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Archive for March, 2012

If I Knew Then…

The topic of “If I Knew What I Know Now…” is one that many bloggers are writing about today (actually now yesterday) as a topic for agility bloggers as part of a Dog Agility Action Day.

I figured I’d give it a shot even though most of my posts are just longer updates about what’s going on in life.

This topic has had me thinking all day about the path that agility has taken me on in life.  That and thinking about what I would tell people new to the spot.

Agility has changed alot since I started.  Dog training has changed alot since I started.  I have changed alot.  My dogs have changed alot.  Society has changed alot.  Technology has changed alot.  Gosh, I’m sounding old!  Agility has gotten more serious and technical.  I too long for the days when things were simpler and just fun.  And I don’t think you can go back to that innocence once it’s gone.  But we’ve also made alot of improvements to make things safer for the dogs and we know so much more about conditioning and taking care of their bodies.

I was always obsessed with dogs for as long as I can remember.  I’d walk the neighbor dogs and pin for a dog of my own.  I’d groom the neighbor dogs and teach them tricks and enter pet contests with them.  Then we finally got a family dog.  I did obedience and junior showmanship with him thru 4H.  Then I moved out and left him home with the family.

When I was 18 (barely) I got the first dog that was all my responsibility.  Sadie.  She was the sweetest dog.  I figured I knew what I was doing from my 4H training (and I was super poor) so I put her in intermediate obedience classes.  Those classes led to flyball and agility classes.  All the training I had been taught was compulsion – choke chain collars and praise.  Agility classes were with Kramer style equipment and it was in 3 rows.  We’d go up one side then down the middle then up the other side.  The equipment was very different than it is now.  And we were jumping dogs on thin green mats over concrete.

I entered Sadie in an agility trial.  I didn’t know anyone there but did make new friends that day.  It was USDAA as they were the ONLY game in town.  Sadie had to jump 30″.  We had never trained anywhere but at the school.  We did not do well (we didn’t Q) and I thought for Sadie to jump that high and make time and not have any faults would never happen.  Agility was not for us.  So we went back to classes and just trialing in obedience and running flyball.  Places we struggled but were closer to having success.  Years later as a member of the Minnesota Mixed Breed Club I was working a NADAC trial.  I thought it looked like a lot of fun.  So I entered Sadie in the next trial.  She loved the lower jumps and the flowing courses.  She was a 25″ GSD/Doberman mix.  One time a judge commented to me outside of the ring that Sadie did agility for me.  I took that as a compliment at the time.  Now I don’t see it that way.  But it was true.  I’m sure she was stressed.  I had no clue about handling and I had no clue about training obstacles and I blamed the dog for mistakes.  I retired her when I discovered that her wrists were starting to get sore.  She passed away from cancer not too long later but I’m glad that I made the decision to retire her to protect her soundness.  That set the stage for all of my dogs.

My next dog was Copper.  He was a high drive dog (still is a crazy old dog!).  Bouncing off the walls crazy.  I was always learning about dog training via the internet email lists.  So my training methods were changing.  I switched to a pinch collar and I used food rewards.  But I did not teach him that the reward was contingent on the behavior so I got alot of “show me the money first”.  Plus, he’s just a different dog than Sadie was.  She wanted to be right.  He wanted to have fun in life.  I did get alot of compliments on his great upbeat attitude in the ring.  Lots of NQs  though but I didn’t care.  Agility was a mess.  My handling was late so I got alot of jumping on me and biting me and barking at me.  I would get mad at him – it was the dog’s fault after all.  He leapt over the yellow on the contacts all the time.  I think we did classes here and there but they were so different back then than they are now.  But I did get he and Sadie into classes at a place where they held trials and it was big enough to setup trial like courses.  I remember being so impressed with one of the instructors Border Collies.  He was super high drive and responsive and he bit the bars as he went over them.  He was pretty too.  Copper enjoyed agility even though he was super frustrated with me alot.  At the time I just blamed him for being naughty.

Then I got Vada.  I was trialing Copper here and there mostly just in the MMBC NADAC trials.  I tried USDAA with Copper and Sadie again but Sadie did not care for it.  She had to try really hard in USDAA but in NADAC she smiled.  So we did NADAC.  I also just trialed Sadie in Novice and never moved her up.  My first experience with USDAA left me feeling like she was a slow dog and she’d never be able to make Open time.  A shame that I never even tried.  So I was following the same pattern with Copper.  I think he could have done well enough in USDAA too.  So Vada got a little training and a little trialing.  We mostly did Schutzhund and flyball.  So she learned to jump flat and in extension.  Vada was smart and fast at agility and I wasn’t quite sure how to train her.  Then I got asked to teach agility classes.  The school only had an open training type of format before and wanted to start formal classes.  So I was able to design the lower 2 levels.  I wanted to give my students the best start to agility so I started buying DVDs and watching them and incorporating things into my classes.  The internet is an amazing place to learn about stuff.  I started going to seminars.  And, of course, reading books.  I also forked out the money for good agility classes and went to a place that had very experience instructors.  Teaching classes and feeling responsible for giving the students good quality information and skills is really what pushed me to learn more.  And that has just kept going even to this day and even though I am no longer teaching.  I’m always wanting to learn more and more.

