Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Nationals

The 2009 AAC Nationals will officially begin tomorrow! Today is the day that all the competitors are allowed at the NNEP (Nepean National Equestrian Park) where the Nationals will be held. Same place the Regionals were held, which is perfect because I know that Mika will be familar with and comfortable in the environment.

We'll be heading out to the NNEP tomorrow to register. Tomorrow the Pre-Qualifier (for dogs who weren't able to run at Regionals to get a last-minute chance to qualify for Nationals) will be held. since we qualified at Regionals already, we're not running tomorrow, but will probably stay to watch a bit.

We may or may not go on Friday, which is when more Warm-Up Games and Steeplechase
Round #1 and #2 are held. We're not running in any of those -- Mika is already used to the environment so I don't have to do Warm-Up Games this time, and we're not running in Steeplechase because I want to conserve her energy and drive for the 6 runs on Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday is when the real fun starts for us! Like at Regionals, we'll be running in Masters Standard, Jumpers, and Gamblers. Same on Sunday. On Sunday the Steeplechase Final will also be held, which was a lot of fun to watch last year!

I really don't have any goals for Nationals other than to have LOTS of fun. The Regionals was a blast and I'm sure the Nationals will be just as fun! I'm excited to spend a weekend with my Mika doing what we both love best -- agility!

~Nat and Mika

Monday, July 27, 2009

Wall-e and Kibbles



Wall-e met my friend Kayla's sheltie, Kibbles, at the outdoor museum yesterday. Wall-e loved Kibbles and wanted to follow him and chase him around everywhere!

~Nat

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Mika's vet visit

Mika had a routine veterinary exam today. This was a new vet's office, the one where we took Wall-e when we first got him. We really like this vet because she specializes in holistic practices. We discussed some things with the vet, including possible allergies (Mika has been licking her paw for the past week and a half). The vet thinks that Mika might be allergic to ragweed and/or other things in the environment...her symptoms aren't too bad, though, and the itchiness on her paw seems to have been decreasing, so she doesn't need treatment. Anyway, we aren't sure if it's really allergies -- it could be some kind of infection, or something else. I don't want to treat something if I don't know what it is.

We bought some digestive enzymes too (in a powder format) for adding to their meals.Then
she got her heart worm test -- negative, that's always a relief!

~Nat

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Fun at the field

We went to the field today and practiced the 24" high dog walk with both dogs, with the stride regulator above the yellow. Also set up half of a CKC Novice JWW course (but replaced the set of 6 weaves with a jump because Wall-e's weaves aren't yet fully trained). Both dogs were perfect on the dog walk, good dogs! When I tried the sequence with Wall-e he missed the tunnel entry because I got too far ahead, and then missed the rear cross cue because he came running out of the tunnel and wasn't expecting it. Just little green dog things. He got the sequence perfectly the second time though. Mika of course got it perfect the first time, but then again, she's a Nationals dog! :) I can actually say that now, not meaning to brag! ;)

After training, Wall-e got to play with his friend Jasmine, a bichon mix. We let them off leash in the agility field and watched as they raced around and around and around! Wall-e really loved chasing her and even started barking at the end!

~Nat

"Backyard Dogs" sequence

So yesterday I set up a sequence from an issue of Clean Run, for Wall-e. (I'm giving Mika a bit of a break before Nationals, which is one and a half weeks away!!) The sequence was great for my small backyard because the sequence was 10 obstacles long, but only needed 3 jumps and 2 tunnels! I substituted a chute for one of the tunnels, since I only have one tunnel, and that's not even really a tunnel -- it's only 3 or 4 feet long.

He did pretty good for the level that he's at, and it was the longest sequence he's ever run. He did slow down after a few reps and trotted a few times...eek. My backyard is so small that all the obstacles are pretty squished together; I guess that's why he started trotting, and he must have been beginning to lose interest...I should keep the same rule I do with Mika, after 2 trys at the sequence, even if we're not getting the sequence right, stop the session. I think the sequence was a bit complicated for him too...I'll make sure to practice only easy sequences for a while.

~Nat

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wall-e and disc

Wall-e loves playing disc, so I've been doing some basic disc with him with the competition disc I bought at Regionals (I forget the exact brand). He prefers his Soft Bite Floppy Disc, but since I've been practicing rollers (rolling the disc on its side), I can't use the soft disc. He still loves the competition disc so it doesn't matter. I've been practicing sending him around behind me, so he races behind my back, and then I throw the roller. I've been getting a lot better at throwing rollers...I really didn't know how before so I just kind of flung the disc at the ground and hoped it would work! I've read several disc articles in the past few weeks though, so now I know that there's an actual technique to it!!

Mika doesn't like disc that much. She'll play with it if I tell her to (ha, she'll do anything if I tell her to), but when I'm playing disc with Wall-e she'll just trot around sniffing, not really interested. She does like tugging on the soft disc though.

