Saturday, October 13, 2012

Rilda Sue Fish - We Lose An Amazing Person

Rilda passed away on Friday morning, at the age of 62, following a recent diagnosis of lung cancer.  Unfortunately, by the time it was diagnosed, it had already spread to her brain and spinal fluid.  She knew her time left was short, she was diagnosed on July 9th, and fought it with everything she had.

Although Rilda was a smoker, her type of cancer (Adenocarcinoma) may, or may not be smoking related.  In fact, non-smokers often develop this type of lung cancer.  This is also the most common lung cancer in women.  One of Rilda's proudest accomplishments was when she quit smoking, over 5 and a half years ago. 

It's hard to know how any of us would react after hearing the news that you have terminal lung cancer.  On the way home from that appointment, I asked Rilda what she was thinking.  She said, 'I'm worried about my dogs.'  Rilda had 2 dogs, a 13+ yr old Bichon, Ryelee,  and a young 18 month old Schnauzer, Nike.  This was so typical of Rilda, she worried about others, before she worried about herself.  'We'll figure it out, I assured her, and we have.'  Thank you Liz and Fritz for opening your home up to Ryelee!!

Rilda was overwhelmed by the number of people that visited, sent cards, flowers, and money. Friends from high school friend, co-workers at Kwik-Way, and of course dog friends.  The reason was quite obvious, it was because Rilda truly knew how to be a friend.  She always gave, and I don't mean in materialistic things, more than she received.  It takes a very special person to do this, and Rilda was that special.

We talked about a 'bucket list', knowing full well that time was short.  Number one on her list was finishing Ryelee's MACH.  Just a few short days later, Michele Hartzler was able to make that dream a reality.  You see, even by then, Rilda wasn't able to run.  Rilda was so happy!  Of course everyone else was in tears.  What a wonderful day.  Rilda remarked, that it was one of the best days of her life, she'd never felt so much love and support.'Dog people are the BEST.'

Another bucket item, was to see Nike run in her first agility trial.  It was going to be tough; she really hadn't had much agility training.  She didn't even know what weave poles were, but what the heck, we entered her in the Granger trial in September.  Just Novice JWW preferred.  Nike was 20th or so on the waiting list, so didn't think we'd make it in.  But a couple days before closing we'd made it!!  Unfortunately Rilda wasn't well enough to make the trip, but friends Peggy Patters, and Beth Haley were waiting to share video of Nike's runs with her.  Posted on You Tube, right after the run.  It was another great day, as Nike run like she belonged there, with two clean runs.  Even though I had to do the old push pull weaves.  Rilda didn't care!!

Now, just because Rilda was a great friend, that doesn't mean she wasn't ornery.  She like practical jokes along with the rest of us.  My favorite was in Granger in March.  It was Rilda's birthday, and we'd all picked up 12 packs of Diet Pepsi, her favorite.  We weren't sure how we were going to present all this soda, but after she'd set up both of her dog crates (vari type) and left to get the came to us!!  Let's fill her dog crates with the Pepsi 12 packs!  The crates were on the ground, they are fairly solid, and had covers over them, so you couldn't see the pop inside.  Not unless you got down on the ground to look.

So, we filled the crate quickly, with as much as we could, just in time.  Here came Rilda with Ryelee.  He balked a bit, as he went into his kennel, but in he went.  Of course, the orange people were trying to act 'normal', but a few of us had tears in our eyes.  Rilda left to get Sophie, and we all burst out laughing, hushing of course when she returned.  Sophie didn't have as much room left in her crate as Ryelee, and Rilda could not figure out why she wouldn't go it.  Finally, Rildsa got down on her hands and knees, and look inside.  The look on her face was hysterical!!

So many great trips, fun times hanging around with our dogs, and just enjoying our dog peeps!

We will so miss our Rilda Sue, but you can bet, she won't be forgotten!!

Got a story you'd like to share?  I'd love to hear it!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sunny California...kind of.....

It was 'mostly' sunny, and CHILLY!! 
 At the PWD Club of Northern California Annual Water Trial.  
In Pleasanton, CA on August 4th & 5th.
 When you go from 98+ degrees, and 70 at night to 55 degree mornings, 
and 70's during the day, it's rather a shock to the system!  
Too bad I didn't pack a sweatshirt!  Or PANTS!!!  BRRRR!!

It was a fun time judging, and EATING!!!
I don't think I've ever eaten so much in such 
a short amount of time!  WOW!! 

Out the window of the 757.......

These are the exhibitors 'gift bags', 
They were GREAT!!! 

I even got one!  
Okay, so I didn't think the airline would understand
that the pocket knife was actually a GIFT!!
So, I gave that to my 'driver'.  

The little duck is extra cute!  
They have an annual 'Ducky Derby', 
the ducks are dumped into the water and PWDs 
retrieve them.  If they pick yours, you win MONEY!!
Strangely enough, the PWD owners should have 
practiced ahead of time......the PWDs were more interested
in peeing in the water.  That made it even funnier!  (':

 Here's the little beach area.  
They had two rings set up. 

The view from an adjacent dock. 
Sorry, we were not at the ocean!! G

Tiny cup cakes!! 
Yep, small....I took TWO!!  G

Barb made me this cute little name tab
for Nettle!!  It says "Wish you were here."
I'm pretty sure she was just being kind!
Nettle would have had a BLAST!

Speaking of fun!!
It's really hard to judge when you have these
kinds of distractions!
Luckily, I missed out on the Sunday baptisms! 
How could you seriously focus then?  

We don't have trees like these in Iowa!! 

But....we do have these!!
They are CASE Tractors!!
Lori looked at me like I'd just stepped off the farm! G
Well, guess what they had on display when we walked in? 
Yep, some Ertl replicas!  
Lori had never noticed before!! 

We ate here Sunday evening! 
The food was good, the company was great, .....
The bathroom.....well, Lori said I 'had' to go....
Who am I to argue!!

