Saturday, December 31, 2011


It is 11:03pm. I am spending part of the last hour of 2011 making plans for 2012. :) Sitting on the couch beside Mika, who is sleeping. Wall-e is sleeping nearby; he still likes having his own space while sleeping, except for the odd occasion when he lies on the couch beside me.

Plans, plans, plans!

First off, I'd like to say that although I place limited importance on titles, I still use titles as a way to focus our training; so when I say that we'll be trying to reach for a "such-and-such" title in 2012, I'm really just using that as a way to focus our training sessions.


SGDC (Starters Games Dog of Canada) title
- We're 4/6 for this title. The two Q's that we need are both in Starters Snooker, which we've ever done a few runs in; for us to reach this title, we'll really need to get our Snooker skills in order. So really, I need to get my handling in order! We'll be training through lots of handling exercises from Clean Run Magazine. I have to concentrate on making my handling more fluid and less choppy. At least Mika is back to having an awesome obstacle focus/handler focus balance. I remember back in 2009 when she was insanely obstacle-focused, and had her moments where she'd spot a line of jumps and, ZOOM, just snag 'em all.

AG.I.J. (Agility Intermediate Jumper) title
- 1/3. This is a CKC title. I like CKC courses because they give Mika a bit of a break from her technical Masters runs in AAC; Mika is in the Intermediate level in CKC, so she gets to run simpler courses. Not much to work on for this title; but it will be a bit of a challenge to achieve because we'll only be doing 4 Intermediate JWW runs in 2012, since there is only one local CKC trial. Sooo, we'll have to Q twice out of the 4 runs. The pressure will be on! :) I haven't run under pressure in a long time, since the 2009 AAC Regionals actually (I wasn't even running under pressure at Nationals, since I had no goals for Nats). It'll be interesting to see what happens when I push myself and Mika. Of course, my #1 goal will be to make sure that Mika has a blast; but I do love to see her reach her full potential.


ADC (Agility Dog of Canada) title
- 2/3. Wall-e has all the skills to achieve this title; we just need that final Q! He does, however, have a few things that could use some brushing up; namely, 1. not running by the weave entrance like he's been doing lately, 2. being more clear on his 2on2off criteria, and 3. collecting more upon approving the table so that he doesn't slide off.

SGDC title
- 2/6. He needs his two Starters Gamblers Q's and his Snooker Q's (which he hasn't even tried yet). His distance could use some work; we haven't worked on it in a while. For Snooker, I simply need to improve my handling, like with Mika. Wall-e is turning out to be a bit more difficult to handle as he gains obstacle focus; it's like Mika gave him a bit of her old obstacle focus!

AG.N.J. title
- 1/3. Just a fun title, shouldn't be too hard.

See you in 2012!

EDIT: Forgot to add that I'll also be preparing both dogs for the 2013 Regionals and Nationals. Although we won't be able to attend in 2012, we'll finally be able to go again in 2013; I'm still trying to decide whether we should or not. Mika is ready, since she did well at the 2009 regs and nats; but Wall-e isn't ready yet. I'll be working a lot on his distance skills to prepare him for the Masters Gamblers runs that he'd see at regs (and possibly at nats, if he would qualify).

2011 Year in Review video

I tried to include equal amounts of each dog, since Mika didn't trial as much as Wall-e this year. :)

It's a new channel, by the way!

EDIT: Oh, and Happy New Year's Eve! :)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wall-e trial July 17, 2011

Wall-e's first run. NQ:

Mika got to train a bit in the practice ring:

Well, this run was interesting! The umbrella that one of the ring crew was using for shade fell over (you can't see it in the video) and Wall-e got startled by it. He stopped on top of the A-frame and just stared! He was in such a trance that he was completely startled when I gently touched him to pick him up so that we could leave the ring.

The judge kindly let us have a re-run. NQ, but I was SOO relieved that Wall-e wasn't scared in the least:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mika's eyes are (mostly) in the clear!

Haven't posted in a LONG time; I've been doing a summer course that just ended a few days ago. But now I'm back, hopefully! :)

I've been worried these past couple of days because I noticed that Mika had white/hazy spots on her eyes. I'd noticed a tiny dot on her left eye a couple of weeks ago, but since it was only on that one eye I'd assumed it was a scratch. But over the weeks, that tiny dot got bigger, until it turned into this (taken two days ago):

Brought her to the vet today. The first thing she did was shining lights into her eyes to see where exactly the spots were located. Thankfully, the spots were on the cornea and not in the lenses, which would indicate something more serious (such as cataracts). PHEW!!

She then did two tests; first something called a "schirmer tear test," where she stuck a thin strip of paper into each of Mika's eyes and waited for tears to be produced; the tears were supposed to turn the paper blue, which they did. The second test was the fluorescence eye stain, where she put green dye into Mika's eyes and then shone lights on them to make sure that the dye didn't pool anywhere where the spots where (which would indicate holes, or ulcers). Mika passed that test with flying colours too.

So finally, the vet concluded that Mika either has corneal degeneration or corneal dystrophy. The difference between these two conditions is that corneal dystrophy is hereditary, while corneal degeneration is not. To my understanding, both diseases involve cholesterol or calcium deposits on the cornea of the eye. These usually do not impair the sight and so do not require treatment. Woohoo!!

But Mika had her blood panel done a few months ago, and her cholesterol and calcium levels were perfect, which is odd, considering that both of the conditions involve calcium or cholesterol deposits; so the vet referred us to an ophthalmologist for a second opinion.

Mika still had some green tears coming from her left eye when we got home,
thanks to the tests! I still think she has the most beautiful eyes in the world, regardless of whether there are spots on them. (And the spot is hard to see in this photo anyway because of the reflection in her eye.)

Note the green tears:

On another note, I was very happy that Mika seemed more relaxed at this appointment and didn't refuse a single treat!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Mika and Wall-e trial July 3, 2011

It was so hot -- 100 degrees F -- but my dogs did well considering.

