Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A year ago today

December 29, which is today, was the last day I blogged last year:

Click here

Wall-e looked so little! (He was 7 months old at the time.)

Reviewing foundation

We just finished doing a lot of foundation review. I set up a couple crates in the basement. that way, Mika and Wall-e could easily take turns.

We mostly did 101 things to do with a box. This was one of the very first things that I did with Wall-e when he came home as a 5 1/2 month old puppy. It was an awesome game for encouraging him to offer behaviours! We did so many shaping games during his initial foundation training that today, Wall-e is VERY operant. Especially with box-like objects...if he sees a box, laundry basket, etc. in the hallway, he'll immediately start interacting with it.

Anyway... The idea is that the dog should interact with a cardboard box (or any other object) and offer different behaviours. When you first start out, you should mark for any behaviours, even repeated ones. When I first started playing this game with Mika a couple years ago, because she wasn't very operant at the time, I marked simply for her looking in the direction of the box. It took many sessions, but finally she offered her first "real" behaviour -- scratching the side of the box with her paw! I can still remember how overjoyed I was. Now, she's very operant!

The biggest difference between Wall-e and Mika is that when I play shaping games with Mika, she'll bark incessantly throughout the entire session, barking louder and louder if she ever gets stuck on a behaviour! (I try not to let that happen :) Wall-e, on the other hand, doesn't make a peep except for an occasional woof if he gets stuck.

Back to today's session. (Why is it that I always get off track when blogging about training sessions?) When Mika had her turn with the 101 things to do with a box game, she didn't even see the box at first. She just got on her hind legs and barked and barked and barked! This dog has SO much attitude, but I love it!! I just inched closer and closer to the box until she finally saw it. Unlike Wall-e, who just jumps right in (literally!) and starts interacting with the object, Mika gradually increases her interaction. She started off by looking at the box, then beginning to sniff it, then pawing it, and eventually putting her two front feet inside. End of session, with a nice jackpot that I always give at the end of a session.

Wall-e had a good session too. First he jumped in the box, then immediately brought his front legs outside of the box and put them on the carpet, keeping his back feet in the box. It was a sort of "2on2off." He did this so fast that he really just had all four feet in the box for a split second before bringing his front feet out and landing them on the carpet.
I'm not surprised that the first behaviour he offered was 2o2o...Wall-e loves 2o2o and is generalizing it to everything now! (Aha, Success!) He really liked this behaviour and kept offering it over and over. But when I paused to let him offer a different behaviour, he pulled his front legs back into the box. He offered that a couple more times, and then we ended the session. He looked really cute standing or sitting in that little box (well, fairly little).

Actually, I was using a Clean Run box, that my new books came in! I got 3 books from CR for Christmas: Dogged Pursuit, Control Unleashed (the book, not the DVD), and Canine Massage in Plain English. I'm about a third-way through Dogged Pursuit and it's hilarious!

Also just realized that Wall-e is 19 months old today. Wow.

~Nat

Monday, December 28, 2009

Teeter fun!

We haven't trained the teeter for a while, since the fun match in November actually. So I took out my mini teeter (which is actually a TDAA-regulation steel teeter, I love it!!) yesterday. Mika and Wall-e had lots of fun playing the bang games.

This morning I refreshed Wall-e's 4-on wait on the teeter, as he's been leaving the teeter just a bit early in past months. Not enough to be called a fly-off by most judges, but some of the stricter judges might call it. Wall-e is actually generalizing the 2on2off behaviour on the end of the teeter... Hmm, interesting and good to see that he's generalizing, but gotta work on that because a 2o2o isn't part of his teeter criteria.

He actually had a real sliding teeter on one rep :O He's too small to slide on a full-size teeter, but it did look pretty cool on this one.

After Wall-e's short session, Mika got to join in and they played some more bang games. Woohoo, gotta love teeter-crazy dogs!

~Nat

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Wall-e: plans for the future

I've been making a lot of plans about Wall-e's trialing career. I'm pretty excited to start trialing him, but I'm also a very cautious person in that I really have to think things through before making a decision. That's why Mika was 3 years old when we started trialing -- I wasn't even THINKING about trialing before a few people convinced me that we actually were ready!

I'd like to run Wall-e at Regionals in May 2011 because I'll probably be running Mika (assuming Nationals will be held closer to us in 2011), and I might as well run Wall-e too since we're driving all that way.

So if I want Wall-e to be ready for Regionals (though I don't expect him to qualify for Nationals because he'll barely be 3 years old), I'll have to:

1. put his 2o2o on the full DW and AF
2. train Masters courses and sequences during 2010
3. start trialing

Yep, get ready for some more over-planning, as usual... :)

1. put his 2on2off on the full DW and AF - Right now he has a very nice 2o2o on the plank in the backyard, which is at a 1 foot incline. Before the field opens I'll have to raise it up to 2 feet, so that I can backchain his 2o2o on the contacts.

2. train Masters courses and sequences during 2010
- I don't think he'll really have a problem with the Masters courses. He's pretty good at tough sequences, as long as I handle him half-decently!

