Thursday, February 25, 2010

Top dog now, what the heck???

Since Colby's agility retirement Roscoe is now my top agility dog. He has been ROCKING MY WORLD, with his desire and drive lately. He is such an enigma! Our little housetraining issue last fall seems totally gone. He seems happier and more relaxed at home. Less reactive, more willing to offer play behavior to Spur. A different dog. Different from four months ago, different from last year, different.........WAY different from when I first got him.

This little dog has taught me more than I will ever know. Seriously, his little break throughs, his small changes, all make me go.........hmmmmm. I have learned about fairness, consistency, motivation, clarity, drive and the ability to adjust. All because of a 9lb biting dog!

He LOVES being top dog! Who doesn't? So, my challenge is to keep him feeling that way. And to keep ALL my dogs feeling that way. To be mindful of my treatment, to be fair and consistent. To let them all know how important they are. My instructor friends have always said that to me, but I just forget sometimes. The more important Roscoe feels, the more intense his desire to work for me. He always has desire, don't get me wrong. Show him a cookie and he would try for the moon, but he will get bummed out and not offer up trained behaviors at times when stressed or feeling used. Like when I used him to get Spur jealous and pumped to do things Spur was afraid of. That wasn't fair to Roscoe and it hurt our work. Like last summer asking him to run agility in rain and puddles. That hurt our work. That isn't fun for him, AT ALL, he doesn't want to do it and asking him to "suck it up, dude", will not help. He will not run in rain ever again. Heck, it isn't fun for me, but I did it last year because we had SO much rain I hated to lose all those entries. But, entries will be lost this year if it rains on a trial. I won't be asking him to run in rain or puddles. What for? He doesn't run well, so even if we do Q it would be just for the Q, not for the fun and that's not how I want to do agility or anything. I want to do it because it's fun for me and him. Q or not, we do it for the fun. Yes, Q's are a bonus for sure and great to have, but if it isn't fun why should we run?

Last night he showed me his drive, his desire. He was FREAKIN' pumped!!! He hit the A-Frame with all the force he could muster, slamming his face and shoulder into it as he leaped up from the ground to about half way up!!! SMASH went his face and shoulder, stopping him dead in his tracks, only to scramble and grab his way to the top. OI!!!!! He just wasn't thinking.

Up side has always been a bit of a hard hit for him, he just never learned properly how to climb it. He isn't a natural athlete like Colby. He has terrible jumping form, he doesn't think about his body much, he just goes and does it. Last night he just FLUNG himself on the frame. I am thinking I should start using hoops to MAKE sure he enters the frame lower and with a better angle, instead of slamming his body on it like he did last night. Crazy little man, seemed fine, I kept going to keep him moving out of it and keep his muscles loose. I gave him some arnica and walked him out, no limping, but damn that had to hurt!! He seems fine this morning, but I know he has to be sore. No limping, all his teeth seem solid and intact. That face plant could have easily cracked his teeth. We ran our second run and he did fine, I made sure he climbed the frame well. Hoops on entry may be in his future so he practices good entry now. Good GRIEF, the little guy is 11 years old, these kinds of crashes are scary.

I am thankful I warm him up with a lot of heeling before we do anything, so at least his muscles were warm and lose.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

On Facebook I posted about my concerns over the breed dogs we saw at Westminster last week.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I am a stickler for keeping my dogs lean. I know the benefits! My dogs do performance agility work. They run, jump, race, play, do leaping tricks and other things that put stress on their bodies. Just racing after chippies in the woods or geese on the farm fields, they work their bodies, often. They are athletes and I am very proud of their good condition. No one can say my dogs are not physically prepared for the agility work they do. They are fit and lean and in top condition. Period! I insist on it and some might say obsessed by it. They get hours and hours of off leash running each week. I spend many hours heading to the beach in the winter, when the snow is high and they can't run in the fields. We head to the beach so my tiny dogs can stay in good condition!

Last week when I watched some of the Westminster breed show, as always, I was amazed at how fat some of the dogs are. It just doesn't make sense to me. The labs were so fat there is no way those dogs could work all day in the field retrieving ducks. No way! The top breed lab would die of a heart attack if that poor dog ever had to work in the field. It surely couldn't last a day doing it. No way!

I just don't get it? Why would a breed judge reward a dog for being so fat? In the MinPin breed ring you will not see a fat MinPin. It is a requirement in the breed standard that the MinPin have a "well defined tuck". The tuck would be the dog's waist line. I know some working labradors. They have nicely defined tucks. They work the fields and ponds and are in tip top shape. They have a tuck! The Westminster Labrador? No tuck. Fat, fat, fat. I just don't get it. All that extra weight will simply add stress and strain to that poor dog's joints as he/she ages. Why do that to a dog? Why reward it as the top dog? What is the point???? Aren't Labradors a breed that is/was supposed to work? A "Retriever"???? What am I missing?

