Slow Summer

The posting has definitely slowed down around here, mainly because I/we’ve been moderately busy in non-dog activities, but also because on the dog front things have just kind of been cruising. I decided to skip trialing in July and August—with the exception of one local beach-climate trial—to both give a break and just flat out avoid putting ourselves into any sort of heat-related melt down situations. Plus, the budget could use a bit of a break too. I guess I should say the funds are still being spent, just diverted to less um, enjoyable areas (ie. other people’s wedding gifts, wedding travel, car maintenance, etc.).

After next week we also wont have any group classes until September as Laurie hates the heat and the facility for Monday night has no AC. Oh well. That just means I’ll have to take a few privates and get on my own program of practicing before or after work. I have been doing some running box work at home in the patio which is going fine, but for some reason I have a hard time packing all the training crap in the car, driving somewhere to practice, and not being bothered by the weird stares I get. Insecurity Me.

We did have class on Monday night and again Forest did awesome. We did more of a skills class than full courses per usual, so all the dogs were inside the room with the equipment instead of outside. Forest was the only one in his crate as he was the only one with “issues” with other dogs. Other than one incident with a dog coming in and running right up to his crate, he actually did really well in the situation, and had really relaxed by the end. He also is impressing me with his ability to fail and reboot. We are doing so much better in that department, thank you Laurie. We practiced weaves which he did well with, even on some tougher entries, though he still likes me to be nearby. We definitely need some coaching in the driving-thru-weaves independently department. He also hit the A frame at a 100 miles an hour and screamed down the backside, which ended up scaring him a bit but I really tried to praise the hell out of him for it. He is getting fast and it is fun!

As I mentioned in my last post, he also has really changed his personality over the last month or two. He has really relaxed a lot in general, and is becoming more lovey and cuddly. This morning he would not get off my lap and just wanted to love on me. This is totally not normal. I’d say I am worried about him feeling “off” or something, but I feel like its been fairly gradual so I will just keep an eye on him. Having Pierre come in really reorganized the entire dog dynamic in our household—seemingly with Forest for teh better and Diego for the worse.

Diego sort of seems to be coming back to earth. For a while he was a nightmare—marking on everything, being just generally annoying, and he even went after Forest a second time (a la the Palm Springs incident) last week. Not rad. But, I’ve been trying to give him fair attention, and not set us up for that situation, and he seems to be coming back around. Fingers crossed he stays on the happier side of things.

On a completely unrelated note, I just took the dogs to the dog park for lunch. On the way out I saw a Yorkie in a little pink outfit–with a pinch collar on. Seriously? Seriously. This dog could not have weighed 8 pounds soaking wet and it has a pinch collar on? Gross…

Oh, and the weather has regressed to June Gloom… Again. Lame.

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Recall Rhetoric

There’s a bunch of talk flying around at the moment about recall, and how according to some highly regarded agility type people, that the quality of it is indicative of your relationship with your dog. When I first read this last week, it ticked me off. It ticked quite a few people off it seems, but we are dismissed as the “whiny” crowd that can’t take criticism. Meh, maybe.

I have thought about it more over the last week, and while I see the “point”—if your dog thinks you are the most amazing object in its universe then how could anything else ever possibly compete with that?—I have gotten over it. I could make excuses for how I have difficult “rescue” dogs, or how I just need to train more, or some other reason to justify “why” Forest’s recall isn’t great. I got a boatload of excuses if anyone wants to sit down with a stiff cocktail and hear me out. But, there’s no point.

On a scale of 1 to 10, his recall probably about a 6. Horrid according to many agility people’s standards. Meaning I am doing something vastly wrong to my poor dog. And yet…

We had class the other night. We had a full house, 5 dogs I think. I was lamenting internally as I watched everyone else that I had the wildest, least foundation-ed-est of the lot as we did our first two drills. Well we actually did fine on the dog walk drill, neither here nor there, but on the sending drill we needed work. But he worked through it just fine and as Laurie said, he didn’t get stressed by the failures/restarts, he worked right through it. That was actually a biggie for us. Anyways, I was watching one dog/handler combo in particular. It is a guy and his Sheltie who obviously have done their homework and groundwork far better than I. He had “fronts” and “closer”s and the whole bit to perfectly get his Sheltie set up. I was envious, while also fully aware that I dont work on that stuff. Ever.