My quest to learn more about agility lead to learning alot more about dog training and I have continued to morph how I train.  I’m always learning more and things are becoming clearer.  I get frustrated and struggling with generalizing training to different behaviors that what I specifically learned.  But I’m thrilled with the relationship that I have with my dogs.

I’ve also been training some of my (formerly) husband’s dogs.  It’s be great for getting the opportunity to train more dogs and work with their different personalities and foundations and to develop relationships with them.  I just wish I had more time and energy as I know they could all do so well at so many sports.

Now I’m training a 21 month old puppy.  Lots of new challenges!

So I guess the biggest lesson for people to take away from this is to always keep learning and stay open minded.

2012 TCOTC AKC Agility Trial

Thursday was Fringe’s birthday.  She is 7!  I’m still in shock.  The time goes by so fast.  She was just a little puppy not too long ago.

Thursday was also the last class of Narc and Prozac’s agility classes.  I told Michelle that I would not keep going with them in that hour.  But now I’m thinking of putting Letty in that class for another session if she has not filled my spot already.  I’ll find out on Thursday.  Letty only has 1 class left with Terry and it’s be good to have her in a class where she could get more floor time and more sequences.  That class goes til May so we should be able to move outside for sure at that point.  I really really need to teach Prozac and Narc to weave so we can move on in agility.

Friday it was just me (and my 4 dogs) and Barb with her 1 dog that went to the barn to do open ring time.  I pulled a course out of a magazine and we ran it.  It was alot of fun.  It was hard and I got to tweak my handling timing.  And Letty got to learn to not cross my path or slam into me just because the tug is in my hand closest to her.  I also worked on her start line stay.  I get so frustrated!  I put more pressure on her so I had to make it more of a challenge and more fun for her.  It’s too easy and boring and she stresses.  So I jazzed her up more but didn’t lead out so far and I did not go back and reward her.  Seemed to help.  She keeps telling me that I need to train her more and push her harder with more challenges.  One of these days I will listen and quit babying her.

Saturday I had Vada and Seven entered in a AKC agility trial at TCOTC.  I forgot to pull Seven until a few days after closing.  Vada did awesome!  She was the first dog of the day in her Open JWW run.  I was going to do a LOP at the 3rd jump but the 2nd jump (the one she’d be turning over) was a double and I don’t trust my timing on LOPs so I changed my plan and ran with her and rear crossed.  She had a tick on the last jump which was a triple.  I did not see the push from the tunnel to the triple but she saved me.  We Qd!  Only 3 dogs in the class did and we had the fastest time of all dogs in the class (Qs and NQs).  She also Qd in Excellent Standard!  Her first Excellent Q!   At one point I looked at the bars to see if they were set to the correct height since she was jumping so nicely.

Seven did not run well at all.  He was super stressed and would not even tug with me.  He was ignoring me and just wanted to sniff all over the school.  His first run was Standard and it started with a chute so I didn’t even ask for a start line stay.  He ran ok but slipped and then got poppy and was running slow.  He ran thru the first 2 weave poles and then along the side of the poles.  It was the 2nd to the last obstacle.  I finished with him and praised him even though I wasn’t very happy with his run.  He bailed on all of his contacts too.  I was tugging with him on Thursday in class and he yipped and let go of the tug.  Then he was jumping off the contacts before the bottom.  So he might have hurt something.  Before his JWW run I took him to the warm up area and he was doing well although jumping pretty flat.  But he was crazy and tugging and excited to play.   I think he might have had a bar down.  He did the same thing with the weaves – went between 1 and 2 and then ran along side of them.  So we just went on to the next obstacle and I tried to push him for speed.  I think I am late with him and not so good on my front cross lines and he doesn’t like that.  He ran well in the dirt Friday night.  He’s a tough one to figure out!  But I am not giving up on him!

Letty got to come out and do the warm up jump a few times.  I did set point with her and had the jump at 24″ and she jumped it very nicely.  We did some heeling in the crating area too.  I should probably make a point to walk her thru tight crowds more since that stresses her out at trials getting into the ring.  Copper got to come out for a few walks too.  Quite a few people were happy to see him and said hi to him.  He loves that.  It was a fun trial and people seemed extra friendly.

