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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Class Course - Aug 26 & 27, 2009

Last week we pushed out to the #2 jump and this week we pulled to the take-off side. It was nice to compare and contrast the handling for these options.

Another skill that seemed a bit lacking was the turn away from the handler from #6 to the #7 tunnel. A great skill for dogs from beginner through advanced to work or have a refresher on.

Additionally, being my sneaky little self, I put in a rear cross at #8 which worked the opposite side as we did last week at this same jump (but going a different direction).

Remember, if you learn a skill, work it on both sides : )


Class Course - Aug 18 & 19, 2009

This was last week's class course. I'll admit, I threw out the numbered cones and when I came back to practice with my own young dog, was VERY surprised by the challenge I had created in #1 - #6. Actually, I liked it!

Before introducing this course to class, I worked on the beginning sequences with my young and inexperienced dog, Ru. Working with a young dog on a tough sequence really forces me to break the challenge down into manageable parts and I feel makes me a better trainer when it comes to teaching my students.

When I initially started this sequence, I considered keeping Ru on my left and doing a R/C at #4 and another at #5. Seriously, this wasn't so smooth or natural feeling, which surprised me! What I did come up with is marked on the course in both a red path and boxes to outline the steps at each phase.

First, I lead out to #2. After releasing my dog, I faced her path and pushed her out to the take off side of #2 and then F/C to ensure she would take the jump. Next, I found that with practice, she was very reliable on the push out and so I was able to leave a bit earlier to ensure I was ahead of her as she landed after the #3 jump, which put me in a great spot to cue #4 and ultimately #5 - which included a R/C so the dog landed going to the right of the jump. By staying still for just a moment, it allowed my dog to curl in tightly over the right side of the #5 stanchion which set up an amazing line for the weave poles.

Numbers 7 - 20 were much easier and were practiced with both front crosses and rear crosses to keep our skills fresh.

Practice the opening sequence, you may find the subtle body language between #1 & 2, very interesting : )


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Football Season & Dog CHIC DNA Blood Draw

OK, so this post doesn't exactly start off dog related, but even doggy parents need a bit of fun here and there.

Last night we had pre-season tickets to the Seahawks vs. Bronco's football game. The seats were INCREDIBLE (courtesy of a friend who has season pass tickets).

Once they got warmed up, the game was pretty exciting and the Seahawks did a nice job.

The Chicago Bears are in town in a few weeks and we probably could have had tickets to that came as well. Imagine my dumb luck when I looked at the calendar and realized I had booked an out of town judging assignment for that weekend. Ah, I was sooooo disappointed when I saw that! For those that don't know, I'm originally from Chicago and a Chicago sport's team fanatic....ugh, I'm still kicking myself!

OK, on to the doggy portion of this blog.

Today Rouge showed in Conformation and to say she got dumped is an understatement. Seriously, it was clear the judge had written her off immediately as he didn't even watch her during the go-arounds, but literally turned his back to look at the other dogs. Oh well, Ru had fun and she showed well. We already have a plan for the future and regardless of what the judge may think, she'll always be #1 to me.

She's been staying at Angel's during this weekend of showing so today after she was done and saw me, she could NOT contain herself and spent a good 5 minutes ferociously licking me to death. What an amazing feeling to know that as much as she loves Angel and has fun at her home, she is ecstatic to see her Mom : ) Rouge is very happy to be home and gave each dog a very warm greeting and has been cuddling up with each of them this afternoon while I've been watching movies.

Ok back to at the Conformation show, they had a CHIC DNA blood draw for Dalmatians. Apparently this is the last year the Dalmatian Club of America will be paying for the draws and I had committed to bringing Rouge over. It was suggested I also bring Pinky over as they get just as much genetic information from the old dogs as the new ones, so Pinky came along for the vein poke as well.

I'll admit that I'm pretty wrapped up in performance and aren't as up to speed with the local Dalmatian Club as I probably should be. The local club is VERY warm and inviting and has openly welcomed me and Angel and has been very supportive as well. So besides supporting the DNA blood draw, I also donated 3 hours of Agility lessons to their Auction to help raise money.

As a way of supporting the local Dalmatian Club, I also told them that I would be happy to sponsor a meeting at my home and do an Agility introduction & skill learning workshop so new Agility Dalmatian folks can give it a try. This is my way of supporting my breed and to give back to the dog community in a way that is passionate to me.

I'd like to challenge each of you to do something for your breed each year. The last several years I've donated to both Dalmatian & Border Collie rescue, but this year I'm taking a more active role and doing something personally.