We went on to the final drill, a pretty straightforward small course, with lots of jumps on angles and tunnels times three. It didnt look that hard to me, so I didnt really sweat the walkthrough. I watched the other 2 big dogs before us run it, with handlers way more experienced than I. They struggled a bit, had to do plenty of restarts and redos. Our turn. Nailed it. Perfect. First time and done. And FAST. So proud of him. The rest after us—Sheltie too—struggled as well.

So, no perfect fronts in our household, but when it counts, we just might nail it. I’ll give up a little obedience for a little wildness and quick-on-his-feet thinking any day. Or maybe just dumb luck. Whatever, I’ll take it.

Another win this AM, a small one, but a win. We were at dog beach where Forest is now relegated to dragging his long line. We had plenty of treats with us today, and hungry dogs, which probably helped. However, I’ve had that set up before, and its a crapshoot as to whether it will work in my favor. At the start of our walk we passed a girl with a Bully mix. I was not really worried about the dog, but she looked nervous and was holding him/her(?) on a leash somewhat tightly, so we steered clear and kept going. On the way back we were getting close to cross paths with them again. I saw them about 50 yards away where Forest was in between us and them. He spotted them and started zeroing in without moving towards him, doing his pointy tail hard stare. This always precedes an unsolicited launch into another dogs face for some fun time aggro barking. Joy. I called him once, maybe twice, even three times. My heart started to sink, but I could tell his gears were grinding. Girl pulls up her pittie closer to her waiting to see what happens. Forest stares hard at them, and turns and bolts back in our direction. Yay buddy. Good decision. Big party on our end for that one.

So, I dunno. Maybe I am a sucky dog trainer. Maybe I have lots of dumb luck. But I also have a very aloof, fiercely independent little shit of a dog who I seem to be slowly getting through to. He comes to me to cuddle and play and love on me now. He didnt use to do that, he still very selectively does it with Pete (poor Pete), but I’ve got him now. He may not know it yet but I got him. Perfect recall be damned.

Oh, and Find of the Week: I swooped in on a Clean Run sale notice on the Yahoo list and nabbed a Pac n Play Puppy Tunnel–one available on sale, $45! All mine! Look out local parks, there is a hot pink tunnel and a skinny brown dog on the loose!

Back to Reality

I should really go back and change the title of my previous post. Its embarrassing really. I was all hearts and butterflies and happy agility nirvana. Yeah, well… that was a glimpse into what it could be like. We swiftly and spectacularly fell back over to the other side last night.

I guess it wasn’t a total disaster. No one was maimed or seriously hurt, nothing exploded, I don’t think I offended anyone (other than they may have been mildly offended by having the watch my ineptness)…. But Forest looked at me like I had three heads and was asking him to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. “Three jumps in a row? Whats that?” “Weave poles? Never seen ’em.” ” ‘Please don’t wander away aimlessly from the start line?’ I have no idea what you’re talking about.” It was bad enough to the point of me running half a course with the trainer holding his leash. Yeah, it was bad.

I’ve never really thought about quitting, but last night was the first time it crossed my mind. Some of the many things I learned last night—I don’t know how to play with my dog; I am not consistent in my cues, reward system or handling; my dog is very sensitive (kinda was already starting to figure that one out); and that I get really really shrill when I am freaking out (I guess I kinda knew that one too, was just horribly reminded of it last night).

It was embarrassing. I was verging on being very much like the one woman at trials who when I see I immediately go the other direction because she is so wound up, and screaming at her dogs, and has zero control and just looks miserable. That’s probably why I steer clear of her, because I know how she feels. Don’t they say we most criticize the traits we detest in ourselves?

The one observation that wasn’t a crushing blow, actually slightly validating, was that the trainer actually said that he is “a complex dog” and in not so many words is not easy to train. Finally, someone said it. No one else has ever actually said that to me before. I just felt like it was always assumed/implied that I was inept or just not training/trying hard enough.