I'll probably never compete in disc with Wall-e -- it's just a great way of burning some of his energy (which he has a lot of!).

~Nat

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Running contacts update!

Great news about Wall-e's running dog walk! We cut the pool noodle to fit the dog walk, and I put it near the end of the centre plank like I said I would, but Wall-e was still missing the contacts. Then a couple friends came up with a great suggestion (thanks again!!) -- why not put a pool noodle a bit above the contact zone? So we tried it, and Wall-e took this one huge stride into the yellow and hit the contact beautifully! We tried it one more time, and this time he hit it even better, nice and low!!

If I keep the pool noodle above the contact there for the rest of this month, all of August, and all of September -- two and a half months -- hopefully he'll build the muscle memory to stride into the contact. I kept the stride regulators on the A-frame for two and a half month and now he has a great running A-frame at full height.

I'm very excited and very hopeful!

~Nat

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Running contacts

We've been working on Wall-e's running contacts on a plank (Silvia Trkman's method) for six and a half months now. We've had lots of highs and lows, but I felt that he didn't really undertstand the behaviour. He could only hit the yellow consistently when I called him over, not when I ran with him. Nevertheless, after lots of discussion with friends, one of my friends convinced me to try him on a low dog walk. Yes, it took a LOT of convincing, let me tell you :)

Wall-e's been on a low dog walk before, three times, but it was completely by accident. When we were taking classes and he was about ten months old, I never trained the dog walk because the class was being taught 2on2off and I was training running -- I didn't want to mess up his running with the 2on2off. So one evening at class, we were on one side of the mini dog walk (training something else, not the dog walk) and he saw a dog on the other end of the dog walk in 2on2off position. So he ran (yes, ran as in galloped!) over the dog walk to see his new friend. I didn't know how to other dog would react, so to avoid a possible scuffle I called him back over just as he reached the down plank. He spun around on the down plank and raced back over the dog walk, actually hitting the yellow.

The other time he went on the dog walk by himself was the next week at class, when the class was running a sequence. I always skipped the dog walk when we ran sequences, but this week when I tried to pull him (with my body language) around the dog walk, he ran on ahead onto the dog walk, leaving me standing clueless. When he reached the centre plank (still in a gallop), I got to my senses and ran after him. He reached the down plank and soared over the yellow.

I guess all that plank work he'd done gave him the confidence to do his first dog walks on his own!

So. Let's get back to the present. On Sunday evening we went to the agility field to try the mini (2 foot high) dog walk. I backchained it. First I put him at the top of the down plank so it looked exactly like it did at home, and he hit it perfectly, but as we moved farther back along the board and then the entire dog walk, he missed every rep.

I think that he missed the contacts when I moved him farther up the dog walk because he doesn't know how to regulate his stride when he hits the yellow. When he starts at the top of the down plank he takes three strides into the yellow, but when he runs the whole dog walk he takes one or two strides on the down plank.

On Monday we went to the field again. I followed some advice that I'd read on Silvia Trkman's web site and put a jump set at 26" at the very top of the down plank of the lowered dog walk, creating a sort of 4 inch "stride regulator" since the dog walk was 24" high. (Silvia doesn't recommend a jump, but I didn't have any poles cut to fit the dog walk. We're going to cut a 2" pool noodle today to fit the dog walk before we go to the field again.)

I decided to do 3 reps over the whole dog walk with the jump in place. I wanted to see if the jump would help him think about his striding. The first rep was BEAUTIFUL!! I can't even say how perfect his hit was!! He took two strides on the down plank, hitting the contact with his front feet past the middle of the yellow and then brought his back feet under him to hit at the very edge of the bottom of the yellow! Awesome!!

The next two reps he took one stride on the down plank and missed the yellow. Looking at the video, he probably hit each of them by part of a toe, which is a bit of improvement.

I analyzed the clips in slow motion. The first rep, he landed after the jump pretty close to it, while in the other two reps he landed a bit farther away. So, today when we go to the field again, I'm going to try moving the pool noodle a bit farther back so it's on the end of the centre plank instead of the top of the down plank.

That hit in the yellow encouraged me...there is hope! Now I know that Wall-e really can have a beautiful running dog walk, and there's no way that we're switching to a different performance now!)

~Nat

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wall-e meets some farm animals

Wall-e got to meet some animals today at an outdoor museum. (Mika couldn't come because there were too many people and if she barked at them she might have spooked the animals.)


Wall-e sees his first mule


I liked this bay mule gelding. I heard that he was new to the place, but he was very gentle and in good shape.


See, he stood still even when young children reached for his face to pet him!




"Any more apples?"


Wall-e sees his first calves




Happy pig


Nose to nose


I LOVE this photo!!! I can't believe that I got the composition perfectly right even while the rooster was behind the wire!! (Click on the photo if you want to see how it really looks.)


Definitely Wall-e's favourite animals that he met today -- the bunnies!


Cute

To end off the adventure, Wall-e got to sit in a fire truck!


