Saturday, February 21, 2009

Photos






Wall-e after a bath



Tuesday, February 17, 2009

agility update! Fun!

Long agility update! I'm a bit behind on writing about agility. So, here goes. (It's kinda choppy. I wrote this post over many school lunches of doing homework at the same time as typing.)

On Sunday two weeks ago, Wall-e had his second agility class. Same things as last time, except this class the dogs learned how to bang down the teeter (a 2" drop) and 12 weaves with guide wires instead of 6 without guide wires like last time. The dogs were also introduced to the Hit It! board and the Touch It!, both of which are available at http://www.cleanrun.com/


Since Wall-e is already an expert at banging down the end of the teeter with a 2" drop, the instructor had me do something a bit more advanced with him -- she placed a milk crate under one end of the teeter so that there was about a 12" drop at the end, and I placed him at the halfway point of the teeter and had him run to the end to eat treats from the target. He was great!

Mika finally got to do agility two weeks ago! She hasn't done agility (well, except for teeter games and a bit of jumping in the basement) for a month and a half, but I rented the arena yesterday so that we could get some practice in. I've never seen a dog so happy -- When we walked into the arena, her face just lit up and she started racing around in circles and wagging her tail, looking at me as if to say, "FINALLY you take me here! Now lets do some agility!"

We practiced the dog walk (I decided not the use the PVC contact hoop, and just see how she did without it, and she hit the contact really nicely right in the middle!), the A-frame, and speed circles. The speed circle first started out with six 10" jumps. When she could do the whole circle at a good distance, I replaced one of the jumps with 6 weaves. The first time, she didn't collect herself quick enough and entered at the second pole, but the second time she nailed her entry. When she could do this, I made the 6 poles into 12 poles, so we could work on Mika staying in the poles and not popping out. She did pop out the first time (at the 11th pole), but the second time she stayed in. Good dog!

One amazing thing that Mika did was the TEETER. To really appreciate the enormity (I think that's a word!) of this accomplishment, let me tell you what happened two years ago in late March 2007, when Mika had a bad experience on this exact same teeter at the same arena. To make a long story short, basically I told her to do the teeter twice even though it was a loud metal teeter and we'd been training on our wood teeter at home, and Mika was terrified of the loud bang made when the teeter hit the ground. She ended up running away from me to the other end of the arena when I told her to the the teeter a third time (dumb, dumb me...). It took over a year to fix this new problem with the teeter -- Mika was very scared of the teeter bang, and she associated the bang with all teeters, so she was unconfident and nervous even on teeters that barely made a bang.

Also, this bad experience caused her to be stressed and nervous about agility in general, and it caused her to lose all of her trust in me. This stress problem took us a lot longer to overcome, and we've just recently beaten it (the end of last summer was probably about the time that I can say that we completely solved the stress problem). It just goes to show how one mistake can change everything, even more so in an extremely sensitive dog like Mika...but, she's made an amazing comeback and we've fought this problem together.

I was EXTREMELY happy at the practice because she did the teeter full-height for the first time ever since her bad experience! I was soo happy with Mika, and so was she. She was very proud of herself!!

Wall-e came too and got to start his A-frame training (3' high). He has a beautiful, natural running contact!

Wall-e had another agility class last Sunday (it was his third class). He totally impressed me with his A-frame performance. It was the first time doing the A-frame in class (he's trained on it once before, at the arena two weeks ago). The instructor added a stride regulator at the top to help the dogs jump over the apex, and Wall-e understood right away, soaring over the apex confidently and hitting the yellow!

I've been doing lots and lots of teeter games with Wall-e. We worked on jumping on the up end of the teeter to do a 4-on wait at the end, and progressing to jumping on the teeter from the down end to do a 4-on wait.

Looking forward to Wall-e's next class. I'm going to make sure to watch out for missed contacts on the A-frame, since he did miss a contact last class (he landed really deep and long when jumping the stride regulator and landed about an inch from the yellow, it wasn't comfortable for him to take an extra stride to hit the yellow so he just jumped off).

~Nat

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Wall-e saw cool stuff!

After Wall-e 's agility class (which I'll talk about in a later post), we went to an outdoor museum that was close to the agility centre. So, Wall-e saw horses for the first time today.


The first time they came around, he was a bit nervous and was trying to struggle out of my arms, but the second time he watched them calmly and took the treats I gave him.

He also saw something else:


A fox! Well, it wasn't alive (poor fox), it was stuffed, but it was a fox nevertheless. He actually wanted to play with it! When we walked in the room, he immediately saw the fox on the display table (there were other animals too, but he focused on the fox right away) and started doing play bows and play-barks at it. Then I lifted him up so he could see better, and he sniffed and sniffed (though he couldn't touch it of course). He was just so interested in that fox!

In the summer, the museum also has sheep (Wall-e should LOVE that), pigs, a goat, chickens, rabbits, and a very friendly mule.

~Nat

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Some cute photos :)


I don't think you've seen Mika in awhile, so let's start off the post with a cute photo of her!


Ignore the cluttered background :) This is Mika on the Theraball/exercise ball. She uses it about once every two days for conditioning, for ten minutes at a time.
Hmm...Mika needs a haircut!






Handsome boy.




