Sunday, December 26, 2010

Merry Christmas!

(All of these pictures were taken on Christmas Eve.)

Mika loves her new dog bed, but is wondering why my mom is bugging her with the camera.

"Oh -- I get treats?! Take as many pictures as you want!"

Wall-e gets his share as well.

Shadow opens her presents; a couple cans of two new brands of food, with lots of treats on top!

Montana meet Rudolph before checking out her present.

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!" Except for Shadow, who's still awake and plans to wait for Santa. (She's in the window beside the reflection of the tree :)

Merry (belated) Christmas!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Wall-e's last rally class

This is quite late, sorry :) Our last class was over a week ago, on Saturday December 11.

At this class we each went through a full course twice.

I think our runs went well. Our instructor commented on how much Wall-e's sits have improved since we began the class. They're not perfect yet, but
her ideas of improving his sits have really been working for us!

What I really liked was that after the first time we finished the course, we had to say one thing that we liked about the run; and after the second time we finished the course, our classmates had to say what they liked about the run. I think this is a great idea.

Another thing was that there was a dog in heat in the class. I was totally fine with it, but I wasn't sure how Wall-e would react. Thankfully, he barely payed any notice to the bitch in heat and was as focused as ever during our runs.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Yesterday we began a new adventure; fostering a cat.

The story began at the end of October, when an orange tabby cat was dumped, in her cage, in the parking lot of a local vet hospital. She was covered in poop and had to have parts of her tail shaved to remove the mats. I'm doing a co-op at the vet hospital, and I was given the job of caring for the cat daily. She soon earned the name of "Montana."

In the past two months I have gotten more and more attached to Montana. Both the vet hospital and I tried to find a home for her, but it seemed that nobody wanted her. You see, Montana is declawed, and she bites when she feels she needs space; after all, since her claws are gone, she has no other defense other than her teeth. Nobody wants a cat who bites. And if we had brought Montana the the humane society, it was almost guaranteed she'd be euthanized because of her biting.

Last week, I offered the possibility of fostering Montana. And yesterday, after school was out and the Christmas holidays began, we went to the hospital and brought her home.

We're keeping her in a separate room until we're absolutely certain that she'll be fine with Shadow (our cat), Mika, and Wall-e.

She's already met the dogs. First we introduced them, one at a time, while she was in her cage (I realize now maybe not the best idea because she probably felt trapped). Mika wasn't that interested and didn't get too close, but Montana was hissing and growling at her. Then Wall-e got to see. He went right up to the door of the cage and Montana whacked her paw against the bars. It made a big noise, and Wall-e got scared and ran away. I guess that's a good time; I want the dogs to respect Montana and not bother her.

Later in the evening, when Montana was out of her cage (but still confined in the room), my mom brought Mika in and held her, while Montana got to choose how close she wanted to get to her. Mika was nice and calm, and stared at me almost the whole time. (She got some treats for her great behaviour). Montana was very interested and walked closer, and eventually sat down staring up at Mika. She didn't hiss or growl, though.

Montana will probably be re-introduced to Wall-e in the same way today, and sometime next week she'll meet Shadow too.

Now I guess all we can do is try to find a home for her and, in the meantime,
see what happens.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another zzz... photo

I figured it was time for me to post another sleeping photo.

I'm not sure why the two beds are on top of each other, but what's amazing is that Mika actually lay down in the donut bed after Wall-e was already sleeping on the rectangular bed. Mika usually isn't THAT fond of Wall-e to actually lie down so close to him, but this time she had no choice since she wanted to sleep in her donut bed.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wall-e's fifth rally class

At class today, we learned the last of the Novice exercises. Next week we'll spend the hour running a full course. (Do you say "running" a course in rally? I don't know the terminology!)

The exercises:

Halt - Side Step Right - Halt
Halt - 1, 2, 3 Steps Forward
Halt - 1, 2, 3 Steps Backward (only in CKC Novice rally)
Halt - Turn Right - 1 Step - Halt

The least difficult exercise for us was the last one. We didn't really have any problems with that, but the other exercises were tough for me! I found it hard to concentrate on my shoulders, arms, and feet all at the same time. It's like starting agility all over again.

The instructor had a good suggestion of using both hands to reward for the front in the Halt -
1, 2, 3 Steps Backward exercise (holding the treat in both hands to reward, instead of one hand). Since the dog is supposed to be in the middle of the handler in the front position, using both hands to reward will prevent the dog from sitting towards any one particular hand (because dogs orient to where they're getting their rewards).

The sequence (or rather a course, because there were a lot of stations) was Start, Fast Pace, Normal Pace, 270 Degree Right, Halt - Sit - Walk Around, 360 Degree Left, Straight Figure 8, Spiral Right - Dog Outside, Halt - Call Front - Finish Right, and Finish. Even though Wall-e was a bit tired because we'd done a lot of training this class, he was happy and eager to do the course.

Looking back over all the exercises we've learned, I think the cone/pylon exercises are our best exercises. (And of course, the stationary exercises are our worst :)

Next week we'll spend the hour running a full course. (Do you say "running" a course in rally? I don't know the terminology!)

Note: I should mention that when I talked about Wall-e's crooked sits at our last class, I didn't mean that he actually sits crooked, but rather than he sits at an angle to me instead of parallel to my body. He sits with his butt far away from me instead of tucked in. Sorry for the confusion! Again, I don't know obedience terminology :)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Goals for the next season

The year is drawing to a close and our club's agility field has been closed for almost two months. It's time to start thinking about our competition goals for next year and how we're going to get there.

I love setting goals and working towards them, even though the goals that I have right now are not really that big of a deal to me. The only goals that have been important to me at all were getting a title, qualifying for Nationals, and running in Superdogs (this was a huge accomplishment for us because of Mika's reactivity). Mika and I have accomplished all of these goals together and now we're just enjoying the ride, but I still think it's fun to have big goals to work towards.

My big long-term goal for both dogs is to get their ATChC (Agility Trial Champion of Canada) titles. To keep us on track for this goal, we also have the smaller goal of achieving at least one title each full trialing year. (Wall-e's first full trialing year will be next year, since he only started trialing in June this year.) Mika and I got our MADC (Master Agility Dog of Canada) title this year and next year the most likely title that we'll get will be our MJDC (Masters Jumper Dog of Canada) or our SGDC (Starters Games Dog of Canada). Wall-e didn't get any titles this year because he barely did any runs, but we may get his ADC (Agility Dog of Canada) or SGDC (Starters Games Dog of Canada) next year.

I'm still working towards getting Mika's SGDC because we only started trialing in Starters Snooker this year,
although we're in Masters for all the other classes. (The SGDC requires two Q's each in Starters Jumpers, Gamblers, and Snooker.) Mika and I only ran in two Snookers this year and didn't Q in either of them due to my handling! The reason I've waited so long to do Snooker is because I wanted to make sure that Mika was completely confident in the ring before trying a potentially stressful class. (It turns out that since Mika is a Masters-level dog, she's used to twisty courses and didn't find Snooker stressful in the least!).

To accomplish the competition goals, we need to have agility training goals/plans as well.


Contact/tunnel discriminations.
Since I've rewarded hundreds of contacts over the past four years of regular training
(3-4 times a week, 6 months of the year), and barely any rewards for tunnels, Mika loves contacts, and when presented with a tunnel/contact discrimination, will choose the contact every time, no matter which contact it is. The first step will be to do lots of rewards for tunnels to raise the value of tunnels. Then, we'll train discriminations.