OMG!!  Animal noises are playing vs. music!
It was HYSTERICAL!!!  

It was a fun time! 
But worth it. 

Off to Toronto in a couple weeks.....
I'll be wearing a SWEATSHIRT!!!  G

Monday, July 23, 2012 the Microwave?

 Um, I've had BETTER ideas!!

Tonight at Puppy Class we will be doing puppy recalls.  I want GOOD food, so what's better than sardines?  I thought if maybe I microwaved them, that they would hold together a bit better.  THINK AGAIN!!  One the bright side, they sure are 'tender'!

 Here's what you get in a can of Sardines!

I thought I could go maybe 90 seconds, but came running back after 15!  They were popping away, Kruz was circling the kitchen, and I pushed the STOP button.   See below!

Big surprise, sardine smell, well....fishy!  
So 'in for a penny, in for a pound'.  
I gave them another 15 seconds! 
Kruz is really agitated now!

So, after 15 more seconds they weren't quite as mushy.
I could get them into bite size pieces.
Um....small pieces, as I guess I should clarify.  
Kruz would NOT see any of those as bite sized!

I've now placed them in the freezer to harden.  
Not sure I'll actually try to use them tonight?
I guess if the kitchen smells like Sardines, 
the Fridge/Freezer might as well too. 

Pretty sure I'll have the BEST treats tonight!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Not Just Another MACH!


Thank You Michele Hartzler!!
(Substitute Handler for DQ #20)

Rilda Fish, MACH RYLEE,
Lisa Haidle Potts (Judge)
Michele Hartzler
(Handler for #20 DQ)

Michele showing off Rylee's ribbon,
and both their tails!
Look, she even has orange
poop bags!! 

(Master Agility Champion)
It is a huge accomplishment!

For Rilda, it's so much more!

Rilda and Rylee have overcome so many obstacles throughout their career.  Obstacles that would have had many other dog trainers looking for other canine partner.  Not Rilda!!  She stuck with him, and was so close, so many times to #20.   In the Spring, Rilda started to having some health issues.  Problems that were impacting her vision, and her hearing.  She was recently diagnosed with cancer, and this weekend was unable to run her dog.  In stepped Michele to save the day!!

This might not be the 'fastest', the 'smoothest', the impressive MACH run.....but to me, it was the most exciting, the most emotional, and the most thrilling one ever!!!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Raffle For a Great Cause

Thank you MACI, ICDOC and SCKC 
for offering the following raffle! 
Thinking of you Rilda!!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

VIsta on Ducks - 4th of July Fun!

Agility class was held in the morning yesterday to 
'beat the heat', we somewhat accomplished that!

Paula brought Vista out to 'play' with the
ducks before class.  
I think she had fun!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Release Word - A Test of Understanding

The question is - Does you dog know his release word? Here's your assignment. Have your dog sit at your side, either side. You will be standing up, no cookies to toys on your person. Give your release word without any movement on your part. What does your do do?

I attended a Tracy Sklenar Seminar in April, and this was one of the topics on the Foundation Day.  I LOVE Foundation Day!  I learn so much, find so many potential holes in my training, and find some great ideas to do in my own classes.  

 Last week when it was too hot to run courses, we focused on other Important, yet often forgotten pieces of good dog training. This happened to be one of the things we tried. Interestingly enough, Only about 4 of the 20+ dogs would release without some movement on the handlers part. All 4 of those dogs had worked though at least the initial phrase of Crate Games. A coincidence? I don't think so.

The dogs that 'released' on their release word did not 'run off' a muck.  They simply jumped out of their sit, and either bounced in front of their handler to see 'what's up?', or stood up asking the same question. Where they ended up after they released, was likely determined by where they have been reinforced the most.

Why is this important?  This could be impacting your start lines, if you dog doesn't understand when it should release, you might well be getting movement on your start line.  If they self release on your 2o2o, they might not truly understand their release word.  There are some pretty easy solutions.

Crate Games, that's probably the clearest.  I know I mention this at class, probably more often that people would like to hear.  I see so many problems with holding position, driving ahead, impulse control, that could be resolved with a $35 DVD.  I'm not saying this is a 'cure all', but it sure helps define some pretty significant behaviors. 

The other thing you could do to work on your release word is to set them up at your side, give your release word, and used just the minimum amount of movement to get them to release. Reward, and work at weaning them off of the movement. 

Release word understanding is very important, it's just one of those things that get left out along the way.  HAVE FUN!!!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Meet Vista!!

Meet Paula's new puppy, Vista!

This was a first time 'meeting and greet' with Nettle and Nike.  
I don't generally let Net just hang in the building, 
but this was a special occasion!

Of course, always missed some of the fun stuff. 
You get this idea, and it will be fun to see how
big she is compared to Nike in another 6 months!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Agility Class - Does it always need to involve equipment?

Let's face it, it's HOT outside!!  

Too hot, to run agility courses, at least I think so.  It's a tough call, do you cancel class?  Do you let people decide what they want to do?  Do you offer a morning session on the weekend?  Decisions Decisions.

Unless you have an air conditioned facility, you're going to run into these problems.  Luckily for us, or not, there's nothing between our place and Nebraska, so we always have a breeze.  Let's be honest, it's generally gale force winds up here on the Iowa.

For this week, we decided to offer to have class at the 'normal' time, if people wanted to come.  As another option, we offered Saturday morning, for those that can make it. 

Then I got to thinking......Does agility training ALWAYS have to involve agility equipment?  Of course not!  I thought about the things I do with our own dogs, tricks, body awareness, impulse control games, etc.  Things that I can do without a whole lot of running for dog or handler.

These are things I just 'take for granted' that people are doing with their dogs outside of class.  For some handlers, they've either taken a puppy, or trick class with me, so they know them already.  Others have been to seminars, or taken on line courses that recommend these 'games'.

