Friday, March 2, 2018

What advice would you give?

If this wasn't my dog, what would I say to a client that I'm coaching?

It's been on my mind a lot lately. Some things are coming together nicely ... but others?! Wow. I know how frustrating it feels on my end. It can't feel any better on her's.

I've started to write this post multiple times, and then something would improve so I'd just let it go.

But really, truly, honestly. Things aren't improving that much. She is young and super sensitive, but is she learning the things I want her to learn right now? Is she learning what I want her to learn about trials and the competition ring?! I don't think so.

I strongly believe that when the dog does something "wrong" they're just telling you that they don't understand and you haven't proofed this enough yet. It's a conversation between you and your dog. Well, she's certainly been telling me loudly enough that she can't do this right now for whatever reason. That's on me, not her.

Dragging the dog to Disneyland is just pointless. I can manage to a point, but once that leash comes off and there are no rewards, I don't get to manage anymore. It's all her. I've missed a crucial step along the way somewhere because that connection keeps falling flat.

She'll make me a much better trainer in the long run, and I have the tools I need to work through this, I just need to start and keep the ball rolling. So that's where we're going. Hopefully she'll be in season for the next trial that I have her entered in, because she certainly won't be going into the ring. From there on out, no trialing.

The plan;

1) Relationship building through play
2) Engagement
3) Focus
4) Cookie jar games

Fun matches and training at the barn can continue, but the focus needs to come off of agility behaviors and zero in on the missing link, engagement.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

VD (Valentines Day) Trial Review - Feb 11th

It seems like there are a few specific trials that I hit pretty regularly and others that I miss more often than not. This past weekend was one of the former!

Facebook actually shared a memory with me that 6 years ago on this weekend Baxter got his ADC and ran clean in 6/8 runs. That was my very first title I've ever put on a dog.

This weekend Baxter picked up 2 more titles, finishing his Expert Snooker Silver (25 Snookers) and his Master Challenge Dog of Canada (5 Challenge Q's) titles. There are a couple more big titles I'm aiming for with Baxter before retiring him. It's pretty bitter-sweet. I just adore running my Fluff and we are a pretty solid team.

The Challenge course this weekend was just awesome. Such nice flow and I'm very happy with how Baxter and I ran this ... even if people did talk to the judge to tweak it to make the approach to 19 "equally" nice from both ways over 18.

We ran the course in "extension," with the only jump that was wrapped being #17 where that is obviously the shorter distance. I really am appreciating the seminar we recently did where the focus was on the dog's path and which way is faster.

Extension - the way we ran it
Collection - A LOT more turns. 

It always makes my heart happy when we get compliments on a run and this one was no exception. It's high praise indeed when the judge tells you nicely run on the way out - makes me think we ran it the way it ran in her head. This one is going to be fodder for a few days of practice for the younger dogs!

Poor Spencer was feeling off this weekend. He had a really nice Snooker run and then in Challenge didn't want to take the Frame, so I pulled him for the rest of the day and didn't ask him to run in Steeplechase. He needs a couple more Standard for a big-ish title that I would really like to get with him and after that I think he might be done with trialing - especially as I get the little herdy girls up and running so to speak.

I'm very happy with how my little red-head did this weekend as well! Until we get the disconnect kinks worked out, right now I am working on back-chaining and not trying to run a full course. Nike was only in Standard and Jumpers and we only did 10 obstacles in each of them but I'm happy with how she did.

Friday, January 19, 2018

4 Months Old! Already!

Time has just flown by, I don't know how Sizzle can be 4 months old yet ... in fact, when I signed her up for puppy class I might have actually gotten her age wrong!

Since 4 of the 6 puppies in the litter live in Calgary, we got together last weekend for a play date. It was pretty adorable and very symmetrical. 2 boys, 2 girls. The 2 largest and the 2 smallest. 2 tri colors and 2 sables.

I like how Sizzle and Cedar both have one long sock on the front and then one short one, mirroring each other.

The puppies had a great time. Sizzle was a little unsure for a few minutes and then she was all for it. It's funny how she likes adult dogs but seems unsure of puppies. They loved racing around outside and then we went inside to measure puppies and play a bit more.

Ash is still looking like she might be oversize, I didn't catch her height. Sizzle is in the safe zone, so she isn't going to end up really tiny. She was at 11.5" (I think?) while McFly her little tri brother was looking just a little smaller than she is right now.

Sheltieing! aka someone has cookies and they need to share!

Mom, Syrah and brother Cedar
In the house the play styles in the puppies really came out. Cedar is a very laid back, serious fellow for a 4 month old baby. There was a lot of barking from Ash who doesn't have dogs in the home and he was pretty ticked at her for the constant barking. Sizzle and McFly love the toys and the tugging and the chasing.