Angled dog walk entries. This is long-overdue. I never properly trained Mika to safely straighten her body to take angled DW entries, so we just avoid them; if we see an angled DW on course, I over-handle her so that she enters it straight. However, we saw two gambles this year that involved DW entries at an angle. In both cases, I modified the gamble so that either Mika didn't take the DW or that she took another obstacle before the gamble to allow her to take the DW straight on. If I hadn't modified the gambles, she likely would have slipped and fallen off. But the thing is, Mika has awesome DW's at a distance (other than hitting the contact!) and those gambles would have been great for us if I had taught Mika how to straighten herself out. That's why teaching angled DW entries is an important goal for us. I'll be using jump wings to condition Mika to straighten her body by muscle memory, since muscle memory works really well with her.


Handling sensitivity. This is the only training goal I have for Wall-e (other than my goals of reducing his fears, which apply not only to agility but to everyday life as well). This year, Wall-e has gained a ton of drive, but his sensitivity to my handling has decreased a bit. I also need to learn how to handle this very fast dog. I'm getting Moe Strenfel's foundation DVD for Christmas and we'll use that to refresh our understanding of handling!

Goals are a fun part of agility and I'm looking forward to start working towards them next year. Of course, what we're all really looking forward to is doing any agility at all; we're taking a big break from agility this winter. Other than renting one of the agility buildings a few times, we won't be doing any agility training at all to rest the dogs' bodies. As you can imagine, we're dying to get back to our sport!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wall-e's fourth rally class

Wow, it's hard to believe there's only two classes left.

At this class we learned:

Halt - 90 Degree Pivot Right - HALT
Halt - 90 Degree Pivot Left - HALT
Spiral Right - Dog Outside
Spiral Left - Dog Inside

At the next class we'll learn the remaining Novice exercises.

At the beginning of the class, the instructor accidentally turned the heating fan on (I'd told her about Wall-e's fear of fans at the first class, but she forgot; no big deal, it happens!). Wall-e was scared and wouldn't take treats, so I reminded the instructor about his fear and took him outside as she turned the fan. He didn't want to go back inside, but I carried him in. I would have rather shaped him to go back inside, but it was cold and I would have let tons of cold air in the building. I was impressed with how quickly he recovered, though; he started taking treats again as soon as he realized the fan wasn't on, whereas several months ago he still would have been very stressed.

We didn't practice any pivots at this class because they require a bit of training (preferably in an environment without the distraction of other dogs!), but we did practice spirals. Our first spiral lefts were NOT pretty. I kept almost bumping into Wall-e because I wasn't cuing him properly (hmmm, why does that sound familiar?). But by the end of the class, we were both doing better.

The sequence for this class was Start, 360 Degree Right, Fast Pace, Normal Pace, About Turn - Right, Call Front - Finish Left, Halt - Sit - Down - Sit, Halt - Sit - Down - Walk Around, Finish. We were doing pretty well up until the Halt - Sit- Down - Sit, where Wall-e did his sit and down really crooked. He's always had crooked sits and downs, but I've never really payed attention to it as much as I should. The instructor recommended that I retrain his sits and downs a bit to get them straighter, and she helpfully showed me how to reward him to encourage a straight position.

Below is a picture from our third class a week ago; you can see how crooked his sit is :) They were even more crooked at this class. That's what happens when you don't train for straight sits; I never really did :)

I agree that I should retrain him and we've started doing that this week at home. It'll take a while to build the muscle memory of doing straight sits and downs, but with a lot of retraining, I definitely think he'll be able to do it. I just have to remember to always reward on the left side of his head, away from me, instead of towards me.

I have to say, as I watch the video clips from this class, that I just love how happy Wall-e looks as he trots beside me, even after his scare with the fan at the beginning of the class. I'm actually glad that the incident with the fan happened because know I have a lot more confidence with Wall-e's ability to recover from stress.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Wall-e's third rally class

In this class we covered:

About "U" Turn (180 degree turn to the left)
270 Degree Left Turn
360 Degree Left Turn
Call Dog Front - Forward Right
Call Dog Front - Forward Left
Call Dog Front - Finish Right
Call Dog Front - Finish Left

Wall-e forgets how to do finishes! We haven't practiced them in a long time. I had to lure him for his finishes and forwards in this class.

He really likes the forwards though because he doesn't have to sit, he can just keep trotting forward after he moves into position.

The sequence in this class was Start, Straight Figure 8, About Turn - Right, Fast Pace, Normal Pace, Right Turn, 270 Degree Left Turn, Sit - Down - Walk Around, 360 Degree Right Turn, and finally Finish. We did well during most of the course, although Wall-e was heeling a bit too far away from me; gotta train closer heeling. For the Sit - Down - Walk Around, I placed a treat on the ground in front of him after he lay down. This gives him something to focus on as I walk behind him. It works well at home, but at class he got up when I stepped behind him. The instructor suggested that I not put the treat down, but instead just step behind more and more gradually. So we left it at that and completed the course with the 360 Degree Right Turn, which went well. We're good at the exercises that involve moving; it's the stationary exercises that we find tough!

After class, Wall-e got to play with the chocolate lab/poodle puppy (I think he's about six months old). He had a blast. Mika rarely wants to play with Wall-e, so any playtime that he gets is a big treat for him!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Wall-e's first and second rally classes

Two weeks ago, I started taking a beginner rally class with Wall-e. I've taken rally before with Mika in 2007. I've always wanted to do more obedience of some kind with Wall-e, as he just loves to heel and is pretty good at it too!

First class: October 30

Wall-e loved seeing the other dogs at the beginning of class. In the class, there are two lab/poodles (I think one *might* be a golden/poodle, can't remember), a hound mix, a shepherd mix, and a German Shepherd Dog.

The class covers both CARO (Canadian Association of Rally Obedience) and CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) Novice rally exercises. Most of the exercises are the same, but some have different names; for those, I'll just use the CARO names because if we ever do compete, we'd concentrate mostly on CARO. I'll In the first class, we covered:

Halt - Sit (CKC only)
Halt - Sit - Down
Halt - Sit - Stand
Halt - Down - Sit
Halt - Walk Around
Halt - Sit - Walk Around
Halt - Down - Walk Around
Weave Once
Fast Pace
Slow Pace
Normal Pace

(Sorry if I messed up any of the names; I'm working from memory.)

Wall-e really enjoyed it. I realized how much I have to work on his downs; at this class, he wasn't dropping fully down and usually had his elbows off the floor.

When we first approached the cones in the Weave Once exercise, Wall-e tried to interact with one of the cones (pawing it), haha. We've done a lot of shaping exercises with cones and he probably thought that's what we were doing! He soon understood what to do, though.

At the end of each class, we'll be doing a sequence of exercises that will eventually build up to a full course. This week, we did Start (basically just the start line, not really an exercise), Weave Once, Halt - Down, and then Finish (the "finish line"). The Weave Once went well, but I do have to work on Wall-e's downs! He enjoyed it, though.

Second class: November 6

Exercises covered:

Straight Figure 8
Moving Down - Forward (CKC only)
Right Turn
About Turn - Right
270 Degree Right Turn
360 Degree Right Turn

(Only right turns were covered this week because left turns are a bit tougher.)

After working on downs at home, Wall-e's downs were much better this week!

The sequence for this class was Start, Weave Once, Halt - Sit - Down, Right Turn, Halt - Sit - Walk Around, Right Turn, Fast Pace, Normal Pace (just a transition from Fast Pace), and Finish. The first few stations went well, but we had a bit of trouble with the Halt - Sit - Walk Around; Wall-e hasn't learned this yet, so I tried to let him chew on a treat as I walked around him, but he would stand up when I started to step behind him. After two tries, I rewarded him for staying when I took a tiny step, and then moved on to the next stations, which Wall-e did great at.


We would have another class today too, but it was canceled because the instructor is attending a local rally trial. Next week, we'll learn the left turns.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Fun Match Oct. 16 and Trial Oct. 24

Whew. I'm so behind on writing about our latest events. Let's get started.