Colby, my soon to be 11 year old MinPin? She has a well defined tuck..........
She has many breed faults, though, if she were to be looked at as a breed dog (too big, nose too long, not enough slope to her shoulders and many other "faults", she was from a puppymill!), but she has a well defined tuck. I insist on it.........
Roscoe, he has a well defined tuck.......
These two are great examples of proper weight on a dog, any dog!!! You can easily feel their ribs, but not see them. How do they compare to most dogs you see? They look "emaciated". Which is just plain sad. They are healthier and, hopefully, will live longer lives because of it. Studies done on Labradors found that by keeping a lab lean you can add two years to it's life!! TWO YEARS!!!! That's a LONG time for a dog whose average life span is 11 (perhaps that average would be higher if most were kept lean?). MinPins usually live well into their teens. I sure hope by keeping mine lean they live into their late teens. I hope. Sadly, I am not sure that will be the case with sweet Colby. She has such poor genetics (she was a puppymill bred dog), her body is already breaking down. Knee surgery in 08, eyes going, she shows the signs of aging, I am afraid. Roscoe, who knows what his breeding is? We have no idea, but that little guy may live forever!!! LOL!! He may seem more fragile than Colby, not as well muscled or well boned, but he shows no signs of his body breaking down. And he, too, is 11. Amazing little guy!!

Spur, with all that hair you can't see a tuck or definition, but you CAN see the papillon in him, A?...........
Tell me those idiots running his puppymill didn't breed papillons with the aussies to get them smaller. At 14lbs, he must be a papillon/aussie mix. He must!!!!.............
One more photo just because it was SO cute I couldn't resist. I was vacuuming and piled the dog beds up so I could vacuum the floor. It put the beds in a nice, warm sun spot that Roscoe could not resist..........
Cute little bad dog!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Oh, shut up cuteness, yer killin' me!!!!

Look who we have for adoption right here in Maine!!! An all natural girl! Full ears and full tail!! Wahooooooo! I SO wish I was looking for another dog. Although, if we had more snow I might not say that. This has been a good winter for tiny, very short haired dogs. No booties needed for Mr. Roscoe this far. This girl is wee and sweet and will only go to the perfect home.
BELLA: Active youngster who gets along with cats and dogs, large and small, not a barker (really???). She is good with people coming over, no problem. We have no history of her living with children and will not place her with young children because of that. She sleeps well in the crate (although would prefer the bed) holds it all night, but will have accidents in the house, always on a wee wee pad. Very playful, loves toys, energetic, but not off the wall. She is sensitive to changes in food. I have her on Blue Seal Lamb and Rice and she does very well on that. She did steal some cat food and had the runs immediately.
She was dropped off at the shelter and not much of a reason was given, they were young people, seemed to have treated her well. She is not fearful or aggressive, just neglected. She simply needs a home with time to give her the attention and activity a young, active MinPin needs. Young MinPins needs plenty of activity and attention. Sedate homes need not apply.
Bella is a Black & Tan female, and is 1 & 1/2 years old. Bella has Natural ears and a Natural tail. She stands approx. 11" high and weighs 9 lbs.
She is located in Litchfield, ME and we will not ship this little girl.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Rally-O match at It's A Dog's World in York. Poor FREEZING little Roscoe!!

I should have remembered. Last year at the Tibby Chase seminar I had to tell them if they didn't turn the heat up I would have to leave and ask for my money back. No WAY was I staying for a day long seminar with it so cold. They turned the heat up.

Yesterday, I didn't feel like I could be that pushy. Matches aren't very expensive and I wasn't going to be there all day. I let it go. I let my poor tiny, 9lbs MinPin shake and convulse during his downs and stays. He's a good little buggar, but he did require a second command on his moving down. 2 points off, darnit! And his back up three steps, which you can't see that well in the video, were not great. There was a photographer there, RIGHT IN HIS FACE, which is all good stuff for him to have to deal with, but that section was kind of sloppy.

The match showed our weaknesses, so it's all good stuff!! Downs are hard for him on cold surfaces, period. And the three steps back in heel position are hard for him. He is a little bit confused. We just fixed up his backwards weaving around my legs trick and unfortunately I use the same cue words "Get back" for that. I just realised that's what I am using for the three steps back move. Must clean that up and come up with a new cue for that before the trial in March.

Hmmmm, how about I just count....One, two, three? Since I seem to be a little challenged with that. In the video I step back....uh ..........FIVE?.........times??????? DOI!!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

OMG, I gotta have this thing!!

I just sent it to my FIL to see if he could make me one. He's handy and retired and loves a challenge like this. I hope! It looks a little complicated to set up. Not easy to just put down like the "hit-it" board I have borrowed, but OH MAN, SO COOL! Spur is ALL about his BALL!! It's how I have gotten speed out of the little buggar running his dog walk!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

I am a terrible clicker trainer! I seriously am! I have always said that. I suck at clicker training!!

You can see that in this video. This is part of an on-line training challenge to teach your dog to "Whiz" on cue. This is session three with Spur. The Spurminator being afraid of jump bars - he HATES to knock a jump bar - is worried about the jump bar target I am using. However, I think it is fun enough work that he soon becomes OK about the jump bar and starts to forget about it after a while. Especially when I start being a dumb trainer and clicking for the wrong thing. I think in this video you will see me click at least FOUR+ times for his hind leg MOVING!! That's NOT what I want, dumb ass I am! I want STILL leg in the air, thank you very much!