3. start trialing
- My current plan is for Wall-e's very first trial to be outdoors in September 2010. He'll be 2 years old, about 27 months to be precise. Hopefully it won't be too hot then, and we'll have had the whole summer to train. Then, if all goes well, he'll likely be able to do a couple indoor trials in October.

I want Wall-e to run at full speed consistently, so I don't want to do anything to take his drive away. I want him to know that he should just let loose and RUN, like he does when he chases cars in the backyard! At trials I'll be doing the same thing as I do with Mika -- never correct for mistakes. If he makes a mistake on course, I'll ignore it and continue, but make sure to spend extra time training that skill during training.

I'm looking forward to trialing "the W" -- he's going to be a lot of fun, that's for sure!

~Nat

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas decorating -- LOTS of it


This house is in the neighbourhood of my grandparents' house. It's impressive! The people living there decorate the house this way every Christmas. It's awesome to see year after year.

Yes...sleeping...again

"Um...hello, I'm trying to sleep here!"



(I guess I've kind of been going overboard with the sleeping pictures lately...but my dogs are cute when they sleep!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas 2009

True to European traditions, we began our Christmas celebrations on Christmas Eve, yesterday. We all gathered in the living room, including Mika, Wall-e, and Shadow the cat of course!


Wall-e just can't wait to get started


Shadow wants to eat the whole bag!


Peeking in somebody else's gift bag


"FINALLY, we get OUR stuff!"


All eyes on the treats


Aaand, the celebrations and excitement is over...time to sleep.



Hope you're all enjoying a great Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Training Levels -- Level 2 homework

I can't believe I'm actually doing the homework :)

I'm just giving the very simple definitions and explanations.

Definitions of "reinforcement" and "punishment":

reinforcement -- strengthens the behaviour
punishment -- weakens the behaviour

Four "legs" of operant conditioning:

1. Positive reinforcement: a reward is given (ex. giving a treat)
2. Negative reinforcement: a correction is removed (ex. releasing the pressure of an ear pinch)
3. Positive punishment: a correction is given (ex. yanking the collar)
4. Negative punishment: a reward is removed (ex. crating the dog for a broken start-line stay, therefore the reward of agility is taken away)

List of tricks

On the forum that I help moderate, there was a thread with a poll asking how many tricks your dog knows (not including the basic obedience cues like sit, down, etc.). I didn't really know, so I thought I'd count. I'll try to post as many tricks as I can remember, but I'm probably forgetting a few. These are in no specific order. They might give some ideas for anyone trying to think of a new trick to teach -- I know I'm always eager for new ideas!

Mika


1. Are you crazy? (barking/spinning in circles)
2. Take a bow
3.
Front
4.
Finish
5. Wave
6. High five
7. High ten
8. Kiss
9. Drop it
10. Touch (nose touch to my hand)
11. Bang! (play dead)
12. Push (tap doors, drawers, objects, etc. with paw)
13. Bell (tap a bell with paw)
14. Paw
15. Other paw
16. Spot (2o2o position on any object)
17. Are you a person? (stand on hind legs)
18. Right (spin right)
19. Left (spin left)
20. Are you happy? (wag tail)
21. run around a barrel
22. yawn
23. balance treat on nose and catch it
24. Fetch the paper (newspaper)
25. Find the remote
26. Fetch ___ (whatever toy I name)
27. Pick a card (from a deck)
28. jump over my stomach (while I'm in the "crab" position)
29. pull on harness (pulling a bag, basket, etc.)
30. Soccer (push a ball with nose)
31. put a toy in a basket
32. Shame (hide head under a pillow on a chair)
33. Want supper? (sit on chair with paws on table)
34. Up (jump into my arms)
35. Dance (bounce in circles on hind legs)
36. Wait (stop on cue)
37. Get in your kennel
38. Pillow (race over to the nearest dog bed and lie down)
39. Start (go between my legs and sit)
40. Arm (put front legs on my arm)
41. back up into 2on2off on a low object (like a book)
42. Target (with paw)
43. run between my legs
44. hold an item in mouth
45.
Give (drop item she's holding into my hand)
46. Watch them (look at the nearest person)
47. Under (go under my raised leg)
48. jump in a box, basket, etc.
49. put front paws on an object
50.
Scratch me (with her paw)
51. Figure eight
52. Where's ___ (whatever person I name)
53. Off (jump off whatever she's on, a couch for example)
54.
Leave it
55. go in the general direction I point in
56. pick up a pen that I've dropped and give it to me
57. Side
58. Check (look at me)
59. jump on or in n object
60. jump over my leg
61. jump over my arm
62. jump through my arms