Fun Match, Oct. 16

I ran Mika in two Masters Gamblers runs and Wall-e in two Starters Standard runs. Wall-e's runs were first. I let him do all of the obstacles except for the weaves, dog walk, and A-frame (although he did sneak onto an off-course AF twice!). Once, he forgot to stop in 2on2off on the teeter. He realized that right after he jumped off and immediately backed up to try to get into position! Good thing that the teeter was already high enough that it didn't hit him.

The Masters gamble was too hard for Mika and me, so I broke it up into smaller pieces and then gradually increased the distance and amount of obstacles. We didn't get to the full distance, but she did send out really nicely to the correct end of the second tunnel, which was the hardest part of the gamble for us. She also had some good weaves during the opening.

Trial, Oct. 24

This was our last trial of the year. I just ran Mika because Wall-e isn't ready to run at this venue yet. We ran in two Masters Gamblers runs and one Masters Jumpers. In the middle of our first Gamblers run, Mika thought we were done because she went over the jump closest to one of the entry/exit gatesMika has been trialing long enough to know that when we're running towards a gate, it's time to get her jackpot reward. Unfortunately for her, what she thought was the exit gate was actually the entry gate, and there was a Keeshond waiting to run. She reacted to it, but came back to me when I called her with "Gimme a check!" (our reactivity cue that means to focus on me when a dog is around). In the gamble, we took the wrong obstacle in the discrimination, so no Q. This run was still a blast, though, because Mika was speedy and barky!

Our second run was another Gamblers. In the opening, I actually called Mika out of the weaves by accident, causing her to pop out; I meant to call her after the poles, but I anticipated and called her while she was still weaving. Silly handler. The DW entry in the gamble was too sharp for Mika, so we did the gamble a bit differently, as you'll see in the video. (Angled DW entries will definitely be a training project for next year.)

Our last run of the year was the Jumpers run. The course wasn't easy and was a bit twisty at times, but we ran it clean and Q'd.

This video is from all of the trials and fun matches we've run in this fall:

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Happy birthday to my little 6 year old!

On Thursday, October 14, Mika celebrated her sixth birthday. I couldn't spend as much time with her as I would have liked because I had to finish two lab write-ups and study for a big test. But we did go for a nice walk at a park we haven't been to in a while (the same one we went to last year on her birthday).

In the evening, Mika got a meal of her usual Tollden Farms raw beef and veggie patty, but also mixed in with some canned pumpkin and cooked lamb. Needless to say, she LOVED it.

(The fuzzy thing next to her left paw is her old favourite Monkey toy, which disappeared for a while and was just recently found again!)

For presents, Mika got a new flexi-leash (so that she doesn't have the share our other one with Wall-e) and organic chicken necks from The Urban Carnivore, which we haven't bought in a couple months.

My little dog is now middle-aged. The more I hear about all the health problems many schnauzers suffer from as they age, the more I appreciate the time I have with my own healthy girl.

Happy birthday Mika :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fun Match Oct. 9, 2010

Both dogs had a great time at the fun match yesterday. I ran Mika in two Masters Standard runs and one Steeplechase, and Wall-e in one Steeplechase.

Mika had some great independence in our first run, the Standard; I accidentally sent her to an off-course tunnel that was 20 feet away! My handling of this course wasn't the greatest, though. There was a section of the course where I had to RC over the first jump of a 180. The first time we tried it, I pulled her towards me instead of pushing her away over the jump. The second time, I managed to push her away, but she didn't know where she was going after the jump and knocked the bar. But oh well, we had fun and I rewarded Mika a lot during the run.

My rear cross at that 180 was much better in our second run (same course as our first run). She jumped the apex of the AF in this run! We haven't trained the AF in about a month, so I doubted that she would jump it.

Next was Wall-e's turn at Steeplechase; "finally," he says! He'd been waiting hours to run and by the time it was his turn, he was ready to burst.

I ran Wall-e at 6". He had tons of fun careening around the little jump/tunnel sequences (we couldn't run the full course because the AF and weaves are too stressful on the rear legs). I rewarded him with a nice "party mix" of Polish sausage, cheese, and sweet potato.

Last run of the day was Steeplechase with Mika.
She had a beautiful AF, jumping the apex again, but much less awkwardly this time! At the end of the run I started sending Mika over the wrong jumps, haha, but she went and started taking the right ones, which made me realize my mistake. If this were a trial, she would have saved the day!

Friday, October 8, 2010


New animals are always popping up at the farmhouse my parents are renovating! They saw three moose there earlier this week. My mom got a photo of these two:

Friday, October 1, 2010

Mika Trial Sep. 25, 2010

I am still super happy about this trial because, although we didn't Q, Mika actually BARKED ON COURSE!!! She has NEVER done this before. Understand that Mika is a very vocal dog; she barks at people, she barks at dogs, she barks when she's doing tricks, she barks before agility, she barks after get the picture...but she has never actually barked during a run or sequence. At this trial we did Snooker for the first time and the least thing I expected was to hear Mika barking during the run!! This is absolutely a great thing because Mika only barks when she's excited and "high," so hearing her bark during our first Snooker runs means that she's happy and not stressing, and is just plain having fun.

I had planned a flowing course for our first run, but we got whistled off after about 15 seconds
for accidentally taking two obstacles-of-choice in a row. (Mika was pleasantly surprised to get her jackpot after only 15 seconds in the ring).

In our second run, Mika entered the weaves wrong, so after she finished them I had her do them in the opposite direction because the first time hadn't counted. But then I didn't have a plan for what to do after that, so I just sent her over a red jump we'd already taken to stop the run. This was Mika's first time doing 24"-spaced weaves at a trial and her footwork was great considering!

Again, awesome trial because I'm uber happy about Mika barking during both of the runs!!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

August trial video

This is the video from our trial back in August. Took me a while to get it up. Mika wasn't too fast because of the incredible heat!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How to make eggshell powder

(Eggshells, from left to right: almost-finished product, slightly crushed, whole eggshells)

I'm making eggshell powder today for the first time, thought I'd share.

I feed a raw diet to my dogs. On a typical day, they get either Tollden Farms frozen patties and/or various other foods.

I don't believe that a dog's diet has to be perfectly balanced every day; as long as they get a fairly balanced diet during the course of a week or even a month (although a week is preferred), they'll be eating well. I don't feed my dogs the pre-made patties day in, day out because dogs' bodies don't respond well to eating the exact same foods every day. My dogs get their patties several times a week, but the rest of the time they get various assortments of food. Also, both dogs get Prozyme enzyme supplements every couple days and a fish oil capsule twice a week. Wall-e has been getting glucosime every couple days since his injury in April (he used to get 125mg, but now I've upped it to 250mg because of his re-injury).

But even though a dog's diet doesn't have to be exactly balanced every day, they should be receiving a good calcium/phosphorus (Ca:P) ratio as often as possible. This is pretty important for dogs. The Tollden Farms patties have a good C:Pa ratio, but when I feed other foods, I still want my dogs to be receiving a good ratio. The recommended ratio is 1.2:1, but many individual foods have more phosphorus than calcium. What to do? Add a calcium supplement.

I referred to one of my favourite books, Dr. Pitcairn's Natural Health for Dogs & Cats, to choose which calcium supplement to use. I narrowed it down between bone meal and eggshell powder. I chose eggshell powder because I would have to buy bone meal, and when there's an option between buying and making my own, I prefer to make my own (when possible).

I'll put the instructions from Dr. Pitcairn's book in my own words, adding some tips that I discovered today while making the eggshell powder.

1. Collect at least a dozen eggshells. I collected two dozen.

2. Wash the eggshells.

3. Bake at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. This makes the eggshells brittle and easier to grind, and also removes the coating that is sometimes added to the shells to keep them from drying out.