I can get him to look anywhere I want him to just by holding a treat in that direction ;)



~Nat

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wall-e's first beginner agility class

Wall-e had his very first agility class on Sunday. It was a lot of fun! The first thing we did was receive yellow targets. Each person got one target. These targets will be used in the class to help the dog focus ahead and know where to go, as well as build drive. After we received our targets, we worked on getting our dogs to be crazy about them, and sending our dogs ahead to the target. By the end of the 10 minutes that we worked with the targets, Wall-e was bouncing and leaping in the air and barking whenever I brought him back for another round to send to the target. He loved it!

Then, it was time for some obstacle training. We won't be participating in the dog walk training because the instructor teaches 2o2o (two on two off) and Wall-e is still just learning a running contact for the dog walk, but everything else, we'll do. With the A-frame the instructor teaches 2o2o as well, but Wall-e has a natural running contact on the A-frame (for now!) so we'll just skip the stopping and do running for the A-frame at class.

The dogs didn't do any contact training this class; only low jumps, tunnels, channel weaves, and a ladder-type structure that helps teach the dogs body awareness. I've done some 6" jumping with Wall-e, and he's been through our 4 foot long tunnel many times (and a "real" tunnel a few times too at the two training centres we've practiced at), but he'd never been through channel weaves or the ladder structure before. He surprised me when he knew what to do with the weaves right away. He raced right through the channel to get to his target!

Here's a video from his last beginner obedience class and his first agility class:



~Nat

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Wall-e's last obedience class

Last week Wall-e had his last beginner obedience class. (Tomorrow is the official last class, but we can't go because Wall-e's first beginner agility class will be at the same time.)

Wall-e seemed to get better every class! His heeling was just amazing. He really progressed so much, above and beyond...his heeling is just awesome. It's definitely his strongest point of obedience. Every dog/handler in the class got to practice their heeling individually as the instructor called out right turns, right about turns, left turns, left about turns, slow paces, fast paces, normal paces, and halts. Wall-e did everything perfectly. What a good boy!!

All the dogs practiced their stays as well -- 45 sit-stays and 2 minute down-stays. Wall-e stayed the whole time for the sit-stay, but broke his down-stay 10 seconds before the 2 minutes was over! Oh well, his heeling makes up for his less-than-perfect stays! :)

We did something different this class; we swapped dogs! Only for about 5 minutes. I got an adorable little Shih Tzu. She was very good and sat for me right away, wagging her tail when she got a really yummy treat (Rollover). Wall-e was great for the Shih Tzu's handler, and did some nice sits.

The game for this class was Red Light, Green Light! You probably know this game, but it's just adapted for obedience...when the instructor calls "green light," each dog/handler walks or jogs forward in a heel. When the instructor calls "red light," each dog/handler must stop and sit immediately. Whichever dog is last to sit is out. Whichever dog/handler team reaces the wall first wins. Wall-e won! Yay Wall-e!

I'm so happy with how Wall-e did in his obedience classes. He'd be an amazing competitive obedience prospect if I decided to compete with him. And tomorrow, something even more fun...Wall-e's first agility class!

~Nat

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Update on 10 things to get Mika ready for Regionals

Every month or so I'm going to write an update on how we're doing with our training to get ready for Regionals (and just to improve in agility in general). This is mostly for myself to help me stay on track, but I'll post it nevertheless.

1. MY HANDLING! -- I think it's going well! My front crosses have improved SO much! I still mess up occasionally, but I handle better more often than not! I'd still like to improve so that good handling becomes second nature, and so that eventually I won't have to think about it anymore.

2. more control of Mika -- Um...not really. We haven't worked on this at all.

3. build Mika's independence -- Definitely! She's becoming a lot more of an off-course type of dog. (For me, that's a good thing because it means that she's gaining confidence, as I can usually prevent her from going off course with a good strong "Come!" and proper handling. Although improper handling is what causes the off-courses in the first place.)

4. no weave popping, great entries -- The weave popping thing is going great! I can't remember the last time she popped out. Her entries need a lot more work, though. She often enters on the left side.

5. use PVC hoop to encourage running through contact on dog walk and A-frame -- This isn't something that we have to work on, just something I have to do whenever we practice.

6. train rear crosses -- YES! I'm proud to say that Mika has an excellent response to rear crosses now, although we have yet to use the improved rear crosses in sequences or courses (only in exercises in the basement with a couple of jumps). I also taught her left & right, which might help.

7. correct tunnel entrances -- Haven't worked on this yet. Hopefully, this will improve because of my improved handling. I'll still try to work on it anyway.

8. focus at all times -- Haven't worked on this yet. I'll see how Mika's focus is at our March trial (first time competing on both days: 1 Advanced Gamblers on Saturday, 2 Masters Standard and 1 Masters Jumpers and Sunday). If she keeps her focus at this trial, especially during the last run on Sunday where she'll likely be pretty tired, then I'll consider this goal done. After all, she has great focus, so we have more important things to work on.

9. Mika's conditioning -- Mika's been doing balance exercises (tricks, turning in circles, etc.)on the Theraball (exercise ball) regularly, 4 to 5 times a week. So, this goal is going great! I would take her for walks, but she hates going outside when it's -30 degrees Celsius, or even if it's less than that...so I'm going to wait until it starts getting warmer. When it does get warmer, we'll start the daily 30 min. to 2 hour walks. But we do go for the occasional walk at the park when it's warm enough. (In other words, cold, but not completely FREEZING.)

10. Always remember to continue on when Mika makes a mistake on course, and reward the off courses in training -- I've been doing great with this. I don't think I've forgotton at all this winter. I'm pretty pleased with that!

So, the main things we have to work on now:

- my handling
- more control of Mika
- great weave entries
- correct tunnel entrances

~Nat