Tricks in progress: backing up, jumping over my back

Wall-e

1.
Front
2.
Finish
3. Wave
4. Kiss
5. Drop it
6. Touch (nose touch to my hand or target)
7. Push (tap doors, drawers, objects, etc. with paw)
8. Bell (tap a bell with paw)
9. Paw (shake right paw)
10. Shake (shake left paw)
11. Spot (2o2o position on any object)
12. Are you a person? (stand on hind legs)
13. Right (spin right)
14. Left (spin left)
15. run around a barrel
16. Shame (hide head under a pillow on a chair)
17. Want supper? (sit on chair with paws on table)
18. Up (jump into my lap as I'm sitting down)
19. Get in your kennel
20. Pillow (race over to the nearest dog bed and lie down)
21. Start (go between my legs and sit)
22. Arm (put front legs on my arm)
23. back up into 2on2off on a low object or almost-vertical board
24. run between my legs
25.
Give (drop item he's holding into my hand)
26.
Watch them (look at the nearest person)
27. jump in a box, basket, etc.
28. put front paws on an object
29.
Scratch me (with his paw)
30. Figure eight
31. Off (jump off whatever he's on)
32.
Leave it
33. Side
34. Check (look at me)
35. jump on or in an object
36. jump over my leg
37. speak
38. Scoot (back up)
39. Jump (in the air)
40. weave through my legs
41.
snap at the air
42. perch
43. push ball with front legs while walking on hind legs

Tricks in progress: fetching a tissue when I sneeze, handstand

Monday, December 21, 2009

Sleepy...


Finally sleeping ;) Wall-e likes his privacy.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Heeling "the Silvia way"

Wall-e loves heeling!! He has the cutest little prance and flings his front feet up high as he trots beside me. I was re-reading Silvia Trkman's page (for the thousandth time!) about tricks on her site. The parts about training the "prancing" kind of heeling, where the dog lifts his/her legs up really high while heeling, inspired me to do some more heeling with The W. He already has a nice prance, but he could lift his legs up even higher. I did as Silvia suggested, slowing down my pace, then marking and rewarding when he slows down and lifts his legs up higher as he does so. He's such a cute little guy. He has this intense stare as he heels.

~Nat

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Zen

Quick update on the Training Levels that we're working through. We've been working on Zen a lot lately, every day. Zen is training for self-control -- basically, you start off by holding a treat in your closed fist and waiting until the dog stops licking your fist, scratching at it, nudging it, etc. and either just stares at it or looks away. I've worked Zen before with both my dogs, but they haven't done it in so long that it's a good thing to refresh.

~Nat

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Fun match Dec. 12, 2009 video

LOL! She goes into 2on2off on the table!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Worried Wall-e

We went to a fun match on Saturday. Wall-e was super happy at first, bouncing around inside the arena as we waited around. Then the snow slid off the roof of the arena (pictured above), making a big noise. Wall-e's heard that noise before when we trained at this arena last year, so although he skittered away, he came back to me to bop my hand with his nose and took the reward I offered. But then right after, the snow slid off again. And then again. Wall-e must have thought the sky was falling or something. He was in complete panic, TERRIFIED, and started shaking.

After that, I left the arena and went back to the car to let him recover. After a few minutes, I headed outside and was going to shape him to walk over to the arena, but I wasn't planning on actually going inside in case the snow fell off again. Going back and forth from the car to the arena, I shaped him to go to the front door of the arena, relieving the pressure each time by letting him go back to the car.

Then the snow slid off the arena again, just when we happened to be close by. Wall-e freaked out, just like before. I let him go in the car again.

But when I tried getting him out for more shaping later on, he wouldn't even take a step closer to the arena. He was scared to death...I've never, ever seen him like that before.


Poor guy. He didn't even want to say hi to the other dogs, which is so unlike him. He just lay in the car for almost the entire fun match. As much as I felt sorry for him, I had to stay cheerful around him since he's so sensitive to the tone of my voice.

Major deja vu how this is almost EXACTLY what happened with Mika at a fun match at this same venue, two and a half years ago. (Not that I don't like the venue -- I do!) Except with Mika it was the bang of the teeter, and the problem had started a week before when we went to practice for the fun match. Still, it's uncanny how alike the situations are.

Like Wall-e, Mika didn't even want to go near the arena. I ended up carrying her in. I made a mistake by technically forcing her to go inside when she didn't feel comfortable...I definitely didn't want to do that with Wall-e. At least I've been through this kind of thing before, so I know what to do now with Wall-e.

We haven't done any agility since the fun match because it's our break from agility for a couple weeks that I mentioned last Wednesday. I'm hoping that Wall-e hasn't generalized the bad experience at the fun match to agility in general. With Mika, years ago, she didn't even want to go over a jump at home after her bad experience. But then again, Mika generalizes almost everything, and Wall-e isn't too good at generalizing. I guess that's a good thing in this case!

It probably won't end up to be a big problem (-knock on wood-) since we don't go to any other venues that are dome arenas, other than this one. I feel bad that Wall-e was so terrified, though!

(I'll talk about Mika's runs in a later post. She had a blast though and gave me some good laughs!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Training Levels -- Level 1 homework

I found out about the Training Levels Yahoo group from Kathy. It's really cool! I'm using it to refresh on the dogs' foundation this winter.

One of the things we have to do for the Level One test is homework -- the person has to write "five things that s/he hopes to accomplish by working the Levels." I thought that, since I'll be writing it down anyway, I might as well share on my blog.