4. Crush the eggshells, as shown in the photo at the beginning of this post. This will make the shells easier to grind.

5. Grind using a mortar and pestle, blender, or nut and seed grinder. I chose to use a mortar and pestle. Grind to a "fine powder."

And you're done. Each eggshell makes about 1tsp of powder (1,800mg of calcium).

It's actually kind of fun to use the mortar and pestle. I'm only about halfway done making the powder, but it's going well. And soon I'll have some pretty powder to add to some of the foods my dogs eat.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Double box sequences...late late late!

Mika and I have been working on double box jump sequences for our past couple of training sessions at the field. (Well, we did add the DW and a tunnel into the sequences, but most of them were jumps set in a double box configuration.)

I need to tighten up my rear crosses...I'm always so late with them! When I'm late, Mika (being the good girl she is) still manages to turn in the right direction, but even so, I need to tighten up and cue quicker. Not just with RC's, but with everything. Mika is always so responsive to my handling, and since she is now pretty much back to her normal speed
consistently, it's harder for me to cue at exactly the right time. But even when I'm being a confusing handler, Mika is still snazzy and runs great. She's always having fun, even when she doesn't know where to go for a second.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Having fun with my crazy dogs

At Week 5 of room rest/rehabilitation, Wall-e is still looking sound. We haven't started getting back to agility yet, but I'm slowly starting to introduce him to short spans of running again with lunging. As soon as I got home today I took Wall-e in the backyard with some cheese to do a bit of lunging. Lunging, which originated from the horse world, is where the dog runs in a wide circle around the handler. For Wall-e, I use four pylons for him to circle around. Today was only our second session of lunging, so the "circle" isn't very big (maybe five feet across in diameter), but it still allows Wall-e to have some fun running around it. The look on his face is just great; he's super happy to be allowed to run again, even if it's just running around some pylons a few times! Next week I'll let him start running through straight tunnels (just one tunnel per session).

Later, I practiced retrieving with Mika with a toy that I've just recently found out she's totally bonkers for. I braided this toy out of a felt-like material for Wall-e when he first came home, but he's never liked it that much, so now it's Mika's. I want to start using it in her weave training. (I've been helping her with her footwork in 24" weaves by using four slanted poles). Anyways, we went in the backyard to do a bit of retrieving. The first rep was so cool that we didn't do any more reps. I threw the toy and Mika zoomed ahead to get it, grabbing it and racing back to me...but she was having so much fun that she just barreled on past me! As soon as she realized this, she turned around to bring me her toy and we had lots of fun tugging. The way she growled sounded like she was killing something. She always sounds like that when she's tugging, but today she was seriously crazy.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

3 years since our last group class, and...

The last time I've taken a group class with Mika was in 2007, when we took two sets of agility group classes.

In 2007, it was a constant struggle to keep Mika, who was then aggressive and pretty unmanageable, calm and focused on me instead of reacting at other dogs. When we got out of the car, she was pull towards the other dogs, barking LOUDLY. If another dog got close, she would lunge toward them and snap. During class, she would bark the entire hour except when she was busy chewing a Zuke's bone or licking a Kone, which both didn't last long. I had no idea then, but I now know that she wasn't merely barking at other dogs; she stressed, freaking out, and worrying for her safety the entire time, even though all the other dogs were perfectly friendly. Mika didn't know that.

The first class we took in 2007, in June, was the hardest for us because the class involved a lot of individual obstacle training as well as sequencing. During the obstacle training, all of the dogs took turns on one specific obstacle, one after the other. This type of class would have been fine for a dog like Wall-e, but it was way too much for Mika to handle.

In the summer class, there was a JRT/Toy Poodle in the class that she was the most reactive to. She would fixate on it and wouldn't -- couldn't -- glance at anything else.

Halfway through this set of classes, on the recommendation of another class member, I got a Halti for Mika to help with her barking. But the first day we used it, Mika pulled towards that JRT/poodle as hard as she could and the Halti broke. I can still clearly picture the horrifying image of Mika thundering over to the other dog and the tussle that followed. We pulled the dogs apart and there was no damage except for a couple hairs that the other dog had pulled out of Mika's beard, but it was emotionally shocking. We had just started working through our challenges with the teeter and Mika's stressing in agility, and now we had this aggression that seemed huge, even compared to our other very challenging problems. That day, I was very seriously considering retiring Mika from the sport.

That was 3 years ago.
On Monday, I ran Mika in Wall-e's last sequencing class.

The whole week before the class, I toyed with the idea of running her in the class. On one hand, would it be too stressful and too risky to run her in a class with other dogs? On the other hand, hadn't I learned my lesson that with Mika, I should always go with my gut feeling, which in this case was to run her in the class? I am a worrier and an over-reactor (maybe Mika gets it from me), and it was hard not to think of the what-ifs while making my decision.

On Monday at the class, I didn't run Mika in the first sequence because she would've had to weave towards the group of dogs in our class. Mika stayed in the car; I knew that I would definitely be keeping Mika in the car at all times except when she was running.

The second sequence wasn't too close to the other dogs, so I decided to go for it. Armed with
lots of freeze-dried liver -- what else? -- I carried Mika in; she feels a bit safer when I carry her. But not once did I see her glance at the other dogs. When I put her down to start the sequence, she was in high-drive. She leaned back when I held her by the stifles and said our typical "Ready...Set...Go!" and then blasted off to the first obstacle! She ran the sequence like a dream. Very fast -- as fast as she was last year -- and extremely focused. Not only was she not worried about the other dogs, but she was driven!

I brought Mika in again to run the full Starters course. Again, FOCUSED and FAST! I skipped the weaves and a jump that would have brought her towards the group of dogs, but the instructor let us do the weaves in the opposite direction. They were the new 24" spacing (which went into effect this month in the AAC) and although she wasn't very speedy through them, she drove through them fluidly with her body low, and did the whole set of 12. She's only 12.75", so it'll take a while for her to get her usual speed on the new spacing. We ran the rest of the course and that was it; we'd done it. After 3 years of very hard work, Mika successfully ran in a group class without worrying about other dogs!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Continuing with our work on Wall-e's fears

This should be my last "catch-up" post from the 2 weeks that I didn't blog!

Wall-e didn't run in class on Monday this week either because of his injury, so we used class time to work on his fears again. We walked into the building with no problem at all. We even walked almost directly under where the fan was blaring. After 30 minutes of hanging around and doing a bit more fear training, we went home.

The way it's going now, I think Wall-e would definitely be able to do agility in the building. I won't trial him there this fall, but next spring he can probably do some indoor mini-trials, which are less chaotic than regular trials.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A big step for Wall-e and his fears!

Wall-e's classes are held at an indoor/outdoor venue. Although we've dealt with his fears of the indoor arena where his bad experience happened, he was still terrified of the arena/building at this venue. Well, he wasn't really scared of the building, more the commotion and noise made by other dogs inside the building, as well as the sound of the fan.

So before our class last week, I rented the building for 30 minutes. I'd planned to first train Mika inside the building, with Wall-e watching by the door, so that Wall-e could see that being in the building can be really fun. Then, I'd planned to slowly shape Wall-e to step inside the building.

The beginning of our rental went as planned. I just did simple stuff with Mika; running through a tunnel for a game of tug, doing the teeter a couple of times for freeze-dried liver. She was great. Then it was Wall-e's turn. It turns out that since the fan was off during our rental, Wall-e didn't have a problem with going inside at all. He just walked right in! Later, when the fan was turned on for the classes (which were held inside that day), I saw that Wall-e was very hesitant to go inside, so we shaped it. He wasn't as scared as he used to be -- going inside without the fan in our rental had helped that -- and within 5 minutes, he was able to step all the way inside. Within 10 minutes, he was trotting around inside the building with his tail up. Wow!! He wasn't even too nervous when the other dogs made a noise. He flicked his ears back for a second, but soon recovered and went back to being happy. Go Mister Meister!! (I don't even know why I call him that.)

