nika up, leashed, to the friendliest Golden puppy.  Of course she was perfectly good, and after a minute she was allowed to be off leash.  She was perfect for the rest of the class, which was spent in play.  A bunch of other puppies got snarky, but not her.

So, I don't know how anyone could keep 15 or 16 puppies all straight, and I know our teacher just wanted to keep positive interactions, but the whole point of this class is socialization for us.  The actual training part of the class has very little value to us.  We just want her to meet other puppies.  When we're told to keep her out of the mix, that kind of defeats the purpose.  I think I'm kind of glad next week is the last week.  It's been good, but last night was overall more stressful than fun.  I can't wait to be at DogStar, where classes will be smaller and the teacher will be much more invested in us.  Until then, it's project socialization as much as possible...with whatever sliver of 'free time' I can muster.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Run Thru Video

I went back to DogStar today and had Grace video (thanks, Grace!) since I didn't have any recent footage of Jonah.  I'll let you see for yourself but I'm pretty pleased.  The second run he was just running faster.  I wanted to compare different handling methods, but I think most things I did the second time would have been faster just since he was a little more amped for some reason.  Here are the time comparisons, although my watch probably isn't reliable at the level of tenths of a second:

        Round 1      Round 2
weaves 3.4 2.9
weaves-teeter 9.1 8.2
teeter-tunnel 4.5 4.3
tunnel-jump 3.9 3.9
jump-weaves 2.7 2.6
weaves2 3.1 2.9
weaves-frame 4.9 4.8
frame-end 3.1 3.2
total 31.1 30.0

So, it was surprising that my second handling scheme, with three rear crosses and a post turn instead of a Ketschker, was faster.  It's good to watch, though.  It does make me think I should be less afraid of rear crosses.  I think of them as demotivating, but he drives ahead nicely and sometimes they are a good decision.

ARFF and Personal Qs

I went to ARFF this week.  I realized I'd been nervous to go.  When we got there, while Jonah was still in the car he barked at another dog.  Then I was nervous to take him out.  I spent some time helping with setup, which helped me relax.  As long as I'm doing something, I'm good.  Then Sue got there, and she's a friend, so that helped, too.

Soon enough it was time to get Jonah.  He never barked at another dog.  Good boy.  The second obstacle of the course was a slice right towards the dogs that were waiting, and they were probably only 15 feet away, with no divider in between.  Jonah ran past it the first time--I think he was just distracted byt the dogs and people.

Other than that, the course ran pretty well.  He was a little slow.  I don't know if it was because he was a little nervous, because I was a little nervous, or because it was hot and muggy out.  Maybe a little of each.  I know I was way more out of breath than usual when I finished, so he was probably feeling the same.  It was good practice because it was similar to how he often runs in trials--he does his job but he's not super drivey.

Perhaps the biggest success, though, was that I get a personal Q for not letting him know he screwed up with that second jump.  We just went on.  When I went back to rerun that sequence afterwards, he missed it one more time, and I just went sprinting off playfully before trying one more time.  He got rewarded--I knew he was missing it because he was wary of the other dogs and I wasn't handling assertively enough.  It wasn't his fault, and there was no reason to make him think he'd made a mistake. The third time we nailed it.

Then, in class yesterday, when I once again just didn't handle something assertively enough and he missed a jump, I ran him around a mini speed circle to return to that line and run it again.  It took me half a second to decide where to go when he missed it, but I recovered quickly enough and responded by running fast enough that he thought it was great.  When we came back to the area we'd 'screwed up' the first time, he ran it beautifully.

I didn't think much of this but when I finished the course my classmates complimented me on how I'd recovered well.  That compliment felt really good, as this is something I've had to work on.  Thanks, class!  Small victory for me :).

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Havin Some Fun

Jonah and I had a great time at class today.  It was cooler, so Nika came along and stayed in the car.  She was nice and cool, and she was good and quiet.  Yay girlie.

Meanwhile, Jonah was awesome.  It was his good old self, running fast, letting me leave him and get ahead/lateral, wherever I needed to be.  He was speedy and I had a great time.

Our first course had some tougher, 90 degree weave entries (where dog turns right into the weaves).  The first time I handled them like I would in a trial (a little more support), and he nailed them.  The second time I pushed it.  I did the first at some distance.  He got it.  I blind crossed the end.  No problem.  Then for the second I did a rear cross, which he did beautifully even though he really had to drive ahead of me while I crossed behind.  He was pushing hard.

