There’s a First Time For Everything…

…and this weekend’s first was that we were 0 for 4!!! Woot. AND, we did not get ONE, not one, single set of weaves all weekend! Hip hip hooray! But after stewing and brewing on the sticky 2 hour drive home yesterday, I’ve decided to dwell on the positive.

– We did have probably the nicest JWW run we’ve ever had. I dont know what my deal is with JWW—probably that its non-stop and I never have that half-second of regroup time on a contact or a table to reset my brain. Think on your feet woman!!! We blew the weaves, retried, still blew them but just I kept going. The opening had a tough front cross-to small send-to front/rear cross sequence, and I have to say I think I handled it really well. It was pretty tight, and Forest is so athletic as long as he knows what I want he can mange just about anything. We ran well enough that one of the jump setters told me after the fact that that was a really nice run. Thanks jump setter guy, you have no idea how badly I needed that!!! I really think the Jenn Crank seminar did wonders for my handling confidence.

– Forest handled the heat relatively well. It must have been mid-to-high 80’s but he never really checked out on me or shut down. I was vigilant about keeping him in the shade, and I was constantly wetting him down with ice water. We went through my frozen cottage cheese cups of water on day one, but thanks to the hotel, we came back on day two with ice machine offerings that worked out just as well. He definitely was not revved up before we went in—he was focused, but not revved—and I think that was due to the heat. However, again, he stayed with me 90% of the time and that was huge.

– I did my first go as gate steward, and if I do say so myself, I rocked it. I have no fear of being the uber-organized-demanding-get-your-butt-over-here-boss-lady. In a nice way. No one got upset with me, so I must have not been too mean. Or if I was, they didnt tell me to my face! One of the show organizers came over and said “man, you guys are movin’ over here.” I took the credit, telling her about my whip cracking ways. She laughed and said, thats how you do it! So maybe I will be in Open forever, but I will have a job as a ring steward.

So, it was a productive weekend, even if it wasnt the most glory-filled. Small victories, a fun adventure on our own, a few pounds lost through sweat. We have an insane October on our plate, none of which includes agility. I will need to get creative, and disciplined, to keep things on track. Laurie has a weaves rehab class, but I am not sure if/when we’ll even be able to make it. The two weddings, one in Hawaii, over the next three weeks are going to put a serious cramp in my training. No more trialing, again, until November. Ergh. I hope someday we can get trialing on a consistent basis, but that whole real life thing keeps getting in the way. And it could get worse before it gets better; its looking likely I may get a new job. Which is awesome in the greater scheme of things but again, maybe not so much for agility. We shall see.

Another one on the books.

Paging Dr. Phil… We Need a Weave Intervention!!!

Yeah, our weaves suck. Other than that, we did just fine. But we are about to graduate into Excellent Standard, and our weaves are barely 50-50 at best. We may be in Open JWW forever.

The JWW course was tough. Out of 30+ dogs, only 5 Q’ed, or so I overheard. It had a horrible 90-degree weave entry and I knew it was curtains before we even began. Our Standard course was much more sane, as always, but even with a completely straight shot at the weaves, we still missed them at first try. Ugh. I still think we may have got a Q out of it, which means we have titled out of Open Standard. Yikes.

* edited to add — no Standard Q. Our run past the table and entry from the back may have been what did us in? I don’t know.

The trial site is nice, out a bit in BFE, but on a huge grassy park with minimal distraction (once you get over listening to the announcer for the model race car track!). We are currently holed up in our hotel room, which is quite nice for the $70 internet special I got (and infinitely nicer, and cheaper, than that shit hole hotel I ended up in on my failed dog show mission). The Vagabond Inn is where my family always stayed on our ski trips when I was a kid, so I was partial if only on a purely sentimental basis. Its dog-friendly, clean, lots of grass for potty breaks, and has a fridge! And I Yelped it up, as usual, and found a yummy little pho place for dinner. I got a forward recently about a new agility hotels list, I’ll be sure to put this joint up there.

So, an early night, I’ll be drinking wine and watching Mad Men on the laptop, Forest is already crashed out under the blanket I brought from home. He’s a pretty good traveler as long as I let him sleep on the bed!

I will dream of perfect weaves…

Trippin’

I am getting ready for our first-ever true away-from-home agility trial. Well sort of. We have been lucky enough to have friends and family houses to crash at before overnight, but this will be our first “big kids staying in a hotel alls by ourselves” type trial. We’ll see how it goes.

We are heading up to Camarillo tomorrow AM. I heard a screechy weather report yesterday that made my heart sink–saying we will be having a miserable heatwave, “crank up your AC!!!!” But when I just checked weather.com, it only said highs in the 80s. While also issuing multiple Weather Alerts about how hot it will be. I dunno, maybe this joint is close enough to the coast that we’ll be okay. Fingers crossed. 80’s we can do. If it gets into the 90’s we’re screwed. Forest will meltdown literally…

I was just all chirpy yesterday about it being fall and hoping that the weather will get back on track where its “supposed to be”, but I dont know if we even know what that is anymore.