I didn't run him in class that week because of his injury. He wasn't showing lameness when we arrived at the venue, but when it was time to go home, I saw that he was slightly limping again. Too much trotting? He'd also bounced in the air a few times during training, although I tried to prevent him from doing that by rewarding him close to the ground (I don't want to correct his enthusiasm that he shows through bouncing). Bouncing definitely isn't good for his knee!

I checked out what Kathy had written about Breeze's partial CCL tear a couple years ago. It was really informative! It also made me realize that if Wall-e does have a CCL injury (I really don't know if he does, but all of the signs are pointing to it), it's a bit more serious than I was treating it. When I posted about it in the middle of August, I said that I planned to have him back doing simple agility exercises in just 2 weeks. I realize now that 2 weeks is too soon for this kind of injury. After doing lots more reading from lots of different sources, I think that Wall-e can *gradually* get back to doing a bit of agility after a month of room rest, which will be 2 weeks from now. He'll just do one obstacle per session; not a lot of running at all. After 6 weeks of room rest (4 weeks from now), he can start doing sequencing again.

I'm following a home rehabilitation program that I found in the September 2007 issue of Clean Run Magazine. The program is meant for dogs recovering from surgery complete ruptures, so I'm modifying it a bit for Wall-e, since his injury isn't as serious; I'm dividing the days in half. For example, instead of waiting 30 days to do the second set of exercises, I waited 15 days.

I probably made it sound complicated, but basically, right now Wall-e is doing room rest, 10-20 minute walks, and the home rehabilitation program. I don't know if he does have a CCL injury, but I'm playing it safe, just in case.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mika Trial Aug. 29, 2010

Whew, it's been 2 weeks since I've blogged!

Sunday was Mika's first time successfully running at a trial in almost 2 months (at our last trial, we had those *incidents* with the other dogs). I've been working very hard on her reactivity since then. We've always worked at it, but for the past several weeks we've been doing as much as we can to get exposure to as many dogs as possible to work on reactivity. For the rest of this year I've only entered Mika in trials that have fenced rings, for the sake of safety, in case she does react to another dog.

She did have a reaction at this trial, but it wasn't in the ring. I can't remember the dog because it happened right before our first run, but I was preparing to cue Mika into a sit-stay close to a few other dogs when one of the dogs approached her and she lunged. Nothing else happened and I moved Mika farther away from the other dogs.

It was hot throughout the whole day, but Mika ran at a good speed considering that. (She has been getting slower these past few months, but we're getting her speed back.) When it was time to do our gamble, Mika read my (wrong) cues, saw the last jump in the gamble, and started running towards it. I called her, but as we approached the first jump of the gamble we were already at a bad angle, so I couldn't send her out to the intended second jump. Off-course to another jump, NQ. Doesn't matter, I'm just happy that she's getting her drive back!

A knocked bar caused our NQ in our Masters Jumpers run. Yes, Mika knocked a bar! She occasionally will knock a 6" bar in training, when she doesn't lift her feet up enough to go over the tiny jump, but she's only ever knocked 2 bars at trials; once at Nationals (last year) and once in a Gamblers run. I don't think she would have knocked the bar at this trial if I had led out. I started with her in this run because she broke her stay in the Gamblers run and, since she's been breaking stays a lot this year, I don't want her to rehearse that. Anyway, it's too bad it was so hot for this run because the course was super flowing. Other than that knocked bar, we ran it clean, except for an off-course to a tunnel (she only put a paw in it, but it was still an off-course). She wasn't fast, but that was to be expected in the heat.

No reactions to other dogs in the ring...things are looking up for us!

I'll talk about Wall-e in a later post, but he isn't showing any signs of lameness at the moment.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Not again...

The beginning of Wall-e's class yesterday was amazing. We ran the first exercise beautifully. He ran hard through his weaves and watched my signals perfectly. (I ran him at 10" because we were at a fun match on Sunday.)

But the next exercise involved an angled approach to the teeter. I didn't think it would be a problem. I pushed into his path a bit to help him get on straight. He got on at just a bit of an angle, but not too bad, and then slipped off halfway across. I brought him around in a loop to take a couple of jumps and try the teeter again, which he did fine. He ran the rest of the exercise great.

The last exercise started with the dog walk, then went into a curved tunnel, and then finished from the tunnel to a table. I started Wall-e from the jump before the DW, so that he could get some speed onto the DW. I knew that something was up when he cantered slowly up the DW, then trotted across the horizontal and down planks. He *never* trots across the horizontal plank! I rewarded him and stopped running. My first thought was: knee. Wall-e was lame in his rear left leg back in April.

Sure enough, when I got home, I saw that Wall-e was limping, favouring one of his rear legs. It was hard to tell which one it was while he was walking, but when I did a soundness test I saw that he was putting more weight on his right rear leg than his left, and when I picked up his rear legs his right leg felt heavier. That could only mean that something was up with his left rear leg....

Not again!

I watched the video clip of the spill off the teeter and he definitely hyper-extended his left rear leg.
Though it's hard to see, it looks like he might have banged his left knee against the teeter base as he slipped off. The left rear leg was the one that stayed on the teeter the longest. From what I've read, cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tears often happen on teeter or dog walk spills with the rear leg that stays on the obstacle the longest.

I'm pretty sure this time that it's his CCL (which is part of the knee/patella) that's the problem.
With Ashley's help, I've been thinking up a plan for his recovery. It's a lot like what I did last time, but this time I'm going to include swimming (Ashley's idea) in the plan. This week will be rest, with daily massage. Next week will be very short walks and swimming sessions.

Week 3 will be 15 minute walks, conditioning exercises focused on strengthening the rear legs (using Dr. Chris Zink's recommendations from her book The Agility Advantage). Also, short daily agility sessions with no turns involved and only straight tunnels, 6" jumps, and tables (another one of Chris Zink's suggestions). We'll see about swimming. By then it'll be September and it could be too chilly. Week 4 will be 30 minute walks, continuing conditioning exercises (I'll hopefully do these for the rest of his life). And short daily agility sessions with slight turns, and all obstacles except the A-frame and weaves. (At least 50% of jumps at 6" and no more than 50% at 10".) Week 5 will be up to 45 minute walks, conditioning exercises, and agility sessions with all obstacles. (But still 50%-50% of 6" and 10" jumps. I think that's a good idea anyway, for any dog.) Finally, Week 6 will be the same except with 60 minute walks.

I entered Wall-e in two Starters Jumpers runs on September 12. I was going to start running him in 16" at this trial, but entered him in 10" again instead because of this. I'm not sure if he'll be good to run by then. Starters courses don't involve sharp turns (or at least, they shouldn't) and are only 15-17 obstacles. I'll see how he is. We might not be able to finish our set of classes, though, because they end on September 6. Maybe we'll be able to do the last one, but we'd skip the AF and weaves and I would run him at 6".

I think Wall-e's knee (or whatever it is) will always be weak, but considering that he is still putting weight on it, I really don't think the situation is right now. The vet didn't even see a problem when I brought him in in April, 3 weeks after he started showing lameness. Anyway, we'll take it as it goes.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fun Match Aug. 15, 2010

VERY good fun match!! I don't feel like I made any big training mistakes (but if you caught something, let me know). The only thing was that I pulled Wall-e out of the weaves when I sent him off-course to them, but I'm excusing myself for that because by the time I saw him enter, he'd already realized that I wanted him somewhere else and pulled out.