There was a teeter to a fast line of jumps with a tight turn to a tunnel/A-frame discrimination.  It looked something like this:

I put in a Ketschker and his line was lovely.  It's fun--there's a moment of anticipation when my back is turned and before I reconnect.  If he bid for the A-frame in that instant, it might have been hard to pull him off it and into the tunnel.  No problem, though.  He read it perfectly.  I think it worked better than a post turn, where he would have turned wider.  I suppose I should work on that so I could do a post turn with a better line.  Ketschkers are fun, though :).

There was an interesting jump question right after the chute.  You pretty much had to have your dog on your right for the chute, but then there was a jump mostly ahead with a right turn after it.  I still have a little trouble knowing how fast Jonah will come out of chutes.  The first time I played it safe and rear crossed the jump.  The second time I pushed ahead and (barely) got a front cross in.  It felt late, but Grace said it wasn't and that she actually liked it.  

The only thing we had trouble with on this course was the last obstacle, which I totally did not support.  It was the A-frame to the chute.  Both were pointing in the same direction, but the chute was about 10' lateral to the A-frame's line.  I just ran a straight line and said "chute," but he paralleled my line as if it was a gamble.  He ran right past the chute.  Doh.  Silly me--don't take the last obstacle for granted.  How many last rails did I pull in my equestrian career?  Do I remember the one that cost me first place at training championships?  You'd think I would have learned my lesson.  The second time through I said "here" and put in turning cues.  He got it no problem.  I ran it one last time with me on the other side so I could push to the chute.  I hadn't thought I could get that far ahead, but I got there and it actually ran really well.

The second course was pretty straight forward.  I rewarded the table heavily--lots of treats, praise and petting.  I got to practice some distance, too.  He did the teeter pretty far away from me and looked quite confident.  Good boy.  I rear crossed the weaves once and sent him out away from me to an independent weave entry another time.  We played with some blind crosses too:  once in a jump line and once on the down side of the A-frame.  Everything worked well.  He was just running great.

In other news, at the end of the lesson Grace mentioned that next weekend she's going to a Tori Self seminar.  I follow her blog, which I love (http://www.hippiedogs.com/), and I'm super impressed with her agility (she's super young, super athletic, and super successful), her writing, and her photography.  For a minute I got excited about possibly taking a working spot, but I've decided to audit.  It will be lower stress for me, since I've never been to a seminar, and 9-5 seems like an awfully long day for Jonah in a stressful new environment.  Anyway, I'm stoked to get to go absorb her insight without having to worry about Jonah.  Can't wait!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I love Jonah!

Time just disappears these days.  Every day I have plans to do training with Jonah, but lately it's turned into 5 minute trick sessions inside rather than setting up agility questions and running outside with him or taking him on field trips.  I need to get better about just leaving the puppy, but she gets a little upset when we leave if she's not asleep, and I get into rhythms of working until she wakes up, so the good Jonah opportunities just pass me by.

Today, though, I just left Nika.  She screamed for a minute, but I just let her.  I was not to be deterred!  And Jonah was wonderful.  He had so much fun, and did some hard stuff.

First we did some dogwalk practice, which he totally nailed.

Then we did some repetitions over the A-frame, which looked great.  I have the box back on to get his striding cleaned up.  He never misses at this point, but some reminder time with the box gets him a little more drivey and confident.

Next we worked on our teeter and table performance, both of which he was excellent with.

Finally I set up a line from last week's course that had a tough weave entry.  I made it even a little harder today, but Jonah didn't blink an eye.

At the end, I made up a little course that was short but challenging, and he flew through it like a total pro.  He's the best.  We played some frisbee and ran around together afterwards.  He looked happy to have his mom to himself for a few minutes.

Of course, he loves his puppy, too.  The two of them have a fantastic time playing.  They're so great.

When Two Isn't Enough...

We're dog sitting!  Things are...crazy!!  Romeo is generally very low maintenance, but he and Nika play off each other and it makes for a very hectic house.  Romeo's one 'flaw' in my mind is that he barks incessantly when we're on our way outside.  This gets the puppy even more exuberant, and I have to be really careful that we get outside right away before that exuberance might turn into leakage.  So far, so good, but it's quite the scene :).  Anyway, once they're outside all three dogs run and play and express seemingly endless energy.  They don't settle down as well inside because it seems like if any one of them wants to be awake, all three of them have to be awake.  Ah.  It's fun, but let's just say it's not my most productive week.

Nika's Fourth Class

On Monday Dave, Nika and I headed to Gemini for the fourth session of puppy class.  Nika was friendly and brave right off the bat again, and she went all around the room meeting everyone and playing happily.  She has two favorites:  a golden and a NSDTR.  They're both about the same size as her and are boisterous puppies.  There were a few play sessions interspersed with training.  She's doing very well with all the training--sits, downs, leave it, etc.  We even have to mix in some other tricks to keep her busy so she doesn't get bored.  She does spins, hand taps, and we're working on paw.  Her stay still has work to do, but her come is very good.  She's heeling pretty well on leash, too, and will do her sits and downs next to me very nicely.