So I dont know. I am sure I can talk further to her about it. I dont know if I should keep slogging through it with Forest? Apparently my handling skills are horrid, so should I go back to square one with him and actually start over? Or maybe start with Pierre and give Forest a break? I want to ask the trainer all of these things but I also dont want to come off as a drama queen. Maybe I’ll sit on it until tomorrow and try to compose myself into a semi-rational being so I can have a semi-rational conversation…

Ugh.

Quickie Update

This week has been crazy between dog stuff, work and side-work stuff and Pete leaving town, so not much time for a proper post.

Monday night was great. Forest was meellllllooooww, thanks to running his brains out the afternoon before. And he was very, very good. Our standard course we would have Q’ed for sure. Missed first weaves entry but then nailed it, and he had his super-fast-pants on. I had to actually run to keep up with him on the dog walk and he even pretty much ran down the AF which was awesome. I was very proud of him. Jumpers wasnt as pretty, but entirely my own fault. The second course had four front crosses in it and I made a total mess of it. Oh well. She tends to give us harder courses than I *think* we’ll have at the novice level, so I can only hope that we’ll have a fairly easy time once we get into the trialing phase.

New Trainer tomorrow evening, looking forward to it.

Prepping and cooking tonight so we’ll have plenty o’ time to pack for our “travel” weekend. Staying with my Dad and stepmom as our trial is way down in South San Diego. We’ll stay with them on Friday and Saturday night which will be fun. My sister will also be there, so I hope to get to have some quality family time squeezed in too. Plus my parents have a new kitty—about 4-5 months now—and he is too cute. I need my kitty fix. Not really reminding too many people down there about my trial, I don’t want to be too distracted. I know I’ll be a stress case, at least on Saturday. The only people “allowed” on Saturday are my mom, Pete, and my BFF from 6th grade who I grew up riding with. Everyone else is barred!

AND, I volunteered to set jumps on Sunday for a few classes. Agility Hell has been held off by a thread.

In Random Dog News: Connecticut Humane Society busted for shady practices, including euthanizing dogs for behavioral problems such as seperation anxiety. Both my dogs would have been toast. Eek, eek, eek.

Introducing “Forest 2.0”–aka Velcro dog! WTF?

It was an interesting night. And, once again, I proved my own theory firsthand that if I am out of sorts on agility night, that it all goes down the tubes.

I tried to take it easy yesterday, as I got home from the East Coast on Sunday evening. Tried to sleep in but my internal time clock is extra wonky between going three timezones East and Daylight Savings. Only worked for a few hours and wasn’t rushed, but also squeezed in a meet with some of my favorite couple-friends-from-out-of-town who are also preggers. I had to take the time to go see them, but Forest was cooped up in the car for quite a while between the drive and our hour-plus visit. He also was pooped from being out in the desert with Pete all weekend and hadnt done a lick of agility since last Monday. Sigh. Oh, AND, I somehow thought it was a good idea to have a glass of wine, despite the fact that I had been falling asleep on the drive down. Genius!

Actually our Standard course wasn’t half bad. A few bumbles of my own doing and a funny decision by F to come off the dogwalk 3/4 of the way down the ramp and do a 2o2o with his ass way up in the air. I pulled him off and made him come down the ramp again. Oh, and he bumped his head on one of the weave poles (not hard) and kinda surprised himself I think. Funny. Overall decent though.

Then Jumpers. Which I was so excited for as it had been a while. But, alas, I got ahead of myself. Apparently as we went on through two go-rounds, he was looking at me—really fixating on—more and more. He is usually really good about me sending him on over jumps, but by then end he was totally quitting on me. Anne finally said at the end–somewhat exasperated; “He’s looking at you! He’s looking at you instead of the jumps!”

Ugh.

In my quest to get him to pay attention to me instead of bail for things more interesting, I have now got him completely fixated on me. Gah. To his credit, I did kinda forget to feed him his dinner, though I thought the treats would be filling him up. Maybe not. Regardless, I guess its a good thing as now I know he can go to both ends of the spectrum, just how to manage it.