This was my first time running Steeplechase at a trial, and of course my dogs' first time too!

Wall-e had a good run. I liked his first A-frame. He didn't stop in 2on2off on his second AF, so I asked him to hop in position before going on. Then something happened in the weaves; he started to enter correctly, but didn't collect enough to make the turn to the third pole. I guess we should start concentrating on on-side weave entries in training! :) Video of the run below:

Mika was amazing and driven even though it was so hot! She is a heat-sensitive dog, but the only part of the run where the heat seemed to affect her was at the end, in the weaves (she slowed down just a bit). And I was so happy with her AF; her first true running AF at this venue!! Q and 2nd.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wall-e fun match June 26, 2011

Amazing weather today, cool and breezy! I hope it stays like that all summer! (I probably just jinxed it :)

I only ran Wall-e at this fun match. Mika is probably heading into semi-retirement from trials and fun matches (I'll explain that in a future post).

I did run Mika over a few jumps in the practice ring, though, because she just won't settle down until she gets her turn:

With Wall-e, I ran the Advanced Standard course twice. We ran the course mostly as numbered, except that I added an extra jump before the teeter to make the angle less sharp. I really don't want Wall-e to injure himself on a teeter again! I also ran him at 16" because he'll be running 16" at trials from now on. (I've just been running him at 10" to help ease him into the trial atmosphere.)

The first time, he broke his stay, but I kept going. We'll have to work on stays a lot in training. He also lifted his elbows off the table and self-released on the dog walk! I guess I haven't been proofing stays enough. Other than the self-release, his dog walk WAS beautiful, though. I used a target to help him because his DW's weren't so great at his last trial, and I think having the target there really did help. The video of the run is shown below:

I really worked on his stays during our second try at the course. The "judge" (the owner of the facility) suggested that I lead out more confidently, which helped a lot. Thanks Sue! When we finally ran the course, it was beautiful; Wall-e was fast and we ran the course clean. He kept his elbows down on the table too, and didn't self-release on the DW. I also loved how he kind of "pounced" into his 2on2off on the teeter! Run below:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Will You Catch Me Now?" video

A collection of various training clips!

Kathy, at the end of the video you'll see the set-up for your weave challenge #1; we haven't worked through all the maneuvers yet (we're having some difficulties with the recall), but I hope to in the near future!! :)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mika and Wall-e trial June 12, 2011


Wall-e Starters Jumpers
18.97 seconds, fastest time yet!! Q, 1st, and Best Run in Special; so Wall-e is now in Adv. Jumpers.

Mika Masters Gamblers
Good run; Mika hit all three of her dog walk contacts in the opening, and right in the middle of the yellow too! No gamble.

Mika Masters Jumpers
Q (and 1s); can you believe it!? But more importantly, we had fun and I felt so connected with my girl!

Wall-e Starters Standard 1
Wall-e's very first Standard run, ever. He watched me so well. Highlights: he did the teeter (wasn't sure if he would jump off or not, even though we've worked through his little teeter problem), stayed down on the table (I thought he might lift his elbows off), and didn't pop out of the weaves! Q, 1st, and Best Run!
You might notice that he sniffed on the table after the table count was finished. This was because a dog (a female dog, actually!) had peed on the table a couple of dogs before.
As for his contacts, they were good. On the dog walk, he stopped in more of a 1-rear-toe-on position instead of 2on2off; only his back toes stayed on the contact. He realized this and backed up to go into the proper position, but backed up a bit too far so that his whole body was actually on the contact. So I waited for him to go forward again...and he gave a cute little impatient woof as he stepped forward to finally go into "correct" 2o2o! His A-frame was nice, but for some reason he let his butt plop back into a Sit after he stopped in his 2o2o. Still, it was pretty fast! Overall, I was so, so pleased with his very first Standard run!!

Wall-e Starters Standard 2
Another nice run! I did sacrifice a Q in order to train in the ring; he slipped a teeny bit as he went up the DW, and then forgot to stop in 2o2o when he descended the down plank. My initial impulse was to keep going, but then I stopped myself in order to ask Wall-e to hop in 2o2o position.
My personal rule with my dogs is to always, always keep going whenever they make mistakes (especially at trials)...except when it comes to Wall-e's 2o2o. I have to maintain criteria or else he'll think that he can do running contacts (which I'd LOVE, but I know that they'd break down over time). I was originally planning on bringing Wall-e back in a loop of obstacles to the beginning of the DW, and then doing the whole DW again; but the judge told us during the briefing that if we did this, we'd get a whistle, which might have freaked Wall-e that was out! You'll see in the video that he had no problem at all with hopping back on the end of the DW.

Wall-e Starters Standard 3
Another fun run with the Wall-e boy! I was pleasantly surprised when he came back to me after the second tunnel, at 0:14 in the video. We actually did a very similar sequence in training last week, and I didn't use a strong enough off-arm signal, so Wall-e took the DW the first time. But at this trial I knew that I had to really use my off-arm, and Wall-e read it right away and took the jump near me! The rest of the run was great as well. He could have had a faster AF, but we'll work on that in training.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The reasons

What makes a stressed dog?

Genetics? Environment?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I post on a couple of Yahoo lists about my dogs' fears, and also as I finish up my "introduction to social sciences" class at school. According to my class,

Genetics + Environment = an individual

Although the class focuses on humans, of course I generalize everything to dogs :) And I've heard of this equation before, referring to dogs. It's gotten me thinking about why my dogs are the way they are.

Mika came to me as an 8 week old puppy. She was shy and cautious from the start, and her initial reaction to things that frightened her was to run away. I remember when we were in Petcetera one day (a Canadian version of PetSmart) and there was a big, black brindle lab mix. We were walking Mika behind it, and then the dog turned around and lunged and Mika. My puppy, about 10-12 weeks old at the time, ran away screaming. And so began her fear of big black labs.