Forest was sooooo good in class on Monday. So good in fact that other than our first sequence we nailed our goes on the first try and then quit. Good to quit on a high note, not so good for wearing out the dog or getting me to really understand what I am doing. However we did some fairly tricky wraparound and serpentine type deals, and we did really well. I think the Jennifer Crank stuff helped immensely.

Weaves were okay. Took a few tries first sequence, then got them perfectly on the last. Its a mystery to me. Contacts were perfect, keep him at 2-o-2-o to keep things under control for the trial.

So. I think we are ready. Looking forward to our road trip this weekend. Too bad I dont have one of these to stay in instead of the Vagabond Inn! Someday.

Ima Dog, Ima Workin’ Dog, Ima Hard Workin’ Dog…

Yesterday was the Jennifer Crank seminar.*

It went well, and our biggest victory—massive amounts of handling progress aside—was Forest’s perfectly charming, well-behaved, and all-day-long willingness to stay in the game. He was a complete champ. I lost him just a bit at the very end of the day when we tried to tack on some weaves to the jump drills, but I elected not to push it as he was running on fumes at that point. Overall he gets a solid A for the day.

Jennifer has worked for many years with Linda Mecklenberg, so that is her “system” of choice. I have to say, it made loads of sense to me. I’d definitely like to learn more about her handling. Jennifer broke down agility into two segments which I completely identified with; “training” and “handling.”** Two very separate pieces of the puzzle, but both are needed to be successful. My first year-plus of agility was 95% training. “Here’s how your dog should do the table.” “Here’s how you should do contacts.” “These are the rules for agility.” There was almost zero discussion of handling. Other than “Yes, you should do a front cross between those two jumps.” No one actually explained how to do a front cross to me until a few months ago. So, while I feel we’ve progressed leaps and bound since starting with Laurie, we learned a LOT yesterday.

I very much liked that this style of running is motion-based, and that she broke all the cues/ways you are communicating with your dog into two categories, with six cues in total. In the Natural Cues are Motion, Location, Shoulders and Eye Contact. In the Trained Cues are Hand and Voice. The Natural cues will get you further, but at times you will need to lean on the trained cues.

We did probably 8 or 9 drills/sequences throughout the day. We focused on directing the dogs path with body positioning and motion, and I have to say it worked really, really well for us. I felt by the end of the day, I had so much more confidence directing Forest, and actually being able to send him away from me—not huge distances, but further than we have ever accomplished before–was really exciting. He’s got a bit of velcro in him and likes lots of info from me, so I feel that this method—or at least its foundation—will work really well for us.

I am also coming to learn that Forest is one of those “Nice dog, shame about the handler” dogs. Jennifer said yesterday, “He is a very athletic little dog with tons of potential.” Not bad for a pound dog from someone who has been on the world team and grown up breeding purebreds! She also said that in the 16″ class, that where we will really excel and have the chance to win is in his ability to perform very tight turns. So, that was exciting. Now if I can only get my crap together…

My minor disappointment for the day was our weave regression. At the end of the clinic I went back to the weaves and did just 4 repetitions of isolated weaves and he did each perfectly. But still I am a bit worried about the trial next weekend. We have class tomorrow eve, so maybe I’ll make a special request from Laurie that we work on our weaves.

But, hey. If nothing else, I have learned about agility that my problem today may be a thing of the past tomorrow, and we’ll be on to the next brain explosion…

Good dog.

* One of these days I’ll get off my butt and start taking photos, but meh, dont hold your breath.

** Personally, I’d add in my own third category; behavior. I understand that to be efficient things need to be simplified, but knowing your dogs own personal behavior issues is incredibly relevant and crucial to even begin either of the two other categories. That’s another post I should draft for another day.

Pedigree’s Ingenious Social Media-Meets-Activism Campaign

“This post has been created in affiliation with Pedigree and their ‘Write a Post Help a Dog’ Campaign. For every blog post written by anyone (pet blogger or otherwise!) about this campaign, Pedigree will donate a 20lb bag of their new formula dog food to a shelter. For each person who ‘likes’ their Facebook Pedigree Adoption page a of bowl of food will be donated. Visit the Pedigree Foundation Shelter Rescue Blog for more information about how you can help shelter dogs.”

While my dogs are spoiled, and I shudder at the thought (and the consequences) of them wolfing down a can/bowl of Pedigree, I applaud the company’s charitable efforts as well as their social media savvy. They have an uber-corpo agency of record, Catapult Marketing, who has apparently won a glut of awards specifically for their work on Pedigree. I do love their “Dogs Rule” campaign with David Duchovny’s voice over, they are lovely. Though, they were also the ones behind those very creepy dog teeth ads, shudder.

Not sure if Catapult is also behind this social media wizardry or not, but it is truly ingenious. From an online, social media, and SEO standpoint, its doesn’t get much better than this—convincing people that they are helping animals while you just sit back and watch as your traffic and stats go absolutely through the roof. As of right this moment, they have over 1.1 million fans on facebook and I am sure that number will grow exponentially by day’s end.

But hey, I am a sucker for it too (though I am also piggybacking on the online bandwagon, link it up on the bloghop!). And, even if the food is craptastic, its better than a little scruff-muffin going hungry and will also prolong shelters’ abilities to keep dogs going for a few more days.