My main goal for this fun match was for Mika not to react at any dogs, and we achieved that goal with the help of tons of freeze-dried liver! Weren't Mika's weaves great!? She got a hard ON-SIDE entry (Mika is not an on-side entry dog!) and never popped out!! She didn't 2-hit her A-frame, but the contacts were really wet, so of course she didn't. She did hit the yellow 2 out of 4 times, though (we did 3 reps of the AF in our second run, which I didn't put in the video)!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Mika's feeling blue

It seems that Mika is turning into a Smurf.

Or maybe it's just an attack of one of our blue bone-shaped toys. The colour is starting to come off.

But you never know.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Back to work on turn cues

Quick post.... Remember when Mika and I were working on turning cues over a jump back in the spring? Well, we've been getting back at it (again, using the Clean Run "It's Your Turn!" article series). This month's turn cue is the push-through; sending the dog to the opposite side of the jump (a.k.a. the back side of the jump). Today, my feet weren't pointing to the path I wanted Mika to take at first, so for the first rep she didn't understand that she had to go AROUND the jump standard to take the back side. The second rep went really nicely, though.

Wall-e's third sequencing class

I love Wall-e's A-frame :D It's fast and reliable. The first exercise involved the AF and then an outward flip to a tunnel that was wrapped underneath. Wall-e didn't get this at all. At first I was using my outside arm to try to flip him (my rear cross cue), but the instructor told me that using my inside arm in this situation is clearer to the dog. After a few more tries, Wall-e finally got it. After the tunnel, the dog had to go into a couple more tunnels and then collect into an on-side weave entry (45 degrees?). I tried handling this with Wall-e on my right the first couple of times and he didn't collect in time to snag the entry. I was told to do a front cross in front of the tunnel to get him on my left for the weaves, which worked a lot better. Then we ran the whole exercise again, adding a tunnel after the weaves. We got everything right, except that I sent Wall-e onto an off-course teeter (the instructor said that my hand was flapping, ugh, I thought I was doing better about that recently!). When I kept my hand to my side and called him, he sent into the tunnel fine.

The second and last exercise (we spent a lot of time on the first one because it was pretty tough for these Starters dogs) involved a teeter, a tunnel (wrapped under the dog walk), and the DW. We got it the first time. His teeter was great, but his DW could have been faster. He didn't get too much momentum going onto it though because he had to turn from the tunnel (which was under the DW) onto the up-plank.

It was a good class :)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Cute little guy

My parents saw this little critter at the farmhouse that they're fixing up and my mom snapped a picture. We think it's a groundhog pup. Cute!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Wall-e's second sequencing class

This class was much better than our first one! I stuck to my usual training style (rewarding for both the good and bad, jackpot for the good), so I felt a lot better about myself. The first exercise we did was a lateral lead-out over 2 jumps set at a 90 degree angle, and then going on to the teeter and table. It was a bit too lateral for Wall-e the first time, so I reduced the distance for the second time and he got it. He ZOOMED over to the teeter.

Next was a bit of a simpler exercise, a jump to a 30 degree on-side weave entry (12 poles). Wall-e got that right away after all of our work on weave entries last week, good boy!

The final exercise involved a straight line of the table to the dog walk to a tire, and then a turn to the A-frame and a straight tunnel. His DW was really nice! He ran all the way across, not hesitating on the down plank, and touched his nose to the clear target as soon as he stopped in 2on2off. The first time we tried the AF, he collected for his 2o2o, but not enough to actually stop. He did get it the next time, though.

When all of the individual exercises were done, we ran a full course that involved all of the exercises, like the first class. (I like how the instructor does this.) Wall-e was so good!! He ran it clean; his first time running a Standard course clean. His DW was beautiful. His AF could have been faster, but it wasn't really slow, and he stopped. I even got a chance to use our cik and cap cues (Silvia Trkman's method of teaching wraps over a jump). It was really fun!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

July works!

The last video got blocked because of the songs I chose (something about copyright), so I took off the music. It should work now:

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Fun Match July 31, '10

Mika ran Masters Jumpers and Wall-e ran Starters Standard.

The Standard runs were first. Wall-e got to practice his new 2on2off contacts (both the dog walk and 5 foot A-frame) in a trial environment. He did really well! I put his targets out for the first run and left them out for the second. His first run was cute. On both the AF and DW, he stopped in 2o2o. I rewarded him, and then after he ate his food he broke his 2o2o, turned around, and hopped back into 2o2o. Haha!

The Masters Jumpers course was a lot like a Snooker (which is actually good because Mika and I will be running in Snooker for the first time this fall). Mika was slow, though. I don't know why she's been so slow this year. And she reacted at a dog (black lab, no surprise!) in our second run. Oh well. The good part was that we had no off-courses, just some missed jumps. She was still a good dog, even if she was stressed by the black lab :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Revealed: No Country for Animals

Do animals have any rights in Canada?

Revealed: No Country for Animals examines Canada’s deplorable record on animal welfare and looks at the people who are fighting to bring about much-needed change.

This documentary introduces viewers to some of the people who are fighting to bring about change in this country. There’s Nicole Joncas challenging the Quebec courts to close their horrific puppy mills, or Twyla Francois, armed with an undercover camera, campaigning vigorously to bring attention to the mistreatment of farm animals. We meet Canada’s first lawyer to specialize in animal law, and a new, young generation dedicated to the fight to improve the lives of animals through legal and educational means.

This documentary will enlighten and enrage you and will leave you wondering how humane our society really is.

I missed this on TV, but am watching it on the link below to watch it.

Revealed: No Country for Animals

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mika, flying A-frame dog

For probably the first time ever, we went to the field twice today. Once at 7:00am, once at 4:00pm. The first time we went, Mika and Wall-e worked on the A-frame, on-side weave entries, and dog walk/tunnel discrimination (all stuff that Wall-e needs for his class).

But it was our afternoon session that completely amazed me.

Mika trained first this time. I ran her over the DW a couple times first. (Well, she ran over it by herself the first time!) Then it was on to the AF. The first rep wasn't a true running AF, so I rewarded her quickly and then went back to do it again. I held her by her stifles (back knees) to rev her up like I often do, saying my usual "Reeaadyy...settt...GO!!" She took off like a bullet. And WOW. WOW. Can I say it again? WOW. She zoooomed over to the AF, strided up, and FLEW down. FLEW. What I remember most is her back legs straight out behind her as she soared through the air. And then I remember seeing her back paws hit the yellow at the top slat of the contact zone. Mika. did. a. flying. A-frame.

We must have looked like crazy people to the cars passing by. I screamed out, "GOOD GIRL, GOOD GIRL!!" to a hyperactive Mika who soaked up my approval eagerly, but who really just wanted me to throw that darn food tube. Which I did. I threw it and threw it and rewarded her until it was empty.

A one-hit AF probably isn't a performance that'd be safe long-term, but I'm sure that Mika won't be doing it again. I'm perfectly happy with a 2-hit running AF with a nice jump over the apex (not a ginormous, soaring Superman impersonation like she did today). I'm just so thrilled (and shocked!) that she did it today because I've been wanting a jump over the apex for years, and what did she do? She exceeded my expectations, as she's done countless time. Ohhh yes, she gave me a jump, but she gave me a BIG jump!

(Mika, by the way, is only 12.75" tall. I swear to God. Can you say -gasp-?)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Wall-e's first sequencing class

On Monday, Wall-e and I had our first Starters sequencing class.

The first exercise that we did involved a lateral lead-out with a curved tunnel. The dog was left in a stay in front of the left tunnel entrance, while the handler led-out in front of the right entrance and released the dog to the left entrance. (Am I confusing anyone yet!) Wall-e ran to me the first couple of times, but when I stood in the middle of the tunnel, he got it.

Then there was an S-shaped sequence involved the teeter, jumps, the A-frame, and 12 poles. Wall-e did a tunnel instead of the AF because his AF is still under construction. His weaves were funny in class for some reason. The first time we tried this sequence, he went through the first and second poles, but hadn't collected himself enough to make the turn to the third pole. The second time we tried it, he entered at the second pole. I was kicking myself afterward because I called him out of the poles a couple times to send him through again, instead of letting him finish the sequence like I do at the field. Next time I'm really going to try to act like I do at the field, though.