Today, she is fearful of all dogs; but while she can handle the average dog approaching her without "blowing up," if that dog is a big black dog, she'll go absolutely nuts in panic. Coincidence? I think not.

We started puppy kindergarten with Mika when she was 18 weeks old. During the puppy play sessions, while most of the other puppies tumbled around, chasing each other and wrestling, Mika would spend her time hiding under the chairs.

When Mika was 6 months old, she began to bark at other dogs, and people. Fight instead of flight; a typical terrier response!

And I also believe that the "activity" that Mika was bred for -- conformation -- played a part in her reactive tendencies. Terriers in conformation shows are encouraged to "spar" with each other in the ring; basically, acting tough and showing the beginnings of reactivity. I wasn't aware of this sparring technique until a few years ago. No doubt Mika has some at least slightly reactive dogs in her lineage, as both of her parents were conformation Champions.

And Wall-e came to me as a confident 5.5 month old puppy. I could bring him anywhere and nothing seemed to faze him. He always showed a bit of nervousness/awareness when he heard heating fans in dog training buildings, but no true fear; just the typical sheltie sensitivity to the environment. Overall, I called him my dog with "no self-preservation" and he was an outstanding example of a sheltie without any fears (unlike so many fearful shelties). That is, until his bad experience, which changed him into a fearful dog. So Wall-e's situation is a bit simpler in terms of what caused his fearfulness, unlike Mika, who has so many elements that made her who she is today.

Some people say that if both of somebody's dogs
(or all, if they have more than two) have the same "behavioural problems," then that person obviously doesn't know how to prevent or fix the problem. But what if things just happened that way? I'm not perfect, but I "did everything right" with Mika during her puppyhood; socialized her, did puppy kindergarten, brought her everywhere and anywhere. And yet, she still became reactive. I've recently read about the new belief that shy dogs should not be over-socialized because this could cause their fears to maybe that was my mistake with Mika. But to be honest, I think she still would have become reactive anyway, since she'd been showing fear ever since I brought her home.

And Wall-e had a bad experience, which of course couldn't have been my fault, since it was just a "freak" thing (maybe that's too big a word, but oh well) that nobody could have expected.

It's just gotten me thinking.

And I don't know how much longer I can call Wall-e a "fearful dog" because this year I've been seeing so much of the old Wall-e, the confident Wall-e I had before the bad experience. On walks, he wags his tail when children approach him, smiles at women in hijabs (another one of his previous fears that I haven't mentioned), and confidently turns to me for guidance when he hears a scary noise. I know that Mika will never be a completely confident dog because she was never confident to begin with; but I'm getting my Wall-e boy back.

Anyway, these are just some of my random thoughts. Do I hope that my next dog will have no fears? Not really;
I love working with my fearful dogs. Seeing them face a situation with a big smile, that would previously cause them to fight or flight (depending on the dog :), is something that I wouldn't change for the world. There are few things in my life more satisfying than helping my dogs learn how to deal with their fears and truly live.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

What that sequence was supposed to look like!

In my last post, I posted a video of a (failed :) sequence that I ran with Wall-e. I also ran this same sequence with Mika, but didn't post the video, so I decided to post it now to give you a better idea of what the sequence was supposed to look like.

We ran the same sequence two different days. This was our first try on June 3. I called her off the last jump to practice our call-offs; she did wonderful!:

And this is when we ran it on June 5 (the same day that Wall-e ran it in my previous post). I rewarded her early because she had a great A-frame even without her usual prop. (I usually put a jump bar at the end of the AF to help her hit it and retain her muscle memory, but this time I forgot.)

I still wasn't perfect, but
I'm so much more used to handling Mika than Wall-e, and you can tell! :)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Our recent training

First off, I wanted to say a big thanks to everyone who gave me advice for our gambling and snookering skills (post here). I've been using everyone's suggestions with Mika during our training this past month!

We have a big trial coming up next weekend. Well, big for Wall-e; he'll be doing five runs for the first time (the most he's ever done at a trial is two, but he's done three at fun matches). 2 Starters Jumpers and 3 Starters Standards. It'll be his first time running in Standard, and his first time doing the A-frame and dog walk at a trial. Looking forward to it!! Mika will be doing a Masters Jumpers and a Masters Gamblers, although I might switch the Gamblers for a Snooker instead. It'll probably be hot next weekend, and I'm sure Mika won't be dying to run a 60-second Gamblers run in the stifling heat.

I've spent the last week preparing Wall-e for his Standard runs. His weaves have been funny lately; he's been popping out halfway through. So I've been training them with guide wires. Here is one of our reps from today (we did three in total, but this was the best):

We also ran a jump/tunnel/AF sequence that we ran on Friday as well. I need to learn how to handle and support my dog; I pulled Wall-e off a few jumps. Here's the sequence; I'd love to hear any suggestions:

I'm really happy with how much his table has improved, though! His elbows actually touch the table now, lol, and he's much more relaxed about it than he used to be (he used to occasionally lick his lips when he got on the table).

Then it was Mika's turn. She didn't get the 90 degree weave entry and she had a bit of trouble with the weaves in general. I don't think she likes the guide wires very much; I won't use them with her next time. On her third and final rep, she entered at the second pole and actually made the effort to weave UNDER all of the guide wires! Poor girl was trying so hard, haha; she weaved under the wires for the first 11 poles, which is when I just threw her food tube because I felt bad for her. But she still had some speedy weaves.

She also did great at the sequence and had a nice AF! We ran the sequence fast and clean.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Mika and Wall-e trial May 27, 2011

I knew I was forgetting something! I forgot to post about this trial.

Wall-e ran first. This was Wall-e's second indoor trial; he did another Starters Jumpers run. The run was good, although he was pretty slow, for him. We NQ'd because of a missed jump.