Well played Pedigree, well played.

The Superstar and the Territorial Pissings

I have learned that Forest is absolutely a “more time off” kind of dog. We’ve done a bit of practice here and there over the past few weeks, but for the most part we have been very light on the agility front for the past month or two. We had our first class last night of the newest session and he was on fire, it was so fun. Super-enthusiastic, good around the other dogs, and just really happy.

He was nailing his weave entries—he only missed once, and even then it was off a tough entry and he obviously tried, just didn’t decelerate in time. It was most definitely not a blow off. We worked the running Aframe into the courses too. Started with the box on the frame which he was great on, then removed it. He started bailing at that point so Laurie put it back in, no biggie. I will need to have a game plan pre-trial in a few weeks though for how to handle that, especially as I dont think we’ll be able to do any contact work between then and now.

In other dog news, I think I may have come to the conclusion that Diego may be OCD. Whole Dog Journal has an article about it in their newest issue and it outlines a lot of behavior chains that we are very familiar with. Normally I am really skeptical of assigning people or dogs the title of OCD (I think in probably 80% of kids that get slapped with that label its straight up BS). But, Diego undoubtedly has a lot of anxiety issues which he manifests through blanket and toy sucking/nursing, excessive and spastic water drinking, and now, and most charmingly—marking throughout the house anytime he feels uncomfortable or threatened.His favorite move is to mark the packages that get put inside the gate by the delivery guy. So no matter what we order, it gets anointed before ever even opened! Thanks dude.

My other BFF came up to stay this weekend with her utterly charming and sweet ACD-mix Scout. Scout is as good a doggie house guest as one could hope to have (aside from shedding like nobody’s business, wowzers), and yet Diego still came unglued. We’d been doing pretty well RE marking in the house, and having her there ramped it right back up. It will probably be this way for a while. Its disgusting and infuriating and all I do is stalk around the house looking for wet spots. Plus my aunt’s dog Buster joins in the fun and then I dont know who to want to dangle over the balcony first… Ugh.

I dont know if we should look into any sort of medication—I hate that I am even thinking about it, as I am very anti-dealing with things via drugs. The article outlined solutions, many of which we already employ, but I dunno. At a certain point you wonder if making them just feel better and relaxed outweighs the evils of dosing him up on something. I guess I could try some light rounds of melatonin and see if that makes a dent in his behaviors at all. I’d definitely have to set it up though so Buster would not be able to come in and provoke him…

Plus then we have the issue of him being a spastic water drinker, whereupon he cant hold it and will pee on one of the rugs if he really has to go. And I can tell the difference between marking and going because he has to go. For that I am trying to actually teach him to ring a bell to go out, but he’s not the quickest learner. We’ve done 5-6 sessions of targeting the bell, and he’s still only at a 50% success rate between the bell and my hand. Maybe I need to get my hand out of the equation and see if that helps…

And on and on.

Lickety Split

Superspeed post this morning as I have to skip out the door to work early for many things to do (most of which are not work related)! It been somewhat chaotic around these parts, but finally all good, or at least hopeful, chaos instead of the icky kind that we slogged through earlier this year.

On the dog front, we cant wait to start class up again next week! It feels like its been forever, plus we have the clinic on Saturday, and a trial (which I need to enter today) the following weekend. Pete helped me lug the 2x2s and a tunnel over to the park on Sunday morning and we did some “on the road” work. Forest was great. Diego even got in on the action and Mr. Scaredypants was running the tunnel like a mad man by the end.

I also got to see Pierre aka “Dude” last night at a little dog beach get together. I was really excited to see him, but it was a lot harder than I expected. His new dad does take very, very good care of him. He told me about how he rushed him to the emergency clinic cause he got stung by a bee (I dont think he had an allergic reaction I think he was just worried!), which was probably more than I would have done! But, he’s definitely borderline fat already—apparently the clinic people said he was at a fine weight, but um, no—and he was being pretty naughty, blowing his Dad off when calling him back from barking at old people (that has not changed apparently).

Pierre, Forest and I got separated from the pack, and I was calling them back. I was calling “Dude! Duuude!” and he was blowing me off. I tried “Pierre!” in my shiny happy voice I used to use for him, and he stopped dead in his tracks, looked at me, and came back immediately. It simultaneously made me warm and fuzzy and broke my heart.

While again, I am very thankful for who Pierre ended up with and he will give him a wonderful home, its frustrating that the majority of people dont seem to understand the power of the treat. I had four dogs following me around for little bits of Trader Joes chicken sticks, and I think the human-types all just thought I was the crazy dog lady. I was trying to talk to the roommate of Pierre’s dad about how he could put more weight on his recently-rescued reservation pup (eggs! cottage cheese! canned salmon!) and all he would say is “Oh, she’s picky. And she gets plenty of table scraps.” Ergh.

I am a control freak. I admit it. So I will repeat the mantra that I am thrilled to have helped one dog in his journey to a life long home. Thrilled.

Part of me wonders if maybe fostering isnt for me. But, then again, I think the purpose outweighs the drawbacks… And I have some big ideas for down the road. Until then…