Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ups and downs

Nike and I have finished with the 6 week "confidence building agility class" and have had 3 brief experiences at agility trials.

It's been a bit of a roller coaster.

The nicest thing about the class is Nike already has these skills and it was a small class of only 3 dogs. So lots of working time. And we look like rockstars. Mostly because the other 2 people in the class are new to the sport and so are their dogs and also, because we already have these skills.

So often we get to demo the skill and go first in the working order - which is fine with me.

However, class is also helping uncover some things. Despite "knowing this" Nike is very, very soft and start lines are not happening right now. I resorted to putting down a mat to help her with the start line. Now she can do the "wait" behavior. Which I find interesting. Without a mat though, as soon as I leave, she leaves - either releasing over the jump or just wandering off and leaving work entirely.

Doesn't help that we usually have to set up that start line within a couple feet of a kenneled dog though - and then expect our dog not to have a problem with that, because Nike very much does have concerns with turning her back on the reactive dog and pretending it isn't there. I can't say that I blame her.

We're working on solidifying a start line routine and using that as a start button behavior. If I can't get it, then she isn't going to work well and I'll just end up skipping my turn - which hasn't happened yet since she is very good if I have rewards.

With the actual trials runs that she has done I've done many FEO runs, so I still have rewards, just not food - but it's a whole lot more difficult to get her to focus.

We're not "trialing" right now, but in small trials I am working on getting her ring exposure. Just one or 2 runs to work on confidence with no expectations.

The first trial felt so promising and her first run was a little out of control but still good. So it's a little disappointing that it feels like we're going backwards.

Agility training is going to take a bit of a back seat to some other classes I want to work on with her. Namely some relationship building Fenzi classes I have gathering dust in my library and possibly some group rally or trick classes taught at the facility I teach at.

Happiest little gang of dogs field running this summer. I find it interesting that they self sort into this arrangement since I didn't actually pose them.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Titles, Trial Review and Baby Dogs ... OH MY ...

Oh baby dog. But first, the good stuff.

This weekend we drove down to Lethbridge to support a new club hosting their first agility trial. The trial was well run and organized. Lots of awesome little perks that really make an event feel like it is well run. The venue was FABULOUS. Lots of benching under huge trees for shade made the 33°C day on Saturday bearable!

Baxter and Spencer ran in Dog Days of Summer (Nike's first trial.) Both boys did fantastic, especially considering the heat, but towards the end of the second day Baxter was slow. Usually he runs my speed and I could definitely feel that he was lagging a bit - which concerned me, because he only ran 2 things on Saturday and 4 on Sunday.

This trial though, both boys were on fire. 

Spencer loved it here - it helped that it was a small trial and they didn't have insane off leash rules. Basically use common sense and they didn't care if the dog was off leash - so before and after runs we played with his frizzie in the shade. He was entered in 5 runs and I had a dog in all 5 runs, even in the heat. He was a little off on Gamble 1, but my handling was a little off too. Standard and Snooker he rocked it and Q'd in 33°C heat!

Photo Credit: Rita Barrett

Day 2 he had a fantastic Standard and we were ON - except where I completely buggered up his weaves by stopping dead. Gamble 2 I didn't think we'd have a hope but he shocked the heck out of me and nailed it. Earning his Bronze Gamble and Versatility Bronze Award Titles. Such a good baby black dog.

Baxter obviously felt much better this trial (he was sore and had a limp tail issue 2 weeks prior to Dog Days and maybe he was just still a bit sore at that trial.) At 9.5 years he doesn't run full trials anymore, max 3 a day and no Gambles anymore. He had a perfect weekend going 6/6 and even in Jumpers on Saturday in the heat he ran pretty hard at 4.4 yps!

Photo Credit: Penny Norem

His career is winding down, but he still loves playing and on Sunday morning rocked his Standard coming in 2 seconds faster than the papillon in the class with us and at 4.2 yps (which is something, considering there are 12 weaves) Love my Fluff, so full of heart!

Then my baby... so bitter sweet. Saturday morning she NAILED Gamblers -  mini gamble twice, Aframe twice and held the contact. She did have DW worries, but that's due to the DW in class that has a LOT of bounce/flex. Connected and responsive. She was fantastic.

Then Jumpers I had no dog. Wouldn't take the first jump, couldn't sit for a start line and then left the ring to go bark at and freak out at the out of control dog shrieking at the warm up jumps. So we were excused from the run. Not good - the only silver lining is that she did come back to me and had zero intent on connecting with that dog. Just wanted to control the out of control barking.

Gamblers was next up on Sunday and I went FEO with a toy. Still no dog. No first jump, flanking obstacles and running past them. After she played tug for a AFrame contact I had slightly more dog and she got the final gamble with ease, but still VERY disconnected and I'll admit, disappointing. So we've got a lot to work on before I enter her in more trials - and I'm seriously considering pulling from the one we are entered this weekend.

Impulse control work, here we come!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

First Trial!

Nike & I

I'm very happy with Nike's first trial. We had fun and started and finished the courses together. I entered this trial to gather information and that was a success.

We only entered a Starters Jumpers run on the first day and a Starter Gamblers followed by Starters Jumpers on the second day.