Mika ran a Starters Snooker course. The opening included a teeter at a 90 degree entry, which Mika did WONDERFUL with!! So glad that all of our plank entry training is paying off. I forgot my opening and did two reds in a row, which got us whistled off! :)

This may have been our last indoor trial. I'll talk about that in a future post.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Dogs: a misunderstood species

I just posted this on an aggression list that I belong to, in response to someone who said that the most respectful way to treat a dog is to "treat him like a dog," with corrections. I had to reply, and I thought I'd post my reply here because this is an issue that I feel very strongly about. I could discuss this for pages and pages, but I'll spare you all from that :) I'm always trying to learn more about dog behaviour, emotions, etc., and I don't consider myself an expert at all; but I feel so angry when I read about people who still believe the old-fashioned opinions on how to treat dogs.

Treating him "like a dog"? What does that mean exactly? How people treat dogs is often based on tradition, on history, on how their parents taught them, etc. Is using collar corrections treating him like a dog, or is rewarding behaviour with treats treating him like a dog? What about ear pinches, or on the opposite end of the scale, pleasant ear rubs?

I'm not sure if I've made my point or not, but I fail to understand the "traditional" belief that dogs need to be treated as little demons who always try to undermine our authority. If you watch, truly watch, dogs interacting with their people for any given length of time, you'll see that this is not the case.

At agility trials, I see countless misunderstood dogs. I see dogs who lunge at other dogs after showing stress signals, and receive a strict muzzle grabbing from their handler. I see dogs who trot around the ring, sniffing in an attempt to relieve their stress, after which their handler takes them off the course, berating them for "blowing them off." And I see the dogs who painfully walk through the course, appearing as though they would rather be anywhere else than in this stressful environment, but who bear it because they know they are not allowed to leave.

I have successfully diminished my Miniature Schnauzer's genetic-based reactivity to other dogs without any physical or verbal corrections whatsoever. My schnauzer used to start screaming and barking whenever she saw other dogs, whether they were two feet away or two hundred feet away; now, she sees a dog approaching her and turns to me.

Dogs understand reward-based training. What dogs don't understand is being grabbed, yanked, pinched, or jerked for simply being honest. Dogs are always honest, and they always try to communicate with us, but we humans often miss it -- unless we're looking.

I don't pretend to be an expert, but with all due respect, I do wish that people would try to consider the newer methods of dog training.

EDIT: And now I learn that the moderators of the list didn't even publish my response. Talk about bias.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Still stunning at 17

Our beautiful cat Shadow.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy 3rd birthday Wall-e!

It's amazing how fast time flies. Yesterday Wall-e celebrated his 3rd -- yes, THIRD! -- birthday!

First we went to the field at 10:00am:

The rest of the day was interspersed with walks and chasing cars along the fence in the backyard:

That evening, Wall-e had his "cake"; half of a muffin top. Wall-e LOVES muffins, and I'm sure he'd appreciate having the whole thing, but I was afraid he would get sick. He did have a nice-sized piece though:

Happy birthday Mister! I hope you have a fun year of agility, walks, and occasional car-chasing :)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Mika trial May 20, 2011

Was it ever humid! Two Masters Gamblers runs.

They were both good. I remember at this same trial last year, it was just as humid, but Mika was running a lot slower; but today her speed and drive only decreased a bit. YAY girlie!

Didn't get the gamble in either run! :) In the first one I tried to send Mika to the tunnel, but got stuck on the line:

In the second run, Mika yelped as I let her go (I started with her, like I usually do in Gamblers). I think I was accidentally pulling her back a bit too hard; I always pull her back slightly to rev her up, and she leans back in response in preparation to taking off like a rocket. (Not that she took off like a rocket at this trial, lol, because of the humidity!) I stopped running to make sure she was okay, and then we restarted the run with quite a bit more speed. This gamble was kind of impossible -- only one team got it! -- so I barely attempted it. Way over our heads! See below:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Open house demos May 15, 2011

Our club held an open house on Sunday, with demos in agility, flyball, and disc. I ran my dogs in the agility demos (and also tried handling a club member's Border Collie in flyball...but I can't say that I did very well in that, haha!).

There were two different agility demos; a Standard run and a run called "Clockwatcher's" (in which two different dog/handler teams run sequences at the same time; whoever gets to the table first wins).

It was raining during Mika's Standard run, but she didn't care at all; she just wanted to do agility and get treats! I have to work on her startline stay; she released herself a couple of times and I had to reset her (after rewarding her for her enthusiasm, of course). There were other spectator dogs watching just 5-10 feet away from her, by the fence, but she only glanced at them a few times and remained totally focused on me! Watching her in the video, I see no signs of immense stress (the lip-licking was because of the treats I was giving her). When we finally started our run, she was wonderful!! Below is the first half of our run:

The second half of our run is in a different video clip, which I haven't bothered to upload yet, but it included a really nice A-frame (even though the AF was wet).

Then Wall-e had his turn. He was, well...kind of nuts, doing things he doesn't usually do! Running past jumps, entering the weaves super-late, running behind me to go on the contacts and table...but this was his first time training on the field this year (thanks for noting that, Ashley), so it's no wonder he was acting really green. He did have a lot of fun, though!

I didn't run Mika in Clockwatcher's, but I did run Wall-e, with Helen and her great sheltie Beckett. More running past jumps! Looks like Wall-e will be going back to square one with sequencing for a while :) No matter, I enjoy these training challenges, they're what makes agility interesting. And after all, Wall-e is just telling me that I need to improve my training skills in this area. The video is below:

We did the Standard demo again in the afternoon. I didn't run Mika again because there were two big black dogs RIGHT next to the fence, actually right where Mika would be running towards to enter the second last tunnel; I definitely didn't want to put her in that situation. Wall-e ran again, though. His second Standard run wasn't much different than the first, but again, he did have a smile on his face the whole time, so I wasn't unhappy! But he had a BEAUTIFUL A-frame that I just had to reward. When he soared over the top, I expected him to miss his 2on2off, but nope, he stopped right when he was supposed to.