Did I tell you I suck at clicker training?? Really! It just isn't my forte. I used to love it when Sherry Britton would click for me in obedience class. THAT was the BEST!!! Someone else could click for me and I didn't have to worry about my poor timing! That was awesome!! In fact, I am of the opinion that very FEW people are good clicker trainers. Like, I mean GOOD clicker trainers. Very few. Sherry, she is good. Brenda Buja, good. Lo Baker, good. Me, I suck. Most people, suck. It's just the way it is, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try it or that it won't help you. It will. Dogs learn in spite of our poor timing, they really do. They learn no matter HOW DUMB us humans are, dogs are SMART creatures! They figure things out!

Spur gets frustrated part way through this video and starts barking at me for being such a dumb trainer. We'll get it, though, don't worry. Dogs are so forgiving of our stupid training abilities. They manage to learn in spite of us, somehow, good dogs! And I think this is good work for him. He is forgetting his jump bar worry, while yelling at me for being a stupid trainer and that's all good stuff! :D

This video is Colby's session 3. SHE is much easier to work with since she isn't afraid of the damn jump bar. (And just so you don't wonder - YES, I could teach Spur a different way, but isn't it good that I am getting him to deal with his jump bar issue AND teaching a new trick???? YES!!! Cuz, really, I don't care, it's a silly trick and if he doesn't learn it lickity split, so what???) Colby, she gets it. She does get distracted at one point because of the dogs in the yard barking in front of the door watching me train her. My other dogs are not exactly good, patient observers. They bitch and bark and swear at me for NOT training them!! :O

Where's Roscoe's video? Um, it'll come, in time. He's different. Still doing his nutty handstands and offering WAY too many other behaviors and it doesn't make for a good video. Too many pauses for me to take a breath and try to regroup and settle him down and laugh at him and start over. But, we'll get there. And once he does, it will be solid, I know. That's how it is with Roscoe, Muffin Heads!

We had company last weekend!

And it was a nice weekend for company, last weekend (I know, that was days ago, but with school vacation week here I am busy as heck visiting kitties). The shih tzu's stayed with us for three nights. I was glad the weather was so nice. We spent hours in the yard doing stuff! I thought about hauling out my gardening tools!!!
Spur, Stella and Roscoe did the "chase me" game, racing at top speed, screaming and running loops around the yard!! We did some hit-it board work, me and Spur, and me and Douce. See the TINY hit-it board next to my plank? THAT's how small an area Spur will need to hit, at full speed running his contacts? Hmmmm. The little black box is the sound device, that beeps when the "contact" is run on. Obnoxious, but oh so clear!

Funny picture.
I call this 3/2. My three are looking away, the two shih tzu's are looking at me.

How tired can little visitors get? Pretty tired......
Oops, looks like I forgot to wash her face, but she was SO tired.........

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, there is this little trick training challenge going on!

What do I love more? A trick training challenge or chocolate? Um.........geez, that's a tough one! We were given a Lizzy's Chocolate Cheesecake for Valentine's Day from one of Rich's radio reps. OH THANK YOU Radio Rep!!!

I feel like we have a head start. The challenge is to teach your dog to "Go Whiz" on command. The trick is not the whizzing part, they all do that, but a leg lift that looks like the dog is whizzing. My dogs all have some sort of hind end awareness. As you saw with Roscoe's videos, he will kick and climb something with his back feet into a hand stand. Spur will limp, a little, still working on getting that better. Colby has some some hand stand back end work, but not much. So, here's how it went last night our first session.......
Colby just surpassed both Spur and Roscoe! I should have figured. She has done SOME hind end up on the couch before, but really not much so she was kind of a clean slate. I am using a jump bar held vertical to try to get really specific targeting. She gets it! If she were a human I think she might have slapped her hands together said....."Got it! Next trick, please!", but it isn't on cue or perfect by any means. Cute, though, that she so quickly figured out to lift her back foot and search to feel for the bar and hold her foot still on it! Miss Colby Carlson is another smaartiepants! Another session and we may have it on cue? She can be SO quick learning tricks, which is kind of silly because I haven't taught her that many.

Spur - he is still thinking. My thinker. And he worries about jump bars, that one. So, this is good work. Him putting his back foot on the bar and holding it is good work! He'll get it pretty quick. He is offering without prompts, some, but at times I have to adjust him and manipulate his body in place so he can hit the bar to get him going again. He already knew leg lift, so it's pretty easy for him once he stops worrying about the blasted jump bar. Worry wart!

Roscoe, good GRIEF, he is SO not getting it. My doer......offering kicks, hand stands (seriously, I had to stop and laugh at him because he was doing a La handstand - back feet thrusted sky-ward, nose on the ground!!), back ups, certainly nothing STILL!!! OI! At lightening speed, so capturing a still foot is near impossible. I ended up actually holding his foot in the air and clicking that. Will that work? Is that just lame? I dunno, but at least I was clicking for stillness, damnit. :O This was session one.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Roscoe's fancy tricks!

OK, so I was asked to video Roscoe doing some of his fun tricks. The first one is "Be a bat". I call it that because when he finishes the trick he kind of looks like a bat hanging on the wall. I did this video outside today since it is SO nice out! He'll do it against anything. Tree, couch, wall. Whatever. It's really cute! Love how he is reaching with his back feet! Cute little smaahtiepants!!!