The last thing we did was run a whole course that included the exercises that we'd run. Wall-e did everything beautifully, except for the dog walk, strangely! There was a tunnel wrapped around the entrance ramp, which he'd never seen before. When I cued him to go up the DW, he started to go up, then jumped off the up-plank when he saw the tunnel underneath him. The instructor said to lure him up with my hand, which I did. Once he realized that it was still a DW and wasn't some weird tunnel-DW hybrid, he was fine. He didn't have his usual speed, but he was good and stopped for his 2o2o. Next week I'll try to get to class a bit earlier to practice the DW and get his normal speed.

The rest of the sequence went great. He even got his weave entry the first time, although he was slow and uncertain. (I shouldn't have called him out before....) He stayed in the poles when I did a front cross at the end and finished with a nice send to a tunnel.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

CKC Trial July 24, '10

Mika didn't run. As we were at the car getting ready for her first run, she saw a black Standard Poodle about 20-30 feet away, ran over, and snapped at him. Augh. We went over to the ring. I did our usual mental warm-up and she seemed focused again. So I went in the ring, still distracted from her reaction, but thinking that it was over with and we would do this run. As I began to lead out, Mika saw a Tibetan Terrier walking past the ring behind her and immediately ran over to the side of the ring, trying to find a way out. I called her and she started to come back to me, but just before I could grab her, she spotted the dog again and ran through the entrance of the ring. She raced over to the dog and started a scuffle, but to my relief, the owner pulled her dog away. I called Mika and this time she came all the way to me. We were excused from the run (but I would have excused ourselves anyway).

I'm lucky that I know the owners of the poodle and the Tibetan, and they were very forgiving. I wouldn't have blamed them if they were upset, but they didn't act upset in the least. I pulled Mika from her remaining two runs, both for her safety and for the safety of other dogs.

Things to change...well, Mika will be wearing a Gentle Leader to the ring from now on. It definitely helps keep her calm. (When she pulls on her regular agility leash, it makes her more excited and potentially reactive.) I'll be taking her for individual walks to work more on her reactivity to other dogs, like I did when we were getting ready for SuperDogs last year.

It's amazing; Mika is so much more reactive with big black dogs. She always has been. My guess is that it's because she was lunged at by a black lab mix in a pet store when she was 10 weeks old. She ran the other way, screaming and terrified. At the trial, the poodle was a big black dog. With the tibetan, she must have still been in that reactive state of mind. She's seen that dog before and hasn't minded him.

Later that day, I walked Mika around the trial a couple of times to play our reactivity games. In our second session, we were setting under the shade tent in front of the same ring she had run out of that morning. There were about five other dogs around her, some only a couple feet away, and she was lying calmly in her down-stay, staring at me. She didn't even offer a glance at one of the dogs, so I knew that she was feeling super-comfortable in that situation. Then, she saw a big black Whippet walking over, about 50 feet away. She stood up, completely tense, stared intensely at the Whippet, growling. I picked her up (I had to, or else she would have gone nuts) and brought her as far away as I could.

Hah, she's totally fine with 5 strange dogs crowded around her, but when she sees a big black dog 50 feet away, she loses it! What a dog! :)

Okay, onto Wall-e's runs. It was his very first CKC trial and he got his first Novice Jumpers with Weaves Q. The run was 19.71 seconds!! Our second run, another JWW, was fast too, but we missed some jumps. At the end of the run, he LEAPED into the air so high that I could have caught him. He knows how to have fun!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Wall-e AAC Trial July 8, '10

Never wrote about this trial! Whoops!! It was awhile ago....

Wall-e was entered in two Starters Gamblers runs, his very first try at Gamblers. In the first run, I did a fairly long lead-out and he stayed sitting beautifully. We did several jumps and a couple of teeters before the person timing told us to restart because the timer had malfunctioned. All right, back to the start! Wall-e got up from his stay this time, but I'm trying to keep everything fun for him, so I didn't tell him to sit again. But what a great run!! It was his first run with the teeter and first run with weaves. He did all of them perfectly and awesomely!! The gamble had tunnel sends, so I didn't handle it from behind the line (he'd been having some refusals on tunnel sends in training).

In our next run, I started with him instead of leading out because I thought there wasn't really any need for a lead-out. He seemed a bit confused about where to go after the first jump, though, so I probably should have led-out. Note to self -- always lead out with Wall-e! This run felt messy, but it was still good. I would have tried the gamble (only jumps), but I didn't heard the gamble buzzer. Other people didn't hear it either. It was pretty quiet.

He was a good boy! Will post the runs with the video of our CKC trial that both dogs are running at tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mika's latest groom

Mika got another haircut on Thursday last week. The groomer always puts a bandanna on her. It's always a different bandanna every time and it often corresponds with a nearby holiday or the season. This time it's yellow, great for summer!

(I shouldn't have taken these photos into the sun, but I hadn't planned to do that; I was taking photos of Wall-e and saw Mika standing nearby, so I turned around and snapped some shots. Oh well, she still looks pretty!)

Mika and Wall-e also went swimming in the pool a few times last week. (Mostly Wall-e because he doesn't mind swimming as much as Mika does.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Mika MADC video

Forgot to say that she was running kind of slow because it was HOT, especially for this country, haha!

(In the video it says "June." It should say "July.")

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mika AAC Trial July 4, '10

This is pretty late, sorry!

Well, it's finally here...Mika and I got our Master Agility Dog of Canada (MADC) title :) Nothing really more to say other than how proud I am of her. The video will be up soon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Happy Canada Day!


I realized that I've never blogged about one of my new(ish)-found loves; freestyle.

Canine freestyle is quite a new sport; it was born about 20 years ago. There are 2 main types of freestyle: musical freestyle and heelwork to music (HWTM). Basically, musical freestyle is all about tricks, while HWTM is (you guessed it) all about heeling. Both types of freestyle are performed in time to music.

This is one of the most well-known musical freestyle routines, by Carolyn Scott and her late golden, Rookie:

And this is an example of heelwork to music:

I discovered freestyle soon after I discovered agility, but I just started to get more serious about it this year. Musical freestyle is the one I'm into. Mika, being the flashier trick dog, is my main freestyle dog for now, but I might try HWTM with Wall-e one day; he's great at heeling, whereas Mika's version of heeling is bouncing/galloping along beside me!

I choreographed our very first routine a couple months ago. It's perfect for Mika because it's fast and involves a lot of motion. The song is "Get Up And Dance" by Faber Drive.

I'll admit it...I'm terrible at dancing. The good thing about freestyle, though, it that the attention is mostly on the dog and if the dog is flashy, she'll make up for the human's lack of dancing skills!

Sadly, there are no freestyle competitions in my area that I know of. I guess that's kind of a good thing though, since the judges generally don't appreciate barking in the routines :)

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Finished back-chaining!

As of today, we're all done back-chaining the dog walk! We still have to increase the distance/speed that Wall-e is approaching the DW at, and fade the target, but blah blah blah....It feels good that we're done back-chaining and that Wall-e knows how to control his body to stop at high speed!

When we went to the field yesterday we saw that somebody had set up a Starters Jumpers-type course and left the numbered cones! Wall-e and I ran it clean, and very quickly, yesterday (it was a rush!), and today we ran it in reverse. We had a bit of trouble with missed jumps, a refusal at the tunnel, and off-courses, probably because I set the jumps at 6" today, while yesterday they were at 10". I have to remember that Wall-e is still green; I have to run fast and cue extension, while not getting too far ahead of him.