So, last night, tonight and Saturday morning, that was/will be our focus.  Our work 'involved', or will involve, pivot (elephant boards), plank work, discs, holding start line positions, and games in arousal.  Things that are very important to the game of agility, but not something we actually work on during class.

The great things about these games is, you can play then INSIDE at home!  They take virtually NO ROOM, or at least very little!


Monday, June 25, 2012

Smooth Sailin' Agility Water Council

When it's so dry that you need to water the grass 
out in the jumpers yard.  

Professional help is needed!
So, Kruz - 14, Seeker - 5, and Nettle - 1

Not sure how much water really got to 
where it was needed. 

They have fun anyway!

Monday, June 18, 2012

The 'Ins and Outs' N 'Ups and Downs' of training with a Soft Crate

One of the things on my "To Do List" this summer,
 is to polish up my Crate Games.  

On that list is 'Sends'.  
Both Seeker and Nettle tend to 'look back', 
vs. driving forward, so out came the crate. 

Yes, that's cross stitch. 
No, I don't think I'd ever do it again. 
Yes, Mad Dog chewed the patched corner. 
Nettle chewed the patch. 
(Probably not in the circumstance you think)
No, the Border Collies, nor Nina would 

Back to my Crate Game practice. 

I took this crate out to the yard to do some short - 5' - 10' sends.  Both dogs did great with the sends, 
and some 'In/Out' games. If you haven't done Crate Games, you seriously need to consider it.  I can save your dog's life!  I may have saved mine....another post, another time.

After we were done, I left the crate outside, with the dogs, while I did a few outside chores.  I came back about an hour later and called them inside.  The border collies came.....the PWD didn't.  Hum......  So I called, "Net, Buttercup, Nettie, NETTLE"....nothing.  I know, 'How many Nettle's do I have?', apparently 4, that's about right for the number of her personalities.  Now, she has jumped the fence earlier this spring, twice, both resulted in being up inside in her crate.  She hasn't done it since.  I'd been outside, I hadn't seen her, and she would have come to see me, so I was kind of concerned, but not panicked.  

I walked around the corner of the house, and the crate was tipped so the door was up.  That was strange.  I looked down inside, and what do you suppose I'd captured!!  One goofy grinning PWD!  Made me laugh!  What a nut!  Then of course I saw that she'd chewed some of the 'pre-chewed' part of the door.  Oh well, no big deal. NAUGHTY NAUGHTY NETTLE!!

Later we went back outside to add some distance to our sends. I learned, that you really do need to secure the crate somehow if you're sending a dog that will bank off the back wall.  That darn Seeker! Yep, he rolled the crate backwards, ending up facing the opposite least the door was now flipped open.  It did take me a couple times to get him to drive back in with the same intensity.  Lesson learned!  STAKE IT!

It does actually have 4 little tabs that you can stake.  Unfortunately, my little LLBean tent stakes couldn't hold it, so I'm going to have to find something else.  In the mean time, I put it up against the fence.  At least it won't flip over backwards again. 

BTW, Nettle also chewed off the buckle that holds the crate together while folded.  I guess I should be too surprised, she chews EVERYTHING!!  At least she left the 4 bottom tab things alone. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lost Agility (MACH) Dog in Utah!!


Miniature long-haired dachshund, black and tan with “silver markings”
Wearing a red, black & white collar with paw prints
Ziggy escaped out of a motor home June 13, 2012, at Century RV Park, Ogden UT
CALL 515-803-0959


Seeker just LOVES those large indestructible balls that dogs can push around the yard.  
About 6 months ago, I bought him a small Jolly Ball.  
I'd forgotten about it, as it was upstairs in a box.  
Guess what I found today!!!  
So, I put it on the other handle of Nettle's bungee tug.  

What fun is that!!!

(BTW - Purple is one of my least favorite colors....can you tell??) 

Kind of makes me laugh!

Does anyone see a problem with this?

Luckily for me, Seeker did NOT let go!!

Unfortunately for Seeker, I did!  

It's a super soft bumper, and thumped him in the side.  
He didn't care, but I felt kind of bad.

(Can you say "Toy Recall")

Mr. Jolly Ball is now on a 'safer' fleece tug.

Regarding the bungee tug - 
(No Melinda, you can NOT have one!!)

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Puppy Bumps - they aren't just for PUPPIES!!

I was feeling sorry for my plants along the barn this morning, so decided to water them.  The only thing that's helped keep them looking 'okay', is living on the North side, so spend the majority of their day in the shade.  I didn't have quite enough hose, and didn't feel like bringing any over from the, I used a puppy bump irrigation system!!Yep, a 'new' invention!

Seeker found a 'treat ball' left by Mary Ann in the jumpers yard.  
He was THRILLED!! 
A new toy to play with!  

Of course, he quickly figured out that if you drop it
at the top, you can chase it down!  
He created his own 'chase game'.  

Cougar was appalled!  

 Cougar was even more upset when he noticed that the water 
was going into his perfectly nice nap area! 

Not to worry, I'm sure he'll find another
place for his mid morning rest.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Do you know what this is??

Okay, so it's wire.....

Do you know what it was for?  

Obedience - Sits and Downs of course!

 The idea wasn't about 'understanding', it was about controlling.  In this case, I was controlling her ability to be able to move outside the square.  Of course, she could, it was just wire.  She wasn't really fond of the feeling on her feet, so she didn't.  This was just one of the 'many' ways I 'trained' stays.  To be honest, none of them really worked.  Did Molly get her CDX? Yes, but these were always a battle and never fun.  I hated them, she hated them, but 'unfortunately', or 'fortunately', depending on how you look at it, we were rewarded with some qualifying scores, placements, and titles. 

This was literally an 8 year battle.  
She got her CD at 1 year of age, her CDX at 9, all because 
of the out of sights, anxiety, and lack of understanding. 