What will you do to support your breed or pet?

Friday, August 21, 2009

Myth: Dalmatians Aren't Good With Kids...

I've had three Dalmatians so far in my life-time and have been asked all kinds of questions about the breed.

My three top favorites:
  1. After asking what type of dog I have and being informed I have Dalmatians, Border Collies & Labs, the general public will almost ALWAYS say "Dalmatians...I heard they're hyper..." My usual response is "Have you SEEN a Border Collie???" Disclaimer: BC's BEG to work whereas Dalmatians make great couch potatoes.
  2. "I heard Dalmatians aren't good with kids..." To which I nicely explain that just like humans, if you're not used to kids, they can be overwhelming. With that said, after shooting the first picture in today's blog, I can share that Rouge does not look the least bit overwhelmed by her new found playmate. This adorable young lady came up to play with Rouge and they immediately hit it off. Isn't that a wonderful shot?
  3. Now this is my personal favorite. Rouge is a liver (brown) spotted Dalmatian. I've been asked no less than two dozen times "When will her spots turn black?" Now if you're not into the breed, believing there are only black spotted Dals is a fact so I've had to turn this little surprise question into a very brief education on the hidden gem in the Dal color world.
Onto another topic...

Today was Day 1 of the Puget Sound Dalmatian Club Specialty.

Conformation is a bit of a blessing and a curse for me. A blessing because without it, we'd have garbage structure in the Dalmatian breed. It's a curse because they tend to like their dogs heavier in weight and larger boned.

The preferences in the breed ring are NOT in line with the trim and athletic dog that I personally prefer to keep. The challenge then becomes that each time Rouge goes in the ring, she looks like a tiny, tiny girl. To also make matters a tad bit more difficult, she was the only Dalmatian with chiseled muscle tone showing.

The Dal height range is 19-24" at the withers and Rouge stands around 20.25 - 20.50 which is over an inch into the standard. However, the dogs that often win are topping the range and coming in at the 24" marker. Now don't get me wrong, they are beautiful dogs who are worthy of their winnings and titles, I'm just saying it's a challenge that we will continue to face in the breed ring.

In response, I'm going to have to eventually plump up my girl as she matures so she looks more substantial. On the bright side, she is an incredible mover and can free-stack like a champ, as seen in the second picture. For the record, I was hiding behind a chair wwwaaaayyyy at the other end of the ring and using a very nice telephoto lens to get this shot.

Gotta love technology!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

So Many Updates, So Little Time!

Ah, there is so much to write and so little time!

Not surprising, I've been spending quite a bit of time with the dogs, and especially client dogs, lately.

First there is Buddy (1st picture) who will be going for his Delta Certification at the end of the month. We're brushing up on some basic skills and I have to admit, I really look forward to time with Buddy in his work environment which is at a very nice local retirement community. Buddy is such a sweet dog and he is so good at what he does!

Next is Thor. Thor and his owners are amazing and of course another client I just love to work with! When we first started, Thor lacked confidence and tested his owner's patience with his constant alarm barking. We've worked hard to give Thor an alternate job and his owners have been incredibly dedicated to his work plan. The picture of Thor is of us (his Mom and me) working him at the entrance of Costco where shopping carts, kids, car noises, the auto department and much more, were the backdrop to strengthening his new skills & behaviors.

In this picture, Thor is anticipating his hot dog treat and knows it's about to come!

The last picture is of another one of my favorite clients, Jake. I just love Jakey and his family and feel blessed to have been able to spend so much quality time with them.

Jake is an amazing family dog who is incredible with the kids and is generally very easy going. However, he's somehow gotten the impression that it is his responsibility to chase away the neighboring dogs and to oversee the outdoor action around his home.

We've worked hard to desensitize Jakey to other dogs while out on a walk in the neighborhood and had reached a point where their 8 year old daughter could handle him on the family walks.

However, Jake's main issue is that he is overly enthralled with the neighbor's newer puppy and feels it's his job to oversee this little guy in a way that's not so positive. What doesn't help the situation is the neighbors allow their pup to hangout without a leash on. It's really a no win situation for either side so it's my job to help Jakey be successful in an unfair world .

Another client dog whose picture is not attached, that I've been working is Zoom. Today I ran him at an Agility Trial in Novice JWW. He's such a great dog and has such a happy-go-lucky attitude.

Last, but certainly not least are my own dogs.

