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Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's My Birthday!!!!

25th Whismical Birthday CakeHappppppy Birthday to me!

First, I want to thank for letting me use this LOVELY picture of a birthday cake. Isn't it the most dreamy looking thing? Now if it was filled with a delightful white cake with a lemon filling, I would be in heaven!

I love birthdays. As an adult, I've decided to make them my own special day and luckily my friends and family indulge me on this. I started my birthday preparations a few days ago by embracing the "New year, new look!" philosophy. And so in a bold step, I dyed my hair back to it's natural shade of dark brown. Surprised? Well, I think hair should be fun and I love to reinvent myself and this is a great change that shows off how comfortable I am with ME.

So with my new hair, my morning started off with my hubby bringing me coffee in bed. Then I proceeded to spend the next several hours just laying around with my dogs playing and loving on them. What a perfect start to the day!

Next, my girlfriend Jill called to take me to lunch. As I got ready to go, I decided to add a bit of fun self-indulgence and put on shimmery make-up. It is my birthday after all and a bit of glitter before dark is allowed on such special days! So with a bit of sparkle (and perfume, which I rarely wear) we were off to our favorite sushi place. We laughed and giggled so much, the sushi chef commented that we were having way too much fun. That's how a birthday should be!

As I sit here typing, surrounded by all of my wonderful dogs, I've been reading all of the birthday messages from friends and family. Oh my gosh, I've opened each one of them and savored the well-wishes. It really is fun to have birthdays and everyone is adding to my special day.

My hubby will be home soon and while he offered to take me out to dinner, I've instead opted for Filet Mignon here on the grill at home. We have some wonderful wines from our tasting this past weekend and I really want to watch the Time Traveler's Wife.

On Saturday my friend Becky is hosting a birthday game party (I just love the game Apples to Apples) and a small group is getting together to see if they can make me laugh hard enough that I spit wine from my nose. Yes, that is what the birthday invitation said . I just love my friends and family!

Even though my special day isn't over yet, I really wanted to thank everyone for making it so wonderful. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Day 6 - It's Rylee's Turn on the Agility Seminar Circuit

Today was Foundation Day at the agility seminar and it was Rylee's turn to be a part of the working crowd. She was so excited to be chosen to go with this morning and was even more psyched when we arrived at the arena.

Rylee's enthusiasm momentarily worried me, I mean what if she ran off to visit or was distracted by another dog? Yes, even trainers sometimes worry about these things!  However, this is a Foundation Seminar and I quickly realized how fun it was going to be to have a dozen baby dogs with happy wagging tails and owners (like me) eager to soak up foundation knowledge.

I chose Rylee for this seminar because I wanted her first agility seminar experience to be positive. Rylee and I have worked on most of the home, so this was a great time to test them on the road and proof them in an environment full of distractions. As for my fear that Rylee would run off, let's just say she was a working champ! Her attention was incredible and the efficiency with which she moves her body is absolutely amazing. Just like at home, she was so excited to be working with me. It was a very comfortable, easy connection that allowed both of us to relax and enjoy the experience.

Later I was talking with Nancy and she asked me what Rylee's best attributes were. I had to pause and think because Rylee truly has a nicely put together package! Here's what I've come up with:

  • I love the soul-giving attention Rylee shows when we are working together. I can see Rylee is willingly giving me everything she has and it's obvious that she is highly rewarded by our interactions together. It's special for both of us, like your favorite pair of shoes or those perfect fitting jeans.
  • Rylee has an amazingly athletic body and she is so comfortable in her own skin. She is graceful in her moves and light on her feet. She is fast, but can collect herself. She is able to use her entire body to efficiently turn and change direction on a dime. She's the perfect combination of gazelle and ballerina all in one.
  • Rylee is confident without being pushy. Seriously, this dog strives to be a team player and embraces her part of the program. Another bonus is that she is easy to play and be silly with - which makes training so much more fun!
Over the last several days, I've had a chance to observe some incredible dog & handler teams and my mind has been buzzing with the vision of where I see my dogs going and how I'm going to get them there. I'm leaving the last 6 days with solid plans for each of them. It's interesting because each plan is a little different since each of my dogs are unique. Overall, I'm really excited that the next several days are going to provide nice weather so I can immediately start to work my dogs in the sunshine (doesn't sunshine make everything even more fun!?!?).

As for Stacy, she'll be back in August to check on my progress and to continue to share her infectious love for training.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rouge - Day 3 of Her Seminar, Finally a Break Through!

Rouge and I participated in the 2-day Excellent Stacy Peardot-Goudy seminar on Saturday & Sunday. The good news is that her contacts are beautiful, the better news is that she successfully exhibited her 'distracted self' which means the bad news was that little 'ole me was left with the exhausting task of cheerleading, begging, pleading and trying to keep her attention. It was a bit of a frustrating place to be and very unexpected.