So it was a fun day and I now know that I have a lot to work on in terms of refreshing Wall-e's knowledge of sequencing! :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fun match May 14, 2011

I had this big post typed up and saved it to publish later, but today I looked and all my writing was gone. Sooo, I'll just post the videos :)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mika's bloodwork results

Got Mika's results back today. Here are the most significant results:

Free T4: 22.9 (normal range 7.7-47.6), fine. This is the biggest reason that I got Mika tested, although I'm wondering if I should do the other tests in the thyroid panel (T3, T4, free T3, and TgAA).

ALT: 18 (normal range 24-141), vet recommended a homeopathic remedy called Genestra (Seroyal) for the adrenal glands.

Vitamin E: deficiency, vet recommended multi-vitamin by Rx Essentials.

Selenium: deficiency, multi-vitamin applies as well. Our vet said that it was interesting that I'd been concerned about Mika's thinning coat, since selenium is essential for coat and skin health, and Mika is deficient, so....Hmm.

All in all, the vet said that Mika is very very healthy for a Miniature Schnauzer of her age (6.5 years old, 7 in October), as she sees many schnauzers in her practice who have several health problems.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Need advice

So out of 7 runs, (4 Masters Gamblers and 3 Starters Snookers), Mika and I haven't Q'd at all yet this year. I know it's not about the Q's, and I definitely don't place a lot of value on Q's (it's all about the fun, drive, and speed for me!!). But it would be nice to improve our game.

I need advice. How do you guys do so well in Gamblers and Snooker? I'm just kind of at a loss.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mika trial May 7, 2011

Both of us really enjoyed our Starters Snooker run today, even though it was pretty short! :)

I just loved the way Mika released from the start-line. I can picture very clearly her expression, filled with anticipation and abandon, as she flew over the jump, and then dug into the dirt to turn. It's different on the video -- you can't see her expression as she goes over the jump -- but I hope I will always remember it!

I wrapped the tire weirdly because I used our "capcapcap" cue, which means to wrap to the right, and I've admittedly never trained the cik/cap wrap cues specifically with the tire, so I was sure that Mika would back-jump it; but she didn't! But as I was clapping my hands to bring Mika towards me, my feet were pointing towards the weaves, and
Mika snagged the weaves because they were the first obstacle she saw. Still, it was fun seeing her racing towards those weaves even as I was running away from them; she didn't get the entry, but staying committed to the weaves as I moved away is pretty great! Her coolness factor went up even higher than it already is :)

Thursday, May 5, 2011

First training session at the field!

Today we went to the field for the first time this year, woohoo! I wanted to try out that tough sequence that I mentioned several days ago, but I'd rather not set up a sequence for only one dog to run (since Wall-e is on rest). So instead, Mika and I played around with teeter banging, angled dog walk entries, and rear crosses.

I put a jump standard under one end of the teeter to create a drop of 2-3". As soon as Mika saw the teeter, she trotted over to bang it.

Then we did two angled DW entries. I used a jump wing to help Mika straighten her body onto the DW. The first entry was about 30 degrees, and the second was about 45. We'll continue working on these in future sessions until Mika can send from angles over 90 degrees.

Finally, we worked on RC's. I'd set up the short double-RC sequence (just three jumps) from our last Snooker run on April 1. The first two reps, I just rewarded Mika for taking the tire, which she had passed by during our run at the trial. The last rep, I added the second RC (and the last jump).

Trial on Saturday, a Starters Snooker run :)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mika's vet appointment

Mika had a routine vet appointment today. It was actually the first vet appointment I've had with Mika, over the past couple of years, that didn't make me leave the hospital worried about Mika's health! It was an odd feeling to be leaving with somewhat of a sense of calm....

Mika knew where we were going right after we got out of the car. I was carrying her, and as we started walking in the direction of the vet hospital, she started screaming/barking. Poor girl wouldn't take treats and I didn't know what to do. I regret not spraying her collar with DAP; I don't know if it would have helped, but it would have been worth a try.

Then I weighed her on the scale; 13.6 pounds. She weighed 12.4 pounds at our last exam; she has gained more muscle mass since then, but I think she also needs to lose a bit of extra "flabby weight" as well! She's not overweight at all, but I like to keep my dogs very slim for agility.

Mika finally took a few treats as we were waiting for the vet. She was shaking, though.

Then our vet arrived, and we went into the exam room. She checked Mika over and had no concerns at all. Then I mentioned how I've noticed that Mika's fur has been thinning (all over her body, not in patches), and that I'd like to have her thyroid tested. (Hypothyroidism is a hugely underdiagnosed problem, and thinning fur is one of the symptoms of it.) Our vet wasn't too concerned about her thyroid, but agreed to start with a free T4 test, which can also be included in a huge collection of tests including tests for the liver, kidneys, pancreas, etc. I kind of wanted the full thyroid panel, but agreed to go along with her suggestion because it included a lot of other tests that are very important for aging Miniature Schnauzers.

Mika was taken in the back to have her blood drawn, and I felt just terrible; she must have bee so stressed and wondering what was going on, why these "strange people" were taking her away. I'm sure she was extremely cooperative -- she always is -- but I couldn't help worrying. Of course, in a few minutes she was brought back, and all was well again. The vet told us that we'll be called about the test results in around two days.

Then our exam was done. Our vet let us know that there was a German Shepherd outside in the waiting room, and so I was prepared as I walked out of the exam room with Mika in my arms, turning my body to block her view of the other dog; but then I saw that it was a big BLACK German Shepherd, ugh oh. But Mika didn't see the GSD right away, until the owner walked into the exam room with it, and then she was just so eager and relieved to be leaving the vet that she didn't care at all.