Surprisingly, Sizzle was not barking the way she does at home, she was actually pretty quiet. Except for the growling like a demon with the tug toys. It was very cute. She played a lot with McFly since they both love toys and are similar sized. She also paired off a lot with Cedar to play when he was being kind of cranky with all the other puppies for too much barking and shenanigans. 

She definitely wasn't put off by the larger puppies anymore, since she wrestles with Nike all the time at home!

This week we came off of winter break and have started up the dog training routine again (with me teaching and barn time being rented) Sizzle also started a puppy class just for the socialization with people/ function with new distractions aspect.

She came out to the barn to do some baby recall work, work on impulse control and toy play in a new space with dogs running. I've also started to work more on some of the baby puppy behaviors/foundations I teach for agility.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Shauna Oliver Seminar

Last weekend ( Jan 6 & 7th) Nike and I did a couple seminars with Shauna Oliver. I cannot say enough good things about Shauna or what we were working on, I just wish she was closer!

Saturday we had a working spot in Master Gamble in the afternoon and I audited the Starter Gamblers session in the morning to get some more ideas on how to teach things and how Shauna specifically teaches things.

Nike was the youngest dog in our Master Gamble class, but I'm glad I signed up at that level. We have the beginnings of a lot of the Starter skills - I just need to proof and build distance on some things like switch out of a tunnel and back chaining on LONG sends. Also commitment on the verbal out, go, switch etc without needing to name the obstacle after.

We worked 6 different drills ranging from simple 3 jump or 2 tunnel drills to more complex gamble sequences. By the time we were done the dogs were fried. I'm glad I didn't have 1 dog signed up for 8 hours of seminar! For being a fairly novice dog, I like to think that Nike held her own. We have some decent skills and a fairly decent independent backside. Just need some polishing and then proofing!

On Sunday we were signed up for Masters Handling since my training partner and I talked about where our dogs skills where vs what we had covered in a foundation handling seminar earlier in the year with Shauna. However, when we got there I was horribly intimidated. Nike was the youngest dog in the group and she was the only dog not running Masters level AAC.

THEN we walked the course, which was a international level/handling course. Something along the lines of the SUSO courses I've practiced with the boys but never have run a full course with Nike - it's always been broken down into pieces for her.

It was lovely, but technical and there I am with my baby dog and no back up plan. All things considered, we didn't do half bad. Nike was significantly more focused for this session than the one the day before. She held a start line and it is apparent that I have trained the skills - they're just not proofed enough for a course of this level.

She understands the threadle however my forward motion is an issue and commitment on ugly angles without me flicking is also an issue. So proofing. But hey, at least I have a trained threadle - that's about 1/2 the battle. She does have a pretty good switch and clearly understands it, I just need more distance and more obstacles instead of just off a contact into a tunnel.

I need to trust my training and my dog and commit to handling instead of chickening out at the last minute. Just do it, and if she doesn't get it right, go back and work it!

Also consequences. If she leaves work, walk her down until she connects, then pressure off. If she leaves twice, work someone else. This did seem to be making a difference in this seminar, so fingers crossed.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

2017 Year in Review: 2018 Goals and Focus

I figure something is better than nothing, right?!

I don't think I actually set any "goals" for 2017. 2017 was pretty much just a continuation of 2016 - still not a lot of trialing due to the economy and the fact I wanted to spend the time training my young dog instead of just focusing on trailing the boys. I've also decided that trialing in the cold isn't so nice on my dogs, so we aren't going to do a lot of winter stuff - especially for Spencer with his knees.

In 2017 we competed at the following trials;

Jan- Training Troop
Apr - Calgary Agility Association
May - Rocky Mountain Agility Club
Aug - Dog Days of Summer - Nike Trial Debut
Sep - Sundog in Lethbridge
Nov - Calgary Agility Association
Plus a couple of little Sunday Sampler trials through AB Herding Dog Rescue.

We did not compete at Regionals (or subsequently at Nationals) this year. I've decided that 2016 with both boys winning their divisions was enough for Baxter at 8 years old and he's retired from Regionals/Nationals. With Regionals being a 3 day event this year and Nike not being ready, I decided not to enter Spencer - there were just better ways to spend my time and money.

2016 was the 3rd Regional win in Baxter's career. I don't want to push my old guy for Regional competitions anymore - he's done so much more than I though we would, and will just play at little trials to do a couple runs here and there and eat some hot-dogs from now on. With that in mind, he's also retired from Gamblers. He was never really a great Gamble dog to begin with now with no more Regionals, no more reason to frustrate us both!