Then, with just a few minutes to go, we had another play session.  Nika and the NSDTR were rolling and tumbling and made their way under a chair on the edge of the room.  I'm not really sure what happened but I assume someone got scared/stuck and started crying.  Then there was some snarking from both puppies.  They broke it up themselves and would have gone right on playing but the instructor decided to separate them and talk about what to do when dogs fight.  I was a little disappointed that the end result of Nika's class was being pulled away from another dog (by the teacher) rather than having a positive play experience to end it, but in retrospect I don't think she even really noticed.  I was stressed for a while that I'd ended up with an aggressive dog (the stress kept me from writing this post right away), but after a days distance from it I think she was just playing and they mutually got a little crabby.  There wasn't any real biting or anything--just noise.

I took Nika to Beaver Brook again today and she met at least 6 dogs, all of whom she was friendly with.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Big Dog Time

Today we left Nika home and Jonah and I went to DogStar for an adults-only class.  That sounds so risque.  It wasn't really.

We ran our first course clean without any trouble.  There was a tight 270 degree turn off the dogwalk to a tunnel which was a little wider than ideal, but not bad.  There was a tough jump sequence that the other dogs had trouble with but we did well thanks to my leaving him in the weaves and getting well ahead.  His second dogwalk contact wasn't a full jackpot.  Other than that, it was a good run.

The second time through I just tried screwing around with some things.  I tried rear crossing the A-frame on a tough turn where I had to pretty much stop while waiting for him to drive ahead.  He ran past it the first time when he felt my pressure behind him, but he got it the second time.  I rear crossed the weaves, and that went well this week.  Our practice seems to be paying off.  Then I totally had no plan for a jump sequence and I sent him off course, but I was really good mentally about telling him good boy and not letting him know anything was wrong.  We had a nice tight line to the back side of a jump.  His dogwalk contacts were better.

Course two had a weave entry that he had trouble with.  It was a bit of a funny angle, but he still should have gotten it.  Practice needed!  Then a cone had been moved to the back side of one jump.  I walked it that way and then Grace told us to actually do the front side.  I still did the back side because it was harder :).   It was really nice, actually.  I pushed to back side and then serped the other side of the jump and it worked beautifully.  I was pleased.  The only other trouble area was a chute with a 180 degree turn out of it.  He came flying out and made a wide turn.  I tried handling it a few different ways (FC before, BC before, RC in the chute).  I think the FC before worked best.  He never had the ideal line--he kept coming out fast even when I was calling him hard while he was in there.  Oh well.  Otherwise he was running well.  Good boy.

So, it was a good lesson.  I think I like having time alone with Jonah.  It's good for Nika, but Jonah deserves his special time with mom.  I'll plan on leaving her home for next week, too.

The Strange Happenings of Dog Parks

First of all, Beaver Brook is not officially a dog park.  I used to play frisbee there, and the field wasn't littered with dogs and poop.  Today things are a little different.  Overall, I think that's not such a good thing.  It's not a good place to go if you want to see responsible dog ownership.

Knowing that sometimes you have to be careful with some of the dogs/people who go to this park, Nika and I went anyway.

Today, it was a great decision.

We arrived and shortly after we were out of the parking lot, we found a professional dog walker with five dogs.  She had nothing resembling control of these dogs.  She didn't know where one of them was, in fact.  She had two Havanese on leashes, but she'd decided to let the JRT loose (no, it's not officially a leash-free area).  Interesting decision.  Then she had some little mix and another mix who looked like a slightly bigger than average Papillon.  After she asked what kind of dog Nika was I asked if he was a Papillion mix.  She said no, he was a Border Collie.  Thanks, I think not.  Who do people hire to walk their dogs??!

Anyway, all five of her dogs were small-to-medium size.  At first Nika politely said hello but wasn't especially interested.  We walked along our way.

Next we met a couple with two pugs and two norfolk terriers.  Again, nice little dogs for Nika.  She was polite meeting them as well.

Then we went swimming.  She loves swimming.  After she goes swimming, she gets excited.  I went with the flow and took her leash off for a minute.  Now that she was wet she was more confident, and she went to go play with all the other dogs (9 of them!).  She was so cute, running around and making friends happily now.  It was great.  Good girlie.

After a few minutes we headed home.  Good experience for the win :).

Monday, July 16, 2012


Wow, Nika was like a totally different dog this week at school!  It wasn't like she'd ever been bad before, but she was just reserved for the last two weeks when meeting new dogs.  This time, she was a social butterfly!  She happily went all the way across the room from us to meet new dogs, she wrestled and play bowed and tumbled and jumped and ran and had a happy fun time.  It was so much fun to watch.  She was never aggressive, but she just looked perfectly in her element rather than a little unsure about what to do.  All the training stuff went well, too.  I'm not so worried about that, though.