So, here's my homework for the Level One test (I'm testing both dogs). What I'd like to accomplish by working the levels:

1. refresh their foundation (which I already said ;) and manners
2. improve Wall-e's self-control
3. improve distance skills with both dogs
4. start contact re-training
5. generalize more behaviours

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What we've been up to

Well, to be honest, we have done any agility since last week (that video that I posted). Unless you count Mika and Wall-e going into 2o2o position on the plank every time we go in the backyard, hoping for treats :)

Starting this winter, I'll be giving my dogs at least a month's break from any kind of agility, once a year. Our 5-week agility break begins this coming Saturday, and lasts until the next fun match in January. We'll use those 5 weeks to work on other things like tricks, and just basically relax.

Speaking of tricks, I started teaching Wall-e a couple yesterday! I started teaching him how to do a handstand, using the method we found on Ricky's blog
. He was actually doing really good and I had him backing up about 12" onto the ironing board (which I'm using for the "plank"). The ironing board was raised about a foot and a half off the ground. I'll raise the board slowly, so that he can build his front end and back muscles safely and won't strain his body too much by doing a handstand. I won't get him to stay in a handstand for very long at all, anyway.

I also started teaching him the "get-a-tissue-when-I-sneeze" trick. Actually, I started teaching it by accident! I was going to teach him how to walk in backward circles around my body. The method I was going to use involved teaching the dog to do backward circles around an object before going around a person.

So, I grabbed the nearest object -- a tissue box. Immediately Wall-e started interacting with the box, thinking that we were playing a shaping game! He tapped it with his front paw, touched his nose to it, and did other goofy behaviours. As I was laughing, he started ripping the tissue that was sticking out of the box. Right away I thought, "Aha! I have a trick!" and I started shaping the trick.

First I clicked for a grab of the tissue, then a pull, then pulling it completely out of the box. After a few minutes, I could hold him by the collar, say "Achoo!" and release him to grab a tissue out of the box. The next step will be to shape him to bring the tissue back to me!

~Nat

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mika and Wall-e's new stuffies

My grandparents came over today and brought a set of four dog stuffies for Mika and Wall-e!


I should have bent down to Mika's level to take this photo, oh well, still cute!!



Friday, December 4, 2009

Wall-e's a big boy now!

As of November 29, 2009, Wall-e is old enough to trial, since he turned 18 months old on that date.

I've been asked quite a few times when Wall-e is going to start trialing :) The answer is...well, I don't really know! I do know that I'd like him to gain some more drive before trialing him. His focus is definitely good enough for a trial, though, he has awesome focus!! (maybe even too much, at times :) he needs a bit more obstacle focus)

He hasn't tried running a full course yet, although I'm sure that he could run a Starters Jumpers course clean and probably an Advanced Jumpers, too. His dog walk and A-frame training hasn't been completed yet, so it'll be a while before he could run any courses with contacts.

I like taking it slow with my dogs when it comes to trialing. I didn't trial Mika until she was 3 years old even though we'd been doing agility since she was 11 months. I might end up trialing Wall-e in 2011, when I'm 110% sure that he's ready!

~Nat

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Monday, November 30, 2009

First snow

Nope...we couldn't put it off for longer...we have snow! Only a bit, but it's still snow!


Mika wearing her "favourite" sweater. Her and Wall-e actually like the snow (for now!). and like always, they ran back and forth from the weaves to the plank trying to get me to reward them. (I love having operant dogs who offer behaviours relentlessly!)


Wall-e looks so clean here..


...Buuut that didn't last long. We might have a bit of snow, but all the wetness turned the dirt into mud!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wall-e growing up

6 months


7 months


8 months


9 months


10 months


11 months

I was looking through photos today and realized that I never posted these photos that we took every month of Wall-e's puppyhood that he spent with us. (Never took the 12 month photo because that was around the hectic time of Regionals, but there wasn't much change between 11 and 12 months anyway!) I didn't stack or groom him the best, but oh well, that's not really the point of the photos anyway ;)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

AAC trials Oct. - Nov. 2009

I told you I'd put videos of our runs up...eventually! ;) Here they are.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fun match Nov. 21, 2009

Fun match yesterday, woohoo! It was tons of fun -- great to be able to do actual agility again, not just individual obstacles and short exercises (all that fits in our backyard and basement).

Each dog did one Starters Standard and one Starters Gamblers (there's no way I'd be able to memorize two different courses on the same setup which is why I ran Starters with Mika -- and also to give her a break from all the tough technical courses we've run together all year).

Mika

Starters Standard
I thought Mika was fast before...but this was really fast! I was a bit concerned that she'd have flashbacks from "THE Bad Experience" (on the teeter). That was two and a half years ago at our first ever fun match on April 1, 2007. This is Mika's first fun match at this venue since then. But no, she wasn't worried! Yay, what a brave girlie, and such a huge change from our first fun match those years ago!!