This next one is his "Rev Yer ENGINES", where he kicks his back feet. He will do it for "rev yer engines" or "kick". Either cue works. Really cute and fun to do while warming up in the start line area at agility trials. Everyone thinks it's SO adorable!!!

This next one is just a combination of stuff......back up, roll over, kick! Silly little man!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day from Miss Colby Carlson!!

Rich always give me the cutest valentine's gift........a pedicure......."one way to your heart is through your feet". YAY!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Trying something from my website

Are you sick of running contacts, yet? So sad, too bad.

I borrowed my friend's "hit-it" board. It is a 1x1 foot electronic pad that beeps an obnoxious peep when pressed. It's kind of cool because it is electronic, but no plug, no apparent place to replace batteries? But, it beeps when hit. Roscoe doesn't have enough weight to trigger it, which is OK because he HATES it because the beep sounds like our smoke detector reminding us it needs a new battery or when the power goes out telling us it is working. He HATES that sound and will shiver and shake when it goes off. I kind of thought I could train a pleasant (treat) association to the beep, but he kept avoiding it and since Roscoe's contacts are AWESOME and perfect, I don't need to do that work with him.

With Spur, it might be helpful. However, at the speed he goes sometimes I think a 1x1 spot might be hard to hit? I mean, really, in this shot his next step will be back feet hitting the top 1/3 of the contact. How the heck? Can I train him to adjust and hit another spot with his front feet? Maybe. I am going to play with it some and see what happens. I now have speed on the dog walk, but I need clear, uncloudy performance. I need him to KNOW that hitting the yellow zone is acceptable and any other option is OUT! That all without stressing him out or making him wring his little papillon paws in worry. Can I do that? I don't know.
Remember my home made hit-it board? It was simply too hard to deal with and I never did get it clear. Clear as mud, but not clear as clear. This electronic board can be used and trained anywhere.
One thing I know for sure.........this sort of training is going to take patience and TIME. Lots and lots of time.
Should I swap to a 2o2o performance? I am still not convinced. I personally do not like that performance. I see too many dogs going slower and slower and creeping and worrying about their 2o2o performance.
I don't think there is a good answer, yet. Someone may come up with one, but right now, nothing clear as clear. Every option I see trained is clear as mud, more often then not. World team members have fabulous runs and are called for awesome contacts. It happens. Percentage wise, I saw perhaps half of the Nationals runs called for contacts. Nothing else, just contacts. So, training a good contact is essential. Harder than training anything else, I think. At least for me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Running contacts? Oi!

OK, so my struggles with Spur's running contacts's like a never ends and starts to get a little boring. But, the weather was SO nice today we bored ourselves to TEARS working on them. Actually, Spur was remarkably happy trying new things. We were, after all, in the safety and comfort of our own yard, and there was cheese involved. I borrowed my friend's Hit-It board again and gave it a try with Spur. He gets it, but the thing is when he is full speed, or even half speed it is really too small a target. I just don't see getting enough rewards in when he is really running. It's only like 1x1 foot. Clear, yes, when he hits it the thing beeps, clearly. Clear as could be. But, I saw him slowing down to make sure he hits it and I sure don't want that. They do make them the length of the contact, but goodness I just don't know if it is worth it?

So, another plan, up in smoke..........poof.............back to simply running it and hoping for muscle memory. Hey, it works with the weaves, so why not the dog walk? I mean, really, I hardly have to ever correct my dogs for weaves, they just do them. It's that simple. No mistakes, they just do them, over and over. I don't know. I wish I could think WHY or HOW I got Roscoe to know so clearly his necessary behavior on the dog walk. He gets it. He just does! He knows when he launches that it isn't good, even though I can not say we clearly trained it? We did do some "hit it" work, like Amanda Shyne does with her dog, but really, I don't know why Roscoe gets it??????

OK, so after working through the fog of what to do with my contacts I decided to take some shots of my fully blooming forced paperwhites!! What a happy thing this time of year! I bought them before Christmas and they got lost in all my gift wrapping. Found them when I went to clean up after the New Year, LOL!! So, they got a late start and are blooming now and are awesome!!!!!

Then I finally got around to bringing my friend's "Water Horse" photograph to the framer's to be artiplaked. Is that a word? I think that's what it's called. Artiplak........they seal it on a particle board and coat it to UV protect it. Plain and simple and my favorite way to "frame" photographs. No matting, no hard frame, just the photo! Plain and simple.

Isn't it cool?????

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Start line, smart line, what the hell happened?

I made my plan, I practiced it and I implemented it. Roscoe already knows the bouncy game. He loves it, it pumps him up and we use it as warm up already. BUT, I had not used it on start lines with my "plan". Which was to bounce two times, then GO!! Last weekend at the trial I tried it. OK, so it worked alright. Roscoe knows that game well. It's fluent and practiced. We used it a lot in obedience. It helps him focus, warm up, pump up, it's a great game.

So, I had this plan. Bouncy game, one-tw0-GO, would be our new start line performance. My plan. Love those plans. Like designing my website. I design anything on the internet. Picture me rolling on the floor with dogs lapping my face as I giggle to oblivion! That's my plan, roll on the floor with the dogs jumping on me as I giggle to oblivion. THAT plan I can implement!!! Love THAT plan!

