Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thoughts for Regionals

Regionals is in only 5 days are some thoughts.

Since this year's Regionals and Nationals are both being held close to our house, it'd be kind of nice to qualify for Nationals. Of course, qualifying isn't everything, and keeping Mika happy will be my number one priority, but since this might be the only Regionals I'll get to compete at with Mika (depending on where future Regionals will be held), I'm going to try my very best.

We are both ready to tackle next weekend's courses. Mika and I are both able to run this level of courses, as long as I handler her correctly and call her when needed, and handle her dog walk and A-frame contacts (she sometimes misses them). In Standard and Jumpers I'm going to concentrate on control, because that's what we need the most. In Gamblers I'll concentrate on collecting as many points as possible, since it's very unlikely that we'll be able to get the Masters-level gambles.

It's going to be a fun and challenging weekend, and I'm really looking forward to it!


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Wall-e photos

I was looking through my collection of photos, and found these photos of Wall-e that I really like but never posted here. They were all taken in the past two months (I'll order them from earliest to latest):

Back in late March, when there was snow. This is the clearest action photo I have of Wall-e.

I love this one!

Smiling -- literally!

A tired sheltie is a good sheltie!!

Watching his sheep (the pack of elementary school kids who bike around the street beside our house).

Wall-e is almost 1 year old!

I can't believe that Wall-e is almost a year old ALREADY! His 1st birthday is on Friday May 29th, in 6 days -- the first day of Regionals! What a great birthday present for him...he gets to see tons of dogs and other shelties at Regionals, and then in the evening he'll probably get to do some agility of his own at the field. We'll set up a jump/tunnel sequence and he'll get to run with me and my friend Ashley (who's coming from Miami!!). We also got him another squeaky toy, and he'll get a "cake" on his birthday like Mika always does. (Shhhhh...don't tell him!) His cake will be canned dog food kind of formed into a cake shape, which he never gets because he eats EVO dry food, and a bit of Nature's Variety raw medallions and fresh food. We'll probably get him some new treats too. After all, it's his first should be special!


Friday, May 22, 2009


Regionals are coming up. They're in exactly a week now! 7 days!! We're going to the field tomorrow, just to refresh the dog walk probably (Mika slipped on it on Tuesday just as she was getting on it, so I just want to be sure she doesn't have any reservations). And then that'll be it, no more agility until Friday May 29th.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Wall-e's agility classes

I haven't talked about Wall-e's novice agility classes for a while...they finished last week.

4th class: His weaves (channel open at about 6") were really nice and fast! He was single-striding pretty good too! He 2-strided his A-frame again. He seems to prefer that so that's what I'll encourage him to do in the future. Then we worked on distance exercises, from up to about 8' lateral distance. Wall-e actually did better than I expected, especially after putting a target at the end of the exercise so he knew where to go. The exercises were all jump-tunnel-jump.

5th class: Ran a sequence with tunnels, jumps, and a set of 6 weaves. Wall-e was having a lot of trouble with rear crosses at tunnels -- since this is something I tend to use a LOT when running courses, we'll have to work on it!

6th (and last) class: It was a nice day, so we went outside for the first time and ran a Jumpers sequence (level: Starters or Advanced). Good boy Wall-e! Again, he got confused with the rear crosses at tunnels, but he was fast. He still needs to be baby-sat at the jumps, because he'll pass if it I'm ahead of it. He also broke about maybe a third of his stays. Must remember to look back as I'm leading out!


Monday, May 18, 2009

Lots of walking

Now that the weather is so nice, we've been going for lots and lots and lots of walks! We walk on average 1 hour during the weekday, and 2 hours on the weekend. Not all at one time, just lots of shorter walks, 5 to 45 minutes at a time. Today we went around the block on our first walk, to the public park on our second walk, and to the school park and the small forest on the third walk. Wall-e loves sand! It's really weird -- as soon as we step onto the sand where the play structures are, he starts racing around crazily.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Photos of Mika's haircut!

Mika got her haircut on Thursday. Here are some adorable photos, taken the same day she was groomed:

Her beard was sticking out kinda weird. Already! A schnauzer's beard doesn't stay neat and tidy for long!!

100th post

This is my 100th post on this blog. I've loved blogging. I love writing posts, reading updates about other people's dogs, and writing comments. Reading all of your blogs has given me a lot of things to think about, and I thank all of you for continuing to update your blogs! I plan to continue this blog for a long time. I'm not going anywhere, that's for sure. Reading my posts from back when I've first started blogging reminds me of how far my wonderful little Mika and I have come since I started this blog nine months ago.

I remember my very first post on August 8 of last year, when I said why I named my blog "Dream Dogz." I said that my dog Mika was my dream come true, and that she was everything I'd ever dreamed of and more. She still is...I couldn't live without her. And Wall-e -- he's my fun-loving, spirited boy, and he has so much potential.

This is my 100th post about the Dream Dogz, but it's only the beginning...I'm so excited to see what will happen next in our adventures.