In light of that, we are testing out a new trainer up here this week too. My current trainer is great with foundation stuff and teaching the dogs to do each obstacle correctly. She is also good at basic handling, but I feel like once things get more complicated—esp. when it hinges on behavioral issues—she really doesn’t offer up much advice. So, I am hoping this new person can help me more in that realm. I feel I am pretty good at analyzing things before and after, but I am just not experienced enough yet to make quick decisions on my own.

I am looking for an agility mentor… any one out there?

“Arrange whatever pieces come your way.”

I heard this Virginia Woolf quote last night listening to my “motivational” CDs on the drive down to class. I like it. A less clichéd version of the whole lemons and lemonade thing…

Class was very good by the way. Forest had his afterburners turned on last night—not sure where they came from but it was fun. Maybe the cool drizzle got him going? His Detested Obstacle of the Evening was the A-frame—his usual favorite! He did a bit of his mountain goat routine (though at least he was “with” me while doing it, not running in the opposite direction), then leapt off twice in a row. Odd, but we slowed down and reinforced and he was fine. I am very excited at our progress, he was also very in tune with me all night, even so much as I could take him off the leash in the middle of the other dogs “parking area” and he didnt bat an eye at them. Yay for progress!

We have a Fun Match on Saturday, the local club practice and our “safety test” on Sunday (please dont rain!), and class again on Monday night before I blast off to NYC for work all next week. 5 more days of “real” obstacle training opps before the trial. I feel pretty good and think we’ll be ready.

On another note, heard this story on NPR this morning. I didnt know Britain had “banned” breeds, and now they are looking to require insurance and micro-chipping for every dog in the country. Great in theory, but eek, can you imagine the red tape? I think education wins out over red tape 99% of the time….

Self-Help Agility Programming…

Last night’s class went well. I do think what I eat and what I do while en route directly affects my state of mind during class, so I am keeping on track with eating a semi-decent meal beforehand–which is always a bit of a feat considering the dash from work and the hour-plus drive–and listening to something mellow on the way down. Right now listening to some semi-hokey self help CDs but whatever, theyre calming if nothing else. Be positive! Change your environment by changing your thoughts! Kinda like the Secret stepped up one notch of reasonableness. A small notch.

Forest was very, very good again. I feel like he has taken such strides in the last two months—even since I started this blog—though again I am learning it has so much to do with my state of mind and managing my own stress levels well.

Our course started off with a pinwheel—which my instructor said many people will think is hard. I thought to myself “Hah. We got this handled, no problem. Wussies.” Well, yeah, at least the first two tries were problems… rocketing off to the AF/table off the first jump. Which I should have seen coming. Forest is addicted to the contact obstacles especially. But I reset him at the right angle and away we went for a really good course. Had the 12 set weaves. Missed the first try but then perfect—note—on my right side. Absolutely zero tunnel issues this week. We did the course again second time—PERFECT. I mean, perfect. I was so proud of him.

Anne revamped the course a bit for run three. The wheels came off just a bit—missed a chute entry (which was angled a little odd), and really struggled with the weaves the other direction—aka on my left. Neither bothered me too much though as every single other dog struggled with the weaves and missed the chute too. So, chalk those up to difficulty and issues I can define. Only real “us” issue was coming down the AF quickly, and staying as I led out. That was new for sure. Need to work on that, and on my left-side weaves.

Overall, big victories last night. I think the mat work helps focus him, he is definitely getting more glued to it and calmer in between his turns.

Pete is up shredding through tomorrow eve so I have the monsters full time on my hands until then. Might leave them at home this AM and see if we can get through it without getting a visit from Animal Control. The two—yeah, count ’em ONE, TWO—times we’ve left them at home for extended periods (as in more than 3 hours) in the last 3 months we’ve gotten bark notices. Both times however my aunt’s dog was here too. And he has a bark they could can and sell to stop criminals in their tracks… Off to the beach to wear them out for a bit and then hope for the best.