In the smart line start line? felt strange. For one, I STILL felt like all eyes were on me to "just START already!!!". For two, as I was doing his first bounce towards the first obstacle I thought........hmmm.......this could almost be called a refusal? But, with electronic timing set right AT the first obstacle, maybe not?

The strange thing is, I worry about starting and not wasting time and not having people thinking......."just START already!!"........but those with start line stays - they lead out, putting their dogs in a stay then everrrrrrrrrrr SOOOOOOOO slooooooooowly walking to their position, then telling their dog..."Gooooooooooooood dooooooooggggggggg" and FINALLY releasing and running, taking WAY more time than my silly, little bouncy game.

I tried working on the game with Spur. He's getting it, thinks it's fun, but at practice he didn't want to do it and wanted to just start instead. OK, so should I INSIST on the bouncy game? Um, maybe, but maybe not. I don't want to INSIST on too much with Spur because my experience shows me if I insist too much he shuts down and it isn't fun any more. Now, that said I don't want him doing whatever he friggin' wants to do when he gets stressed. I want him to be focused and attentive and enjoy doing that I ask him to do. It's a fine line.
With my yard free of snow and ice I can do some running contact work with Spur. I always say.......Ready? Ready? Ready? and GO for that work and he loves that. What was happening in practice, though, was saying "Ready?" was worrying him some. I guess I just need to keep at it. Keep trying new things. I know I need something CLEAR, but with Spur it never seems so clear. There is always that grey area. That issue of something working in one area and not generalizing to another area. I struggle with that and need to get that going a little better. I think eventually it will, if I can clear my OWN head and make things clear to him. Clear!! Websters says......"free from darkness, obscurity, or cloudiness". Trouble for me, that thing about being clear, is I am not free from cloudiness or obscurity or darkness myself. What makes me think I can be clear to my dog?????

My plan. In the dark, obscure clouds.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Off to the beach today!! Again!!

This is definitely the BEST part about winter. The fields may be brown, dead and blah looking, but the beach.........THE BEACH.......winter runs on the beach are absolutely fabulous! The dogs can run and run and eat crab legs and chase seagulls, it's awesome!

These shots were taken last Friday when I met with Mary to walk with her "new" dog, Skipper, who we thought we might need to help find a home for. Mary's aunt died and Skipper is now looking for a new home. She thinks now her other aunt may take Skipper, which would be really nice! He is a sweet, shy, nervous little poodle, but starting to come out of his shell and will make someone a nice companion. He's really cute!!It was cold that day, but the sun is so strong it warms things up nicely. Still, the tide left a big lump of frozen sea foam to navigate.
Spur just LOVES racing on the beach!This is such a common look for him when running. Ears flat for more aerodynamics, mouth slightly open, lower teeth showing!This shot was last Friday, Spur is 2 1/2...........
This shot was taken when he was 5 1/2 months...................

Monday, February 8, 2010

Talking about obedience trials the other day.

Roscoe's last leg on his CD was at American K9 Country. We were chatting about whether or not they put down obedience mats or just did the trial on the rubber mats. I had to go back and find the photo of him doing his stays next to the Irish Wolfhound. Poor tiny boy, looks SO weeny next to that dog. Notice his "Flying Nun" ears.........a little stressed?........ya think??? So, they apparently do obedience trials right on the rubber. I simply couldn't remember.

Our next trial is coming up. Rally-O at the Wyndham in South Portland for the Collie Club trial. I am a little nervous about his performance on carpeting. The last trial we did on carpet he sniffed a LOT, but it was the day after the MinPin Specialty banquet and breed dogs had been on that carpet, also. It SMELLED! We need to practice a few things, since he is now a member of the 100 club, we are expected to get a 100! I would be fine with a 99....maybe. He has been SO high at Rally class lately. Like high to the point of heeling on his back feet, which we looked up and there is no rule against it. So long as he is in heel position. But, it looks sloppy and crazy and frantic. However, our experience is he settles and gets serious at trials. Never forging like he does at class. It's the same way in agility. In agility he is NUTS in practice. Absolutely NUTS, taking obstacles here and there, zooming off to take things WAY away from me. At trials, not so much. The stress? The environment, me? Who knows, but trials are always a little less exciting. In obedience we are both more reserved and careful and precise. Hopefully.

Funny, with Spur trials seem to be pretty exciting, which is nice. I think eventually Spur will starting finding trials WAY more fun than practice, but time will tell. He is still way too young and early in his "career" to know how it is going to go. He is SO different from Roscoe.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Mole munching and more sideways photos, damn it!

So, I did say you wouldn't see any rodent parts, but I guess there was still a tiny bit hanging out. :O Most of it was already choked down, but this is what I first saw when I panned my camera over to Roscoe. (BTW - I never did get a better photo of The Spurminator on the hill. Oh well.)The next swallow and it was gone........ Looking for "leftovers"?.....

OK, so what the HECK with the sideways photos????? I was SURE I had it figured out. I just don't get it! I have them saved right on picassa in their files, but they still end up loading here sideways!!! >:/ This is Precious, sleeping in the warm sun. Who was it that said picassa was the way to go?????.......

And this is the result of our Pileated Woodpecker pair.............

