Planning, As Usual

Today I actually found myself with some time to waste and ended up following the virtual yellow brick road of running contacts posts and videos. I bounced around a bit, but finally ended up watching all 30-something of Daisy Peel’s training running contacts videos. Most were quick and I got thru them in about 40 minutes. We have been retraining Forest’s running A-frame for a while now and its been going really well—our success rate in trials has been really high with only a very few misses and his confidence seems so much better, at least on that obstacle. Just this week I have started mulling over retraining his dogwalk as well. As it stands, he has a really solid 2o-2o dogwalk, but its slow and he is somewhat tentative about it. This week in Thursday class we practiced some drills that worked on teaching the dog how to rock back on their hind end (funny how much horse stuff has crept into agility training), especially on stopping on the dogwalk. Forest did well, but I kinda wonder–why not? I hardly have visions of us ever being in a position where having a running DW really would matter, but the challenge is tempting. And I do know the potential that he has to be fast, it just still never comes out full throttle… So maybe we’ll start playing around with it and see what happens. Really, if I am going to do it, now is the time as trials will be all but non-existent during the summer. I dont have much excuse not to.

With Phin, I plan on training running from the get go. Though I am trying to stick to my plan of focusing on flatwork, it is tempting to get out that plank and start working it. Yet, he is still a little nugget, I have so much time. Patience is not my strong point. I have been good though, focusing lately on some rear-end awareness stuff. We have been doing some backing up, placing back feet on perches/objects, and just today we started pivoting/perch work—he did great! I had tried that a while back with Forest and Diego, and was not getting much success with either of them once we got to the moving/rotating the hind feet part. However, I did all three of them today and all three got it in some capacity. So I don’t know if I was doing something wrong with the first two kids originally, or my props were better (overturned heavy ceramic dog bowl on the concrete as opposed to a book on hardwood floor), or if maybe I am just a better communicator and clicker these days? Who knows, but everyone did well and it was fun.

Phinny also had a quickie trip to the vet today to get his blood taken in prep for getting neutered on Thursday. To be honest I was stalling as long as I thought reasonable to get the neuter. Not because I didnt want to do it, but I have read enough propaganda about letting them “grow properly” and that performance dogs need the extra time, blah blah. Maybe its all farce, maybe its true, I dunno. He is looking really good confirmation-wise to me these days, so I am hardly worried about his strength factor. And, he seems to be heading full throttle into snotty teenagerdom already, so I figured I might as well get him snipped now. Also, because he is such an oddball in so many ways, it seems fitting that he only has one descended testicle. I call him the “one-nutter”. Crossing my fingers the other one is easily accessible and not up near his lungs or something. The harder it is to extract the more $$$ its gonna cost me. So, wish us luck on that front. Extraneous testicle removal didnt make it through the budget cuts this year.

News flash—Phineas just whined at the door to go outside when it was closed—first time ever!!! Woo hoo, he may be officially house trained! He hasn’t had an accident in at least a month, but this is the first time he figured out how to say “Hey idiots! Open the damn door!!” Hooray for smart puppies.



Catch Up

We’ve been busy, mostly in a good way for the last few weeks. We haven’t been practicing a ton, but the little practicing I have been doing with Forest has been going really well. After the last trial we evaluated what some of the potential issues were/are, and honestly a lot of it has to do with the fact that he needs to rest. He isn’t quite the maniac he used to be, and with all the hectic-ness of going to work with me, new obnoxious puppy siblings and just the fact that he is getting more mature and more mellow, he needs time to recharge. And no doubt the teeth thing the day before the last trial was probably the biggest contributor to his slow-mo check-out symptoms. So I apologize to my best guy for being so whiny.

However, I do stand by my inklings towards instead of training to death, spending time letting them do things they really do want to do, which is why we went coursing last weekend (and I may forego a trial date I had been planning on to do it again next month). Forest loves coursing more than anything else on earth, and I love getting the opportunity to do it with him. We actually missed the close date of the first Coursing Ability Test in San Diego by a day (dammit!!!), but I am hoping another shows up soon so he can run his little wheels off and get recognized for his speedtastic awesomeness. Phinny even took a crack at it too, puppy-style, and he seems to be a natural too. Crazy plastic-bag-chasing action video here.

Forest and I were actually supposed to trial this weekend at one of my favorite venues up in North LA, but I got an email late Friday afternoon saying the trial site was strewn with rat poison. Wowzers. So, they cancelled it. Bummer, not because I wanted to run on toxic critter pellets, but I really do like that site and I have the feeling we wont have the option to go back there again. So, next shot is another USDAA trail (yay), down in SD in a few weeks.