If I'd only had 'Crate Games' back then!
I could have avoided so much anxiety on
both our parts! 

What an amazing little Novice A dog.  
If only I could start over with her again!
I miss you Molly.

 MACH U-ACHX That's My Molly CDX U-CDX  FGDCh (flyball), 
(1st MACH Bichon)
(1st Flyball Champion/ONYX/Grand Champion Bichon) 
(All NADAC Elite Titles....which have all changed since way back when......)

To Happy Endings!!

Tobie is FOUND!!!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Life Can Change in the Blink of an Eye

This could happen to any of us.  
Hug your dogs!
Be thankful they are safe.
If you can help, please do so.  
There is a fund raiser link in this article.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Erica and her dogs.

(Tobie is a female)

Monday, June 11, 2012

A Look Back at Jump Heights

I'm sorting/purging some of my dog training materials, 
and look what I came across!  

Old jump heights!

 I'm going to guess they are from the mid to late 1990's,
 since AKC is listed and began in 1994 I believe.

It seems funny that people now think 26" is so high.
Check out the USDAA and AAC heights!
30 BIG ONES!! 

I think UKC is the only venue that hasn't 
seen changes in their jump heights since then.

Just a fun - Look Back.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Paying Ahead - More on Rewards....

This morning I was out watering the building, there's not much else to do but think while you're doing, of course I was thinking about training and rewarding.  Rewarding not just dogs, but ponies, and yes, even people!! I call my horses 'ponies', it just sounds cuter.

This is a picture of Adam last Fall, I was calling him in from the pasture.  Now, do you think he's coming because he loves me?  Maybe, he is a very good boy.  More likely however, he's coming because he know he gets a little grain for coming in.  My ponies get out on the pasture about 2 hrs each day, when I call and whistle they come in for their grain.  Now, if I gave them their grain, before they went out to the pasture, and then called them to come in (for nothing) you think they would?  Maybe, but not likely.  There's a reason I withhold this 'reward'.

Think about your employer, do they pay you in advance?  More than likely not.  It doesn't take a lot of common sense to know why you're generally paid a week behind.  They want to be sure you come to work.

Now, let's think about our dog's performances.  If you are outside the ring, waiting for your turn, and you're plugging your dog full of treats, what are you rewarding?  Are you hoping they will just stay with you?   Are you trying to 'bribe' the performance, hoping they understand that this is a 'prepayment'?  You might be better off waiting until after a run, and rewarding a job well done. 

I'm not saying you shouldn't get your dog up, and ready to run.  We want our dogs to be engaged, in-tune, and ready to work.  What I am saying is put a little thought into why you are paying ahead.  Will you get a return on your investment, or are you just sedating your dog with food, and hoping for the best. 

Being 'thoughtful' with your rewarding and really bring out the best in your dog! 

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Thoughtful Rewards

We had a wonderful time in Ames over the weekend.  Weather was PERFECT!!  Grass was a nice length for all the different sizes of dogs running.  Just fantastic!

Seeker ran last on Saturday, and first on Sunday, which gave me an opportunity to watch many of the dog/handler teams.  I just love that!  I enjoy watching how people get their dog's ready to go into the ring, and of course their handling of the course as well. 

Have you ever noticed how much reinforcement is given 'outside' the ring, with the dog just standing, staring at the cookie?  Not only are the dogs receiving rewards for not running, which is what we want them to do in agility, we are also redirecting their blood flow to their digestive system (if you attended Cheryl Morris Nutrition workshop last weekend), you know this is something else we don't want to do.  If you also read any of Susan Garrett's articles, you'll also learn that 'food' develops behavior, 'tug' develops drive.  So, if you are feeding your dog 'mindlessly' outside the ring, what behavior can you expect inside the ring?

Some people might argue that their dog will run fast, no matter how many treats you give them for standing still.  This 'might' be true, but those dogs are likely not the norm.  Some might be 'afraid' to tug with these highly aroused dogs,  fearing they might be uncontrollable.  I personally don't think this is true. I think you'd be surprised at the extra speed you have the potential of getting by tugging.  That is just a different training issue, and probably a good post later on.

Back to those that feed a lot of treats outside the ring.  If you have a dog that lacks speed 'inside' the ring, the last thing you want to be doing is rewarding standing still outside the ring.  Dogs are very smart, they quickly figure out that there will not be any reinforcement inside the ring.  These are typically the same dogs that pick up speed toward the end of the course, anticipating the rewards at the end.  Guess where they come?  Outside the ring.

If you already have this 'problem', you can correct it.  I know you are going to cringe when I say, 'create a tug'.  Trust me, you can!!  I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but you can!  If you truly want passion in your running, put the time into your tug.  ANY TIME, ANY PLACE!!!  One of the Advanced Beginner students brought her 'young dog', Pink into the building to 'practice' after Advanced Class the other night.  She took Pink over a couple jumps, and was tugging with her as a reward!  Holy Cow, it was a different dog than she had in class using food!  It was amazing!!  She will be using that tug in class this week, I can guarantee it!  She stated she's been working on it, as she didn't want her to run like her other dog, just for food!  Her other dog understands the job (behavior), but lacks the passion for the game. 

If you 'must' use food, as Micheal Ellis would say, 'Make it come Alive', so at least don't give it while the dog is standing still. I see this often as well, the handler finishes a sequence and the dog is fed while standing still at the end, keep them moving. 

Finally, be sure you are rewarding your dogs in training, when they are giving you the speed you want!  STOP, just when you don't want, to because they are doing so well!  This is exactly when you want to reward, so they keep offering this behavior.  This applies to keeping bars up, fast contacts, hard weave pole entries, etc.  We don't want to stop the fun, but if you want those behaviors to continue, that is the time to do it. 

I rarely run a full course at home with Seeker, as by running a full course, I'm not able to isolate what I really want to work on.  Take a look at your training, break it down, reward for great performances, work on your tug, reward with 'moving' food, and watch for the difference in your dog's enthusiasm!  It's contagious!!