Huh, and this photo I cropped, so what the HECK???? I took this of Spur running FULL out on his dog walk at home. I am pretty sure his next step puts his back feet just at the top of the contact zone, darnit. That's just how he strides - when full our running. I am just going to have to live with that and probably get pissed at a lot of judges who can't judge back feet on contacts.....sigh........ If I can GET full out running on his dog walk in trials. It's his happy place, at home. Running.........full out.........

Friday, February 5, 2010

More winter shots! Sideways!

OK, I was told to download picassa for my photo program. Trouble is even though I have rotated the photos in the program, they STILL come up sideways????? It is EXTREMELY frustrating. Have I told you lately how much I hate computers? But, really I DO love them. WHAT???? It is a love/hate relationship, for sure. Makes me NUTS!

Here is adorable little Leta looking out from the barn as I do chores - SIDEWAYS - ARGH. She is SO cute and SO friendly now. She will be starting a training program come warmer weather. Too cold for treats right now and bare hands, handling the treats, but she will be doing some training come spring. She is SO silly and active and adorable. I just love her!! Very much still feral, but she LOVES me. And here is FAT Juno. She is an older gal and still very feral. She lets me pat her, ONLY if I approach slowly or happen to catch her in her snuggle bed. She is SO sedate and inactive. I have her on DIET food now. I am hoping come spring she will be more active, but basically she is a "retired" older gal and just hangs out, sleeping and eating her diet food. I am limiting it now, even in the dead of winter because she is SO fat. :OMy three posing on the boulder. They look so detached? I think they are listening. The critters are active right now with the sun warming up the soil during the top of the day. Roscoe caught a mole/vole/shrew yesterday. Ate it up in one gulp. I have learned that once it's nearly down there is no stopping him. I can grab, shake and scream, but that little buggar can swallow something SO fast it is AMAZING! I'll post those photos tomorrow. Don't worry, there will be no rodent parts coming out of his mouth, it was gone before I realized it, choked down and swallowed like a snake would swallow a frog - whole. Well, not so slow, but similar in it's process? I was busy photographing Spur again at the top of "Road Kill Hill" and before I knew it said rodent was half way down Roscoe's hatch, so I clicked away at the gulp! ICK!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dead of winter

Out back on the farm we have a small hill we call "Road Kill Hill". It's a dead zone, where the farmer leaves dead ground hogs that were trapped and killed on the farm so they can watch the turkey vultures have a meal. They actually haven't left anything there in a long time, but we still call it that. It's just a small knoll/rise and full of rabbit? holes? Could be ground hog holes, but they don't look big enough. The dogs LOVE Road Kill Hill. They love sniffing out the rodents, on occasion catching a dumb mole or mouse. In the summer it is loaded with grasshoppers to catch. This time of year, it's pretty quiet but there is some rodent activity. The dogs love it no matter what time of year!!

The sun was SO bright the other day I tried to capture the blue sky background, the dead golden grasses contrasting Spur's incredible coloring. Somehow the sky didn't come out as blue and Spur's coat didn't shine like I remember. I think what I did wrong was not set up with the sun completely behind me. The sun was off to my right a little. (if you click on the photos I think they will come up full version - bigger) And Spur was SO focused on something on the horizon he wouldn't look at me. And then any time he did he came running to me!

Perhaps if I had just come up closer on this one. But, look at that TAIL! LOVE that tail.....

He is about to pounce on something in the grass. And, look, even Spur squints in this bright light.....

See, I called his name and here he comes, Roscoe quickly behind him!....
It's the dead of winter and the grass is sure showing it. Not much green around right now.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Goodbye blanket of denial! Covering up with blame!

You left me feeling chilly, denial. Blame is warming me now.

I can't deny it any longer. Colby is going blind. OK, so that sounds so melodramatic, but seriously she is losing her sight and it is affecting her performance and daily life. Affecting her performance in agility so that I must be smart and not allow her to do things that put her in danger or chip away at her trust in me, like what happened at the trial last weekend. She forgave me, I think. The trial was an "eye opener", .......geez, pun intended, a BAD one, but hey................ She can barely open her eyes on a bright sunny day! She has PRA - Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This was diagnosed last year, although as I looked through her photos I think it started long before. My photographer friend, Helen Peppe, was always complaining about Colby squinting!

The eye is made up of the cornea (outer part that covers the eye), the lens (the colored part that allows light in) and the retina (the back part of the eye that is essentially the "film", allowing light to be processed into colors and signals through nerves to the brain). The retina has photo receptors, rods and cones, and those break down and deteriorate with PRA. This is what Colby has. Asking her to judge jumps and tunnels and walk a long plank or teeter in agility is not such a good idea any more. Perhaps mid-summer when the sun is high and shadows not so bad we will see how it goes. Yesterday, when that photo was taken, it was extremely bright out and she managed to catch Charlee Bears in her mouth, so her day light sight isn't so bad, yet. Her ability to see in low light and shadows and her night vision is definitely affected. The other night she nearly refused the stairs before bed, then did them ever so slowly. I may put some bright marker, or paint some shape (how about a yellow paw print!!), on my risers. Right now my stairs are pine board with dark maroon painted risers.