After that, tunnel sends. No refusals in any of the 4 reps.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

What Mika's been doing

(Trying out this template. I'm not sure if I'll keep it or not yet.)

Mika is still on a break from agility because of her shoulder. She's not showing lameness anymore, but I'm still resting her just in case. We've been getting back to tricks, which we haven't trained for a while.

We did a couple sessions of backing up today. It's a trick that I've been training on and off for years, but we just never completed it. She's always had a bit of a tough time with it. The traditional way of teaching it -- stepping towards the dog to get them to take a step back -- never worked. If I try that, Mika just sits down. I've tried luring her backwards with a treat, but it's just awkward and she isn't thinking about what she's doing. I've tried shaping; not much luck with that either, as the most I could get was a tiny step backward with one back paw, and it didn't seem like she was doing it intentionally. What has worked best for us so far as been using a low platform for her to target with her back paws (as explained in Sassie Joiris' "Tricks: Backing Up" article in the October 2009 issue of Clean Run). I started using this method last October, after being inspired by the article. When I wrote about Mika's progress with the method in October, I said:

"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!"

Well, one thing hasn't changed; Mika still barks the entire (I repeat: ENTIRE) time when we shape the back up trick! But she's also improved; we did 2 very short sessions today and she never got stuck at all!

Instead of using a book, I used a low block of wood that worked just as well. In our first session, she didn't really know what she was supposed to be doing and jumped over my legs a couple of times (I had my legs in a "V" channel the help her stay in a straight line). She soon remembered, though. Our second session was only one rep; she backed up onto the block of wood perfectly the first time, so I gave her a mini jackpot and ended the session. Yay Mika!! I'm only requiring her to back up one step right now, so she's just taking a backward step onto the block. When she gets more consistent, I'll increase the distance very gradually.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yet another day of training

Back-chained on the dog walk from the top of the up plank. There was one rep where he stopped in a handstand and literally stayed there for half a second, hahah. His other stops were beautiful, though. Just a couple more sessions, and he'll be running over the whole competition-height DW and stopping in 2o2o!

We've developed a routine in our training lately: first we train the DW, then we run a sequence, then we finish off with something easier. So, predictably, after training on the DW, we ran a sequence. This one had a 45 degree on-side weave entry at the beginning and then some fast lines of jumps and tunnels. Wall-e didn't even see the weaves at first because I'd set him up in the direction of a jump, which he raced over to and tightly wrapped. I set him up properly the second time and he hit his entry perfectly...then saw the DW and snagged it! I let him run over it because we were going in that direction anyway...when he got to the down plank he jumped off and zoomed towards me. Apparently, he'll need some more work to have his target faded! :) He did an AWESOME finish of the sequence -- he put one huge stride in between two jumps where I would have expected him to put two; and he sent into the tunnel with me catching up behind, not even glancing at me as he happily took the obstacle.

When I set him up to try the beginning of the sequence again, he spotted a car driving by and chased it halfway across the field, then turned on a dime and zoomed back to me without me even saying a word!! Next he spotted a TRUCK. (If you ask Wall-e his opinion of which vehicles are the most fun to chase, he'll say the bigger the better.) He took off for it, but again came back to me right away. It's as if he's thinking, "Whoopsies, I'm not in the backyard, I'm at the field...s'posed to be training right now!" GOOD boy!! Anyway, when we actually got around to trying the beginning of that sequence around, he saw the DW, but came right to me when I called him. He's way too good.

Finally, we practiced Susan Salo's set-point grid. I did this a lot with Wall-e in his jumping foundation, but he haven't trained it in quite some time. The grid has 2 jumps; the first is 6" and the second is 10", his current competition height. Wall-e jumps the 6" jump and then takes off for the 10" jump as soon as he lands from the first jump (a.k.a., a bounce stride). He jumped with so much power! He did launch himself once, but usually jumped very nicely.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Great training session!

I've probably been writing too much about training the past few day...but I think it really helps to keep a record of sessions :)

Wall-e and I back-chained from the horizontal plank of the dog walk today. I moved the target closer to the contact because yesterday he was stopping in 4onthefloor sometimes (the target was a bit too far away). I love his 2on2off performance! He stops just at the right spot, eats his food, then shifts his weight to his rear as he looks at me for his next instruction. If I asked, he would also give a nose-touch to the target. I'm using a big yellow target for visibility, but when I eventually start fading it, I'll use a clear target.

After 4 reps of DW back-chaining, I set him up to run a sequence. At first, instead of taking the first obstacle staring him in the face, a set of 6 weaves, he turned away from me to run up the DW! All this DW back-chaining has gotten him LOVING that obstacle! We tried again and this time he did the weaves wonderfully. There was a set of 6 weaves and then a set of 8 weaves, about six feet in front of the first set, requiring the dog to collect quickly to enter the second set. Wall-e got it, WOW!! The rest of the sequence went great too, he was running really well!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dog walk/agility update

Yay Wall-e! Today we back-chained from the part of the dog walk where the horizontal plank connects with the down plank. He had better speed than yesterday!

After that, we ran a flowing sequence and then trained more tunnel sends, and also a bit of jump wrapping. Like the DW, he had better speed today than yesterday.

Mika's shoulder seems to be much better; yesterday, while dinner was being made and she was waiting around for food to drop, she lifted up her front right paw a couple times, like a pointer. (She often does that when she's eagerly waiting for something.) That meant that she was voluntarily putting weight on her left shoulder...a good sign! Today at the field I let her chase her food tube around. She had fun; I could tell because of all the barking!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mika's shoulder and Wall-e's training

Mika was popping out of 12 weaves consistently in training last week, so on Sunday I did the soundness test and discovered that she was limping very slightly, putting more weight on her front right leg than her left. Later that day I massaged her left side and found that when I massaged her left shoulder, near the elbow, she tensed up and lifted her head to look at me. "Ouch!" She also didn't want to go up the stairs that evening; she started walking up them (instead of running up like she usually does) and then stopped when she got in the middle and looked at me.

She'll be getting a complete break from agility for a couple of weeks. I'm hoping that it's just a little problem that'll go away after rest and more massage. I'm not going to overreact and think the worst like I did with Wall-e's lameness :) She did seem a bit better yesterday and today.

Today, a couple hours ago, I went to the field to work on Wall-e's dog walk. We're concentrating on the DW now instead of the A-frame because of the easier angle. Last week I back-chained the 2-foot high DW -- he was amazing! -- and today we started back-chaining the full-height DW. I'm using a food-loaded target at the end to build his independence. All 3 reps were great! He's giving as much speed as he's able; hard to get lots of speed when you're just using the down plank.

Then we ran a sequence to practice rear crosses. The first rep went well, but I slipped and fell in the middle of the sequence, haha, so we tried again. The second rep was good too. I just wasn't running fast enough and he didn't know where to go a couple of times.

Afterward, we trained sends to the tunnel.
I should have accelerated more, which would have cued him to extend better. Oh well, I'm learning!

I might post a video of Wall-e's training on the weekend, we'll see :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gamble dog in the near future?

This morning, I set up a sequence in the backyard from a Distance Challenge article, by Jane Simmons-Moake, in an old Clean Run issue (March 2009, p. 78, Figure 11). I knew that I wouldn't be able to handle Wall-e from the green line (up to 30 feet), but I was going to try the blue line (up to 10-15 feet). The sequence involved four jumps and a tunnel; I shortened the original sequence for my limited equipment! First, I ran with Wall-e at our usual working distance, which he did really really well and speedily! For the second rep, I handled at the 10-15 feet distance. WOW, he got it right away and I even layered the jump at the end!

I think I'll probably enter him in a couple of Starters Gamblers runs in July. I'll enter him at 10" for the Gamblers, but his next Jumpers runs (likely in September) will be at 16" and that will be his height from then on until he's a veteran.