I'm resting Wall-e for two weeks because a few days ago, on Sunday, I noticed that he was slightly lame in his front right leg (was limping a bit). He's not limping at all anymore, but I'll still continue resting him, just in case. I'm glad that it's not his rear leg again, although I'd been hoping that he could go the full year without any lameness, no matter how slight, but at least it's nothing big. I find it's ironic that Wall-e's been lame three times in the past year because he is SO fit and slim, and has awesome muscle mass...I guess it's just his hard-driving way of living that he chooses that makes him more likely to be injured. Especially running along the fence in the backyard chasing cars, which I've been limiting, but he's so crazy about doing it that I suspect it's caused two of the three lamenesses he's experienced (one was caused by agility for sure, but the other two are unknown).

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mika trial April 17, 2011

After this post, I'll be caught up with trials; phew!

Again, we ran two Masters Gamblers at this trial.

I love how Mika started off our first run (shown below); I started with her and she just blasted off when I let her go. A couple times during this run, she thought I was rear crossing and flipped away from me, when in reality I was trying to cue a same-side turn...I guess that's a sign that my RC's haven't been so great lately. She also did a huge leap over the apex of the A-frame in this run, which I was thrilled about! (It's hard to see in the video, unfortunately.) We didn't get the gamble; I got stuck on the line.

Our second run was fun too. There was a malfunction or something with the timer, so we had to wait on the line a few minutes as they got that sorted out. I held Mika for the first couple of minutes, but she was whining and just really wanted to run, so I tugged with her using her leash. I didn't expect her to tug because I thought she'd be stressed from all the waiting, but she was such a good girl and tugged intensely like her usual self! As for the actual run, it went pretty well. There was one point in the opening where Mika anticipated my turn cue at the tire and stopped in front of it; I have to work on re-building her obstacle focus (and I spent so much time last year trying to lessen her obstacle focus, haha!). There's such a fine balance between too much and not enough obstacle focus. With the gamble, Mika didn't see the jump she was supposed to take and came back to me instead of staying out. I should have gotten back from the line some more so I could give a more obvious push. Oh well :)


On another note, our agility club set up the field today, woohoo!! I have to submit my membership/waiver today, and then tomorrow I hope to go to the field with both dogs and train on part of a challenging jumpers course from a forum I go on. I'm so excited for this year and what we will hopefully accomplish, mostly in terms of training. Remember, as I said at the beginning of the year, this is our "Year of Progress" :)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mika trial April 8, 2011

So I'm behind posting about a couple of trials because I couldn't find the video files; but I'm trying to catch up now!

Mika had fun! We ran two Masters Gamblers.

In our first run (shown below) she actually had more obstacle independence than I'd planned, and actually went over an off-course jump in the gamble because I didn't pull her in enough. She also did a little jump over the apex of the A-frame in the opening!

In our second run, I accidentally crossed the gamble line as we were setting up for the gamble, so we got whistled off. :) You might notice that our opening in this run is similar to the opening in our first run. I tend to do that a lot when we do two Gamblers at the same trial; after all, why change?

Friday, April 8, 2011

Mika April 1 Starters Snooker video

This is from our trial last week. I had another trial today with Mika, but I'll write about how that went once I finish making Wall-e's April 1 video.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Mika's run at the April 1 trial

I didn't talk about Mika's run during my last post. Well, I was happy with Mika, but not very happy at myself :) Our run was a Starters Snooker. We started off well and got to two reds before being whistled off (one more than our last Snooker run, haha)! What happened? Well, I tried to rear cross the tire after the second red jump, but for some reason Mika pulled off the tire right after I crossed behind her. (My RC was great, for once, so I'll assume that it's a training problem). But the part that I was really annoyed about what how I reacted after Mika pulled off. One of my biggest rules while running my dogs -- especially soft Mika! -- is to ALWAYS keep going when we make the mistake. Well, I kept going, but not after really hesitating for about a second and almost stopping. For some reason I had this big urge to turn around to try the tire again. Mika turned to me like "What happened?" and we kept going to the next red jump (and by then the judge had lifted up his whistle and whistled us off for doing two reds in a row). UGH, I was just so annoyed at myself, especially as I watched the video. I HATE it when I make these mistakes that gradually chip away at Mika's motivation. She was a tad bit slower after my mistake, but soon sped up again.

I am trying to forgive myself for my mistake by telling myself that it has been so long since Mika has missed a jump at a trial, and therefore I'm out of practice in how I should react.

Excuse my little personal rant, it really bothers me when I make these kinds of mistakes! :) I was really happy with Mika's enthusiasm though, and I noticed that she had a nice hit in the yellow on the A-frame. Focus on the good points, and forgive your own stupidness! It just better not happen again! :)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Unworried Wall-e!

Worried Wall-e is no longer. As of Friday, Worried Wall-e is now Unworried Wall-e.

I brought Wall-e into the trial building right soon after we arrived. I popped him over the two practice jumps and led him walk around a bit in the crating area, seeing the dogs we knew. He noticeably perked up, and mostly forgot about all of the trial noises, when he was doing the practice jumps and visiting other dogs. It really helps to keep him occupied when he's in a potentially stressful situation.

My plan for his Starters Jumpers run (the only run I had entered him in) was to just do the four jumps closest to the ring, then leave and jackpot. But I realized that the practice jumps were actually right under the heating fan (or at least, I think they were; the loudest fan noise was coming from that area), and Wall-e was fine. The ring was actually a lot quieter than the practice jump area. So I figured that Wall-e would be fine running the whole course.