It's sad, I can't deny this any longer. I want to cast blame. I blame my vet for not seeing it sooner (it isn't treatable, so what good does that do?). I sometimes think I should have waited to do her knee surgery until her eyes broke down more. That would have given us those six months to compete, instead she was recovering from knee surgery. Having those months back with good eye sight would be nice. but would that have been good? I dunno. I wish her ophthalmologist had prepared me better. I DID ask for advice on her doing agility and what to look for, but she was so vague. I wish for the time and money I spent she had given me more information and guidance. Blame, blame, blame, sure feels about as good as denial. Warm and pink and fuzzy. No...........

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Start line, smart line!

OK, I need a start line behavior. I remember someone, some clinician? Some instructor? Some author? Someone saying to me once that start lines should be treated like any other "obstacle". Trained as if it is obstacle #1. Actually, I do believe that person was saying "start line stays" should be treated that way. Well........I don't DO start line stays. I did, once before. For years with the MinPins. They are obedience dogs, they stay. I can't even remember the day I made the decision to stop doing start line stays. It was years into our competition. Colby doesn't mind start line stays and does fine! She's not that much of a worried dog. Stays don't bother her much. She'll stay, she's a good little girlie.

Roscoe? Stays can totally bum him out. Self control work is very hard for him and leaving him in a stay sometimes breaks his trust in me. I can see it in him. He looks at me like I have betrayed him. Seriously, he can bore those eyes into my head like a drill sometimes. Like Cin's pup Zep. Ever look directly into HIS eyes? He will bore a hole and suck out your brain cells!!! Roscoe, he just tells me I suck and leaving him in a stay is a BUMMER MAN!!

The day I quit start line stays with Roscoe I had a DOG out there. I had a partner. He breathed such a sigh of relief!! It was THAT clear. We never did another. I have struggled a lot with simply running, however. Instructors sometimes don't even know how to deal with running starts. I have been to seminars where they want me to "just try" the start line stay. I have to argue and explain that what I need MOST is help dealing with a running start line, thank you very much!! Amazing how hard that is for some.

OK, so that's the trouble. Most instructors do start line stays. It's well practiced, they train it, they do it, it's the deal, Muffin Heads. Start line stays! Running starts, not so much. And I need help with it. I need help dealing with the mental preparation. I am going to try to train the bouncy game better with Roscoe. He likes it, he's well trained to do it, I think I can make it a regular occurance at start lines.

Spur - I need to figure something out. Stays are uncomfortable for him, too. And "uncomfortable" isn't the right feeling to start an agility course with, now, is it?? Right now I am doing a rev up sort of game that I can see he is figuring out. I say "Ready, ready, ready??? GO!" and he does get ready and I see him looking at which obstacle he needs to be ready for. However, it isn't fluent, it isn't well practiced and I haven't done it that well at a trial, yet. I tried the bouncy game with him last weekend, but that also isn't all that well trained. He does it, but it isn't fluent like with Roscoe. I do have a new trick I just trained that he loves and he DID at the trial last weekend just outside the gate. A jump off my leg to a little flip like move. However, I am not sure that's the best start line performance? It means I have to perform something and that may make me a little behind on my take off? I don't know. I may try it. I need impulsion from him at the start, so that's my next project.

I have done TONS of rev up games with toys. Holding his collar until he is straining and releasing with impulsion to a toy. But, that's not all that realistic for us at a trial. I won't be taking a toy into the ring. I need a behavior I can take into the ring and use to get impulsion at the start.

Monday, February 1, 2010

USDAA trial report from the weekend.

Saturday was a difficult day. Left the house around 4:30 with sub-zero temperatures. YIKES! Missed the entrance to the facility because my tire warning light went on just as I was passing the place. Drove about five miles past before realising it! How did that happen??? I have been to American K9 Country like a million times!!! I am a dumb ass, but that light kind of freaked me out! OK, so in sub-zero temps, sometimes that light will come on. Checked tires on my way home, all were fine. Another Nissan owner was at the air pump, too, and said......"Must be a Nissan thing!". OK, I guess, what a pain. It went on and off all weekend! >:/ Thanks, Nissan, you are not my friend any more! Time waster, gas waster, worry waster. What a waste! Tell me when my tires REALLY need air, please!

Getting the poor dogs into the TINY crate room where I had to stack all three on top of each other wasn't easy. Their tiny paws kept freezing and at one point I had a dog under each arm after they quit walking because of frozen paws. Poor things!! Glad they are tiny, carrying two border collies.......well.......that ain't happenin'. But, the crate room seemed nice and warm and I covered them up with lots of snuggle beds and the Pin Heads had their coats on. Even with the screamin', howlin', screetchin' dogs in crates next to us, it seemed warm and cozy. Really? It was just hard. Just difficult, just a pain in the ass, but whatever, I know it can be like that and amazingly, my dogs handled it pretty OK. My friend Laura just kept her dog in her car and ran the car, like all day! :O Her dog was happy! I know, I checked on her once while Laura was being a good agility competitor and being ring crew. I checked on Justice. Sweet Justi was warm and toasty, no screamin' jack russells next to her, she was all by herself in her toasty warm car, smiling at me when I got in to check that she was still alive and not asphyxiated. I guess that can happen with a car left running. Not likely, but possible?