Tomorrow she's going to meet one of our friends' dogs.  Hopefully that will go well.

This morning she met 4 dogs at Willard's and was very polite but didn't play or anything.  She did a lot of swimming.

Jonah also got to get in the water, but he more just laid down in it and groaned happily, rather than actually swimming :).  What a good boy he is.  He also continues to pick up his right lead more and more.  He was running full speed through the woods today and it just took my breath away.  He's a gorgeous animal and so athletic.  It's a joy to watch.  I'm glad he's feeling better.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Doin (Pretty) Good

Some ups:
-Jonah has been picking up his right lead voluntarily a lot more recently.  I haven't been doing as much training with him because of his lameness, but hopefully this is a good sign.
-Jonah is awesome.  He's such a good dog.  I love him.  Vague?  Yes, but he's just so easy.
-The puppy goes across the full height dogwalk all by herself.  She likes it.  No fear.
-She's doing well with training.  Stay is hard.  Come is good.  Sits and downs with voice/hands only, when she's in front of us or in heel position.  Heeling is making progress.  Spins are coming.  Hand targeting is excellent.  Leave it is improving (sometimes we can even put a cookie on her paw and she'll leave it.  the other times she wiggles so much that the cookie falls off :)! ).  She's learning how to do shaping.  She'll go play with the tippy board from 6 feet away, come back for a cookie, and go back out.  Pretty good for a little one.

It's been super hot and looks like it will continue to be so.  We're having some issues with a leaky puppy.  She goes outside to do her big pee, but if anything remotely exciting happens on the way out she drips.  We're going back to carrying her more.  Otherwise, things are pretty good! 

Dogs >> People!

I've been having a crazy work schedule lately, and I've had to work through some tough situations with some people I've found it hard to agree with.  So, Friday morning I was almost pleased to just have some time to myself and take the dogs to the vet.  Unfortunately, my people problems followed me.

I got there and the vet tech gave me all this new dog paperwork for Nika.  I didn't think much of it, but there were all sorts of questions about me and how I found the vet and things that I felt like they already knew (my family has been going to this vet since before I was born.  I don't remember how they found it).  Then the vet tech took the paperwork, Nika's records and fecal sample, and then told me, "Your appointment's not for 40 minutes."  I realized they probably had Jonah on the schedule first and I offered to switch them.  They said it wasn't a problem and I started waiting (I think it's a little funny because I'd made the two appointments together, but they didn't know the two dogs were together.  Then, the day before, they'd called two separate times to tell me that the appointments were--both--at 10:00.  So then when I got there at 10 and they said I had to wait 40 minutes, I thought it was a bit ironic).

Anyway, I enjoyed having a little quiet time with the puppy.  I'd brought some cheese, so we practiced lots of tricks.  She sat in my lap for a while.  She met another small dog and was very friendly.  She didn't seem bothered at all by being at the vet.  They even brought out a camera and asked if I minded if they put her picture on the website.  Cute girly.  Of course, she wiggles a lot and isn't easy to photograph :).

Then, after a little while, the vet tech asked where Jonah was.  I told him he was in the car.  She panicked.  "You know dogs can get heat stroke, right?" she stammered.  I replied that he was fine--I'd parked completely in the shade, the windows were down, and it was only 75 degrees out (it was still early morning).  "You shouldn't leave a dog in a car.  It's not safe," she snarfed.  I tole her we did agility and that we worked out of the car frequently.  We had a system and he would be just fine.  She left the room.

A few minutes later, I heard her talking to someone else.  She told this person, who I figured was a doctor, that a client had a dog in a car.  The doctor said that was ridiculous.  I decided to go check on Jonah, as they actually had me a little worried.

He was totally fine.  It wasn't any hotter in the car than inside.  I offered him water but he wasn't interested.  He was happily chewing the kong I'd given him.  Good boy.  I was just about to walk back in when the vet tech came storming out to me and says, "We're ready for you.  Bring your other dog.  The doctor refuses to see your animals unless you have both."  I was taken aback and didn't react for a second.  Really?  She was at my car at this point and I showed her that it wasn't any hotter inside.  She wouldn't take any of it.  Shaking my head, I put Jonah on a leash and began the process of bringing the super-happy-excited-friendly puppy and the nervous-reactive-big-dog into the office at the same time.  No one ever offered to help me or anything.  Getting through the door was hectic.  Luckily Jonah didn't  bark at the small dog in the waiting area.  He didn't want to go to the examining room, though, and slipped out of his collar.  I got him back on and managed to get them into the room.  Geez.