Nike turned 18 months old in the middle of May, so she technically would have been old enough to trial in the Regionals warm up trial put on my RMAC and possibly run at Regionals. Mentally however, she was no where near ready. We did debut at the Dog Days of Summer trial in August. Had some really great stuff and FEO runs with toys. So she was entered for the Sundog trial the following month in Lethbridge. We had a FANTASTIC Gamblers run @ 16" on Saturday morning where she got a boat load of points, held her contacts and even got the final gamble (after 3 times running past the final jump.) The next run up was Jumpers and it was a complete disaster where she left the ring completely and freaked out out the dog that was barking/ out of control at the warm up jumps. We were dismissed from the ring. I still am not sure what happened - but since then we've had some disconnect issues where she is just leaving work.

Title wise, we haven't gotten many this year. Baxter got one whole title! Finishing up his Bronze Steeplechase on 31-Dec-2017. Spencer got two titles, finishing his Bronze Gamble and earning is Versatility Bronze Award on the same run with Sundog in Lethbridge.

I don't think titles are the be all - end all of trialing, but I do have some goals for the boys this year.

AAC has the jump height change this year, so now the boys only need to jump 4" instead of 6" as veteran dogs who are less than 12 inches tall - which will be nice for Baxter I hope. Not that 6" was really a big jump.

I'd like to finish up Baxter's Gold Jumpers - he only needs 3 more for the 50. As well as his Gold Award of Merit which is only 8 Standard away. Once we complete those, I may retire him from everything but Jumpers which is "his game." Jumpers was our very first Q in agility, I like the symmetry of it being our last as well - and Jumpers is easier on his front end with no contact equipment.

With Spencer I want to obtain his Silver Award of Merit which should be even more do-able than Baxter's Gold. We only need 3 more Standard. Hopefully we have a few more Regionals before he retires from those, but I'm still not sure yet if we'll be going this year - it depends on Nike.

Which brings me to the biggest surprise of 2017.With the performance stress issues with Nike and the struggle working through those, that when the opportunity came up to get a puppy from a proven performance breeder, I couldn't say no. Sizzle joined us on the 26th of November - a Shetland Sheepdog from HyperHounds out of Syrah.

She is so much fun! Such a sassy, opinionated little dog and such a fantastic little puppy - especially as compared to how difficult Nike was. Don't get me wrong she's incredibly busy and prone to naughty - but what I love is how easy she is to live with. Those shining little black eyes just melt my heart.

So this year the focus is on the girls and building (or revisiting) foundations/ building and then proofing skills. Also focusing on cross training and conditioning the older dogs and making sure to keep them active training something too!

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Never before seen ...

I think it might be an ominous thing when the vet you are taking your baby to is just utterly baffled by a Sheltie's ears being glued.

Maybe it's because I'm in agility and have seen more than my fair share of baby Shelties?! But she didn't say this was the first Sheltie she's seen ... just the first one with ears glued. 

Also interesting is wanting me to spay my puppy before she is even 6 months old ... so I expect on our next visit when I decline the rabies vaccine and just finish the puppy DAPP series (I'll do rabies a month later on its own in case of vaccine reaction issues) that I'll be looked at oddly for that too. But in the almost 10 years since Baxter has come into my life, I've learned a couple of things and always advocate for my dogs.

It's really too bad that vets just push early spay and neuter though. At least with Nike they asked if I was doing health testing when I said we wouldn't be spaying before 2 year of age and that vet was pretty receptive when I explained I just wanted her to be mature before removing hormones/spaying and it didn't necessarily have anything to do with breeding. This one just listed all the things that could go wrong if you didn't spay before the first heat cycle.

I'm not a standard pet owner - not that there is anything wrong with being a standard pet owner. I know a little more than a lot of people about dogs and dog related things. My whole family has me clip their dog nails. Spencer brings his own muzzle to the clinic. My dogs aren't fat. But for the love of Dog - don't try to scare me into doing what YOU think is right- maybe explain signs to watch for IF those things are going wrong. Mammary tumors. What symptoms you'd see with pyometria. But don't tell me Pyo is life threatening (I know it is ...) when I'm here with a 12 week old baby - maybe save that conversation for my 2 year old dog who is still intact, hey?! 

On a happier note, this is 3 weeks since Sizzle came home on 26-Nov-2017. (Or at least it was 3 weeks when I originally wrote this!)

The first week we just settled in and figured stuff out - was a pretty big change coming into a house with 4 resident dogs, none of whom are Shelties. She came out to class with me and hung out in the building after classes. She also came to work with me and met about 20 strange men - working in Oil & Gas is fantastic for socialization with men!! Not really loving food as much as I'd expect, but oh my the play & tug drive!