Puppy training is going well. I have tried to back off of focusing on obstacle work and made an attempt to do more flat work-type stuff with him. He is still so young, but its hard not to be tempted to do the “fun” stuff instead of start line stays and handling stuff. But, I am going to stick to my plan and remind myself repeatedly that we have all the time in the world. Phinny simultaneously drives me nuts—with his non-stop “Wanna play? Wanna play? Whats going on? Can I be in the middle of it? Where are we going? Can I lick your face? Forest can I jam this toy on top of your head until you finally give in and submit to my obnoxiousness???”—and then shocks me with his quick learning and ability to read my body language. I took him to the school across the street to play ball this morning and we played impromptu playground agility. There was a little line of benches bracketed by poles that made perfect little jumps. I thought he’d pop up on and climb over them so I approached them slowly to see what he’d do. On the first go he leaped over two in a row like he’d been doing it all his life so we practiced some simple lines and turns—he did amazing. He also had a busy weekend, meeting some horses (terrifying at first, but quickly gotten over with some dinner and Look at That games), playing well-behaved house guest, and plenty of alone time as the rest of the crew was off doing man-things down South. He is starting to show inklings of bratty adolescence, so I know it will get worse before it gets better, but I am very, very thrilled and content with my cast off pup. He is a good one, and I am so glad I made the tough decision to snatch him up.

Tough Day/Why Do I Do This Again?

We had our first trial in a while just today. And we havent been practicing, scheduling has been weird and some work changes have been making me unable to get in that second class I’ve been squeezing in. I’ve tried to practice when and where I can, but its been admittedly sporadic.

I knew this going in, but our second run today—the one I cared about, Open JWW—was a complete reversion to where we were/how we were running a year ago. And whats killing me about it is that it wasnt training-based. I can fix sucky weaves or do more contacts or handling work. But when he is just not feeling it, after I have stood on my head and jumped through the hoops and done our little routine to help him get in the game, then what?

Our first run was okay. He wasnt 100% with me, but we made it around. I made some handling mistakes that put him off kilter a bit but we survived with a wrong course and maybe a refusal. And too many attempts at the weaves. But whatever. It was neither here nor there.

Fast forward to JWW… He was completely checked out from the moment we went to the warm up jump. He would jump it listlessly then wander off instead of coming back around to me. To top it off I had grumbling not-so-nice people backing up in a line who wanted to warm up as well. We got out of there, and I began begging and pleading for him to get happy. My usual routine of happy voice/dancing around/asking for hand touches/dangling salmon in his face was to no avail. He just looked at me like I had three heads. When we went in the ring and he was totally disconnected from me, I knew it was curtains right then and there. We made it over the first two jumps, through the tunnel, over another jump, then came to a screeching halt at the weaves. Literally, a halt. With him stopped in his tracks, staring off into space at the roof. Like body snatchers had snuck into the Ex Pen and took his brain away. I made a half-hearted attempt to get him started back up again, but within a few seconds I knew he was gone. Totally and completely not there. So, I excused us. The judge said “sorry” and had a sad look on his face.

I dont know if that was the right thing to do. I really dont. Someone said I should have just skipped the weaves and kept going. Which I have done in the past. But this time he just felt dead. And at that precise moment in time I didnt see the point of forcing him to go on. He was obviously miserable.

Then the fun, fun drive home. Was it my fault? What did I do? Was it the dirt/dust/roof/heat/wind direction? Was it because I got a new Ex pen? Maybe because Phin was in the Ex Pen? Does he not like the color of the Ex Pen top I bought? Did I feed him too much? Not enough? Is he bored with the string cheese? Maybe I should have brought filet mignon? And on and on and on… Finally just I chalked it up to him not feeling well. He did get his teeth cleaned yesterday so maybe that was a bad idea to do the day before a trial. Regardless, I need to move on regarding the exact reason why.

But its tough. I have moments with him where I feel like I am training a dog through his fears/emotional reactions/motivation issues by coercing him to do something he doesn’t want to do. Is gradually conditioning a dog to do something he doesnt like because you do okay? There are days when he does want to do it, but I obviously have a hard time focusing on those days. My biggest fear is dragging a miserable dog around the course. That isnt right. And if its only fun for them some of the time, is that enough? I dont know.

He truly doesn’t seem like he feels well since we’ve been home. Keeping a close eye on him and hoping all this is some leftover soreness or agitation from the teeth cleaning. I don’t like feeling down on my Bestest Dog.