Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The many faces of DJ

The last class of our 6-week class was last night. There's another session that we didn't sign up for because of the heat and the fact that I'm planning to move in mid-July. It's really hot (and buggy) but we're going to drop in on at least 2 of the 6 classes if there's space.
Deej kicked butt in class last night, he was fired up! It makes me sad to not sign up for the class when he has such a great time.

Monday, June 8, 2009


DJ had a fantastic walk Sunday morning. He was the picture of perfection walking by many dogs -- on narrow sidewalks, no less.

He had many snacks for being such a good man and looking at the approaching dogs calmly and then walking by them. There was one wiener dog, I can't spell daschund whom he did want to have words with but still was pretty low key.

This morning on the beach there was another turtle but by the time I saw it, it was like 7 and we were leaving and it was surrounded by fat people taking pictures with the flash on their little cameras.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


We had class on Monday. Though it was hot, DJ had a great time.

I realized how much he loves agility! He does get burnt out at trials though so I'll take that into account in the future. He's much more reactive by the last day of a trial, frayed nerves and not being able to really relax in his crate I'm sure.

He was thrilled to be back to class and even ignored a sheltie nearly jumping on him. Sheltie was thisclose and he just wanted to run the course. Yay!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Turtle power

I wish my camera was working (needs new battery) and that I carried it around all the time.

The dog beach we visit every morning also happens to be a turtle beach. Big sea turtles visit every spring and summer to lay their eggs, I can't remember if they are loggerhead or leatherback, I have no idea what the difference is but there's a shortage of one or the other. They usually do this in the dark but there are some stragglers who are making their exit as the light comes up. Which is also when we happen to be walking.

DJ always enjoys sniffing along the turtle tracks and sniffing around their nests, he doesn't dig or try to disturb them, just curious. So this morning I noticed some fresh tracks and a new nest as we strolled along the beach, Deej made a beeline for it.

With his tendency towards inconsolable hysterical excitement, it was with some dismay that I saw a turtle making her way back to the ocean just past a slight rise on the beach. I would have seen her sooner had it not been for this damn dune.

I ran after DJ calling him but he caught the scent of turtle and ran ahead of me, just out of grasp as usual. In these circumstances I'm always on the fence about making a diving tackle or just hoping he will remember that he has had some experience with "leave it" and "here." Obviously we need practice with super duper exciting level distractions such as rabbits and turtles…and likely any other novel wildlife…

Soooo he ran screaming up the turtle and circled her barking and lunging. I followed trying to grab him, also screaming, dodging flippers and turtle head as I chased him in a circle. We ran around for a minute and then I thought, ah ha I'll go the other way. But then he reversed course as well. We ran around the turtle for minutes, me desperately trying to grab him…finally, finally he backed off a bit and I was able to grab him and pull him, shrieking, away. I fed him some treats as he looked at the turtle but we were still too close for him to do anything but grab the treats and frantically bark.

Good times… he was pretty tired this morning after the walk and all the excitement. He was back in bed before I even finished breakfast.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Break time

We've done nooooooooooo agility-related fun for 2 weeks now.

Our Monday class is canceled this Monday due to Labor Day so it will be a whole other week before we're back to it. May pop over a couple of times after the holiday weekend to play and refresh some skills – namely contacts.

Nothing serious though, I can barely think of agility without gritting my teeth and pulling my hair. Good times.

Besides just being incredibly annoyed about our last trial, I'm a little concerned. He's not an aggressive dog, he is a bully for sure, insecure and high strung yes but not aggressive and I certainly don't want to him to have a reputation for being one, nor do I want him (or me) to be thought of as a menace.

*Prays to dog-god for Nina Plail sheltie person extraordinaire to decide to answer my puppy pleas!*

I love Deejer though, he's always interesting…I'm sure one day I'll look back on his antics and laugh and say oh that's so DJ.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Our agility season ends with a pfft

DJ will never be a sheltie. He'll never have that sweet, wanting to do a job, ready to rock attitude at all times. I just have to accept that. He will always have a place in his brain just waiting to go monkey-pants crazy at the slightest provocation when I least expect it.

Always when I least expect it, like trying to carry a bunch of stuff and walk him to the car and he'll decide that the person walking by is Up To No Good And Must Be Barked At when he hasn't batted an eye at any person, dog or thing all week.

Or, for instance, at an agility trial upon spying a wiggly golden retriever puppy just outside the ring barrier. Thank my freaking lucky stars it was the kind of plastic lattice barrier not just a strip of tape because puppies make DJ either want to kill or just go bonkers. I need some kind of dog expert to tell me why upon seeing puppies DJ wants to knock them down and nip at them. Go out of his way to do so actually…leaving an agility course we had already NQ'd on to examine the puppy through the barrier.

He was trying to find a way through the barrier and I'm sure going over was next on his agenda when I grabbed him but he has this strong objection to being picked up during agility trials. Similar to wrestling a greased pig, he wiggled out of my grasp and tried to launch him self over my head in a straight upward trajectory, much to the horror of the crowd. Luckily I caught him before he hit the ground and managed to wrestle him out the ring.

I fought the strong inclination to pack up and leave right then but dusted myself off, washed out the lacerations from his evil little claws on the inside of my arm and ran our jumpers course. It went well, we could have easily Qd but I was fried and made some dumb mistakes.

Still fried from the experience actually, between the heat and the sudden burst of craziness, just not feeling like going to our last trial this weekend.

We were signed up for a USDAA trial in Tampa but I've never been there and its 4 hours away and there are chickens and sheep at the venue. Most likely it would be fine. We'd do well, etc. But its also going to be near 90 degrees so I'm officially not going and instead will spend my birthday weekend laying out by the pool, drinking beer maybe and indulging in some candy and cookies.

By the time our next trial comes up I should be recovered.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


What else is there to say except that the A-frame continues to be the bane of my existence?

Sure I have other problems. Debt, an upcoming move…well really just those two. I'm back on a diet, not really a problem actually. Really that's a cause for celebration if I want to fit into my pants without looking like a sausage – and I do.

Back to the A-frame. Instead of leaping into the air from near the top of the A-frame as he was doing when we were trying out running contacts, DJ has now instituted a kind of 4 on the floor style-not-doing-the-right-thing.

He is more likely to touch yellow with this and I would prefer a less strenuous contact performance for the little guy than 2o2o however, his contact behavior has tended to migrate more than anything else we've ever trained or practiced. So for that reason, I have to only reinforce 2o2o, nothing close or approximating. Only one thing.
I think that's where I went wrong initially, just kind of loosey goosey standards like oh well he did touch yellow and now here we are.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


This is an old picture of Deej from a year or so ago. His nails look much better now.

DJ's feet are finally looking normal, even the back ones! It's so exciting! He still clicks a little walking on the tile but all his nails are off the ground when he's standing -- to varying degrees, some more than others. Especially those extra fast growing pointer toes on his front feet.