Happy Training!!  

Friday, June 1, 2012

More Weaving Nettle......

Well, I tried the 2X2 suggestion of putting the 6 set of 2x2's just off a titch, using a string....lalalalal.  If you've trained this method, you'll follow.  If not, no biggie, as it didn't work for Net.  I really wonder if they used a closer set of poles for this DVD.  Since it's 4+ years old, I'm guessing they were.

 So, out to the barn to find some closer ones.  I found my old 20-21" set of 3's.  I used these to train Seeker by just tossing a towel over the 3rd rung.  That turned them into 2's.  Hey, sometimes you just work with what you have, and by George, it worked!  Anyway, I digress......

I started with 2 sets of 6 at the 21" poles, no problems, so I put them together.  At first I was still getting the hopping, but now after a few times I think her footwork is getting better.  Her ability to hit the entries is amazing!

The next step, after I add some jumps back in, will be to dig out my 'old' channel set.  I think they are 22".  So, work with those until I'm getting the same footwork I want.  Finally, I'll go back to the 24" set.  I might switch back and forth for awhile, just working her comfort level with striding.

 I'm very happy with her progress thus far!  LOVE THE ATTITUDE!  She's having a BLAST!!  So am I!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You Are What You Eat!!!

If this it true, our dogs should be oinking like pigs, and clucking like chickens!!  Hum, now that I think about it, they do make some pretty interesting noises at times. 

 (Maned Wolf)

On Saturday, Cheryl Morris came in from Western Iowa (Council Bluffs) to give a presentation on feeding our canine companions.  Cheryl discussed the 'evolution' of our canines diets, as they adapted to living with humans.  A fascinating discussion on the Canidae (the biological family) in which our family dogs are included, as well as the amazing differences of diets within this group.  From pure carnivores (meat only), to those that east very little meat, even those that eat insects only. 

She talked on both raw (premade/commerical/home) and kibble diets, stressing that you can feed kibble and do it well!  The key is in knowing what you are getting for your money.  Also the importance of adding water to your dry kibble when feeding.  I've now started this with my 'farm' cats that eat kibble, yep, getting the eye roll from Bill.  What can I say....I LOVE my Kitties!! 

Our main focus was getting optimal performance in the ring, but truly, it was a discussion of our dogs diet, throughout all their life stages.

Also discussed were the vitamins and minerals your dog needed, as well adequate hydration.  Hydration is especially important to watch when we travel.  Some dogs don't drink as much as they should when away from home, so she provided us with an awesome 'Keegan' water recipe.  I'll be taking this with me to the next trial!

I would strongly encourage your club, or group to reach out to Cheryl and set up a presentation in your area, it is truly worth the time.  My personal experience with Cheryl is a personal consult on a senior diet for Kruz.  I feed raw, and she tweak his diet a bit, adding a few more carbs, some additional supplements and he's doing great!  

HUGE THANK YOU to Cheryl for coming!!

If you're interested in more information, including Cheryl's e-mail address, please see below:

Cheryl Morris, PhD, has been the Director of Comparative Nutrition at Omaha’s Henry
Doorly Zoo since 2005. She is responsible for formulating and managing the diets of the entire
collection ranging from insects to mammals. Her nutrition laboratory and research focus have
been in the area of raw meat diet formulations for carnivores and utilization of whole prey in
carnivore diets. Cheryl also oversees the Training, Environmental Enrichment, and Interactive
Animal Programs at the zoo. Cheryl completed her Ph.D in Nutritional Sciences at the
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign focusing on dietary factors affecting intestinal health
in the canine. When she’s not thinking about nutrition, Cheryl plays AKC and USDAA agility
with her Toy Fox Terriers (Keegan, Leia, and Shadow) and her rescued Border Collie, Karma.
Cheryl also conducts private nutritional consults for individuals seeking specific advice for their
performance dogs through Evolve Animal Services, LLC (

Friday, May 25, 2012

I want what I want!!

Gee, now I'm sounding like the Honey Badger!!!  G

Nettle is doing well on her weaves, 
and I'm sure I 'could' add the second set at this point.

I'm going to wait however, until I get the footwork I want. 

The poles she's using in this sequence are 24".  
The 2 X 2's I use, are 22". 

USDAA still allows 22" poles, so I want to be 
sure she understands how to handle the difference.
It's surprising, or maybe not, how that 2" can make a difference. 

Anyway, back to Nettle's footwork.  I want her to one stride her poles.  I think this type of striding is more efficient and faster. Nettle is about the same size as Mad Dog, (a bit over 19") and Mad single stepped her poles, thus I don't see any reason Nettle can't.  Structurally, she is very nice, so I'll put a plan in place to 'get what I want'!  

How?  Well, I'm going to go out and dig around in my 'old' equipment to see what I can find.  I know I have at least 2 sets of 6 poles at different spacings, 18" and 20".  The plan is to dig out the 20" later today, and work with them until I get the one striding I want.  Then put her back on the 22 or 24s" to see if she can maintain it, before I move to second set of 6 poles, and then 12.  My feeling is, why increase the level of difficulty (multiple poles), before I get the striding I want at 6.  

Let the games continue!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Nettle at 6 Poles Plus a Distraction!

No, not quite ready for chickens!!  Yet! 

Kruz wanted to come play too, so he 'supervised'.  

This might have been a bit too much at this point in her training, 
but Nettle worked through it.   She had to dodge around him a couple times.  
Maybe he was the 7th pole?

We'll spend a couple days at 6 poles, to gain some confidence
in her striding.  I'll wait to add Kruz back in a bit later. 

This is so crazy how this actually works!  
Who'd have thunk!!  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Who's Training Who?