Sunday was protection training day.  Vada did awesome on the suit again.  I tried to stay close to her on the out/down so she wasn’t leaving to look for me.  Warren had me try saying “Vada Platz” and she did much better with that.  She’s getting the hang of the whistle out too.  We did one of the trial exercises and she did it great.  I think it was the face attack.  We also started teaching her the defense of handler.  Everyone says she’s learning it really fast.  I better get my obedience started and start teaching her the jump exercise.  Letty did really well too.  We kept working on her sitting and looking at me to have me release her to barking.  We worked on Warren coming in for the bark and hold.  I’m still not sure how to transition to her coming in without punching.  I think I need to have her sitting next to me and start her barking.  Then take a step away and have go in for barking and back it up.  But first I need to get her under control when the helper is there.  She’s picking it up pretty fast and Warren was closer to her and she was sitting.  Also I was able to down her and then take the sleeve away and toss it out a bit.  Walking into the room is still a huge challenge.  But I’ve let loose leash walking in general go last week.  It really showed!

Karl went to his parents house for the weekend.  They got alot done and he brought home some stuff.  Sounds like they’re doing a great job and should have no problem having the house ready to sell in a few weeks.  He and his sisters really work well together.

Monday I made it to Cardio Hip Hop.  The class gets bigger and bigger every week!  I don’t know if it’s because spring is coming so people are now aware of getting in better shape or if word is getting out on how fun it is.  It wasn’t horrible but it is a little cramped.  I’m getting better are remembering the steps for the warm ups so I get a better work out which is nice.  But my brain is fried by the time we get to learning the new routine.  I’m sure next week will be better as it seems to sink in during the week.  I walked on the treadmill over lunch and my ankle hurt after 20 minutes but it was fine in class with a brace on.  Saturday I had picked up 2 pecan crusted chicken breasts so Karl threw them in the oven with some breadsticks after he got home from work.  It was nice to come home after class and eat a nice meal.  The chicken was awesome!  Monday was also my Dad’s 60th birthday!!!

Vada did awesome in the jump grid class last night!  She’s gotten so much better from the class.  I need to keep setting them up in the yard once the snow melts.  They have helped her alot.  8 minutes once a week doesn’t seem like much but it has done alot for her thoughtfulness.  Letty did well in class too.  I need to work on her down stay big time.  A table stay would be a good thing to have in the yard too.  She did well on the handling sequence.  All the errors were mine.  As usual.  Then we did a loop with a dogwalk and an aframe in it.  She did pretty good.  I got homework to go back to the stairs and the travel plank and work end position with IYC as she’s totally curling into me.  I have not worked it in a long time so it’ll be a good morning project to work on.  When we were walking in to setup for the contacts sequence she was coughing up a treat and then vomited all over.  Everyone was helpful with getting supplies and Terry even cleaned it up.  Letty ran fine after that so I don’t think she was feeling sick.  She did get alot of cookies for staying on her mat though.  She stayed on her mat while dogs ran in the ring and ran by her and walked by her and weaved next to her.  Her hardest thing is me walking away.  She wants to follow.

No obedience class tonight.  We got in to see Dr Heather!  I think they are due.  Copper’s front is hot.  Vada’s lower back is hot and she’s been puppy sitting.  And I’m curious to see if Seven’s got an ouchie spot again.  I think last time he and Vada were out in their sacrum.

We got the results back from Narc’s 2M test.  It’s not negative or positive but a maybe.  The lab recommended a muscle biopsy.  Dr Jina didn’t think that was necessary.  She thinks that since he’s not negative and he’s showing symptoms that we should treat him.  I agree.  So he’s on lots of pred for a long time.  20mg twice a day for 3 weeks then 20mg once a day for 3 weeks and then it continues to taper over 6 months.  He’ll probably be on pred forever – 20mg every 3rd day.  But it’s good that we caught it and are treating it before it’s painful and locks his jaw.

Dr Jina got a new blood test machine.  So when she ran pre-anesthesia bloodwork on Prozac and Rally last week (for their dentals tomorrow) she did some extras to play with the machine.  Turns out Prozac’s lipase is high.  Normal high is 1800 and hers was 3700.  So Karl brought her in Saturday morning after fasting her for 12 hours so they could draw blood for another more specific test to see if it truly is a problem.  We are still waiting for the results of that.  If it’s off then she’ll not be getting her dental tomorrow (she has a rotten front tooth that needs pulling) and we’ll probably have to do an ultrasound to look at her pancreas.  She doesn’t have any symptoms of pancreintitis though.  I’m guessing we’ll hear something today.