Pinky, my older Dalmatian, is aging gracefully and I feel so lucky to have had the time and experiences I've had with her. She is my once in a life-time dog and is my heart and soul. To have spent the last 13.5 years with her is such a blessing and every day beyond today is additional time I never thought I'd have. She is my opportunity to be thankful for what I have in this moment and to appreciate the here and now.

Spot, my older Border Collie is as wonderful as can be and has matured so nicely. Having the younger dogs around has given him a sense of maturity, although he still hasn't lost his playfulness. it's a nice balance that I can't imagine I'll ever find in any of my pups again.

Burton is as loving as always and is such a goofy dork! Dan is really appreciating him more and more as he matures and is feeling that Burton is now ready for some serious Hunt Test and Agility Training. In other words, he and Dan have matured enough together to make the leap into team sports !

Rouge is a very funny girl and is so full of herself! She is so confident, loving and athletic. It's a rare and unique mixture that I just love! My first goal is to get her finished in Conformation and to really work on basics in Agility. I have to admit, that I have not been very good about working the middle steps with her or my last pup for that matter. Bad me, bad handler, but unfortunately a common occurrence in Agility. Hey, at least I'm human !

Zulu has been having a ton of experiences and I'm so impressed with how this little guy has been handling things. This past week he accompanied me to a retirement community and was as mellow and loving as a 10 year old pro. He also came along with Dan and I to the Agility Trial today and took all of the people, dogs and exciting environment all in stride. Later we went for a walk on an open trail and actively worked his recalls. It seems cheese is his new best friend and he is so excited to receive that reward!

It's always amazing to me just how much we interact with our dogs and communicate with them on the most basic levels. Yet most of the time we don't even recognize it. That's one of the reasons I love writing this blog - it makes me aware of the little things.

Monday, August 10, 2009

SCAT - 8/9/09 Course Maps

Coming into Sunday, Dan and I were focused on keeping the trial going so folks would easily be able to get home for dinner : ) Besides, we wanted to see each dog RUN and not be tired from hanging out in the sun all day!

Today I had the honor of judging Excellent Standard (as well as Novice & Open FAST & JWW).

The first surprise for several handlers was #2 to #3. Specifically, dogs were going off course to the #4 jump. Also, some dogs landed after the tire heading to the right, toward the table instead of to the left and toward the #4 jump.

The off course tunnel after #7 didn't attract many dogs, however the off course #13 jump did get a few. The more difficult part seemed to be getting the #9 jump. Those handlers that left their dog at the a-frame so that they could get ahead to better handle #9 (either a front or a rear cross) seemed to be the most successful overall.

Once through that sequence, the rest of the course came naturally to most teams.

Dan judged Excellent JWW and Excellent FAST, also shown here. As usual, I was judging elsewhere and didn't get to see the courses run. I have to admit, I'm feeling like a broken record every time I say that! LOL

Dan did say it was a fast running course and from the looks of it on paper, I know I would have loved to have run this one! I heard several exhibitors mention how they loved the fast flowing courses and Dan's JWW really looks like he embraced that.

At any rate, we had a wonderful time in Southern California. Beautiful weather, a terrific club, wonderful volunteers and excellent hospitality.

SCAT - 8/8/09 Course Maps

Attached are the Excellent Courses from Saturday's SCAT Trial in Southern California.

It was a llllloooonnnngggg day as the club was kind enough to host a RAD, now known as TTB (Time To Beat), Demo of the new AKC's upcoming class slated for some time next year. I'll talk about that class later.

The first course is Excellent JWW, which I had the pleasure of judging. From my point of view, it was a fun course to judge and moved along quickly.

The biggest surprise was the #16 jump. Dogs were moving with such speed, that some of the dogs went wide and missed this jump when handlers left too early and began running the last line of jumps

Next is Excellent FAST.

For a bit of excitement, I added the Dog Walk in. Most judges don't have it in FAST because it requires the judge to really have to be on their toes in deciphering where the handlers are headed and be in position to judge both ends of the Dog Walk as needed. Not always an easy task!

As for the Send Bonus, quite a few teams made this look easy. Most folks did the Bonus in the beginning and spent the remainder of their time collecting points.

The last course below is Dan's Excellent Standard course. As usual, since I was judging, I wasn't able to observe what was happening in that ring or where the challenges were.

This is my first time really looking at the course and on paper, it looks like fun!

OK, onto the TTB (formerly known as the RAD) class. First and foremost, the rules are being enhanced as we speak so anything written here could change and I suggest you keep an eye on the AKC website for the latest.