Then the doctor who had drawn the hard line comes waltzing into the room and super cheery starts asking how I am.  I wasn't great, thanks.  I don't appreciate having people imply that I'm abusing my animals, actually.  In all the years I've gone to that vet, I've only ever seen one doctor.  She's great.  I don't know why I suddenly had this new one, who never introduced herself or anything.

I won't bore you with the details of the actual visit, but Jonah was scared and Nika was great (as is to be expected).  Somehow I got the dogs out, paid, and left without any crazy mishaps, although a nice man who was picking his dog up from boarding did help me with the door on the way out.

I came home feeling really flustered.  I care a lot about how I take care of my dogs, and I feel like I know what's good for them.  Had I known they wouldn't be alright with a dog staying in the car, I wouldn't have scheduled the appointments together.  Jonah needs some help and encouragement at the vet, and it was Nika's first time.  Both deserved my full attention.  So, I'll never schedule two appointments together again.  Nonetheless, I was upset that they were so pointed in their communication.  Refusing to see my "animals" just seemed harsh.  I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, but I was upset.

I also decided I'll be sure to make appointments with the doctor I've been seeing all through the years in the future.  She knows Jonah (and likes to tease him for being scared) and I trust her.  I wasn't impressed when this other doctor had never heard of our brand of food.  When I got home, I looked her up and she's a cat person.  I'm sure she's certified for dogs, too, but I want people who really know dogs.  I know medical people really complain about patients who self-diagnose after doing internet research.  With this vet, though, I feel like I really did know more--or at least as much--about hernias and puppy related stuff.  She had to look up what shots Nika needed, but I knew.  Sigh.  I know people are human, but it wasn't a great morning.  Oh well.  At least the dogs have clean bills of health!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

2 Dog Agility

It's really hot today so I tried taking both dogs to Jonah's class.  It turned out to be pretty stressful, and I don't plan on doing it again at least for a while.  Nika had some good moments:  she walked happily into the ring and through it, was happy to be around the other dogs and people, and was generally more relaxed than last time.  She was really yappy, though.  Whenever Jonah and I went to run I'd give her a kong with chicken and peanut butter.  It would keep her busy for a minute, but soon she'd realize we were gone and it was time to bark bark bark.  Yarg.  No one complained, but I felt bad to have the peace disrupted and have it be my fault.

As for the actual agility, Jonah was good.  We had some mistakes.  I don't know if it was having the puppy or me being tired or what, but we just weren't 100%.  The first course started really nice, with a lovely RC into the weaves, a threadle that worked very smoothly, a teeter and a push to the backside.  Then he ducked behind my back to take the wrong side of a tunnel.  Oops.  The rest of the course went pretty well but he made a couple turns wider than I'd like.

On the second time through I tried a hard push out of the weaves which worked well.  I handled the threadle on the other side and it was smooth again.  Then I tried to RC the teeter, but it was a bit much for him.  It was about a 45 degree approach, and he doesn't love the teeter.  Something to work on, for sure.  I worked on decelerating really hard for the jump turns, and his lines tightened up a lot.  It's fun to really accelerate and then decelerate fast.  That's something I want to emphasize from now on.  Instead of just getting ahead, I can wait a bit (in tunnels, on the teeter, the table, etc), then accelerate quickly and decelerate to get tighter turns.  That way I'm more with him and it's more exciting for him.

The second course started with a line that I would have liked to run lots of different ways.  It looked like this:

I couldn't decide what to do first so I tried what was looking at me saying, "Is this possible?  I dare you to try it."  So I took the dare.  I sent him into the tunnel, called, "Right-right-right-frame," and took off to handle 3-4-5 with him on my right.  He didn't turn as tight from 1 to 2 as he might have, but he got it.  I was pretty far ahead for 3 (I had to be to be ahead on landing for 4 and push to 5), but he still did a nice contact and followed me nicely.  I'm not totally sure why you would actually handle it that way in the real world, but it was fun to see that I could in fact do it.  The second time I ran this sequence I tried a post turn 1 to 2 and we screwed it up.  I started alright, but then I was too close to the tunnel and I thought he'd committed to the A-frame but when I stepped laterally to get around the tunnel he came with me.  Oops.  I also would have liked to try a lead out to a flip.  I thought it was a neat sequence.