Nettle has recently begun her weave pole training with 2X2’s.  She’s catching on quickly, and we’ve progressed to 4 poles, with some pretty difficult entries.  She’s been able to work through all of the challenges I’ve given her, and that makes me very happy! 

It's 6 am - and 50 degrees outside with a north wind - Yep, I'm dressed up! NOT!!  (':

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from our other dogs is, ‘Don’t make things easier after a failure!’  Let the dog work through it, or they will learn to be helpless.  They learn we’ll come and ‘save the day’!  I wish I would have learned this sooner!  Or at least, really taken it to heart.  I know I’d heard it before, but it never truly sunk in.

Just like people, every dog learns at a different pace, and in different ways.  This doesn’t make one dog smarter than any other, it just makes them different. 

For instance, Seeker blasted through 2X2s in about 7 days, it just made sense to him, and he LOVED doing whatever I wanted to do.  Thus his name “Hail Yeah”, because any time you ask him if he wants to do something, this is his response!  His failures are easy to work through; he’ll keep trying no matter what.  He loves the game so much.  His attention is just on figuring out the puzzle, not about the outside reinforcements.  This is why he can weave through poles with chickens in them; he’s not thinking about the birds, he’s thinking about the game!

Nettle on the other hand, is very distracted by her surroundings.  She likes the game well enough, but doesn’t LOVE it,’ yet’.  Sometimes she’s like the joke, “How many kids with ADHD does it take to change a light bulb? Let’s go ride bikes.”  That’s okay, that’s who she is, and although it makes some things more challenging, it also makes the ‘breakthroughs’ very rewarding. 

Nettle likes to do what pleases HER!  Gosh, who doesn’t!  So, one of the challenges we’ve needed to overcome was ‘bringing a toy right back’ when it’s thrown.  This might not seem like a big deal, but ‘self’ rewarding by sprinting around with a toy isn’t very good ‘team work’.  It’s also difficult to throw a toy with a line on it.  Yep, been there, done that!  Stepped on the line, tripped on the line, and couldn’t throw the toy far due to a knot being in the line!  Trust me; it’s a comedy of errors, that lucky only the neighbors will see!  Honestly, they have probably already seen enough for a life time! 

So, our retrieve work has become no direct return, no cookie.  I might play some tug if we were working on 2X2s and she did a wonderful job…but, no cookie!  Or, as Tracy P says, “No Soup For You.”…which is way more fun!  It’s amazing how this works!  In the video clip, Net does a really nice job with her weaves, but decided a small victory lap was in order.  No cookie, although we did tug.  The next time she came right back.  Good Girl!

I’ve also been very diligent about not making things EASIER!!  This is really hard!  We want to help them understand, but what we are really doing is teaching them by failing, we’ll make it easier!  UGH!  So, I do video tape my sessions, then go back to make sure I’m not moving in such a way to make it easier.  In fact, I try to remain where I released her at this point; just to be sure I’m not tempted to make it easier, knowing I need to add some movement to these difficult entries as well.  I’ll do that tomorrow. 

There is one point in this video that she fails 3 times in a row; she’s looking for something else to do.  Yes, she’s stressed, but she needs to work through it. She sniffs the ground, eats some grass, and at one point finds a leaf that she thinks about grabbing and running with.  In the end, she came back and did a nice job!  It may not look like a hard entry on the video, but I was at pole #3 (second to the last), on the left side, she had to go search for that entry.  I would bet few experience weaving dogs would be able to do that.  This is the one she did the small victory lap, no soup, but we had some play time.

If I would reward those ‘victory laps’ with a cookie, I think I would be increasing the likelihood that she would repeat the behavior.  Now, none of us really knows what our dogs are thinking, but I have tried rewarding for what I thought was ‘finally’ coming back.  Guess what, it just kept getting worse!  Instead of a small lap, I was getting the “Triple Crown” lap around the 120’ by 80’ training yard.  Yep, “I’ll Have Another”!! 

By withholding the cookie reward whenever there is the ‘slightest’ victory lap, those have become less and less likely to occur.  I’ve also been able to ‘unleash’ the toy, which makes tossing into these high winds MUCH easier!  Double bonus!!

Bottom line, if you are one that rewards your dog after they’ve run off to see someone and then comes back, you might want to rethink that.  Verbal praise, sure…but does it really deserve a cookie?  Are you only increasing the likelihood that will happen again?  I guess that’s only a question you can answer for yourself. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dog Trainers should be Ambidextrous!

You might think I'm kidding, but I'm really not.  Now, I wouldn't expect anyone to become totally equal in their abilities to use each hand, but being better at it can sure help!

Being timely, and rewarding in the proper area is very important to dog training.  In agility, we really don't want to be reaching across are bodies with our right hand to reward a dog on the left, and visa versa.  Why?  You are encouraging your dogs rear end to swing out, and you are no longer facing in the same direction.  It's just not good placement of reward. 

Same for tugging rewards.  You want to when possible to reward at your side, facing the direction in which you're going.  Now, I'm not saying you can never reward in front, but think about the game of agility, you are 'generally' heading in the same direction, side by side.  It's a bit hard to run a course if the dog is facing you in front.  So, by becoming more ambidextrous, you can successfully tug on both sides of your body.

Good news for right handed obedience trainers!!  You are likely pretty good at delivering food rewards with your left hand.  Sorry might not be as proficient on the right, since the majority of obedience work is left oriented.  Reminds me of the days when dogs only weaved on the left!  Yes, it's true!!

Ambidexterity is  a skill we all can improve at.  It would be nice to be able to deliver, tug, throw, (okay, so I know a couple people that can throw with their dominate hand!!) rewards of all kinds with equal accuracy.  Luckily, it's not hard to do!!

Each day while you're doing a task, simply switch hands!  Unscrew a lid, wash the dishes, unload the dryer, etc.  At first you'll need to think about what you're doing, but it can seriously become a natural habit.  EAT with your non-dominate hand!   Trust me, almost all my friends are borderline 'food aggressive', you WON'T STARVE!  I promise!!  It's a great way to improve your dexterity for your 'off hand'.