All in all his nails are not perfect but they're a totally respectable length. And all with his full cooperation...amazing!

I find myself obsessing over them though, and making plans for the next day's nail trimming session.

I am still using clippers, not a Dremel. That's still a challenge. But we're working on it, I don't know that he will ever like the feel of it.

BUT, with the clippers, he's finally comfortable enough that I can take my time, mostly. Its so much easier to trim his nails when I can take a second to see that I'm not going to cut them too short. It's much less painful for him when I can just snip off a little bit at a time.

Thankfully the quicks have receded on all of his front toes so that also helps. Even I don't slice into them, it clearly hurts him if its cut too close.

I see where I went wrong in the beginning trying to get them short right away instead of just patiently doing a little at a time, it was just so hard to believe it would ever be possible! Really I think nail trimming may be our most exciting accomplishment to date.

Its just ridiculous how proud of us I am! Now if only I could get some pictures, I just need a spare $50 to buy another battery for my digital camera. Though at this point that camera is so old...about 6 years old actually, I should just buy a new one.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Tailwagger's USDAA trial April 17 - 19

I've been feeling discouraged by moronic mistakes I make at trial. The past two trials I've totally screwed up a couple of things.


This past weekend, in the performance speed jumping finals – first time we've ever made it in! I dropped my arm when I should have pushed DJ out to the second to last jump and dropped out connection he came in to me and we missed the jump.

I should be feeling good, it was fun, we Q'd in a bunch of stuff and are slowly making our way out of starters. We've only done 5 USDAA trials now and just need one more starters Q to get to Advanced, we have 3 Qs in the games classes. I think, at least 2 in some.

Three for sure in Jumpers and Pairs. Maybe just two in Snooker and Gamblers but I think three. Who knows I'm too lazy to figure it out at the moment.

Its just so discouraging to do such dumb stuff. We're both still green, we've only been trialing for 1 year, I should give myself a pass and just chalk it up to a learning experience.

I'm very competitive though and just seethe comparing myself to the Really Good People.

Of course they make mistakes too, the most common one seems to be dropped bars and timing issues there…

but with DJ the place where I've been going wrong is in pulling him off the jump entirely when I look ahead to where we're going.

Its all just for fun and such. Right, of course. But it is a competition and a test of skills and its frustrating to see myself making dumb mistakes.

Its all so confusing, on the one hand its "only" dog agility and on the other hand it’s a such a time, money, effort, thought – sink.
Poor DJ, he's a good man and does the best he can with the handler he's stuck with.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Things I need

I need:

More dogs – 2 more dogs to do dog stuff with! Herding, Frisbee-catching, agility doing dogs!

Better handling skillz. I think if I had more dogs I wouldn't get so fried from waiting at trials thus maybe I wouldn't need better handling skills, just less brain wasting stress.

Mostly just another dog or two.

I'm planning on calling one breeder tonight to ask some questions, put out some feelers, I don't think I'll be able to actually get a puppy until late this year, at the earliest.

And I do want a puppy, at least once. I promised my boyfriend that after the puppy our next dog will be an old man dog from a rescue. Unless he somehow finds the time to start doing agility, then gets addicted then it will be a slightly younger rescue dog. (min pin of course)

But first, a puppy. I saw a Pyrenean shepherd at a trial recently and talked to the owner a bit. Those are seriously cute dogs…I've corresponded with a breeder to find out why they have such a strange reputation.

But I have to admit I'm feeling the pull of border collies. They seem like so much fun.

The thing is and this is kind of stupid but I don't want to run in the smaller classes in agility I'd rather do 16 inch or 20, at least in AKC, for now…which puts min pins out of the running, they're just so darn small, I really like DJ's size, he's small but not *that* small.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Trial recap

Finally DJ got his AX. In fact he got all his contacts for three days of the trial. We only Q'd twice in standard however because I forgot a jump on the third day. My butt is sore from kicking myself over all the mistakes I made this weekend.

For some reason DJ was popping out of the weave poles in JWW everyday until Sunday…when we didn’t Q because I somehow caused him to crash through a jump with spazzy bad handling.

I suspect though I'm not sure…that he was popping out because I didn't warm him up properly before jumpers.

Especially on Friday because it was pouring buckets of rain by the time we ran, and probably not coincidentally that was our worst run of the weekend.

Stretching seems to help him a ton. Though his shoulders aren't totally upright, they're not as laid back as they could be and he tends to get a little tight. He did get a massage on Saturday and got really loose – in fact he was even enjoying it by the end and just stood there sleepy-eyed soaking it up! That was after half a slice of cheese and about a quarter ounce of steak.

So…there's a USDAA trial in two weeks, then there's one in early May then the last one over Memorial Day all the way in Palmetto. There's also a trial in Palmetto the 24 and 25 of this month. Premiums are due in on Friday…

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

More trialing!

This weekend is a four-day trial…should be interesting.

The bad news is that its going to be like a sauna with high humidity and of course, heat. Check in doesn't start until 8:30 but I'm going to get there around…well, hopefully before 7 to stake out a spot.

That is worst part of trialing around here…almost everything is under cover so its kind of a race to get a good spot in shade. I could put up a canopy.

Will I get a good spot, will we finally get into Ex. B in Standard, will DJ ever do a contact in trial again and will I move up to Excellent FAST. So many questions.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Darn contacts

So as it turns out, we're going back to 2o2o contacts. This weekend was a contact – DISASTER. A-frame crappiness I've come to expect but the dog walk? Of all things, deej knows the dog walk. Soooo, its back to targets and stopping on everything.

This morning we went over to the club and put down the targets and it was like instant perfect contacts. We'll practice there this week and on the contact trainer at home. Then at the trial this weekend, if he jumps the contact I'm pulling him out of the ring.

Especially on the dog walk, we've always had stopped contacts on it.
But I feel a lot better about going back to 2o2o on the A-frame, for one thing he already knows how to do it. The criteria is super clear and easy for both of us. So, just gotta get it in competition and we'll be great.

Save for the contact debacle on Sunday we did freaking awesome in standard. Got jumper Qs both days and even placed 3rd on Saturday with a 31 second time. Usually that would put us around 7th but at a 1-judge show on the weekend of nationals it was good enough for a ribbon.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trialing and blogging

Have been remiss in my blogging efforts, I think because I feel exhausted by thinking about DJ. We're training and practicing all the time, a lot of my weekday not-at-work time is spent either walking, working on nails or a trick or practicing agility. Then there's like a couple hours for eating, showering and about one, sometimes maybe almost two, hours of watching the tube and knitting.