In summary, think of this class as Jumpers With Weaves with a contact obstacle AND that either the contact or the weaves will be taken twice.

The scoring and judging are a bit different and will be up on the AKC website very soon. In terms of judging, you cannot have an off-course, a missed contact or a knocked bar as those are automatic failures. Runouts and Refusals are not judged and you may attempt the contacts up to 3 times.

Also, there is only ONE course for all levels so Novice, Open and Excellent dogs all compete in the same height class against each other.

For the handlers, I heard a lot of positive comments and they really liked running it. From a judge's view point, I feel like a slacker out there since I'm not calling Runouts or Refusals!

Overall, I think it will be a fun class for everyone.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Big SHOCK!!!

If you know me, you won't be surprised that the topic I'm about to engage in is controversial for many dog owners. Wait, let me get my flame suit on....okay the topic is....using an electric shock to train a dog (for example via a collar or an 'invisible fence').

Now before you get your hackles up, this conversation is going to be about my own PERSONAL experience with an electric shock. Let me clarify here to be sure you read the last sentence correctly - I'm not going to talk about using an electric shock on a dog or any other animal. I'm going to talk about when I (me, myself) was shocked. It's a different point of view, but I think it is well worth the discussion.

Let me start off by saying I'm not a fan of shock collars and prefer other training methods. However, as a trainer, I always keep an open mind to different techniques so that I can understand the pros and cons of each method and make an informed decision. In political terms, I'm neither a Liberal or a Conservative.

With that said, here's what happened to me personally.

First, I was in a familiar place and somewhere I felt at ease and comfortable. I'd gotten there early so I wasn't feeling stressed from the drive and it was a beautiful sunny day. In other words, I was in a great mood.

As I was walking my usual route, I noted an electric fence along my path (a first). Unfortunately, I had to deal with it to get to my destination and after not being able to get to the power source, I was left to try and figure out if it was 'hot'. Note for others, using a stick does NOT work as an accurate indicator!! I was doing a great job in removing the fiberglass end post of the fence when the potentially 'hot' wire inadvertently touched me.

There was a moment of nothing and so I thought I was safe. Personally, I think the wire was just gearing up to shock the living *@#% out of me because then IT happened. I swear time froze and went into slow motion. I could hear the electricity coming my way, but by then it was too late to avoid the impact. Much to my surprise, there was an INTENSE stab to my thumb that shot rapidly up my arm and through to my lower shower blade. I vaguely remember the loud & painful howl that came from mouth. I also don't vividly recall the intense instinct that told me to immediately drop the rod and 'hot' wire. What I do remember is being very surprised at the incredibly strange sound I made.

More importantly, I distinctly remember my emotion.

I was PISSED. Mad as all hell and definitely not thinking rationally. Mentally I kept coming back to the pain in my thumb and the surprise of how the electricity had traveled through my arm and into my back area. Again, I was PISSED. I kept coming back to that feeling and I'm very glad nobody else was around. Now this is important...I have no doubt that if the owners of the electric fence would have been there, I wouldn't have been a nice person because logic was out the window. I hurt, it hurt and I was PISSED!

In reality and from the view-point of a trainer, I'm not at all upset with the owners and am actually glad that the situation happened (although I wouldn't volunteer to relive the event!). It is moments like these that are so educational, you just can't learn certain lessons from a text book and they define you as the type of trainer you're going to be.

Bottom line, it better be a life and death situation in order for someone to try and rationalize the use of an electronic shock on ANY living creature. While I would gladly comply with not going near an object that would elicit an electronic shock, it definitely also elicited intense feelings of pain and anger - both of which I view as a negative emotion that could easily fall under the category of intimidation.

The lesson I learned is that I can't help but wonder, is this how a dog feels when it's shocked? PISSED! Wouldn't it naturally blame the owner for putting that darned collar on them? Would or could they potentially turn on their owners...which was my first instinct? These are all interesting questions and I have no doubt the answer is "Depends on the Dog...." Ah, yeah, that's a little too vague for me to swallow as a trainer since I prefer more black and white answers.

As has been said in many studies, Aggression begets Aggression. As a trainer, I would be a fool to ignore the first impulse I had when I was shocked, which was intense and immediate ANGER. While I may have looked compliant on the surface (in an effort to avoid additional & future pain), the fact is that the underlying emotion was there (as the effects of my previous pain continued to throb) and it was quite strong.

It's something for all of us to think about, but I know that based on my personal reaction, I would avoid negative training methods if at all possible.