The second week was mostly a repeat of the first week, except we started coming out to family gatherings and meeting my nieces/nephews and the various other "family" dogs. 5 kids under 8 is a lot of children in one house when you're the center of attention!

She is delightfully confident little ball of fluff. LOVES people. Confident with dogs - some we say hi to - some we just observe from a distance. MANY opinions on everything that she has zero problem voicing.

Loves to chase stuff. Bringing it back - well not so much. But play and tug?! Oh my, someone forgot to tell the Sheltie that she isn't a terrier! I love it! 

She also sleeps through the night. Her first night we got up in the middle of the night and then the second day we got up at 5 am - other than that she has zero problem sleeping through the night and not waking me up at an ungodly hour. 

Friday, December 1, 2017

CAA November Remembrance Day Trial Review & Rant

At the beginning of the month was CAA's annual Remembrance Day Trial.

I haven't trialed a lot lately, with Lethbridge being the last big trial in September. This was such an awesome weekend, despite being part of the club putting on the trial and needing to be there from the very beginning to the very end. 2 x 12 hour days plus Friday night leads to being pretty wrung out come the end of the day on Sunday.

Baxter is not running full trials anymore and Spencer never has run full trials so it was pretty relaxed in terms of numbers of runs per day. I did enter Nike, but we're on a confidence building plan with her, so her runs don't "count."

Friends to trial and bench with make a world of difference in having a enjoyable weekend as well. This weekend was no exception. We benched with one of our training partners and having someone to video and chat with is awesome.

My boys rocked Friday night (their whole one run each) but it set me up to have a fantastic weekend. That connected feeling where your training pays off and you run as a team. It's the best feeling in the world!

All of the Masters level courses were under a judge I'd never actually trialed under before and being that she's a pretty standard fixture on various world teams, I didn't expect to love trialing under her as much as I did. Maybe it's a hold over from having the non-standard breeds, or from running my "slow" dogs. I really love it when people notice how good of a team the people in the ring are with their dogs - regardless of breed, or how fast/amazing a run was. What makes my heart happy is when a team is out having a great time and the dog is clearly understanding what the handler wants. Those pretty, fluid, connected runs.

Baxter was ON all weekend, running great except for a bobble in a Standard which was my fault, not his. He picked up 2 Jumpers, 1 Standard, 1 Snooker and ran 4/5. It felt like he wanted to do more during the day, but when we ran those last runs each day he felt a little tired/slower so I think that 2 runs a day is a good compromise for him.

With those Jumpers Q's we only need 3 more to earn his Gold Jumpers which is my big goal for him. I initially wanted to get that in 2017, but even if we hit all the Jumpers possible (locally anyway) that wouldn't be happening, so I guess it'll be in 2018 under the new "jump" heights. (And I call them "jumps" because my short, Special/Vet boys only have to jump 4" which really isn't even a jump for them.)

Spencer was on as well - he really does better with less trialing/training. He held it together for me for the weekend, minus melting in his Snooker run that might have been due to soreness. We had a bobble in his otherwise awesome Standard were he pulled off and refused the Frame right before the Snooker run, which is why I'm thinking he might have been sore. He doesn't usually pull off the Frame, just on jumps when he's feeling worried. He picked up 1 Standard, 1 Steeplechase and 1 Gamble running 3/5, but those 3 he was ON, driving to obstacles and responsive.

As much as Jumpers is Baxter's game - Standard and Gamble are Spencer's. He doesn't LOVE distance, but he understands what I want him to do and has the confidence to go out there and attempt it. It makes me so happy that my soft little margarine puddle of a dog has the confidence to try for me. His weaves and DW make those games so much easier with him than they were with Baxter.

Nike did well with our new goal of having a good time in the ring and not stressing out/disconnecting. First run was only 5 or 6 obstacles on the way to the exit to have a cookie party, and she got distracted by some smells in the back, but we got it back together and finished strong.

Our second run was a Standard, and we actually attempted everything but the table. She knows and likes the table, but the stops where she is not rewarded seem make her think she is wrong and result in her disconnecting - so right now, no stopping! I lost her worse to smells after the teeter again, but again, got her back (it was her idea to teeter again, not mine) and we finished nicely and had another cookie party.

Until I've got 100% of a dog wanting to play my game, she'll be running Specials. Right now we need confidence and happy more than anything and once those are there the skills (that we have in training) will be a *little* more apparent - because right now it looks like I have a completely untrained dog.

I'm also going to fully embrace the journey Nike and I are on here and learn the things that she's teaching me that will make me a better and stronger trainer.  It's about Nike and I. Period.

I love my dogs and I love the journey we are on together.