So that's my life in a nutshell pretty much. However this past weekend we trekked way across the state to beautiful exit 224 on 75 to stay at the exceedingly craptastic Motel 6 and then do agility at the Manatee county fairground. It was ok, DJ did some weird stuff. Probably my fault. In one standard class I attempted a blind cross after a tunnel and kinda threw him off I suppose…or not…going up the dogwalk. I was halfway down the walk when I realized he was still perched on the up ramp looking petrified. Then he jumped off. The ONLY other time he's done that was at this place on this dog walk. It was the next to last obstacle and we only need one darn Q to get our AX.

So I wasn't angry I was just so shocked, he was happy and thrilled but I just put on his leash and walked out of the ring and sat down. Just dumbfounded as to why he did that.

The standard run on Saturday was good except he leapt over the contact on the dog walk, again not a usual behavior – or what we train for!, and then also bounded over the contact on the a-frame. We did manage to come away with a Q in jumpers and finished up our open FAST title.

What was good is that DJ seemed to have a good time he was mostly relaxed all weekend and didn't seem overly agitated by the change in routine and staying in a new place. The first time we went to Palmetto it really threw him for a loop and he was more on edge and anxious than usual. So that was good I feel a lot better about making overnight agility trips now too.

I'm going to stay in open FAST for a while though, the only reason we Q'd was that it was an exceedingly easy send, the boundary was really close to the obstacles too. It seemed like that anyway. I'm not sure of all the rules but the judge seemed to know what she was doing so…we did only get third because I'm really lazy about planning a course for maximum points.

Tomorrow is another agility trial, I can't wait, it's in Davie at the rodeo grounds. This place is very annoying because they forbid bringing coolers in because of some contract so they try to force you to buy stuff from the nasty concession stand. Truly vile. Bleh. Forced to sneaking around, we're at least allowed to bring water and snacks for dogs. It’s a one judge trial so we're going to be done by like noon or earlier. I can't wait, did I mention that?

Monday, March 9, 2009

DJ hates people

Having a nervous, not-exactly-friendly dog can be a challenge. Not so much in the world of dog-savvy people but among the normal people it can be kind of scary, for both DJ and I.

Before DJ came into our lives, I was pretty clueless about dog body language and what a nervous dog might look like. Since however, I'm much more careful with the way I approach dogs, don't pet them unless they clearly solicit the attention and then I ask their handler. With the all clear from both parties, petting commences.

DJ does not enjoy the attentions of strangers. Sometimes he'll jump up on the leg of someone he has met before. Because he so rarely approaches other people outside of the house, I don't really discourage that behavior no matter what they think of jumping up. (I actually don't discourage jumping up at all ever.)

Over the weekend we met an adorable girl min pin on our afternoon walk. She had a lovely undocked tail and un-cropped ears. I was envious of her tail, I love undocked tails. She was very sweet and DJ was entirely appropriate sniffing and socializing. He's always fairly polite with other min pins, I shouldn’t say always, he's only met two others that I know of.

The dog was with a man and a woman and we were talking when all of a sudden the woman pounced on DJ, I should have realized that she was moving closer, staring at him. But I didn't, so she fell on him and tried to take his face in her hands, barking snarling and snapping ensued. I was trying to move away, push DJ back and shoo her away and talk all at the same time. Not working. She stayed in his face, saying, he won't bite will he?

Um yes, he could. He was certainly threatening it and is not averse to using his teeth to make a point. I don't think he bit her, she didn't say that he did but it kind of soured the conversation even though I explained his history and wariness with people.

Of course I was a little upset with DJ but mostly with myself for not stopping her more strenuously even if it meant being rude and I wanted to talk min pins so I was loathe to be seen as rude but still should have stepped in sooner.

Secondly I thought it was rude of her to do but dogs have to be bombproof against all manner of dumb things that people do. Not fair but there you go.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Agility fun

Quickly approaching the end of the agility season. Too quickly.

However there is a veritable agility-palooza coming up!

March 21 – 22 is Palmetto.

March 28-29 in Davie. It’s a one judge trial but hopefully they'll run it like the last one where it was excellent, excellent jumpers, then open and then novice.

That was the easiest trial ever. Though massively hot in October I believe.

April 2 – 5 will be in Vero Beach.

Four days of agility goodness.

Plus no setting up Wednesday. Thank goodness. The good / bad thing about some of the trials in south Florida, I don't know how it is elsewhere, but they are under covered arenas. Which means that everyone huddles up to get in the shade. Nice to have shade, bad if you are someone like me who is an anxious nutcase about getting a good spot.

I'm getting better but still, my natural tendency is towards getting places early combined with the excitement of a trial and horribleness of the Florida heat … I end up waking up way too early the first day and then speeding.

Some people just suck it up and set up the night before – which is why I'm taking off the afternoon of March 20 to haul ass over to Palmetto and set up my little area.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Catching up

Last week was very busy, my sister was visiting and then the boyfriend visited on the weekend so there was not a lot of agility. There was a fun run I skipped on Sunday due to staying up way too late Saturday night.

Back on track this morning however, had some good A-frame practice as well as weave pole practice and some quick front cross sequences. There was a really great sequence in last month's Clean Run…I think… that I need to print out and take with me so we can focus more instead of just doing basic stuff.

There is a trial we're signed up for in two weeks in Palmetto that is way on the West coast of Florida. It will take three hours to get there and we're staying at Motel 6. Not the nicest of options but the cheapest for sure. The only other time we've been to Palmetto, in September, Deej was a little shaken by the whole experience.

First of all he was completely bewildered by the room and the whole idea of staying there. Then at the trial site he was a bit on edge and the rings are only sectioned off by two strips of construction tape. In our final run on Sunday two dogs started a commotion on the edge of the ring right by the practice jump and it was nearly impossible to get his focus back. My worst fear was releasing him to have him leap to his feet and run out of the ring. Didn't happen thankfully.
That was a weird trial, he did a lot of strange things such as bailing off the dog walk.

Never done that before or since. He didn't slip -- he was sniffing and then seemed to become alarmed and felt, I assume, that it was better just to abandon the whole effort.

This morning he found some kind of spiky and delicious sea creature that he was intent on swallowing. Unfortunately it was so chewy and spiky that he wasn't able to get it down before I convinced him to let me dig it out of his mouth. Very spiky! Ouch it hurt my thumb, I can't even imagine what it was doing to his tongue.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


There is not enough money to go around this week. I just sent off premiums for 2 trials in March. Total cost: about $142. I also just signed up for another 6 weeks of classes, cost: $90. Plus my membership needs to be renewed for another 3 months, so that will be $87. Grand total is $319.

One annoying thing is, there's no telling when the checks for the trials will be cashed, could be after the trial could be next week. Why do we even have checks anymore?

It’s a lot to shell out at once. At least for me.

I think of all the things I'm NOT buying, like new shoes, a haircut and color, manicures, a gym membership. Kind of weird to forego all sorts of things, technically the gym membership I could possibly swing and is the most important out of the list I just made up. Its not as though I feel deprived but when I think, ooh I need new shoes and then dismiss it out of hand automatically because I can't afford them but blithely spend $300 without questioning…well, priorities I guess.