Another great benefit is if you ever have an unexpected accident, like your horse steps in a hole and you both take a tumble into a ditch, you'll be able to eat with no worries!!  Lucky for me I'd already been practicing!!  I would bet wrist fractures are up there as the most common! Be prepared!

Play kids games, horse shoes (okay, maybe not), bean bag toss, Pictionary, "Operation" is a blast using your off hand!!  Deal cards, make coffee, put toast in the toaster, slide your credit card!  There are so many things we do everyday without even thinking about it, it's clumsy at first, but you'll be surprise how quickly you become good at it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Running A-Frame

Okay, this is what I'm going to do, PROMISE!!!  
No turning back, no chickening out, no making excuses!!  


Now for planning the strategy!! 

When teaching any behavior, you need to know what you want.  It's not enough to say, "I want a running A-Frame.", although I'm sure some people do, and are able to get it.  For myself, I need to know exactly 'what I want'. 

So, my first question is, what do I 'personally' think of when I think about a running A-Frame.  First is confidence, a dog that runs up and over without hesitation.  Independence, the ability to complete the AF no matter where the handler is.  Along with that, however, a dog that can turn tightly off the AF to accommodate turns as needed on course.  A dog that skims over the top.  I don't want 'air', air looks cool, but wastes time IMO.  Leg separation, striding naturally up and over.  Let the number of hits on the way down "go" and focus on comfort for the dog.  Able to maintain the above criteria in the 'face' of an extremely rewarding tunnel at the end, or any other piece of equipment!!  Able to hit a 90 degree weave pole entry from the AF.  I'm probably missing something...but, those are my thoughts for now. 

I took Silvia Trkman's running contact class last year, in preparation for Nettle, so time to dust that off and go back to the introduction material.  Now, Seeker will only be working on a running AF, so I won't be using a plank, just the AF itself.  

It's also important to keep track of successes and failures, so I have a notebook.  Video is great too, so I have my flip taped on the bottom (now top of course) of a 5 gallon bucket. This will help me watch my criteria, and give me ideas of areas to focus on in future training sessions.  

So, this morning Bill helped me lay the AF flat in the building, just waiting for the games to begin!  I got Seeker's favorite toy, his 'Squeaky Ball', and out we went.  Okay, it was pretty simple this morning, the AF was flat and I tossed the ball out about 10' past the exit.  Released with a 'go' and clicked when he hit in the yellow.  Not terribly complicated.  Worked about 8 reps and stopped.  This afternoon I might put a tunnel on the approach side, just to give him something else to do.  The plan on this point is to move up one chain link at a time as long as I feel the criteria is being meet.  I'll also need to be sure to work front crosses, rear crosses and turns sooner, rather than later. 

My one concern (if you want to call it that), is I have a trial the first weekend in June.  I wanted to pull, but Bill didn't want me to.  So, I told him, "I'm not even looking at my AF, you've got to accept I will say 'go' and what happens happens."  You can't start this, and then not follow through at trials.  That's just not fair to the dog.  

I know it will take time for him to trust that he can run through.  It will take time for me to trust he will run through....and, it will take time for him to figure out the stride he's most comfortable with.  In the end, I know we can be successful at this.  There are so many teams out there with lovely running AFs, so, there's not reason we can be one of them too.  


Monday, May 14, 2012

Sticky Icky Icky A-Frame!! UGH!

Well, back to the 'drawing board' with our A-Frame work.  Just when you think you have it licked...the last two weekends have shown that Seeker still has massive confusion when it comes to the criteria for the a-frame.  Let's be honest here, it's NOT HIS FAULT!! 

In DSM over the weekend, he ran so well, but we lost 3-5 seconds per run on a sticky a-frame.  It's going to be difficult to compete at the USDAA Nationals this Fall losing that much time.....

So, back to the drawing board!  First I need to decide, what do I REALLY REALLY WANT!!  2o2o, or running.  Then I need to focus on making that happen. 

Time for some soul searching.  Then time to write out some lesson plans.  Bottom line, it needs to be something that is very black and white for Seeker.  If there is any question as to what I want, he will stick.  Got some great ideas over the weekend, THANK YOU!!!  Now it's time to decide what direction I want to go and stick with it!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A Travel Quiz - FOR MEN!!!

If you're a women reading this, which you likely need to ask your spouse, or significant other what they would do in the following situation.  I'm curious to hear the answer.......

You, a friend and your spouse are returning from an agility trial.  'You', ride with your friend, in her van, and your spouse is following in your van.  Now, there is an 'exchange' exit about 90 minutes into the trip in which "You" get out of the friends car, so she can go home, and you ride the rest of the way home with your spouse. The exchange occurs on the shoulder of the exit.  There is also a gas station a short distance away (1/4 mile tops) that we use as a 'meeting' place to leave for events.

Hopefully you are with me so far.....

So, the Friend is 'flapping her lips', and misses the 'exchange' exit.  The Spouse takes the exit.  

What would your spouse do?

A.  Wait at the shoulder of the exit for you to return.
B. Go to the gas station, and wait for you to take the next exit, and come back.
C. Jump back on the Interstate and follow you.
D. Call you on your cell phone and ask "WTF"!
E. Go Home
F. Don't take the exit, since your friend didn't.

Please respond!!!  Inquiring minds REALLY want to know!! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sunday - WTTO - Wrap up

Some of the signs in the soccer facility were very fitting!!

Yep, even this one!!  
Of course, it was the dogs that were flying!

Sunday started with PICTURES!! Okay, I'll be honest, not my favorite part.  Getting 45 dog/handler teams into a small area, isn't terribly pleasant for most.  Add to that, the dogs wanted to (run agility!), didn't want to be this close to other dogs, and many of the handlers are NOT morning people!  The large dogs then ran third, which means you now had 2+ hours of 'down time'.  