Roscoe ran really well. We were not at all together, I felt rushed, claustrophobic, irritated by my tough morning, and in general not right. I haven't run on rubber in a while and it was an adjustment to me. Roscoe did great, not SUPER crazy high like he is in practice lately, but great! No real shut downs, so I was very happy. Colby, on the other hand, was not very happy. She did everything I asked, except the teeter. She flat out refused it, so I didn't push it and we just went on. She did it in her gamble class, but wasn't happy about it. She just didn't look happy the whole day. I made the decision she needs to pretty much retire. I don't know if it is her eyes or not. She refused a tunnel, too, which is REALLY unlike her. So, her retinal atrophy may be affecting her more than I think. It's sad for me, but I am not sure it is really sad for her. I think she is perfectly happy to retire and maybe just do some Rally-O or just be my Top Dog! She's top dog here now, being eldest bitch. That's just the way it is right now and she knows it and likes it. I love the little bitch, she is my girl! :D But, it is still a little sad. She was such a great agility partner for so long!! And she is not even 11, will be in June, and in every other physical way I think is in great shape. Her knee is better than ever, she runs like the wind at the beach and the fields. I think agility and adjusting to light and having to judge jumps and tunnels and going from dark to light is simply too hard for her eyes? I don't know, but it sure seems that way, so she is retired now! I may run her in a few outdoor trials mid-summer when the sun it at the top of the sky, but I'll just have to see how it goes in practice. She much prefers running outdoors, but light is more iffy with shadows and such. Mid-summer might not be so bad?

Sunday was Spur's day! All about Spur. No Masters classes Sunday, so the Pin Heads stayed home -

We had a GREAT day on Sunday!! I think the little buggar really enjoyed his time alone. I was kind of surprised. The only doggie friend he had there was Zep and that didn’t last long since they left early. He was left with just his fans and he has quite a fan club that is just getting larger! :D I think that’s really fun for him, visiting with his fans. It makes the trials really special and helped him a lot yesterday.

His first run was tire to straight on dog walk and I didn’t handle it well and he refused the dog walk, but I regrouped and insisted, so he did it trotting, but he did it. Then ran well and did a super teeter, but got really frightened by the bang. Thankfully, the next obstacle was the table which, strangely, he LOVES, so he zoomed to it and plopped in a down and shook, ears going up….then down…then up….all worried, but his tail was swishing the whole time. Then he avoided the next jump which I made no big deal about, and thankfully again the next thing was poles, which he loves, so he recovered well and ran nicely looking really happy. The next class was gamble and I made a nice opening (jump, weaves, tunnel to dog walk), he ran his dog walk (no trotting) and did his gamble looking REALLY happy!! We got a lot of nice comments.

I snookered us in snooker which was a little bummer because the last obstacle was the teeter and I was looking forward to being able to run out of the ring and jackpot him with cookies, but he didn’t care and ran well!! So, since he was looking SO happy I stayed for jumpers (5:20) and he ran clean!! Everyone thought he looked really happy and I had nice comments, so I am VERY pleased. That was the most runs he has ever done and that is a hard place to trial, I think. He did SO well!! His fan club is growing LARGE! He did run to say hi to the leash runner before starting in jumpers, but I called him away and just started. He does think EVERYONE wants to say hi to him now, which is OK! I think he is serious enough about his work that he would not go visit while running…….. too much. LOL!

I am very proud of the little buggar! I did see a woman there who had fostered one of the older mini-aussies from Spur’s kennel and she kind of bummed me out. She couldn’t even remember the dog’s name and said words like when she finally “got rid of him” and stuff like that. I didn’t like her the rest of the day. She wasn’t even nice to her own dogs. But, I didn’t let her bother me too much. I hung out with Beth, who I really like and whose portie Nellie looked AWESOME, and Jen was there with Gordon, the weim, who I really like. They did great!! Her first USDAA trial with Gordon! And Shona, who is really nice and her dog Nevis just looks so clean and uncomplicated, pretty aussie with a stripe down his nose like Spur's.

For a dog with some major issues about sounds, sights, teeters and things falling or being bumped, this seemed like a really hard place for Spur to run, but he held it together and gave me a GREAT effort! I know we can build from this and things should just get better and better. I know, I am not in denial, I know things could fall apart and we may have melt downs in the future over silly things, I know that. I know he may struggle to get speed going and to look really confident, for a long time, but I do think the more we do and the more we get out the better he is going to get. I think he is starting to enjoy trials, learning they are fun times! He is work in progress, for sure, but he looked OK! It was nice to hear good words of encouragement from fellow competitors. Many know his issues and worries, and saw him struggling with stuff earlier in his young life, so they know how hard it has been for us. Good little Monkey Pants Punkin Head had his Big Boy Pants on yesterday! All by himself, no Pin Heads for support, he held it together all day. Four runs - good Little Spurminator!!

His standard run. Idiot that I am just ran right past the dog walk, leaving him unsupported and in the dust. Geez!!! -

His gamble run for a third place finish!! Started a little slow - we need a start line consistent behavior. Something I lack with Roscoe, too! I always feel insecure at the start line because I don't want to waste time and be one of those competitors that people are saying to themselves......."Oh for crying out loud, just GO!!" We need mental preparation, start line focus. I am unsure of my own start line behavior, ....what? I need start line behavior?? Yes, but whatever, I continue and we start, somehow, we just go........and,...... he loves his weaves, so that helped him, then the tunnel to the dog walk was good -

It was a good day for The Spurminator!