Starters Gamblers
Started off with the weaves (straight on entry), with she got, fast and accurate. I threw her food tube a LOT in this run since Gamblers isn't very flowing. We got the gamble -- chute, tire, jump, in a straight line -- perfectly. It was fun!

Wall-e

Starters Standard
He got the chute right away! He's been having some trouble with new chutes in different environments, but he did this brand-new chute that he's never been in before the first time! Rewarded a lot for that. Aaand...he got his WEAVES!!

Starters Gamblers
Started with the weaves (like Mika), which he got! Then we were going to do the mini gamble. Hahaha, Wall-e did it harder than it was supposed to be. There was a jump, then ahead, two jumps beside each other parallel to the first jump (set so that the dog had a choice of which jump to take), and then a tunnel under the A-frame. The Starters mini gamble was jump, then the jump closer to the handler. Simple. But WALL-E took the first jump, then from the two jumps beside each other he took the jump farther away from me, and then ran into the tunnel! HA! Wow. What a Gamblers dog. Even in the main gamble, I meant for him to do the chute but he ran out farther away and did a jump on the other side of the chute! I used my opposite arm to pull him in to me (which he responded to immediately) and he did the chute. He really prefers to work far away from me rather than close to me.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sleeping photos

Mika sleeping in the sun


Wall-e sleeps in the strangest places

Monday, November 16, 2009

No Regionals/Nationals for us in 2010

Next year the AAC Nationals will be held in Alberta, at Spruce Meadows, where the very first AAC Nationals were held. Sadly we won't be able to go next year -- Alberta is a bit too far. Hopefully we'll be able to go in 2011, assuming that Nationals will be held a bit closer that year. Watching some USDAA Nationals/Cynosport runs the previous few days, on livestream and YouTube (wish we could have actually been there!), brought back great memories of our AAC Regionals and Nationals! Congrats to everyone at the USDAA Nationals, from what I saw it looked like a great event!

~Nat

Saturday, November 14, 2009

It's a tough job...

Finally, after endlessly running from window to window trying to "herd" the kids playing outside (which he would literally do all day if I let him), I took Wall-e down to the basement so he could finally sleep.


I'll bet he's dreaming of chasing his "sheep."

(About all of the layout changes...I'm hoping that this will be the last one, I was having trouble deciding, as you probably noticed :)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Happy "Gotcha Day," little man

One year ago I picked up Wall-e, then a 5 1/2 month old puppy, from his breeder. A lot has happened since that evening, and this sheltie has given me so much joy and fun. I've learned so much from him, and I'm sure I'll learn much more. Wall-e is exactly what I was looking for in a second dog. He's so eager, and always so happy, and has lots of drive, but has still provided challenges (which are one of my favourite aspects of dog training). What a great little dog! I can't believe it's been a whole year -- it's passed by incredibly fast. I hope there will be many more years to come with the Wall-e!

Celebrating his 1st Gotcha Day by having fun with his favourite obstacle, the weaves.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wall-e's Weave entries -- time to refresh

Wall-e was having a bit of trouble with weave entries today. Usually he's good at them but today he missed two or three mild entries (entered at the 2nd pole). The nails are probably frozen in the ground by now so I can't set them back up in channels or 2x2's, but I can still work the first 3 poles by marking the entry with a "Yes!" and then say "Come!" to call him out of the poles and reward. We'll work the entries around the clock this way, a few reps every day.

That could be good for Mika too, considering that her entries need as much work as Wall-e's. You can probably tell that I'm not the best at training entries :) We all have weaknesses, but they give us opportunities to turn them into strengths!

~Nat

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wall-e's 2on2off training

Wall-e has been learning 2on2off on the plank in the backyard -- woohoo, I'm staying on track with our winter goals :) I used shaping to train the position, which worked well for him. Right now he can run across the flat plank and stop in 2o2o while barely collecting himself (which is what I want, because it means that it'll help him ease into a running contact eventually). Pretty often, though, he either stops short and stops in a 4-on position, or doesn't stop at all, so he probably doesn't understand the position as well as I thought. Back to basics -- this morning, I began backchaining the 2o2o position again, jumping onto the side of the plank from the ground, which a jump standard on either side to help him. He did really good, and I was already seeing improvement by the end of the 3-minute-or-so session.

~Nat

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The off-season...now what?

Our club's training field closed last week, so it's now our "off-season" until it opens again in April. We have no trials until March, only fun matches. So the winter gives us a good chance to work on individual skills!

I remember last off-season my main focuses were preparing Mika for Regionals and Wall-e's foundation training (which both paid off!!). I remember that Mika didn't even know rear crosses last year, that was one thing we trained during the winter. Ha! I wouldn't be able to survive without rear crosses now, she's gotten so much more speed!

This winter my focuses are:

Mika

- Refresh her 2on2off training. Since she's been missing most of her contacts lately (except at our last run where she hit both dog walk contacts and the A-frame!!), I've decided to train a 2o2o on the DW and AF, but only for a couple weeks. Then we'll go back to running. Her 2o2o is awesome on the stairs and on the plank right now, hoping that it'll transfer nicely to the "real" contacts!