I just keep telling myself that the season is almost over anyway. Soon it will be 85 degrees at 5 am and 100 percent humidity and no one will want to think about agility.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Its not Christmas but this picture cracks me up.

No more trials for weeks

There were some high points of the trial this past weekend. But mostly just low points. Saturday's standard run was really nice with the exception of the weave poles which for some reason DJ felt through with after 10. Jumpers. Same thing.

Sunday we had a really nice FAST run except that we didn't do the send. It was in the middle of the ring and you were supposed to send out to a jump to the far side of a tunnel and then back to the jump. Deej did the jump, went in the wrong side of the tunnel and then back to the jump so I was pretty happy.

Contacts were lovely oh except for the teeter which he jumped off of because it was an unusually heavy teeter.

That came back to bite me in the butt during the standard run which was just ugly.

It still makes me feel sick to think about it! Not like a close family member died sick but still just vague disappointment. And then guilt for feeling bad since DJ didn't sign up to do the agility trial and its only 30 seconds of fun for lots of crate time for him. And still, the teeter issue just does make me feel bad and baffled.

I think I'm going to have to retrain his teeter he did have a 2o2o at one point and got bounced off the end of a teeter somehow and was really scared of it after that. He had been getting good and fast on the familiar teeter at the club but there's really no single behavior cemented in his head about it. Back to square one with that.

I have a teeter base, I have to get a piece of wood to use as the plank. I'm going to start with the board flat and train him to run to the end.

For the jumpers run on Sunday it was a very easy flowing, fast course and the Q rate must have been around 95 percent. DJ was at least among them. With a time of about 27.79 we were again at least about 4 seconds off of placing. By that point I just wanted him to stay in the weaves as all weekend, save for FAST, 10 was the most he felt like doing.

Other things such as the A-frame and table were pretty ok this weekend.

Handling was OK, nothing fancy, the horrible standard run on Sunday ended with a missed final jump due to an inept rear cross but by that point I was done.

There were like 3 world team members at the stupid trial. And their students all with insane fast shelties doing awesomely. Some people and dogs stand out because of their awesomeness and other people are just rumpled, anxious messes that just get in the way of the good people as they stride authoritatively around the walk-through.

Oh one other high point, DJ found a chicken bone in the field across the street from the arena which he dropped very politely.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water...

So recently I've been feeling particularly warm and fuzzy and proud of Deej, no major meltdowns, no biting, being a good man…but this morning guess who found an incredibly delicious chicken bone on the beach.

And guess who got a couple of fresh wounds for her trouble in trying to retrieve said bone from the unnamed dog's (DJ's) gullet.

Ouch. Guess it's back to the "living peacefully with humans lessons."
On a positive note some kids ran up to us last night and there was no barking so he's not a total butt. Just partially.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fun running

Last night we went to a fun run at Lucky Dog. A jumper course was set and we did pretty well, I tried to get more distance and actually get my front crosses in, I missed a couple of times. Then flubbed a rear cross.

I watched a really talented girl run with her border collie and she managed to layer the jump I was trying to cross in front of and did the cross in front of the next obstacle instead…I wish I could have tried again after seeing that.

DJ ran super fast despite my ineptitude he's getting so much quicker and more responsive it really taxes my crappy handling skills. And of course shows off just how slow I both run and think as I can usually not manage to articulate Get out and instead just gesture helplessly and say Over there. What? I don't know how he does it but he does manage to figure it out most of the time.

Even though its harder for me and of course tough on the old knees (please, do not want to be one of the many agility competitors sporting a knee brace) I prefer doing front crosses because A. he runs faster if I'm in front of him and B. someone told me when we were first starting that you should always do a front cross if you can. I can't remember who but they knew what they were talking about. I think it was LeeAnn.

So, I'll keep trying, gotta stop babysitting each jump though – four legs beat 2 legs in every race, unless its like a shih tzu, I may be able to beat a shih tzu. Pekinese for sure.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Are min pins hard to train?

A question that comes up often on the min pin agility yahoo list regards people's perceived ideas about min pins and whether or not they are hard to train.

I don't know if they are. For one thing, our first min pin was untrainable in that he had no real motivation to do much and not a lot of energy with his chronic heart failure. If you put a wee-wee pad down, he would generally at least pee near it. Usually on whatever upright surface was closest.

DJ has been a breeze to train. He's smart, fast and loves to play games. He can be a little bit distractible.

When we got him from the shelter, he may or may not have been fully housetrained. He had been returned to the shelter at least once for marking inside. But save for one incident when he first arrived he hasn't had any mistakes except for one time when he was not taken out in time and had to pee on the door to the outside. He did the best he could.

Besides that he wasn't allowed to make any mistakes and was taken out on a regular schedule and not allowed full run of the house for a couple of weeks.

His main problem was being crazy reactive to other dogs – besides biting and resource guarding.

Because of the reactivity, I tried to do a lot of impulse control and attention work as well as counter conditioning his reactions to other dogs. Agility classes were a nightmare for a while because he would go nuts whenever someone entered his space.

And then I found the book "Control Unleashed" and things really started changing. One of our instructors even commented on how much he's improved, for instance not barking at her! And other people! This past weekend he let people pet him and took treats, its freaking amazing.

I don’t expect to always be perfect from this point on but its just so gratifying that I feel like I can take him in public and not worry so much. Worry some, but just feel more confident that he has the tools to control himself and isn't as worried about his environment.

To my mind, we've been tremendously successful at agility so far, especially in trials he's learned to handle waiting at the gate for his turn around people and dogs without getting bothered and he not only stays in the ring with me but runs the courses!

This long rambling preamble was just to say that some people have said to me that min pins are difficult or DJ is the best min pin they've ever seen because they are so distractible and hard to work with. And yes he is awesome, that's true but I don't think he's that far from the normal min pin character and I'm not a super awesome trainer with l33t skillz.

I think that his behavior problems actually helped us in agility. (I'm talking like we're doing so awesome but hey I think we are!) Even though in the back of my mind I was kind of thinking he'll be great at agility, I didn't know and my first goals weren't foundation training for agility they were walk out of the house without a major meltdown, be able to take something from him without getting my arm chewed off.

A lot of little things that ended up being important to building a relationship and confidence but also impulse control and attention. I think if you don't have to go through a bunch of problems then focusing on focus and control isn't as much a priority.

And I think as they are busy little dogs who don't sit still for 3 seconds if there is something more interesting happening somewhere, impulse control, focus and attention are incredibly important and somewhat overlooked especially by people who are used to dogs with an off-switch.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

If you can’t be a good example...

DJ was awesome at the trial this past weekend. Superstar awesomeness. Contacts were hit, tables were downed upon and weaves were woven. We got two standard Q’s. No jumper Qs but that was my fault.