~Nat and the Dream Dogz

Saturday, May 16, 2009

More Agility training

We went to the field this morning for some more training, getting ready for Regionals (which is in only 2 weeks!). We haven't done agility since Wednesday so I decided that we could do a bit more than usual this time. I set up a sequence from the Backyard Dogs article in the May issue of Clean Run magazine. (For those of you who subscribe, I think it was obstacles #6 to #10 from Fig. 3.) Mika went off course (completely my fault!), taking a jump instead of the tunnel, and therefore had a few more mistakes; we ended up finishing a totally improvised sequence, that was a lot harder than the original one! :o Silly girl. She did do a REALLY nice jump wrap though, in our improvised sequence. We tried the sequence again, this time with me leading out to do a front cross as she took off over the first jump, and we ran it perfectly and fast.

Then we tried some distance work. First I sent Mika over a jump and into a tunnel from about maybe 17 or 18 feet away. The first time she didn't know where to go, but the second time she ran into the tunnel confidently.

Then I sent her into a different tunnel and onto the dog walk, with me about 15 feet away from the dog walk at a lateral distance. She was amazing, Perfect! She didn't hesitate as she ran out of the tunnel and towards the dog walk, finding the dog walk entry on an angle, then racing across the entire obstacle, hitting the yellow at the end.

And now it's raining, and both dogs are sound asleep. It's one of those rainy days where you just feel like doing nothing. Well, it'll be good for our grass in the backyard, which has a lots of completely dead, brown patches.


Friday, May 15, 2009


Mika got a haircut at the groomer's yesterday! I took some photos but I haven't uploaded them onto the computer yet. The groomer cut her beard a bit shorter this time. She looks cute. I personally prefer her beard a bit longer but my mom likes it short, and I guess it's a nice summer clip. She'll look spiffy and sporty for her professional action photos at Regionals!

She's lost quite a bit of weight too, which is a very good thing. She weighs 12 lbs (and she's 13" high at the withers, a.k.a. top of the shoulders). Perfect!! I've always struggled with her weight a bit, as she gets overweight very easily, but I've finally been getting it under control. I'll post photos later.

About agility -- I've really really been looking forward to Regionals. I think we may be ready.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Training with Mika

Practiced with Mika at the field yesterday after Wall-e's last agility class. I set up a quick sequence from last year's FCI World Championships. She ran it clean, fast, and happy, the first time! She really dove into the tunnel, I've never seen her zoom into a tunnel so fast. So Mika literally worked for under 5 seconds, and then we left to go home. I'm glad that I'm still sticking to my rule of 1 repetition per session.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Wall-e knows the teeter!

We set up the homemade wooden (regulation-size) teeter in the backyard again, after having it in the garage all winter. I wanted Wall-e to know that the teeter moved so that he wouldn't be surprised if he went on it while playing in the backyard, so I decided to teach him the teeter. WOW, he really did surprise me!! He learned the teeter in less than five minutes! Well, it's set at only 18" now so it's not full-height yet, but he can run right to the end of the teeter and wait there until it hits the ground, then wait until I release him with an "Okay!"


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mika's AAC agility trial May 9, 09

The motto for this run...CRAZY!

She took 6 obstacles that I didn't tell her to take, 7 if you count getting on the teeter (I called her off because she didn't have a safe approach)! Really weird how all 3 of the tunnels she took, I didn't tell her to take. She's not usually a tunnel suck....but in the gamble, she saw the jump and wanted t o take it. definitely a jump suck! So NQ, but it was really FUN, and I couldn't have asked for a better run -- it completely convinced me that Mika is back to her crazy, off-course-loving self!

So that's what we're going to have to work on in the 3 weeks left before Regionals...control. Well, I'm giving her a break the last 2 weeks, so really we only have 1 week to train...I'll make sure not to overdo it though, making sure to stick to my rules!


Friday, May 8, 2009

Mika update

Just a quick update on how we've been doing with Mika's drive to play agility. (This update won't be as long as the last post, don't worry!)

The only agility we've done since the last post is 1 set of 12 weaves. I moved the weaves to a different location of the yard for variety, and set the spacing to 20" instead of 18" (because we'll be seeing 20" spacing at Regionals).

Mika was nice and fast through the weaves, definitely back to her normal speed! She had a couple of stumbles in her footwork at the beginning of the set as she figured out the 20" spacing, but at the end of the set she opened up and seemed to be more comfortable in the wider spacing.

Trial tomorrow, just 1 run (Advanced Gamblers). It'll be our last trial before Regionals! My have fun!