February CPE

Mostly boring week.  Normal classes.  Got my brakes done and oil change on Thursday.  Friday I took Narc to the vet to have blood drawn for heartworm and to have him tested for masticatory mysositis.  It’s an autoimmune disease where the body attacks a bacteria in the head muscles and turns the muscle into scar tissue.  There are a few Dutch Shepherds that have it.  Not sure if any are related to Narc though.  His head muscles are mostly gone and now his jaw muscles are too.  He looks very sad.  Acts fine though.  I don’t think there is any pain and he can open his mouth and close it – which not all MM dogs can.  So now we wait the 7-10 days for the results.  Should have them back about the middle of next week.  If he’s positive then he’ll get about 50mg of pred a day for 4 months and then we’ll wean him off of it over 2 months.  Not a nice treatment plan!  His bursitis is still there.  Smaller but still there.  I was hoping that Linda would be at the CPE trial on Saturday but she did not get in.  😦   I also canceled Copper’s appointment Wednesday with Dr. LaVallie as he does not like the adjustments.  So I need to figure out what to do for him for cold laser therapy too.  I’ll call Dr. Heather for an adjustment and some acupuncture and go from there.

The CPE trial went well.  I was not sure how Letty would run after how bad things were at the USDAA trial.  I had her in 2 classes.  She ran great in FullHouse (start line stay, 2 sets of 6 poles and a nice aframe with nosetouch) and finished her CL2-F title.  In Snooker I had a really fun course planned.  She stood up on the start line so I went back and sat her.  But then she was lined up poorly so she did the jump and went into the tunnel instead of the aframe.  I was on the other side and called her so she went back in tunnel and then the whistle blew.  😦  Oh well, I got the chance to work her start line and she didn’t stress.  I also kept my lead outs shorter and praised her as I walked out.

Seven ran well.  I planned 2 sets of 6 poles in FullHouse.  The first time he weaves 6 poles so I praised his effort and went on.  The next time around he drove to them and did them perfectly.  He did them again in Colors and in Standard he did 12 with a tougher entry.  He really had to work hard to stay in the 12 too.  I was very proud of him.  This judge liked tunnel/aframe discrimination which I do not do well with.  We needed a Standard Q but did not get it due to an off course.  But he picked up Level C Qs in Colors and FullHouse.  I did not handle Snooker well.  He got sacrificed for Vada’s run.

Vada ran well too.  She picked up a Level 5 Snooker Q so she just needs 2 more of those (and 3 Jumpers).  I learned from Seven what NOT to do.  She also picked up Level C FullHouse and Colors Qs.  We had a tunnel off course in Standard – a different end than Seven’s off course.

It was a fun day.  We didn’t run the best (my handling was late alot) but I had a good time.  After the trial I started cramming on my homework.  I had to do 2 chapters for the homework and then take the online test that covered the first 4 chapters.

Sunday we went to protection training.  We kept working on Letty sitting and looking at me for permission to start.  We also worked on her doing a bark and hold on the helper as he backed up so she’s moving forward barking.  I’m still not sure how to transition to sending her in for barking.  Maybe have her sitting next to me and him in front of me and having her start barking.  Then he backs away a step and I send her in for barking and then 2 and then 3?  Or maybe doing what we are doing now but having him stop further out and giving her loose line to go into barking.  Sunday we did longer barking with her too.  She did a great job!  It looked really nice.  Vada got to work leg bites again.  She is really confused about outting and downing.  She’s slow to out and then she wants to come back to me cuz I have to tell her out twice and down a bunch of times.  I think I need to work more on her outing from a moving tug.  She will out for me and down right away but the problem is that she’s focused on me.  A faster out and down would help.  Not sure what what to do there.  Lots of problems to solve!  After training I had to do alot more cramming on the homework as I still had tons left.  I got my test finished at 11:40pm and the homework submitted at 11:55pm.  Not much time to spare!  I got 94% on the test.  Not sure on the homework yet.  My first homework got full points.  I missed one part of the 2nd homework assignment but he gave me the information I needed on Monday and said I could turn it in late for full points.  I still need to submit it though.

Monday I had my computer class.  We did a group exercise.  It was not very enjoyable.  I’m glad to be done with that!  I hope we don’t have alot more group projects.

Tuesday was Vada’s jumping class and Letty’s foundation class.  They both did well.  Letty was being very naughty and I didn’t care.  We just had fun and trained.  It was a nice change from my worrying about her being perfect all the time.  She met a new Aussie friend too who plays like she does.  And I found out that many in the class signed up for Tracy’s seminar in June for the Learn Your Dog session.  We have Letty and Fringe signed up.  It’s going to be a super fun day.  For Sunday I have Seven and Vada signed up – Masters Handling.  Saturday I’ll just audit since it’s foundation stuff.

Went to obedience class last night.  We got a snow storm on Tuesday night so I worked from home yesterday.  There were only 4 of us in Nancy’s class so we got alot of personal attention.  It was nice.  Next time I need to remember to bring Seven and to switch off dogs.  Others do that and I think it’s a great idea.  The class after Nancy’s is still the run thru format so I just worked Letty on my own in the other room and then went home.

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