He did his job, for the most part, not Saturday necessarily but Sunday he did everything he could but poor handling struck. There was a collision of sorts at the second to last jump. Not really of sorts…but an actual collision of my knee and his head.

Bad decisions were made, rear cross was not done. But the good thing was that we served as a tragic warning for all the dogs going after us.

DJ shook it off and forgot about it about 4 seconds after it happened. But I still feel terrible. Last night at class he was fine, I was mostly fine except for almost impaling myself on a jump standard. Sigh. DJ is handler impaired.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Goals for this weekend

I have some goals I'd like to hit this weekend:

1. Contacts -- proper stopping contacts on the dogwalk and getting in the yellow on the A-frame.

2. A fast down on the table -- Not just a down, a fast one! Though if pressed I will admit that any down will do as long as I'm not reduced to crawling and begging though I’m not above it. You can see how my criteria tends to slide. Moving on!

3. Cracking 4th place in jumps with weaves. This will require fast turns and fast weave poles which means I need to stay connected with DJ in the weaves while also moving faster. Obvious right?

Non-wide turns will require that I really carefully consider where I’m going to put a front cross and also remember that I can do a lead out and rear crosses. I really really can.

A BNT at the trial last week, and actually a guy she trains with, dunno what his claim to fame is besides the fact that his shelties are smoking fast…had really nice blind crosses. Something to consider for the future. I practice them but am not ready to plop one down after the A-frame…more likely the weaves or even more likely than that, a nice plain tunnel.

Other goals: have fun and keep DJ amused and happy!

More trialing

This picture is from the trial this past weekend. The show photographer, Furry Fotography was super fast, the order just arrived today. The photos may not all be awesome but speed counts.

THIS weekend we're going to Davie for another trial. Davie is south of Fort Lauderdale, so about an hour on the Turnpike. It's also all done up in a rodeo / old west motif. Kind of neat I guess if you like that sort of thing. Its basically the same crap you find in any town, like strip malls and Burger Kings but with wooden signs and fake hitching posts.
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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Today's excitement

We went to the club this morning for some practice. Practiced lead outs which for some reason terrify me in competition. I just need to get over it. Its not like anything will explode if it goes wrong.

Also fast fast fast weave poles. I want to get away from baby sitting DJ through them and actually pick up some speed and he does rip through them if I run faster. Its still a delicate balance though, if I get too far ahead he pops out.

And! We also practiced leaping over the A-frame contact a LOT this morning. Hooray, let's practice what not to do. Eventually got that sorted out.

As we were leaving I noticed DJ worrying his back foot, it looks like one of his pads got a little chafed, or rubbed a bit. That's the only thing I could see and by the time we were home he was no longer favoring it. Thank goodness, there's an emergency vet right next door to the club so I would kick myself for not just going there if it was a serious injury.

I also noticed* that the nails on that foot are so long that his foot looks a little weird. Splayed. Probably because he was standing on it weird but still it freaked me out and I decided those nails Must Be Done Right Away. I tried to get it done the easy way, nice click and treat but eventually just picked him up and cut one off.

Lots of treats but I could not get the clipper on the middle nails because he was clenching his foot. I just need one more hand and it would be much easier. In general he's better about the rear feet than his fronts but maneuvering him into position is the hard part and why I was putting off trying them.

So far, the best way I've found to get the back nails trimmed is by holding DJ in my left arm and then trying to lasso a nail with the clippers. It really helps to have another person to wrangle the foot and spread the toes. But I'm trying to get away from methods that involve wrangling and multiple helpers.

I may try to work on him when he's relaxed and enjoying a belly rub. Just desensitizing. The problem with that is that he's not really thrilled with going belly-up on demand. Sometimes you can roll him over but if he stressing over something or anxious or otherwise not in the mood, its like trying to put a recalcitrant cat into box. Legs everywhere, stiff muscles, anger and vindictive words – from him, not me.

Another option is to teach him to give me his back feet. That way we're not already starting from a place of him going, hey what the f…when I pick up his foot. I think that's what I'll do but first these nails have to be cut before he's permanently deformed.

Any other suggestions would be well-received.

I expect tonight will be fun. We're going to trim one front nail nicely and then see what happens to get another of those monstrosities trimmed down. When I say we, I mean DJ and me. As one of us is a very reluctant participant at best, I really mean me.

All of the nail stuff sounds incredibly crazy I realize. Most dog people look at me like I'm either incredibly negligent or just a moron. If I had to choose it would be the latter rather than the former but considering his go-to strategy when I first got him was a well placed bite or threat, I think we're doing well.

*Heretofore its not as though I didn't notice that those particular nails were growing into serious Guinness world's record longest nail contenders, I guess I just hoped that a method for getting to the nails would present itself with a minimum of effort. Surprisingly that didn't happen.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Tailwagger's trial at Vero Beach

The weekend was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Both standard runs featured a selection of DJ's greatest hits, including "I don't know nothin about no A-frame."

Not downing on the table was not included although this time he decided to quickly skim across the surface of the table leap off the other side and do a quick run by of a dog watching from ringside. Then I made a mistake and sent him off course so we were pretty much even on that one.

That was Saturday's standard.

Sunday, was the A-frame problemo but our time was freaking fast as hell. It was like placement level fast, if we had Q'd and were in Ex. B. In Ex. A everyone places since there are usually no more than 3 people tops – at least 3 people who qualify.

Picked up a Q in Jumpers on Saturday with a really nice run, too slow on a front cross however.

And on Sunday the run before ours was a MACH run. Yay for them. Confusion for DJ however, somewhat for me too – um what do I do? Do I leave? And that equaled start line distraction, late front cross and weird run AROUND me into the correct tunnel, resulting in an off course, then a missed weave entry. After that it was very fast and awesome, just that little train wreck thing first. Super fast and fun course though.

Last night we had class and he did get his contact, all contacts. He's a good man, he knows exactly what to do on the dog walk. Run, run run to the bottom and then stomp frantically on the contact five times to make sure I see that he has stopped is doing good agility dog stuff and is so excited about it. Teeter is still a bit slow though, he rushes up and then panics and hesitates at the tipping point.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Memory under stress in dog agility

Recently Slate ran an interesting article, "I'm plunging to my death, now what do I do?" it is excerpted from the book, "The survivors club: the secrets and science that could save your life."
The article is framed by the recent incident in which a skydiving instructor died while conducting a tandem dive. I don't know anything about skydiving I think that's what its called, two people attached. Anyway, he died of a heart attack, the soldier remembered what he was supposed to do and managed to get himself onto the ground in a controlled manner.

Apparently, not everyone could perform with such aplomb under duress. Stress can cause people's brains to shut off and it happens every so often in skydiving which can lead to very bad things such as hitting the ground at a high velocity.

Though dog agility is a little less treacherous than sky diving, agility competitors often have a hard time remembering where to go in the excitement and anxiety of running.

According to the article, Dr. John Leach of Lancaster University has researched memory in parachutists by testing the memories of skydivers before a jump after a jump and on non-skydiving days. He found that they can't remember stuff under stress. He theorized that the memories of how to save themselves was stored in their long-term memory and retrieval of that information became blocked by anxiety.

This study by Sian Beilock, assistant professor in psychology at the University of Chicago found that highly accomplished people are more prone to failure when under stress – for some reason due to their heavy reliance on their short term, or working memory.

According to the press release:

Highly accomplished people tend to heavily rely on their abundant supply of working memory and are therefore disadvantaged when challenged to solve difficult problems, such as mathematical ones, under pressure.

Working memory is a short-term memory system that maintains a limited amount of information in an active state. It functions by providing information of immediate relevance while preventing distractions and irrelevant thoughts from interfering with the task at hand.

People with a high level of working memory depend on it heavily during problem solving. “If you’ve got it, flaunt it” Beilock said.

However, that same advantage makes them particularly susceptible to the dangers of stress.“In essence, feelings of pressure introduce an intrusion that eats up available working memory for talented people,” Beilock said.

Math is not the same as sports but holding the course in your mind can be challenging in a trial situation. Especially when there are other aspects to the run that you're concerned about, say…hitting the contacts.

Performance under pressure is something that has always fascinated me because I played tennis as a kid. I was ok, I really didn't practice enough to be particularly good but I don't think I really had any talent for the game. I participated in several tournaments and during the matches, I did very badly. My performance dropped from middling to somewhere near pathetic.

I know what choking under pressure feels like and it does suck.

When I attempted to move from the hunter ring to jumpers in riding, I had the same problem except instead of just sucking I was consumed by intense fear and anxiety. Needless to say I didn't do very well. Had I been more self-aware then I would have tried to mitigate those feelings with meditation, positive thinking and the like.

Luckily agility is not nearly as difficult or technical as tennis nor as life-threatening as show jumping or skydiving for that matter.

Thanks to our fantastic agility instructor Cynthia Kean, I have some methods at my disposal for dealing with stress and they have helped actually.

Some techniques include:

  • Visualization
  • Deep breathing
  • Positive thinking
  • Gratitude – its wonderful just to be spending time with my dog and having fun. (That's what I tell myself when he won't down on the table in trial…we're having fun damn it!)

  • Thursday, February 5, 2009

    Exciting title about dogs doing stuff

    This is Marco in the picture. He also had nail issues, but because he had so many health issues, hassling him about his nails seemed a little mean. In retrospect I would have just gotten over it and figured out wtf I was doing.

    I went to New York over the weekend. Actually not NY, it was Connecticut…so no agility wherever I was.

    We do have a trial this weekend, it should be a good time. It's an AKC trial in Vero Beach put on by some club or another. They do good work.

    We've gotten out to Lucky Dog once this week for some A-frame practice. Doing the Rachel Sander's method of training, you put a box over the contact area and then gradually fade it. His striding is pretty good when the box is there but when it is not he will just run down to…well almost exactly the yellow line. and leap off. Sometimes. It is kind of heartening that he is occasionally doing it perfectly without the box there, previous to this training he was never getting into the yellow.

    Kind of a problem apparently.

    Its really sad when your dog does something right and you're shocked. Like the nail thing, I had decided that he was Too Crazy to be trainable about his nails. And then that it was so easy makes me just want to kick myself, I really deserve it. Ladies and gentlemen not reading this blog I'd like to direct your attention to Susan Garrett's blog entry from mid-December wherein she writes of overcoming perceived baggage.

    I think I may be getting sick, I hope not but the feverish spaciness and sore throat say perhaps. If so at least it will cool enough to nap in the car this weekend.

    Friday, January 30, 2009

    Doing what works

    What do you think it is that governs the choice of dog training methods?

    Looking at two polar opposites, though there are infinite shades between the two, there are all-positive reinforcement and all positive punishment.

    Being biased towards using positive methods, I just don't understand how or why someone would chose to use physical corrections with their dogs.

    I know that's why agility appeals to me, though I do cringe at overtly rough handling.

    I do use negative punishment however, and if I have that correct it is the name for taking away something good based on the dog doing something incorrect. For instance, when DJ jumps out of the car before he is released, he gets put back in. Or if he tries to start eating before being released, the food bowl gets picked back up.

    I do really hate doing the food bowl thing, not that I've had to do it much for the past couple of years, anything to do with dinner has a very quick learning curve.

    To that end I'm pretty easy going as a dog owner, I would just feel like an asshole not letting a dog sniff when they want as long as we keep a reasonable pace. I feel like we mostly have an understanding that works for us in that regard and other "controversial" aspects of dog keeping – like don't let dogs on the bed, don't let them go through doors before you and other nonsense.

    I'm an amateur and novice at that but come on, how can that not strike anyone as superstitious?

    I think my role model for dog training is now Sylvia Trkman. The way she writes is such a refreshing change of pace from dog whispering dominance obsessed people that have taken over the discussion of dog training in the U.S. Be partners with your dog, not their boss. Love that!

    Thursday, January 29, 2009

    Cheese and jellyfish

    It has been dark and moonless on the beach the past two mornings. I stepped on jellyfish and they exploded.

    If you've never experienced that, it is very, very discomforting to step into a slimy goo-filled organism and have it burst underfoot with a loud and disgusting pop. I screamed both times, which DJ seemed to interpret as a signal that he was going to get a treat.

    He is very weird when I scream, like when we're alone like in the car not that I'm just going around screaming all the time but I yell at other drivers on rare occasions. He's like the RCA dog, ears forward head tilted, curious yet baffled.

    Marco, the dearly departed, found screaming, at him or otherwise, incredibly stressful. Not that he was often if ever screamed at, I think there was one time when he was stuck on the bed and had to pee and peed on my pillow. I yelled at him but felt very guilty about it.

    Deej doesn't really get stressed, not the ears slicked back, mortified with horror look of stress anyway. More like he's an alien from outer space observing the eccentricities of the native species.

    Anyway, what was I talking about?
    Right, more kind of dreary a-frame practice and also the table. I hope DJ doesn't find it dreary we have fun when we're there but the feeling of absolutely having to practice makes it kind of a chore, plus the whole scramble to get up pre-dawn and be organized and drive in traffic. So its not really the agility more of the attendant hassles, like getting to agility.

    This morning I found that someone had liberally sprinkled the ground around the a-frame with a profusion of some kind of brightly colored cereal (kibble?) and perfectly formed cheese cubes.

    The picture is from our first trial, last March. Before Deej's table neuroses developed.

    Tuesday, January 27, 2009

    Mass excitement ensued, congratulations to all involved

    Major breakthrough of ginormous proportions today.

    The hellacious experience that has been nail trimming is no more, hopefully. There may be setbacks but today DJ sat in front of me, gave me his paw and sat quietly while I snipped off a tiny bit of his nail.

    Hah! Take that Sheyna, you lazy ass for making nail cutting a horrific ordeal for so long.

    I feel both shame and elation at the same time. Talk about feeling like a champion dog trainer! MACH47? I trimmed a nail today! Huzzah!

    Monday, January 26, 2009

    Two new titles

    Deej scored shiny new titles in the trial over the weekend. We actually managed to scrape out of open standard, barely squeaking out by the skin of our teeth. Not because of the A-frame which has been mentioned here with such obsessive frequency but because of the inescapable black hole of suckiness that is the table.

    Due to some nefarious machinations behind the scenes (not really, probably neutral machinations) we had to down on the table every freaking day of the trial. Every day. Evil? Yes.

    Table bugged us all weekend -- by Sunday, nope wasn't happening. But Sunday's run was also our debut in Excellent A and the course was nice and hard and twisty, and we totally rocked it – nailing not only the dog walk, the A-frame and the weaves but also got in 2 excellent front crosses.

    DJ sat on the table, he stood on the table, he yawned on the table, he bowed on the table. He did not down. After begging and nearly prostrating myself on the dirt, we left the table and finished the course.

    So that happened.

    But I also learned two important lessons this weekend.

    The first is that if my mind wanders during the middle of a course, DJ also checks out.

    During our standard run on Friday, we got through everything except the weaves and by that point I was like we're going to Q, we can stay and make sure, blah blah blah, and he missed the weave pole entrance and couldn't get it in 3 tries so we went on.

    Friday was an exceptionally long day.

    Second lesson was that we are really slow! Not to get into too much detail since that is insanely boring to read but the jumpers course on Sunday started with a tunnel. It was our first day in Ex. B, so competing against seasoned dogs and in one case a former world team member.

    I took DJ's leash off and he immediately sauntered into the tunnel. Slowly, yet so fast I couldn't get my bearings to figure out whether to call him back before he got past the start line.

    He mosied out and then went wide on a front cross. My fault since I had been sort of caught flat footed waiting for him to get out of the tunnel. Weaves could have been faster too.

    All in all our time was about 32.5 and the 4th place dog clocked in at 26.something.
    I have no pictures or video from the trial so the one here is from Virginia Beach.

    Thursday, January 22, 2009

    Tomorrow -- on trial!

    Cold this morning. Very cold, 47 degrees. Braved the beach however -- in bare feet no less.

    Not a good idea, the sand was tremendously chilly, particularly near the stairs. Ice sand spiked with sharp stabby shells.

    It did take some effort to roll out of bed and get dressed for that kind of thing but DJ and I got out of the house with almost everything we needed for a trip to the beach and then over to Lucky Dog, except for my wallet.

    Swung by home on the way to pick it up and we got there by about 7:05. The A-frame had been moved into a corner and the grass was encrusted with frost. Frost for dog's sake…

    I left Deej in the warm car while I moved everything and got the box set up on it and then hustled him in to run around for a minute and then get up and over. Nailed it every time, even moving top speed. Tried it for fun going the other way and he did get the contact.

    This weekend: 3 day trial. I think if I give him the cue as he leaps over the apex and point EMPHATICALLY in addition to giving him a collection cue before perhaps, we should be good.

    We'll rock it.

    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    Dog nails and A-frames

    Last night we trekked back to Lucky Dog to practice the A-frame. We'll go back tomorrow morning and hit it again. Not today though! Today is cooooooold.

    It was 37 degrees this morning when we got up. This is Florida, not Michigan. We're not prepared for this kind of treatment. 100 degree heat? 100 percent humidity? Bring it.
    Under 50? No thanks.

    That's a lie actually, hot weather is much worse than cold, though less painful.

    In any case, cold or not, today, I decided, was not an A-frame day. Need to just be patient. We have a 3 day trial this weekend and I don't want either of us to get burned out on it…plus I do want to be careful about how much I ask of him. He is the trying-est little guy, so smart and so happy to figure out what I'm trying to get him to do.

    Tuesday night, the night mentioned at the beginning of this post, DJ rocked the A-frame. And I cut off a piece of the rectangle. Just a foot or so, maybe more in the middle.

    At this point, its been a couple months, ok maybe just barely 2 months. And even less spent on the actual A-frame, I'm just not sure how long its supposed to take or how long it takes to get rid of the box, she doesn't really specify in the DVD.

    You can't win if you can't hit contacts, so hopefully – eventually -- all this work will pan out. Because…I like to win. Yes, yes its all very fun and a great day but really who goes to trials to lose?

    It’s always a long way to drive and a lot of money to watch your dog jump over your head as you point helplessly to the yellow paint.

    I don't blame Deej at all, just sucky dog training.

    Speaking of sucky dog training, day 2 of desensitization went well, in fact mission accomplished! I was able to hold his foot and touch the nail trimmer to a nail. A few times in fact. Now, I shall do that for a bunch more days, cursing my laziness and short-sightedness for not doing it 2 years ago.

    Next goal, put one nail in the clipper.

    Also, I would just like to say publically that the cordless Dremel is worthless and that is why I use a clipper. Still, and will until someone buys me a Dremel with a cord.

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Snips and snails and puppy dog nails

    If there is anything else preoccupying me right now its trimming dog nails. This may be the bane of my existence at the moment. Maybe not every dog, maybe not every nail, but the problem is that DJ does not like it. He's quite adamant about his distaste for the whole procedure.

    Thus far its been accomplished by wrangling and 2 to 3 people administering treats, restraining and cutting.

    No more. The line was drawn in the sand that we cannot continue on that path anymore, for one thing, no one wants to do it so the nails grow and grow and grow. Two weeks after one ordeal its as though it never happened, just long nails as far as the eye can see.

    I have made halfhearted attempts at desensitizing him to it. But gave up, because I am lazy and a Bad Dog Person and it seemed that every attempt was like trying to empty the ocean with a thimble.

    Now it is just time to get started. I have my thimble and I'm ready to go. Its what must be done. Our goal: touching one nail with the nail cutting device.

    Friday, January 16, 2009

    More blathering about A-frames

    This morning was agility! The A-frame was lowered because there was a puppy agility class the night before and I finally figured out a way to get it up by myself.

    I was quite proud. Deej had a few good runs and also leapt over the contact twice. Which made me not quite as proud.

    But still if he does it right every time we practice well what is the point really. I've been trying to impart the feeling that this is exactly what I don't want but I'm really not sure how to so I just say oops and we do it again, no chasing the snack bag and tugging and eating snacks. Just do over.

    He needs his nails trimmed something fierce. I've tried clicking and treating and going slow and such. He's just violently opposed to the idea of it. He used to be violently opposed to the idea of anyone touching his feet at all but now will shake with each hand.

    Because its such a pain in the ass I drag my feet about doing it, and they grow so fast! But must be done. Seriously, his nails look like he's never had them cut in his life and its been only three weeks.

    My mom's dogs went their whole lives without having their nails trimmed and they weren't nearly as bad, though Scooter did have one really long dewclaw, Madame Wu-style.

    Thursday, January 15, 2009

    The history of doing nothing

    No agility today…I figured I should give the dog a day off, he works a lot harder at it than I do and Rachel Sanders says don't practice the A-frame every day.

    So we're skipping today. I do like getting there at the crack of dawn though. Yesterday we got there right as the two gentlemen pulled up on their bicycles to vacuum the inside. They were very friendly, smiles and hellos all around. Deej was not friendly he barked and threatened.

    I love DJ, but I really want a dog that is well-socialized. Well you might say, that is entirely up to me -- maybe if I wasn't a sucky owner my dog would not be a maniac who threatens innocent bystanders.

    Very true but in my defense Deej came with his issues fully-formed. He came from a shelter, a nice no-kill shelter up the road from where we live. Lot of pit bulls there for whatever reason.

    I was pretty clueless when we got him. I thought pulling some Dog Whisperer-style shtick would show him what's what.

    That didn't work, (you mean imitating ridiculous shit you see on tv doesn't work?) he got worse and turned into an Exploding Dog.

    Every walk was a nightmare, he could barely get within eyesight of another dog without losing his mind. Much less walk by them. Kind of like the Tasmanian Devil in Bugs Bunny cartoons.

    I'm sure someone who knew anything about dog training could have had him shaped up in no time but I had to read books, I had to research and experiment. It was a problem because I had this idea that we were going to do agility so had to do it. Plus he was bonkers insane and needed exercise every day so just never letting him leave the house was out of the question.

    The first training class we tried was a "balanced" class where prong collars or chokes were required, dropped out after finding that out. Not My Thing.

    My parents got our golden retriever when I was about 10 with the plan that I would show her because she was That kind of dog, went to some training classes in a dark parking lot. The training was very advanced, tell the dog to down and then throw them over. Pretty much soured me on dog training for a long time. If yanking your dog around and tossing them on the ground is what it takes I'll take an untrained dog…but I digress.

    Finally found a positive trainer and went to her CGC class. Deej was very good kind of, by that point we'd been working on stuff though his self-control was still extremely low.

    He got his CGC somehow with flying colors despite the fact that he could barely stop barking at the people who tried to pet him in practice. Though he was by far the black sheep of the class, he did fine on the test. The other problem dog bit his owner on the face after failing so I was like, hey at least we're not them. Dunno what happened to them.

    Kinda neat how far we've come but at this point I just want a dog that likes other human beings, no questions asked. Luckily DJ loves agility and I think its really the reason why he's gotten so much better, he can actually work in a field with other loose dogs doing stuff. We can use the practice jump at trials. Its in unusual situations where he's already kind of stressed but not really stressed just a little on edge that he loses it and goes all nutty.

    It makes me feel good that he's doing so much better but its exhausting sometimes.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2009

    Full moon agility

    The beach was very cold this morning, like 50 degrees – or less! I walked barefoot and my feet were freezing, I had to stand in the surf to warm them up and then a strong wave rushed in and soaked my shorts.

    Very chilly. I had planned to walk for a few more minutes but kept getting paranoid about how deserted the beach was. At 6 am when we walked onto the beach it was still dark though the moon lit up the sand enough to see fairly clearly. DJ kept running into the dark line of mangroves and sea oats at the top of the beach. I always envision someone snatching him and running away or waiting for me to come looking for him. So I hollered at him every time he went near.

    Plus I kept hearing the leash knocking around which made me whirl around looking for someone behind me. I kept envisioning someone creeping up on me and being only inches from my unsuspecting back, in the dark on the deserted beach.

    Creeped out we turned around and headed back to the car. DJ warmed himself up by running, running, running and I trundled along.

    We headed over to Lucky Dog Sports Club to practice the A-frame again. It went well.

    The first time his striding was perfect, subsequently it really wasn't. We'll work on it again tomorrow and Friday, then I'm starting to fade the box by cutting out pieces.

    Tuesday, January 13, 2009


    My boyfriend / soon-to-be-husband-one-day, came with us to our last agility trial. His thoughts?
    Playboy will never do a ladies of agility issue, he said.

    Mean. Yet true.


    In the standard class in AKC, we need one more leg to get into excellent. I'm not really in a hurry, 2008 was our first year trialing and in jumpers with weaves we're only 1 leg away from finishing our excellent A title.

    We would have finished it long ago actually if I didn't occasionally kind of psych myself out about Not Being Ready to move up. But in standard, we've found ourselves bedeviled by one very very big problem. The A-frame. DJ had been ostensibly trained to do 2 on 2 off on the A-frame. Never really happened in trial, and rarely in practice but he was hitting the contact so I didn't really correct it. Naturally he started leaping over the contact. To the point where he seems to be convinced that the yellow is electrified or otherwise booby-trapped.

    You know how, like…everyone in the world says to have criteria and stick to it or else…that's probably why. I'm no dog training expert but yep, that makes sense...

    In November we started re-training using Rachel Sanders' method for running contacts. It's been going pretty well. At a fun run on Sunday, he did the A-frame perfectly, beautifully, 3 out of 4 times. At class on Monday, he did the A-frame perfectly 0 out of 6 times. This morning we traipsed over to the club at 6:45 for A-frame practice. And can look forward to many mornings (and evenings) of the same.

    For the past few weeks its been about 4 times a week of practicing but I think, maybe, to avoid the leaping over the contact in trial we'll practice a little more often.

    Monday, January 12, 2009

    How not to be a good and nice person

    So it turns out, if your dog runs out the exit of a ring at an agility trial and starts nipping the almost full-grown puppy playing right outside the exit like a maniac because the sight of squirmy submissive dogs makes him feel weird and wrong things…what one should NOT do is take said bad dog back to his kennel and hide in your tent crying for the rest of the afternoon.

    The correct response is to immediately see if the other dog is ok, apologize and turn yourself into the authorities – and possibly submit yourself to forced readings from Control Unleashed for the next 5 weeks. You must not pretend that nothing happened, wish yourself into a hole or just vanish from agility forever.

    If you're lucky well-socialized people may step in to help and understand if you are a total nincompoop who is mortified to speechlessness. Most times, in other situations, people are not very kind if faux pas' are made. Oh and faux pas' are made, yes they are.

    Sorry lady who will remain nameless for that incident at that place that will also be unnamed, in the unnamed venue. Thank you for being so nice, the next day, after you weren't so angry.

    Look at me blogging.

    I spend an inordinate amount of my time reading blogs. When I should be working, I'm reading blogs about agility.

    Just like people who love to read who think they should be novelists, I decided to become a blogger. And now look at me, all blogging and stuff. Whew.