-
Weave entries. We'll be working on tough weave entries with 6 poles in the basement. She's pretty good at the medium-hard ones, but once they start getting more severe she enters at the 2nd or 3rd pole.

Wall-e

- Finish training his 2on2off. This is actually going pretty good. He can do 2o2o on the plank at speed. I'd like to add a nose touch to it though to help him get his focus off of me.

- Perfect his weaves. Great news! -- WALL-E WEAVES!! He's obsessive about it, too. Whenever I go in the backyard he runs over to me, leaps in the air in traditional Wall-e style, runs over to the weaves, and starts weaving. Crazy dog. They're his favourite obstacle now! He has nice entries, which the 2x2 training helped a lot. The only thing is that he skips poles at the end when he gets really excited (like when I'm using Nature's Variety raw food as a reward!)

Contacts and weaves. We'll refresh foundation training too. Not a lot to work on, and nothing really "crucial" this time (unlike last off-season when I was preparing Mika for Regionals). I plan to teach them a lot more tricks and just have fun with training.
Although I'm sure I'll start REALLY missing running sequences and courses soon (since I have a small yard) it'll be a nice winter!

~Nat

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Photos, Crate criteria

Yes, this is Mika's crate criteria! She has to have at least her two back paws in the crate. When we started playing Crate Games last winter this is what she offered me, and I didn't want to correct her (I never correct Mika), so this is what she's allowed to do. She doesn't try to go farther than this anyway before I release her. In this photo I didn't even tell her to go in the crate -- she went in on her own.

No photo of Wall-e's crate criteria, but he has to have his whole body in the crate, and no part of it can stick out, including his head. He's not soft like Mika so he can learn with corrections (by corrections I mean closing the crate door if he sticks his head out, nothing else).

How about Shadow? Well, in her view, her crate criteria is "get out as fast as I can, hissing and scratching!" To Shadow, a crate = going to the vet and suffering the disgrace of a checkup.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

AAC trial Nov. 6, 2009

Last trial of the year...

Advanced Gamblers
Kept the opening as flowing as possible, with only one or two tight turns. (Hard to plan a Gamblers opening.) At the beginning, I led out and called her over the first jump and the teeter right after, then headed over to the mini (a simple jump-to-tunnel). At first I accidentally pulled her off the tunnel opening but then she ran in a loop back to me, and I flipped her out to the correct opening. After that we did a couple jumps, then the dog walk (she hit the yellow!), over a jump, back over, then the DW again (she hit it AGAIN!). Then we did the tunnel again -- watching the video (which I'll post eventually :) I realized that I handled her at a 15' without even meaning to, it just came naturally, I sent her into the tunnel and then as she raced over to the opening I ran to the next jump to get in position. Wow. The buzzer rang soon after and we headed over to the main gamble: the A-frame, then a tire right after it in a straight line, then a tire then curved away from the gambling line. the handlers had to pull their dogs in after the tire and then send them back out to the jump, which was about 15' away from the line and kind of both a lateral and linear send. So the buzzer rang, and I sent Mika over the A-frame. She's been missing the A-frame contacts at the past few trials (then again we haven't trained the AF since September), so was I ever surprised when she got the AF contact at a distance! And a really nice hit too, all four paws in the yellow!! She zoomed through the tire, and I pulled her back to me, then sent her to the last jump. She ran over with no hesitation, and we were done! A great run, really fun, and got ALL THREE of the DW and AF contacts that we did! our final Adv. Gamblers Q, which means that we'll be in Masters Gamblers next year.

It's been an awesome year of trialing. Mika's drive and speed has increased a TON since last year, and she's having a lot more fun. Our first Regionals and Nationals were very memorable experiences too. I'm very proud of Mika. We have no more trials until March, which will give her body and mind a well-deserved break. Both her and Wall-e have four fun matches this winter, (one each month November to February), but I'll be running Mika in Starters which I'm sure she'll LOVE. What an amazing girl, she deserves to run on some nice flowing courses!!

~Nat

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My girl and my boy

Today's post on Susan Garrett's blog was about preferences for either male or female dogs. I'm not the best person to give an opinion seeing that I've only ever had two dogs, but I found it interesting to read all the comments and thought that I'd give me own experience.

Keep in mind that Mika was spayed at 7 months and Wall-e is intact.

Mika is not "moody," but she does have different moods. Sometimes she'll be in my favourite mood -- happy, cheerful, with her smile that I love, perking up when I look at her, following me around eagerly -- and sometimes she'll wander around aimlessly. She's not always cheerful like Wall-e is, although she can almost always go into a cheerful mood when I give her "Ready" cue (which means that it's time to train). A lot of people who commented on Susan's blog said that their males were more attached to them than their females, but that's not the case at all with Mika...she's very attached to me. Hard to say if she's more attached to me than Wall-e, but she shows it differently. She'll snuggle up beside me and we'll lie together on the couch or bed, she'll come up to me for attention and pets, and she actually stresses if I give attention to Wall-e and not to her. Wall-e prefers to keep his distance and likes his own space, although he loves it when I give him attention. (Although only verbal attention in his case, unlike Mika, who loves both verbal and physical attention.)