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ups and downs

Mika was gradually slowing down more and more all last week, especially near the end of the week. I didn't think much of it, until the morning of Sunday May 3, when we ran half of a Nationals Standard course and she really wasn't into it. She didn't have any attitude, her weaves were slow...She trotted down the dog walk and wasn't running her fastest, more of a wouldn't be very noticeable for someone who didn't know her really well, but after 2 years of constantly watching for signs of stress, I knew that it was a warning sign and that if I didn't change something, things would go downhill. So after our practice on Sunday, I decided to give her a break. No agility at all for 3 days straight. I was really worried that all of our hard work at building drive had gone down the drain, and that the new Mika was becoming the old Mika, the Mika back when we first started...always worrying, always stressing.

Good news, though...this morning we practiced 8 weaves in the backyard (stick-in-the-ground poles), and she was incredible, blasting through the poles at more than her normal speed! We also went to the field after school and just ran 3 jumps in a straight line. She had so much fun, and was back to her regular, very fast speed! I think she probably slowed down because I was training her too much -- well, more than usual. I never drill my dogs over and over again, and I never train them several times a day with many repetitions, but ever since the snow has melted, I've been training Mika every day with a few repetitions each time (probably 2-4). Too much for the little girl, I realize now. I've been keeping it all positive, rewarding for off-courses and mistakes as usual, so that's not it.

I guess it's true for anything, that if you have something too much you don't enjoy it as much, but if you don't have it as often it's a special treat. If I had chocolate every day I'd probably get sick of it, but as I only have chocolate once in a while, I really enjoy it. I bet human athletes who train hard every day get sick of training once in a while. So why not the same for agility?

So, the changes:

- 1 repetition for everything
- don't train every day, take a couple days off every week
- run Wall-e first so Mika will really want to go

I was very worried on Sunday, but I'm so relieved now. I think with my new set of rules, it'll all turn out great.

Funny how last year on May 3, Mika ran out of the ring at a trial and I was really worried that all of our hard work at decreasing stress was for nothing. (Turns out she ran out of the ring because of a cracked nail. Very painful!) And then this year on May 3, I was also really worried that Mika was starting her old stressing habits again. May 3, May 3, May 3! I wonder what will happen on next year's May 3. Hopefully nothing... ;)

You might think I was worrying for nothing, but when it comes to Mika's stress, I am a worrier. Mika has battled with stress all her life ever since she came to us as an 8-week old puppy, and I try to do everything I can to help her. She always tries so hard, and always gives me her best...she deserves nothing less than the best from me, too.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Running A-frame

After watching the video clips taken yesterday of Mika and Wall-e's running A-frames, I've decided that they need a bit of work. (Yes, I've just started to re-train Mika's A-frame. More formal re-training will begin after the Regionals.) I used a jump grid, developed by Rachel Sanders to use with her "Reliable Running A-frames" box method, to see if Mika would be able to have 3 strides on the A-frame instead of the 5 strides she has now.

See this 4 Dog Craziness post to watch a video clip of the jump grid we did (the only change is that instead of the A-frame PVC box, I used two jump bars).

Mika bounced jumped everything. So...she technically CAN do a 3 stride A-frame. Notice I said "technically." Whether that will happen remains to be seen :)


(Wow, I've been blogging a lot today.)

Snorting schnauzer

Mika just woke up from a good night's sleep. She is snorting and rubbing her face against a shirt that's lying on the floor. She does this a lot when she wakes up or gets out of the bathtub, it's just adorable! She rubs the side of her face and her eyes against any article of clothing or the ground as she makes loud snorting noises, sometimes pawing her face. Silly snorting schnauzer!!


Regionals and Wall-e's Running contacts

It's MAY already!! Eek! That means Regionals are coming up quickly! Less than a month. The first day of Regionals is Friday May 29, where we will do the Warm-Up Games, and on Saturday and Sunday (the 30th and 31st) we'll run the actual Masters Standard, Jumpers, and Gamblers courses (two each, one of each on Saturday and one of each on Sunday). What we really have to work on now is staying on course and not taking off-courses. That's what Mika will be practicing every time we go to the field (3 to 4 times a week), until Regionals. Yesterday we practiced choosing the un-obvious tunnel entrance when the other tunnel entrance was staring her in the face, because she was sucked into the wrong entrance at our Regionals group practice on Wednesday, but she got it right away yesterday! Tomorrow we're going to run half of a Standard course from last year's Nationals, and the next time after that we're going to practice threadles and not taking whatever obstacle is in front of her. Yes, I plan ahead! :)

Just because I will be busy with Mika doesn't mean that I won't find time for Wall-e! I work him mostly when Mika is sleeping, like half an hour ago, when we worked on his running contacts. We haven't trained running contacts in forever. We're using the regulation-size wooden teeter plank now instead of the metal mini-teeter plank, because the regulation-size is, well, regulation-size. I want to start training his dog walk at the field soon, so we'll have to practice on a plank that's close to the size of a real dog walk.

I wasn't counting the reps, but I'm guessing we did about 7 and I know for sure that he missed 3 of them. We'll work on it :) The plank is still flat on the ground, no angle to it yet.

Mika and Wall-e are both sleeping now. That's when I do homework and/or go on the computer -- when they're sleeping.