After this section, the course opened up for a while and then slammed into a tight jump sequence.  It looked like this:

The safest option here was to double rear (at 4 and 5), but I don't generally like safe and I don't generally like rear crosses either (well, I used to, but now it seems more fun to always get ahead).  One person in our class got in double fronts (between 3 and 4 and between 4 and 5), but I didn't think I could get one in between 3 and 4 after having to support 2 a little bit.  So, I did a blind between 2 and 3 (he was still pretty much in the tunnel), picking him up on my right on the landing of 2 and to 3.  I was enough ahead that I got a FC in between 4 and 5.  I did it fast and got out, but then I was already moving towards 6 and so he turned quite wide.  I tried it again, hung back a little bit more, and waited over 4 for a head turn before pushing forward.  It worked much better.  Later I tried rear crosses, and his turns were even wider than my initial FC.  Grace pointed out that I like to rely on lateral movement in RCs, but that I should play with more deceleration (that's the name of the game today!) when I want a really tight turn like I did here.

Other than that, it was smooth sailing.  Jonah's looking great and he's a joy to run.

Nika's Second Class

Monday was Nika's second day at puppy class.  I kind of feel funny calling it a class.  There's not much class involved, but there is a LOT of fun involved.  She was a little more willing to get into the mix this time, although she preferred to just visit with the dogs who came over to our corner.  Overall I'm very pleased with her progress, but my biggest concern is her shyness with other dogs.  I want to do more socialization with her, but when we go to Willards or other places there are so many big boisterous dogs and I think they scare her a little.  We need nice dogs to make for good experiences.  Puppy class is amazing for this, but it's only once a week.

Aside from puppy play time, we practiced our 'leave it' command, and got ideas about how to make it more difficult.  She's doing great with it.

I'm sure we did other training things but I can't remember at the moment.  Mostly it was just fun.  And cute.  Lots of cute.

Walk Slowly and Always Carry a Stick

Nika is going through a phase (I really hope it's a phase, anyway) where shoes and shoelaces are pretty much the most excellent things ever.  I've learned that they get more exciting the faster my feet are moving.  So, when she starts looking at my feet, I slow down or stop.  It's not always an efficient way to get anywhere, but often she finds some other interest.  Usually that other interest is a stick, supplied by me.  I try to have a stick with me at all times when we're outside.  Luckily she thinks sticks are also pretty excellent. Edit: I realized that I was unclear. The stick is for chewing, not beating :).  

A Weekend Away

This past weekend we went to the Poconos.  It's usually very relaxing there, but having guests and a puppy somehow made it somewhat hectic.

In the car, both dogs are riding in the crate now.  Nika does great.  She just sleeps peacefully.  Unfortunately, her favorite spot is the middle of the crate.  Jonah, not wanting to be rude to his sister, then has no space.  So he often just stands over her, 2 feet on each side.  Doh.  He finds ways to sit, but rarely settles down.  It's kind of silly--there's plenty of space for both of them.  I hope he gets a little more assertive.

Nika was great in the lake.  She swam a lot (much more than her brother), ran back and forth across the dock, and was generally very pleased with life.

Jonah did well for him, too.  He wanted to jump off the dock, and we found a nice shallow spot where he could jump in and his feet would touch.  He loved it!  He was leaping and splashing and having a grand old time.

Both dogs were good with the other people.  It was nice.  Both were also good in the strange house.  No chewing problems or anything like that.

That's about it for the summary, so I'll just add some pictures.

Jonah likes kayaking.  He's good at it, too.

Nika's not as sure she wants to stay in the kayak...

First this happened...

Then this happened...

And then this happened!  I wouldn't let Jonah fall in like that, but she's a good swimmer and we were only 10 feet from her standing.  She didn't seem bothered at all.  

Good, cute puppies.

Dave and Jonah

Dave and Nika.

Sweet puppy.

Yay sticks!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Big Dog School

This week we timed it well so Nika stayed home while Jonah and I went to class.  It was the day after the 4th of July, so there were only 3 of us in class.  It was quite nice (I like seeing everyone, of course, but it's nice to get to run more when there are fewer people).  Jonah was good.  Not as stupendous as he'd been the week before, but still very good.

The first course had a dw with a 180 degree turn right back to a jump.  I was worried about it, but he nailed it.  I just gave a "left" cue and he added half a stride on his dw contact and turned nicely.

Later in the course there was a section like this:

Easy, right?  Yes.  But I wanted to put a blind in after the straight tunnel at 3, so I didn't want to get too close to 2.  I got ahead of him in the tunnel at 2, and when he came out he saw me give him mixed signals:  I was standing still, with my arm out for the jump, but my body was already turning so I could accelerate in the opposite direction.  He started coming towards me, and I was able to correct (we wouldn't have been called for a refusal, I'm pretty sure), but it was a mess.  Doh.  I did get the blind cross in, though :).

Jonah was sticky on the teeter in this course and every course we ran.  I think we need to do some confidence building with that.  It was right next to all the other dogs, but still no excuse.