I do agree (with the blog) that my female is more sensitive than my male. Mika is very soft and sensitive, always wants to do the right thing, and worries easily. while Wall-e is slightly sensitive but not at all soft. Although I am completely positive in all my training with both my dogs, I don't have to worry as much with Wall-e. If a mistake is made, he can take re-do's without any loss in enthusiasm, although the only time I've ever done re-do's with Wall-e is with weave training (which, by the way, is going VERY well!).

So which do I prefer, boys or girls? I don't think I can really say right now because I haven't had enough experience (and it's hard to compare because my dogs are completely different breeds), but I'm sure that I'll develop an opinion in the future!

~Nat

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy Halloween!


"Happy Halloween!"


This was a pumpkin at the outdoor museum/farm that actually grew through the wagon wheel into a "head" on the other side!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

AAC trial Oct. 30, 2009

Happy Halloween!

We had a good trial yesterday, just did two Masters Standard. I'll write very quick descriptions:

Masters Standard
Missed the A-frame contact again, oh well -- she had more speed than usual on the whole AF, and really drove onto it. had one off-course to a tunnel (but then again, a lot of dogs had off-courses to tunnels in this course). Fun course and I used a lot of rear crosses! Nice teeter too!

Masters Standard
Mika loved the beginning of this course. Three jumps taken in a straight line, then a slight turn onto the teeter. She zoomed over the first three jumps. Missed DW contact.

~Nat

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Joint supplements

I've been thinking of starting Mika on a joint supplement. She's getting closer to middle-aged and her conformation isn't as good for agility as Wall-e's is. I've been considering Sashas Blend -- they say it's natural, and I've heard lots of great recommendations on it. I haven't looked into it a lot though. Right now Mika and Wall-e get a fish oil capsule once or twice a week, and digestive enzymes at one meal every day, but no kind of joint supplements.

Does anybody who's reading this use any joint supplements?

~Nat

Monday, October 26, 2009

AAC trial Oct. 25, 2009

Haven't written in a while. Not much has been happening her, until our amazing trial yesterday! (I know I always say that, but this trial was pretty great!) I'll make the video later, I'll just write some quick descriptions of the runs for now.

Mika's excitement, drive, and speed at trials keeps getting better and better! -knock on wood- :) We tried a change in our warm-up routine at this trial -- instead of bringing Mika in about 15 minutes before her run so that I can warm her up, she's warmed up about half an hour before, put back in the car, and stays there until there are about 5 dogs left, which is when I get her out and bring her in. She stresses if she has to wait too long, so this warm-up routine works a lot better for her (which resulted in more exciting runs). We'll be keeping this change in our routine for future trials!

Masters Jumpers
We hadn't done any agility in over a week (I like to rest my dogs' bodies once in a while) so she was super excited, taking lots of off-courses, CRAZY!

Masters Standard
AWESOME teeter, raced right to the end. We faced a couple tunnel/A-frame discriminations but got them both right -- Mika's actually really good with contact/tunnel descriminations, she knows her verbal cues well. Ran this entire course fast and clean, and I actually thought we had her Masters Standard title (it would have been the 3rd and final Q) but turns out she missed the AF contact! Oh well, I LOVED this run and I don't mind at all that we didn't get the title this time. It was just a ton of fun!!

Masters Standard
Hahaha this dog is nuts. :D A similar run to Jumpers in that we had lots of off-courses! She actually grunted/huffed through the weaves, something she's done at home when she's super-excited, but she's at a trial before.

~Nat

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A few backyard photos


Eagerly waiting for me to say the magic word to release her out of the stay




Waiting for cars to chase, as always!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Current Tricks in progress

Mika and Wall-e have both been learning to back up onto a book. I've tried teaching this to Wall-e before without much success (he would back up until the back of his hind legs touched the book, then stop). Then I read the Clean Run article ("Tricks for Agility" I think, by Sassie Joiris) in the October 2009 issue and it helped a lot.

I tried it with Wall-e first and after 5 minutes he could back up and step onto the book about half the time (the other half he would miss and back up over it without stepping on it).

Mika actually did incredible with shaping this trick. She's not a thinker and gets "stuck" easily (when she doesn't know what to do she'll lie down or sit and stare at me). But she only got stuck ONCE in this 5-minute session! By the end of the 5 minutes she was backing up onto the book every time. She barked through the entire 5 minutes, hahaha!

Another trick I've been teaching them both is weaving between my legs while I'm walking (harder for me than the dogs, especially since Mika want to zoom as fast as she can!). At this point Mika can weave through my legs as I take two steps...if she can concentrate on the trick while still barking her head off, that is! :) This dog is crazy, but I LOVE it. Wall-e's learning this trick too. He can go through my legs when I take one step. (I started teaching Mika this trick before I got Wall-e, but never finished.)