Nerve wracking! First run she was AMPED. It was cool still in the morning and she just watched a dog run and very much wanted to chase the BC's at the warm-up jumps. Just taking the leash and collar off is hard sometimes.

Had a bit of a bobble/weirdness where she pushed behind the tunnel instead of taking it but she didn't realize she was wrong. The rest of the run was gorgeous and fast. 23 seconds. Speedy girl.

Gamblers was FEO. My goal there was to reward contacts on each new piece of equipment. She hit her contacts. Frame and Teeter were great! DW she was worried on. I need to run faster and figure out the sweet spot to support a jump but not push her off - but she did nail the main gamble and there was a good chance of carrying out past that second jump, so coming in on it and paying attention to me was fantastic.

After Gamble it was hot. We went for a swim in the canal after, but it was still HOT and little Miss does not like to work in the heat. I was also slow and tired, running on 3 hours of sleep. We didn't warm up at the jumps (they were put away) before our run. Whatever the reason we were more disconnected on her last jumpers. She wasn't precisely slow, but on a easy course that should have been fine she flanked out around 4 jumps and didn't really want to play. We started well, ended well but the middle was a bit of a miss.

I'm happy with how I dealt with it though and we just ran through and finished up. She stuck with me and didn't disappear off sniffing.

I could probably cheer lead less, but hey, I was happy!

She played the game for me and to do that in a super distracting environment for a baby who is still maturing and developing focus is awesome.

Pretty baby!
Looking back to Spencer's First Trial I find it somewhat amusing that these posts are very similar!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017


One week to go until Nike's debut trial!

<3 my rotten red girl!

I'm not concerned about "the Q" - I do want her to have fun and not check out/stress out.

We've hit the location that this trial is going to be at a couple of times now to practice, just to get her as used to the venue as she can be.

When practicing agility at work now she is getting much more consistent with working and not checking out. I'm also making a point of actually working through the Fenzi Classes we are "taking" this month:
Jumping Gymnasics and Tapping the Hidden Potential

If that wasn't enough dog related goings on; Nike and I are also enrolling in a 6 week agility class at a new location to hopefully help generalize our agility behaviors to new places with new distractions. We aren't in a very high level class and I may or may not continue with classes, but right now I wanted to tone down the difficulty and make it easy for her to win to build confidence. Maybe I'll be bored to tears but hopefully not.

Class starts tonight! So exciting!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Confidence Building

Something very much on my mind.

Alicia, an agility friend I had the privilege of meeting and training with last winter summed it up very well in this blog here: Are you Nagging Your Dog?

If it is not exceedingly clear to Nike how to earn reinforcement, then she has zero patience to work through something. She does not work through confusion - she'll leave.


Ignore the bad, celebrate the good and of course, the dog is never wrong. If she gets something wrong, stop on something she can do and and reward that.

Build the dog up.

In an online class with Sarah Stremming, she talks about a dog stepping to the line with their human partner and giving 110% playing the game with reckless abandon. Never take for granted what you are asking the dog for.

That focus, the relationship and the trust necessary for that are built. They're nurtured and grown into that. Sometimes it's like a delicate flower that needs some pretty specific needs met to grow and thrive. Other times maybe (due to the dog's desire to do-the-thing) more like a weed that seems to thrive in very desolate conditions.

The dog is always right. They are trying. When they get it wrong it is a direct reflection of your training (or coaching.) Pay the dog!


As we embark on this chapter of Nike's career and start to test performance with some agility trials, remember this. Do not correct mistakes on course, build confidence. Do not worry about anything but the dog beside you and making her feel like playing this game with you is the best thing in the world.

Run fast, give it your all!

Be brave, you can do this!

Fly high! The journey will take your breath away.

No matter what happens, it'll be fun!

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Aaand ... Back!

I stopped blogging about stuff last August, so it's fitting that I start again in August, right?!

Stuff happened, but really, nothing has changed. Back this week from holidays in the 'Pass. 9 days of 30 degree heat, no smoke (from the crazy forest fires) and no work. It was great. Time to get stuff back on track and try turning over a "new leaf"so to speak.

1) Facebook is an EPIC time waste. STOP wasting so much time on it. Hence the blogging. Pictures can go here. Training stuff goes here - and really I don't share that stuff on FB anyway.

2) It's helpful to be able to look back on things. Nice to look back on things where I'm not as concerned about other people's reactions/thoughts.

3) STOP caring about what other people think. My dog - our journey. Was it what I thought it was going to be going in? Nope. But that is not the point, the point is getting to where I want to be.

Also, Survey Monkey for class improvement.

So. Journal the training with the dogs. Take pictures. Synopsis here - once a week.

Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 Summer Fun

With no summer vacation to Farragut this year for August 20-28 I bounced around between Calgary and the Pass for a week of "holidays." Finally hit up Island Lake Lodge on some decent days for photos and hiking. So nice up there!

Evening on 21-Aug:

Lunch time on 28-Aug:

In honor of the original photo from 2 years ago where we briefly saw Island Lake Lodge (and were  promptly hooked on the views) the original 3 came hiking and we did "family" photos again - Nike unfortunately doesn't do family photos yet!

The in no apparent order: