Monday, December 29, 2008

Merry belated Christmas!

I know it's a bit late, but -- Merry Christmas everyone!

Ahem, Shadow, move over please, you're standing in front of Mika!

Offended, Shadow walks away to see if there are any more presents for her left under the tree.

Mika chewing a rawhide stick from my aunt.

After all the excitement is over, Mika then settles down in her crate.

Wall-e sleeping on/next to one of my gifts; the Clean Run Special Focus Issue -- Motivation, Drive, and Self-Control.

It was a great Christmas, and I love having no school for a couple of weeks, so I can spend all day with the dogs! Right now Mika and Wall-e are both sleeping, so I finally got a chance to write this post.

Today Wall-e is 7 months old. Wow, does time ever fly!


Saturday, December 27, 2008

Mika and Wall-e Agility Practice -- Dec 26, 08

Mika totally impressed me with how great she was working at a distance! She got almost everything right the first time! Wall-e was great too, having so much fun with his Sheepy Tug.

Hope everybody had a great Christmas, I'll post photos later.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Cute holiday photos

Wall-e's obedience class was cancelled on Sunday because of the weather. Since it's the Christmas holidays (finally!), no more classes until middle of January.

Somebody looks grumpy!

He kind of looks like he's constructing an evil plan!


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mika's weaves and distance skills

I'm really looking forward to next year! Lots of trialling with Mika, hopefully even more than this year (where we barely trialled for the first half of the year and then had a whole bunch of trials at the end of the year). In March we'll be competing in Advanced Gamblers -- Mika will have to work away from me at distances of around 15 feet. (In Masters it's 20 feet!!) Mika used to be a "Velcro dog", that is, she didn't like to work away from me. That changed this summer, when she started to be able to work more independently, and she Q'd in Starters Gamblers the first time we tried it (that was in September). She wasn't ready for the Advanced Gamblers distance at the time, but we've been doing quite a bit of distance work lately. I try to include distance in all the agility obstacle training we're doing in the backyard and basement. There's no room for sequencing, so we have to practice individual obstacles.

Lately Mika's weaves have been falling apart. The problem started at the CKC trial in October. There was a set of 6 poles after a 12" jump (Mika jumps 12" in CKC). Mika took the jump and then entered the poles at the second pole. I did a half-circle and took her back to the poles again. This time, she entered from the left side of the first pole (but that was a bit of my fault, because I was crowding her). So again, I did a half-circle and helped her get the entry a bit, and that time she got it.

The next time I knew there was a problem was in the November AAC trial. This was Mika's first time in Specials (10" jumps). She took the 10" before the weaves and entered correctly, with lots of speed through the poles, and then saw a 10" jump in front of her (the next obstacle on course after the weaves) and couldn't control herself to finish the last pole in the set of weaves -- she wanted to fly over that fun, low jump! I called her back from the jump and brought her around again to the weaves (although I should have just continued...) and told her to weave again. She entered at the left side of the first pole. So, I brought her back again, and this time she got it.

Last year, the popping and skipping problem was caused because I practiced 12 poles in the snow, which gave Mika a negative connection to the weaves because the snow was so cold on her pads. My reasoning for why we're having problems this year is because of how much more drive Mika has. The lower jumps at the trials increased her drive even more, and put her into what I sometimes call "GO mode" -- where she doesn't think and just wants to GO GO GO! That's exactly the drive I want, but it still caused the weave problem. I'm hoping that it's just temporary, and that once Mika gets used to being in Specials she'll get control over her "GO mode," but still keep her speed. And during trial season, I'll practice weaves EVERY day!

These weave problems happen every winter. Two years ago when I was teaching Mika weaves, they were stressing Mika because I wasn't training properly. Last winter it was popping out and skipping poles. This winter it's popping and ENTRIES! Yes, weave entries, I can't believe it. Mika, the weave entry expert! To fix this entry problem, a few weeks ago (before all the snow was here) I put three stick-in-the-ground poles in the backyard. Every day, whenever Mika goes outside to go to the bathroom, I send her through the three poles. It was the funniest thing, the first time Mika went through them; she's never worked only three poles before, and she hopped left, hopped right, and then hopped LEFT again, expecting more poles to be in front of her! She stopped for a split second, looking completely baffled, then in a smooth, flowing motion turned left and hopped through the poles in the opposite direction. What a silly little girl!

Up until now I've mostly been working on sending through these three poles, but we're going to start working on lateral distance.

What about the popping problem, you may ask? The thing is, there's no room to work 12 poles in our house (she doesn't pop out of 6 poles), and last winter when I tried to fix the popping problem in the backyard with the stick-in-the-ground poles in the snow (I didn't know then that the snow had caused the problem in the first place), I only made it worse because the snow was so cold on Mika's feet. So we'll wait until we can rent an arena to start working on the popping problem. I'm going to wait until spring, when the snow is melted and the field is open again, to seriously work on it. Although it should be better by then...after all, weave problems seem to be an off-season, winter thing!

Wow...sorry for my ramble...I didn't mean to make this post this long!!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Wall-e's second beginner obedience class

Another great class on Sunday!! Wall-e was focused and is really advancing quickly. His Sit Stays are great; sometimes I can lead out about 10 feet without him breaking. He often does break, though (he always wants to follow me!) so we're working on that. He can do Down without any hand signals now! Even if my hands are behind my back and I say "Down," he still lies down in a nice "sphynx down" (dropping into a down with front and back legs hitting the ground at the same time, without sitting first). His heeling is great too! I make sure to work him on my right side as often as on my left, because I don't want him to be "stuck" on one side. I want him to be comfortable working on both sides, because that's what he'll have to do in agility. It's hard to practice heeling at home since there's no area that's really wide enough, but we're going to try to practice heeling in the backyard next time, even though there's snow everywhere on the ground!

We also registered Wall-e for a set of beginner agility classes which start in February. It's at a great place that's really close, and they teach the obstacles the way I like. I'm so excited! I haven't taken group agility classes since fall of 2007 (with Mika of course). Mika can't do group classes because of her dog-reactive problem (especially around running dogs), but I love the atmosphere of group classes, and I can't wait to start them with Wall-e. :)


Saturday, December 13, 2008

Fun day!

This morning we went to visit Wall-e's breeder. He had so much fun seeing everything and everyone again, and playing with the dogs! He was "smiling" throughout the whole visit! Here's a quick photo of him with his gorgeous mom:

After the visit, we stopped by at an agility fun match, so Wall-e could get used to a competition-like atmosphere. He was so calm and attentive. I was a bit concerned that he'd be nervous from the noise of the teeter (that teeter is the noisiest teeter I've ever seen, it's actually the one Mika had her bad experience from last year), but he barely even noticed it! When the fast doggies were running, he looked at them, really interested, but all it took was a simple "Wall-e" from me and his head snapped around to look at me! We also practiced some flatwork on-leash while a couple dogs were running. Even with the distractions, he was doing brilliantly with his front crosses, and his rear crosses on the flat were just perfect. And I just started teaching him rear crosses this morning!!

Future agility star? Yup!


Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wall-e's vet appointment

Wall-e posing!

We went to the vet today for the little man's rabies vaccination. (Which he didn't end up getting, the vet said that we could wait a bit until he's more mature.) We discussed his crooked tooth, she said we can wait and see how it does. It hasn't grown at all in about a week, so it might not grow at all anymore. If it does grow any more, it'll probably be pulled.

Also we'll most likely castrate him when he's 13 months, unless he starts being influenced a lot by his hormones, and sniffing and getting distracted constantly, etc. If he does start to do that, we'll consider castrating him before 13 months.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mika and Wall-e video, Dec. 1 to 7

(I had originally chosen another song, but
I had to use a song from a selection of YouTube's pre-chosen non-copyrighted songs, because the song I'd originally put was copyrighted. That happens sometimes.)


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Mika's haircut and Wall-e's first obedience class

Mika got a haircut at the groomer's recently, I think it was on Wednesday. We had her beard cut shorter this time, since it's agility off-season (I like to keep it long during the season so that she'll look nice for her professional photos!). She looks so adorable with her shorter beard!

Snow on her nose, after sniffing a bit in the snow.

Poor girlie, she's cold with her shorter fur! Note that her tail is down, which she always does when she's freezing. But, she still wants to stay outside! (Which is unusual for her in the winter, usually she doesn't like being outside in the winter.)

Wall-e also had his very first beginner obedience class today! I expected to have to work hard to keep his attention -- but nope, he was completely focused on me for the whole class. He acted like a pro, and was definitely one of the stars of the class! When dogs in the class took turns (two at a time) for the heeling and loose leash exercises, and it wasn't our turn, he lay calmly in my lap, head resting on his paws. What a difference from Mika's quirks (barking like mad at the other dogs when it's not her turn)! Not that Mika isn't totally focused on me when it is her turn (she's always focused on me, 100%) but she wants to work so much and is so stimulated by dogs moving that she expresses her feelings with non-stop, piercing barks.

I still can hardly believe how focused and attentive Wall-e was during the class. Good boy!


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Another update on teeth

Well, Wall-e doesn't have "perfect teeth" anymore like the vet said a few weeks ago; his last adult tooth is coming in really crooked. Here's a photo:

The baby tooth is the longest one, and the adult tooth is the little one coming in. You can see how crooked it is!

We'll see the vet about it next week -- we have to go anyway for his rabies vaccination (mandatory for his beginner obedience class). We'll probably have it pulled when he gets castrated (neutered). We were going to get him castrated at thirteen months, but now we'll most likely have to castrate him sooner...not something we expected, but oh well, it's not the end of the world! We'll do whatever it takes to keep him comfortable and healthy.

On another note, I just realized that we've had Wall-e in our family for three weeks today! Wow. It seems like we've had him forever, but it also feels like we just got him, at the same time!