They've also both learned how to run around a barrel. I didn't even have to teach them -- with Mika I just pointed to the barrel and said "Gogogogogo" (a general cue for just about anything that involved running) and she raced around it. Then I increased my distance from the barrel. And Wall-e? He learned by watching Mika, and I could send him around the barrel at a distance right away! They can both send to it from 20 feet now.

So much fun teaching tricks. We'll be doing a lot more in the winter during the 5 months of no agility.

~Nat

Friday, October 16, 2009

Training at the field

Went to the field today for the third day in a row (although only Mika went on Wednesday and only Wall-e went yesterday -- today both dogs got to go).

With Mika I did the dog walk (with a pool noodle 30" from the edge of the DW) twice, and she had a REALLY nice hit, right at the bottom. Then we ran part of the same sequence that we ran on her birthday, as well as another very flowing sequence that I made up quickly. I should really be working on harder sequences, but I love seeing her soaring with no hesitation. She was nuts today, taking a couple off-course jumps in the new sequence I made up today (that's no surprise!) and having fun.

Wall-e's turn next! I also did the dog walk first. I haven't talked about his running DW contacts in a while...well, the pool noodle stride regulators weren't the best because he didn't hit deep enough in the yellow. Since then we've experimented with a few more methods but none of them seemed to work. Wall-e learned how to nose touch a target as part of his foundation training, and earlier this week I put his nose touch at the stairs in the basement, simulating a contact obstacle. He had this amazing nose touch -- I would start him standing at the last step, say "Touch!" and he would quickly leap forward to go in the 2on2off position and do a hard nose touch to the target. So yesterday I decided to try putting his 2o2o with a nose touch on the DW, thinking that it might help him graduate to running contacts. Even though I backchained it, he was confused and didn't know how to collect himself to get into 2o2o. And although he was having fun, he didn't have the same absolute joy that he has when he runs the contact. I put away that idea for now, although I might have to go back to it next year depending on how his running contact training is going.

Mika and Wall-e will be doing several fun matches this winter, and I'd like Wall-e to get experience on different contacts, so I want to use a PVC hoop at the fun matches. That way he can get used to the unfamiliar contacts and not practice leaping over the yellow. Today I put the hoop in front of the end of the dog walk so he could practice with it. He leaped the yellow, so I put the hoop closer, more at the end. This time he did a perfect hit, and the next rep too! I haven't seen the video yet so I can't say how much he collected his stride to hit the yellow, but it looked pretty comfortable for him. A possibility for training running contacts? Maybe. I have all winter to figure out how I want to train his contacts, and we have all season next year to train them.

Then I finished Wall-e's broad jump training (over the past several sessions I've been gradually spacing the boards apart and fading the 10" jump behind it), and then he ran one of the sequences Mika got to run.

It's been a good training day!

~Nat

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mika's 5th birthday

It was Mika's birthday yesterday, on October 14. Five years old!


Mika didn't like the hat too much :)


"There, that's much better!"

After school we went to the agility field and I set up a very fun, flowing sequence with Mika's favourite obstacles -- jumps (definitely her favourite) at 6", tunnels, and the dog walk. She LOVED it and zoomed through the sequence, very fast, and even clean. She had a blast!

Then we went to the park, Wall-e too. It was cold (and SNOWING, of all the days) so Mika had to wear a sweater. Added some nice colour to the photos though.








Later that evening it was time for Mika's homemade peanut butter "pupcake!"


There are five candles, look closely!


Staring eagerly at her pupcake. Don't want that beard to catch on fire! "Peanutbutterpeanutbutterpeanutbutter gimme that PEANUT BUTTER!" Yes both of my dogs are nuts for peanut butter!


LOL her expression is funny. After the candles are all blown out, Mika grabbed the pupcake and then jumped down off the chair to scarf it down. All that peanut butter actually stuck to the roof of her mouth and I had to reach in her mouth to get it all out! She enjoyed it nevertheless! (Not the best quality photo because it's taken from a video.)

Mika also got lots of homemade pumpkin cookies, which she also loved.

Her presents -- agility, yummy food, fun at the park...Mika couldn't have had a better day!! Happy 5th birthday, my little girl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

CKC trial Oct. 10, 2009

Hard to believe that we've been trialing for two years already. So proud of my girl!! We've accomplished a lot and I feel like we can do anything together.

Mika had awesome contacts and weaves. I was very happy with all of the runs, she was fast!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Fun match Oct. 4, 2009

Fun match from almost a week ago...yep I'm late :) And we had a trial today too but I'll write a separate post for that later.

Mika was so absolutely FAST, very happy with how much fun she was having, and that I kept to my "rule" of never letting her know when I make a mistake (because it's always me who makes the mistakes). Her contacts were awesome!! Nice weaves too!

Wall-e's third fun match. Wall-e keeps getting faster at every fun match, he just keeps gaining speed every month as we uncover more and more of his drive! He's loving agility more and more, and thinks it's so much fun to run around a field jumping over and running through stuff.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Table-surfer


Wall-e sometimes jumps up onto the kitchen table...but can't get back down :)