The first course ended coming back through the section in the map above, but this time going from the jump at 2 to the tunnel at 3 and then back to the tunnel at 1.  We were coming in from above that map, so I pushed to the backside and then put a FC on the landing side of 2.  Then he came flying out of 3 and made a really wide turn.  No off course or anything, but an inefficient line.  The second time we ran the course I just did a RC at 3 and he turned nicely at the end of it.

The second time we ran the course Grace had us wrap one jump in the other direction, and it caused us some trouble.  It looked like this:

The first time I put in a blind between 2 and 3 (he'd been on my left in the tunnel), and he turned left over 3.  It worked quite well.  Everyone else did a rear over 3, which also worked, but I like to be ahead.  I got the blind done early enough that he knew to turn when he took off--it wasn't cueing too much forward motion, I don't think.  Anyway, the second time Grace wanted us to wrap to the right over 3.  I set a really tight line for Jonah and I guess it was too much for him, because he back jumped 3.  We should work on our wraps more, too.

I practiced rear crossing the poles a bunch this lesson.  Jonah was good but it definitely slowed him down at first.  Another thing to work on.

The second course was lots of running.  It was pretty easy.  The first time through we didn't have any trouble, so the second time I did lots of gamble challenges.  He was awesome, and was working at significant distance.  His poles at distance definitely slow down, though.  That was my only real issue.  

So, we've got a lot to work on:  teeter confidence, wraps, rear crossing weaves and weave speed at distance.  We'll see what we get to.  It's nice to not feel any pressure right now, though.  We'll do what we want to do when we want to do it.  No rush, just fun.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Puppy School!

Nika went to her first day of school yesterday.  She was a very good girlie.

We're going to Gemini because it's on Monday nights (one of only two free nights we have), and because it allowed us to start any time rather than waiting for the beginning of a session.  When Jonah first went to Gemini he was really scared to walk into the building.  The puppy who went in ahead of us (a BC whose handler I know from agility) was similarly frightened, and had to be carried in.  Not Nika!  She followed us right in like a star.

Once we got in and she saw that there was a whole big crew of other dogs and people, she did get a little wary.  She leaked a little and I had to clean it up.  Oops!  Mostly she wanted to stay near us.

Then, after introducing ourselves, we had playtime!  We separated the dogs into 'big dogs' and 'little dogs,' and she was in the little dog group.  She was a little tentative at first and was more interested in meeting people than puppies, but then she started having a great time with a 9 week uber fluffy golden pup.  So much cuteness.  She also played some with a little NSDTR kiddo, and she was friendly with the BC although they didn't get much into big playing.

After playtime we did some 'light training,' and it definitely was pretty light.  We talked about what to do when a puppy jumps up, and then we practiced our sits with mini stays.  She was very good.

Later we learned the 'leave it' game, which was a little harder for her.  I think it was tough to learn something new in that environment.  She never seemed too stressed by it all, but she was curious about the people and puppies on either side of us.

Towards the end she started to get a little fidgety during the talking, so we just worked on her tricks quietly, and she was doing very well with sits, downs, hand touches and spins.  Her focus was definitely not as good as some of the puppies there, but they were all older.  We'll keep working along and playing along and I'm pleased with how things are going.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Goals

June was a crazy month in many ways.  Parts of it were amazing:  seeing Jonah and Nika play, Dave's and my trip to Yosemite, etc.  Some parts of it were really low:  Jonah not wanting to even go towards the rings by the third day of Nationals.  Mostly, though, it was just out of the routine.  This weekend has been a good change.  We're home, for once, and without any big plans.  We can get back on a schedule and have quiet time as a family.  Aaah.  So, it's a great time to reflect.  Here's what I had hoped June would be like:

Goals for me:
1.  Each day at nationals, go out of my way to have a conversation with someone new.
     Yes.  This goal ended up being a little harder to quantify than I would have hoped.  I had one entirely new conversation with a woman from North Carolina.  She had three daughters running a whole slew of dogs.  They were good, and she was as nice as she could be.  Then I met a lady with a 13 year old Chihuahua who was groggy and slowly waking up in the morning.  So cute (although I'm not usually a Chihuahua person).  I also went out of my way to talk more to people who I've seen before at trials but had never spoken with.  Conversations ranged greatly, but I got to know a lot of people better.  Yay!
 2.  Compliment at least 2 people/dogs a day at nationals.
     Yes.  This ended up being really easy and natural, and I quickly lost count.

3.  Make sure to give Jonah the attention he deserves while we have a new puppy.
     Yes.  Well, it was a little hard because the camping area was so far from the rings, and I often had to be near the rings for working, etc.  So a lot of the time Jonah stayed with Dave.  In the evenings and when I had a break, though, I was good about giving Jonah deserved love, play and attention.