"Look, look, I'm driving it!"

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Sheep

On Saturday, relatives came over and brought this lovely sheep decoration for the backyard:



They put it in the family room so we could bring it in the backyard later, but when Wall-e came into the family room, he walked over to the sheep, stopped five feet away from it, and stared. He wouldn't go any closer to it! I walked over behind the sheep to encourage him to go closer. He leaaaned forward as far as he could go without moving his feet, occasionally jumping back as if startled and then leaaaning forward again! It was the funniest thing! With lots of treats for taking tiny, baby steps to the sheep, he eventually ended up being able to poke the sheep with his nose for a treat.

What did Mika do? Nothing! What did the cat Shadow do? Nothing!

We put the sheep in the backyard later that afternoon. Then yesterday in the backyard, I'd set up a line of three jumps. The sheep was in between jumps 1 and 2, but off to the side so we wouldn't run into it. I didn't even notice the sheep when I was setting up the jumps. I got Wall-e (who was in another area of the backyard next to the fence, chasing kids who were playing road hockey and showing off his leaping skills):



and set him up behind the first jump, preparing to send him over the 3 jumps. I sent him over the first jump and then told him to go over the second jump, but he jumped the first jump and then LEAPED back away from the direction of the sheep, completely startled! I walked over to the sheep so he could see what it was. At first he did that leaning thing again that he'd done when he'd first met the sheep, but then he seemed to remember what it was and walked over and sniffed it.


Mika doesn't seem to mind the scary sheep.


Wall-e posing with his greatest fear! He got up and left after this photo. I didn't force him to stay.

What is this thing that has caused so much fear in the heart of Brave Wall-e?


Why, it's only a harmless sheep decoration.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Training, dogs who do, dogs who think

Yesterday I put two 6" jumps side by side and Wall-e and I stood right in the middle of them, so it wasn't obvious which jump to take. First I sent him to the right jump with my body language, then the left jump, then the left jump again. He got every jump perfectly without hesitation! I did a very similar exercise with Mika a couple days ago, and the first time we tried it she simply took the first jump she saw, my crazy girlie!

It's interesting how different my two dogs are. Mika is a "doer" -- she often doesn't think when we do agility, she simply reacts on impulse (which perfectly matches her very impulsive nature in everyday life!). This does make for a very enthusiastic dog who can be independent on course and take obstacles on her own while I get into the best handling position. There's nothing like teaching Mika tricks -- she's so enthusiastic that she barks, growls, and yelps, and when we're in the middle of a trick session and I'm not telling her to do any tricks, she'll do every trick she knows, hoping to elicit a reaction! Since she doesn't think about what she's doing and what to do next, when we have a shaping session I have to take things very slowly and make the behaviour harder in tiny steps. She's so enthusiastic, though, that she always gets the behaviour in the end! She's a very fun trick dog and always gives me 110%!

On the other hand, Wall-e is more of a "thinker" -- he thinks before he does things, and when he doesn't understand something, I can actually see him working out the problem. When I teach him tricks, especially with shaping, I can often see him stop and think for several seconds, then proceed to do the right thing. He has great problem-solving skills.

Neither type of dog is good or bad, I just think it's interesting how different they are.

~Nat

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Another weaves update

Happy Canada Day! Canada is 142 years young today!

Wall-e has still been crossing over his feet when he single-strides the channel weaves (open at 4"). We had experimented with WAM's, but at the easy angle the WAM's were at, they weren't helping him with his single-striding, and I didn't want to decrease the angle because I knew that he would pop out if I did. So we went back to channels, but he was still crossing over his feet, and I really don't know if the problem would have fixed itself. We've been working on weaves every day or every second day for a month now, and he still didn't have consistent striding.

So today I said, what the heck, let's just try the narrow WAM's with the slight angle that's supposed to help dogs with their single-striding. I took out the hammer and "transformed" the channel weaves into WAM's. (The beauty of stick-in-the-ground poles!) To help him stay in the poles, guide wires were attached onto every pole. The WAM's were set. These WAM's would be the closest Wall-e had ever gotten to real weaving.

For his first several reps in the WAM's, he wasn't really sure what to do so he started trotting through the WAM's and then popped out and jumped over a guide wire. That told me that the WAM's were a bit too narrow for him, so every time he popped out I increased the angle of the poles in that area. So eventually, the WAM's were perfect -- not too hard, but still at an angle that would let me really analyze his striding.

And...Wall-e started hopping!! He's never, ever hopped before, but with these WAM's that had a very slight angle, he did! So, that's what he'll probably end up doing in straight poles. I don't mind, I really don't. He was probably crossing over his feet because his legs weren't long enough to reach from pole to pole through the whole set. I don't believe in forcing a dog to do a specific striding -- so now that Wall-e is hopping, I won't try to change him back to single-striding.

I'm looking forward to taking a video of his weaves in the narrow WAM's so I can really analyze his striding in slow motion!

~Nat