And he was!!! I started with him instead of leading out, to give him that emotional support before our run. As I was saying our start-line revving-up cue, "Ready...Set..." he was wagging his tail but was looking around him a bit (slightly stressed), but when I finished by saying "...GO!" and let him go, he TOOK OFF for the first jump! He whizzed across the first line of jumps like a rocket. A green-dog moment happened at the first tunnel as I tried to rear cross and he didn't see the tunnel until he was almost right beside it, but he made it in and we continued on the course. Our only fault was a knocked bar in the middle of the course, when I RC'd too late and Wall-e had to turn his body in the right direction as he landed, causing him to knock a bar. But we finished the course with a time of 19.19 seconds -- I think it was the second fastest time out of all of the dogs in the class! -- and WALL-E HAD FUN!!!

From the dog who wouldn't even step in this arena a year ago, to a dog who can run like the best of 'em. I am so proud of my little boy, the Unworried Wall-e!

(Will talk about Mika's run later :)

P.S. I said I would explain the April 1 thing. It's just that on April 1, 2007, Mika and I had our first fun match and Mika ran out of the ring -- the beginning of our big battle with the teeter and stress. And then this trial, Wall-e's first time running indoors (HUGE deal for him!), happened on April 1. I thought something else happened on April 1 another year, but nope. Every year when April 1 arrives, I always thing of that first fun match, and now I will be able to think of this trial as well :)

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tomorrow is the defining moment...

Wall-e's first indoor trial is tomorrow.

We are armed with DAP and green tea (opted for that instead of the L-theanine).

Why is it always that these defining moments happen on April 1? (Will explain that in the next post.)

No time to write more, but I am eagerly anticipating tomorrow!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Reactivity update and L-theanine

I went for a walk this morning and Mika and I were running at the park. Mika always wants to run during our walks -- as in, full-out sprints. Half of our time going for "walks" actually spent sprinting! It's just awesome to run behind her, trying to keep up, watching her in full extension, legs flying.

So today we were running and I saw a man with an off-leash golden up ahead of us. Mika spotted the golden first and increased her speed a notch to zoom towards the dog. I called "Gimme a check!" (our reactivity cue) and, with no hesitation whatsoever, she turned on a dime to race back to me. She got a few handfuls of treats for that GREAT response!


On a different note, I've been reading up on an amino acid called L-theanine that is commonly used for dogs with stress or anxiety. I first heard about in on the shy-k9s Yahoo group that I recently joined. L-theanine can relax an individual (a person, dog, or whatever), while at the same time increasing focus and NOT making the individual sluggish! This is unlike most of the stress supplements that I've heard of, which do calm the dog, but also make them drowsy, which I don't want. I'm going to read up some more on this amino acid and then maybe try some for Wall-e, in addition to the DAP, for our trial on Friday.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A stroll by the pond with Wall-e

Doin' the sheltie rub

Hee hee. One of Wall-e's many happy faces.

Showing off his muddy paws

"Zoom!" Chasing a treat up the hill

I wish that leash didn't have to be in the way, but I don't have time to photoshop right now. And Mr. Wall-e can't be off-leash because those darn cars are just too tempting :) The crazy boy would be off and running in a second!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Mika's first walk to the pond in 2011

Mika and I went for a very nice walk to the pond yesterday. It's the first time we went this year because it's too far for Mika to walk to in the winter (Mika often doesn't even want to step out of the house in the winter!), but now that it seems like spring is upon us, I can start taking her for longer walks again.

We surprisingly didn't see any other dogs at the pond. The pond is a great place to work on her reactivity because we almost always see at least a couple of dogs, but today we didn't see any. We did see two dogs on the way home, though -- and both were her highest-level triggers; big black dogs!

The first was a black bouvier. I don't think Mika had ever seen a bouvier before, but I anticipated a big reaction from her because they're a bit similar-looking to Briards, which is Mika's absolute biggest trigger (luckily we rarely see them). When I saw it, I crossed to the other side of the road with Mika and told her to sit-stay. She did, and I fed her cheese as the bouvier passed by. She was SO good!!! She didn't even get tense, but rather stayed relaxed (well, as relaxed as Mika can be when she's getting treats) and focused on me.

The second dog we saw was a black pit bull mix, almost certainly with some lab in it as well; it had the body of a lab and the head of a pittie. I saw this dog at the last minute and had to pick Mika up so that we could move away fast enough. Mika saw it right after I picked her up and she *almost* went over threshold, but she contained herself as she gnawed on a piece of cheese -- what a good girl -- and when I put her down, about 20 feet away from the other dog, she sit-stayed and didn't bark once.

Very proud of my awesome girl!!

P.S. Next time we go to the pond, I'll try to bring my camera and take photos. The pond would make for some beautiful shots.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Mika Trial Mar. 19, '11

I am thrilled with how we did today because we accomplished both of my goals!!

My goal for Mika was for her to not react at other dogs in the ring. She not only succeeded with that, but she didn't react at any dogs outside of the ring, either!! Even when they were just a few feet away! As for our run (Starters Snooker), even though we didn't Q, I was really happy with it. At the start line we had to wait 30-60 seconds because the judge had to discuss something, and we spent the time tugging with Mika's leash. I was really impressed with her focus and drive as she tugged; she growled "viciously" and gave a few muffled barks as she tugged just like she does at home. Then we ran the course, and we set a personal record for our shortest course ever :) Red jump, 4-point jump, 5-point A-frame, whistle! Watching the video, I can totally see why she took the AF; my body was definitely pointed towards it. When will I ever learn to handle!?

(The video is a bit far away, but if you squint and/or put it in full-screen, you can see it :)

And Wall-e also exceeded my expectations!! My goal was for him to be relaxed enough to use to warm-up jumps, which he most certainly did (with enthusiasm, I might add), and he even left the warm-up area to play with another dog who was standing next to the jumps. I'm actually pretty pleased that he did that. I know that he isn't "supposed" to, and I'm lucky that the dog was so friendly, but actually wanting to play with another dog means that Wall-e was barely stressed at all; Wall-e won't play with me or other dogs if he's really stressed. (I should mention that this is the first time I can recall Wall-e ever leaving training to see another dog, so it's not a problem or anything :)

By the way, I decided to use the DAP with Wall-e, which I sprayed onto his collar. I was going to use the Gentle Leader too, but I forgot to bring it in, and it turns out he didn't even need it. I don't even know if the DAP did anything, but I'll continue to use it just in case.

