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!