4.  Treat nationals like a time to play with Jonah, not like a competition (hard to quantify, I know).
     I have to say, I think I did a good job at this.  I didn't get too upset when he made mistakes, and I think every (or at least almost every) time we went into the ring, I asked him out loud, "Are you ready to play?"  This may have been more for me than for him, but it helped one of us at least :).

5.  Verbally reward every (good) running dogwalk contact at nationals.  
     Well, we didn't have any, so I guess I didn't meet this goal.  He always slowed down to a trot and came down the ramp slowly.  He was never close to blowing a contact, but it wasn't ever a true running contact.

Goals for Jonah:
1.  Have at least one great run at nationals, defined as running happy and fast from start to finish, whether or not that's the correct course or whether there might be a dropped bar, etc.
     Yes!  Our Fullhouse run was great.  Unfortunately it was the only one.

2.  At least one jackpot running dogwalk contact!  
     As in 5 above, nope.

3.  Being able to relax at the fairground.
     Yes.  Certainly not all the time, but at least in the camping area he was very relaxed.  He also was relaxed at night when I walked him up and around the rings.  He was not relaxed in the busy days when tons of people were all around.

4.  Tug at the fairground.
     Yes.  He didn't want to tug much before going in the ring, but after he came out or when we weren't right by the rings he was a tugging fiend.  

5.  Practice focus games away from home.
     Yes.  We did a bunch at bridge, at nationals, etc.  Focus and stress apparently aren't the same things, though.

Goals for Nika (!!):
1.  Get used to her crate.
     Yes.  She still cries sometimes when settling to bed, but she goes in happily on her own.

2.  Get accustomed to a schedule of potty training.
     Sort of.  We haven't really had that much time in the same place to settle in, but she's been doing well.

3.  Practice sits, downs and tugging.
     Yes!  She's doing awesome.  Good with comes, too, and the clicker is charged.  She's walking quite well on a leash, as well.  She knows hand taps and is starting with spins.  We started 'stay,' but it's pretty hard :).

4.  Meet a LOT of new people and dogs.
     Yes!  LOTS.

5.  Play with LOTS of new objects--we'll see how long a list we can come up with by July!
     Yep.  Tarps, towels, blankets, boxes, tent, bones, toys, chairs, couches, fans, trees, rocks, plants, stairs, DogStar, cars, tippy boards, ladders, agility equipment (although I haven't officially worked with her on anything, she's been on the dw, A-frame, table, and she's seen stanchions and weave poles), bugs, birds, squirrels, chipmunks, chain saws, lawn mowers, vacuums, washing machines and dryers, pools, ponds, goats, chickens, ducks...and probably tons of other things I can't think of.  Not bad!

So...now it's time to think about July!

1.  Get exercise.  On a non-dog related note, I'm hoping to break 1:10:00 in my triathlon later this month.
2.  Make sure I don't let the puppy take over my life to an unhealthy amount.
3.  Keep giving Jonah tons of love and attention.
4.  Ensure that the dogs stay happy and healthy.  Watch Jonah's lameness, keep both dogs brushed with toes clipped, get them to the vet for vaccinations, monitor good eating habits, keep them cool in the heat, etc.
5.  Read the Control Unleashed book once it arrives.


1.  Enjoying agility, making sure every time he does it is fun fun fun.  
2.  We're only entered in one trial this month, and only 2 runs (in line with our 'break from trialing after nationals').  I want to make a good decision about whether or not we go.  If we do go, I want to make it super enjoyable and spend time with him getting comfortable in the environment before/between/after runs.
3.  Work on heeling and car distractions.
4.  Go to ARFF and work for happy, fast and positive sequences, not pushing to long courses unless he wants to.
5.  Keep dw contacts in good shape (above 90%), assuming his lameness merits agility training.


1.  Have a positive experience starting school (first class is tomorrow)!
2.  Be on a regular and reliable potty schedule.
3.  Sit (with voice and hand signals alone, no lure).
4.  Down (with voice and hand signals alone, no lure).
5.  Stay (goal of 20 seconds, with handler up to 20 ft away).
6.  Come (fast and excited, with distractions).
7.  Walk on a leash, working towards loose leash heeling with focus.
8.  Know how to do simple shaping exercises.
9.  Meet LOTS of people.
10.  Meet LOTS of dogs.

This month is a bit of a break for Jonah, as I'm watching his leg and we aren't trialing much.  He'll just go to class and work on other manners while getting used to living politely with the puppy.

It will be a busy month for Nika, as things should be for an almost-3-month puppy.

I also need to adjust to life with the new girlie, keeping a healthy lifestyle for the family.  Things are changing all around us!