For us, that worked out just fine, I'm a morning person, and Kruz got to watch the small and medium dogs run!  Life IS Good! 

Seeker ran clean in the first run of the day, JWW.  I was very happy with my send to from the broad jump to the straight tunnel that allowed me to get down past the tire for the 270 from 19-20.  A few people tried to layer from 18-19, but the dogs 'correctly' came in over the back side of 20 reading it as a serp.  GOOD DOGS!!  Heck, we'd been doing that all weekend, so why would they think anything different?  Seeker ended up being 16th on this course.

Standard was amazingly fun!  Seeker was fantastic, staying off the teeter (which is his TOTALLY favorite thing), and taking the weave before I was half way up.  Unfortunately I got a refusal at the jump #9 due to 'losing connection', and Seeker came into me.  GOOD BOY!!  It was clean after that, although I was behind, so a bit wide.  

Overall a GREAT WEEKEND!!  

I had a blast doing what I love, 

Seeker did well on what I thought he'd excel at.  His aframe still needs work, but we'll continue to work through that.  We'll continue to run at 26" for now, as he's qualified at that height in USDAA Nationals that runs in the Fall.  We'll see where we're at next Spring, and will hopefully go again. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

WTTO - Saturday - Reviewed

Saturday morning we had some down time as the small (14" jump height), and medium (18" jump height) run there courses.  Keep in mind, each height has a different course, and different spacing.  It's really quite interesting to watch and the challenges are amazing!  They somehow seem to flow, even though sometimes on paper they don't look like they would.  It's just amazing how the dog/handler teams just seemed to 'eat these courses' up!!

Nettle came into the building for a bit to hang out in the stands.  She discovered the joys of ABC gum, that was kindly left by someone.  Actually she found several pieces.....THANK YOU to whoever left it!  YUCK!!!!

Kruz came in each day as well to watch the medium and small dogs.  He really enjoyed the attention, and his 'judging' assignment!!  Those dogs sure can move!!

Shenna and Shiver were running FEO, Shiver is Seeker's litter sister.  She's a tiny little thing at 18.25", but she can run like the wind!!  Shenna was also the 'announcer' for  those of you listening on the live broadcasting! 

Seeker and I started off with this course, and a clean run.   Our A-Frame contact kind of 'nipped us in the butt' all weekend, so something we continue to work on.  "Sticky" is so HARD to fix!!  It's my doing, so we'll continue to work on it.  I got behind in a couple places (Hello!!  Don't Watch Him! RUN!!!) that I didn't plan on, but was so proud of his weave pole entry and hanging in there for me!  He was also 'sticky' on his teeter, which wasn't necessarily a bad thing on this course!  It was way fun! We placed 16th, so not too bad. 

Round 2 we did very well on as well, I just 'assumed' he'd take the jump after the chute and decelled too much, he ended up with an off course (back side), for a zero.  RATS!!  He was a very good boy. 

For Round 3, I lost track of #4's placement and told him to come after #3, he did!!  GOOD BOY!!  I really can't fault him for coming in tight, something we've struggled with, then he got a titch clingy and we got 2 refusals at that jump.  UGH!!  A 3rd at the poles, when I consider a fluke, it was our easiest pole entry all weekend, and he nailed all the others.  3 faults equate to a that really hurt!   Oh well, it was super fun as well!

The only down side to running a dog at this height is I don't have much time to watch the other large dogs.  I'm either walking him to warm him up, or walking him to cool him down.  I guess his health is more important than watching, plus, Bill taped a lot of the runs for me!  YIPPEE!!

Saturday evening was Broadway Pizza!!  We went with Seeker's breeder, and good friend Dena Brown.  Michelle and Dave Pappone also joined us, they are always fun to have along.  BWP is awesome, but we'll get thin crust next time and Dena can just DEAL WITH IT!!  VBG

Tomorrow, Sunday's break down. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Friday Recap of the World Team Tryouts

Friday is practice day, you can indicate what 'approximate' time you'd like to practice, and they try to fit you in appropriately.  You're practice is a total 7 minute segment, shared by 3 dogs.  That's right, you are in the ring with 2 other dog/handler teams, and no, there are not any ring gates dividing the area.  Honestly, it's not a problem, these dogs are focused on their 'work', not the other dogs. 

At your scheduled practice time, ours was 4:01, you have 15 seconds to enter the ring and get to your 'course'.  Seeker stated at Course #2, or the one in the middle.  You then rotated after 2 minutes, you had 15 seconds to get to your new course, and a whistle signaled when to start and stop working.  We rotated from course 2, to 3, then to 1. 

You might think 2 minutes isn't much time, but it really is.  It is a good idea to have a 'game plan' before you enter the ring.  In other words, have a specific goal as to what you want to work on.  For most people it seemed to be contacts, weaves and getting a good look at the viaduct jump.  

You could stop training before your 2 minutes were up, honestly, I should have 'saved' some dog for my 3rd course.  You would not think that you could wear a dog out that quickly, but with the energy level and arousal level of the dogs, most were 'spent' by the time there 6 minutes were complete.  Okay, I'll be honest, Seeker's head almost exploded!  He was in HEAVEN!

Think of it this way, the time spent in the practice ring on Friday, is more time than any dog spent in the ring for the next two days completing. 

After your 'work out' time was over, then it was time to just hang out and visit with friends.  Drawing for running order, and the briefing was scheduled at 6 PM that evening.  I drew 28 as my running order for Saturday.  Not a terrible draw, you get to see a lot of dogs run before you, which is nice.  When it reverses order, you still get to see 12 dogs plus the five FEO (For Exhibition Only) dogs, so that wasn't too bad either. 

Tomorrow....Saturday's Courses......

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Throwing Your Old Dog Toys Away????

You might want to think again.......

I'll post about WTTO tomorrow.....too tired tonight!