Our next trial is a mini-trial (evening trial), in two weeks. I entered Mika in a Starters Snooker and Wall-e in a Starters Jumpers. I was using today's trial to determine whether or not Wall-e was ready to run at this venue, and he showed me that he was. I'll probably just do a few jumps with him and then leave the ring, but I will run him!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

March trial planning

Our first trial of the year, after a very long winter break, is this weekend. Only Mika will be running because Wall-e still has big fears at this venue's trials (which are indoors).

Mika will just be running in one Starters Snooker run. My goal for her is to not react at other dogs while in the ring, but of course I'd love to see her run with the speed and enthusiasm that she's been having in training.

Even though Wall-e isn't running, I have a goal for him as well; to be relaxed enough to play on the warm-up jumps (in between classes, so we don't hog the jumps for competitors). I'll be trying DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromone) with Wall-e for the first time, and I'm considering using a Gentle Leader and/or a body wrap as well to help relieve his stress.

And, of course, I have a goal for myself; to read my dogs and not push them past what they're able to handle.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

First agility training session of the year!

Yesterday we ended our second 2010-2011 winter agility break and went to one of the arenas to train! (Our first break was from the end of October to the end of December, and our second break was from the end of December -- after we sneaked in some agility -- to yesterday :)

Wall-e trained first again. I like training Wall-e first because 1. still being a baby dog, he's the one who needs the most training, and 2. I can test out my handling with him and make sure I've chosen the best handling plan before I handle Mika, who slows down a bit if I handle sloppily.

First we did the teeter bang game. I noticed the last time we trained at this arena, in December, that both dogs were a bit nervous about this teeter. Mika used to be fine with it, but considering that she hadn't used a teeter in months, I guess a bit of her old stress started creeping back. (The only way she showed stress was by licking her lips and folding her ears back a bit, but I still had to take notice.) And Wall-e has never been on this teeter before, and he's still extremely sensitive to any noises he hears in arenas. He showed stress by not running right to the edge of the teeter to wait for it to hit the ground, like he usually does.

But Wall-e did really well with the bang game. He wagged his tail as he pushed down the end of the teeter (I propped up the other end with a chair). I gradually moved the chair to increase the bang, and he ended up being able to do the whole teeter with zero stress!

Then we ran part of an Advanced Standard course that was set up. Wall-e was nuts!! The course involved two jump wraps, which he did nice and tight with our cik and cap cues. And his contacts (just the A-frame and dog walk) were great! I'm so excited to trial him in Standard this year and see how his fast 2on2off holds up!

To finish, we played around with a tunnel to build tunnel drive. I used Wall-e's new favourite toy to reward; it's a cat toy that we bought at a garage sale years and years ago. It has a plastic ball in it that spins around and around, and the dogs just go wild for it!! And because there aren't a lot of toys that Wall-e goes wild for, it's great for an agility reward. I can't throw it or tug with it, but I can set it up on the other side of an obstacle:

Then it was Mika's turn! She couldn't run into the arena fast enough; she was just dying to train. And once we got in there and I let her off the leash, she started racing around everywhere, like "Are we REALLY here?!"

We did the same teeter bang game that Wall-e did. You wouldn't believe how the old memories started coming back of how we did this same game, over and over again, in the winter of 2007-2008. And Mika still has the same adorable technique of pushing down the teeter with her front paws, and then flipping her body around to face me. The only thing she's added is increased drive!

The segment of the course that we ran was SO much fun!! As I re-watch the clips I have this huge smile on my face because Mika is just having the time of her life. Zoom here, zoom there, she had so much speed and attitude...this dog is incredible!!

We finished up with some jumping-into-my-arms training. Mika can go over a jump, and she can jump into my arms, but when I try to ask her to jump into my arms *after* going over a jump, she gets a bit confused. She hasn't really connected this trick to agility yet, so we'll be doing some more of this at home. She did get it one time, though!

So to finish it off, this was a great training day to begin 2011. I'm so, so lucky to have two amazing, happy, healthy dogs who I can have so much fun with! I can't wait to see what adventures this year will bring for us!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Hear the buzz

I'm going to give Mika a haircut for the first time. Probably next weekend. She just gets so stressed at the groomer's that I'd like to start doing it at home.

I started introducing her to the noise of the clippers on Thursday. First it was casual, by accident; I just walked into the bathroom to look for the clippers and Mika happened to follow. When I found them, I let her sniff them and she immediately ran away. This dog is my master generalizer; I've never clipped her in my life, but she knew right away that it was the same thing that the groomer used!

When we had our actual training session on Thursay, Mika knew that we were training and didn't run away when she saw the clippers. First I threw a bunch of treats on the floor, then a bunch more, and then turned on the clippers. Mika started to shake even as her tail continued to wag wildly (you should see this dog during all our training or trick sessions; her tail wags so fast throughout our sessions that it's almost a blur). She stopped shaking as I continued to throw treats on the ground, and that tail kept going. She realized that I wasn't going to clip her, I was just rewarding her for hearing the buzzing noise. And she was fine with that!

We did the same thing in our first session on Friday. In the second Friday session, I threw treats on the ground as I brought the clippers close to her back. She was completely fine with that. In fact, she's loving our "pre-clipping" sessions; all she has to do is hear the buzzing noise and she gets piles of treats thrown on the ground!

I think Mika will be fine. I just don't know how I'll be, concerning my lack of :) Be prepared for a disaster!