Stacy and I had a chance to talk about it  at the end of the day (Stacy's been working with us for all of Rouge's agility training) and her guidance and observation has never steered me wrong. To quickly summarize the situation, it was time to expect more from Rouge if she wanted to play the game of agility with me. So the plan started with the simple concept of her lack of attention meant she got to go back to her crate.

Now, it's important to understand that Rouge has been trained and trained via a positive reward based system. However, she's a very smart dog and quickly learned to play me like a violin and that's how I unexpectedly found myself in the cheerleader role. But thanks to Stacy, times are a changing and so are the dynamics of Team Lisa & Rouge.

I started off the morning by working Burton, my husband's Lab. It was fun and he was great, but he's not my dog to run. By the afternoon, I was pining to work Rouge so Stacy and I discussed a plan ahead of time so that I was clear as to what steps I needed to take based on the behaviors she was offering me. Things went pretty well the first time out and it was far better than it had been over the weekend. However the second time out was SPECTACULAR!

The second time out I felt I had her complete attention and she was a working member of Team Lisa & Rouge. What an amazing change and so nice to see the progress! I've worked hard to give her a solid base and by golly, I know this dog is amazingly talented. It turns out that I needed to stop babysitting her and to clarify the teamwork part of the equation - not because it didn't exist, but because I was taking on far too much responsibility.

As always, Stacy's talents never ceases to amaze me. Now I feel on track again and ready to push to the next level.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Zulu's First Agility Seminar - A Success!

Today was Zulu's turn at the seminar experience with Stacy Peardot-Goudy.

Zulu just turned 1 year and I have to admit that I haven't done very much jump work with him (just in the last few weeks), but I have worked his tunnel, chute, table, a-frame and dog walk, which are spectacular, so I felt fairly ready for this seminar. 

As a side note, the reason I haven't bothered very much with jumps is 1) because I wanted him to finish growing and 2) I've had a preview of his natural jumping style when he plays in the yard and I felt confident in his body awareness abilities when it came to jumping.

The terrific part about having Stacy back out here is just watching how she interacts with her dogs. I have to admit that while having Dalmatians has been terrific, Border Collies work differently and it's always nice to observe an alternate way of training. In the past, I hadn't been a big toy person...not because I don't believe in them, but because physically it was painful for me and so I avoided them. Well, thanks to modern medicine, that's not always the case for me now so I'm able to physically interact with my dogs more often and so I've had to learn how!

Zulu learned several of his base behaviors using treats. I'm very comfortable shaping/eliciting behaviors using food, but have decided to break with my own tradition of continuing to use food as a motivator (great with Dals & Labs) and quickly moved Zulu over to toys (balls and best yet, his favorite toy pelt). I started this endeavor a few weeks ago and the first thing I noticed when combining the toy & behavior was that he was CRAZY! Seriously, the behavior went to hell in a hand basket as his love for the toy made him loose his mind.

Two things come to mind. First, I might have introduced the toy to the agility game a little sooner to make a smoother transition and two, I was going to have to give some serious time to helping him understand or remember that he really could control himself, offer the behavior and get his beloved toy simply by doing what he had already been taught to do...after all, it was only the reward that had changed (from food to the toy).

On our first run, I aborted the toy and tried to just use food. It was a disaster and as Stacy said, I was training him like he was Rouge, my young Dalmatian. It was icky, I felt disconnected (handled like a fool) and Zulu was looking at me like I had grown 10 heads and was acting like a crazy person. It was time to collect myself and come up with a new plan or the day was going to be long and painful!

So I pulled the toy back out and with Stacy's guidance, told myself it was okay to embrace Zulu's toy enthusiasm and to go back to basics. In this case, the basic concept was "If you want the toy, then do a jump and earn it!" Sounds simple, but Zulu is an adolescent and as expected, the term "gimme" has started to creep into his aura. That was the case with today and he was outraged when I wouldn't give him the toy "just because" he wanted it. In his attempt to demand the toy he jumped me, pounced on me, zigged when he should have zagged, circled, barked, nipped at my hand (which was holding the toy), and was just plan trying to push me into handing it over.

By the afternoon, he was a rockstar and caught onto the game of jump = toy & play. Seriously, I couldn't have been prouder and left feeling very accomplished as well as having a much clearer game plan on where I want to go with him. Zulu was pretty proud of himself as well. Each time we were done with an exercise, he would jump up onto a chair and I'd tell him how very proud I was of him. He was soaking up the attention and overall, loved the interaction & time spent today.

It was a great day for both of us and I know both Grandma's (Barbara & Felicia) would be very, very proud!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Belgian Sheepdog Club, WI - Jan 24, 2010, Exc JWW

A few weeks ago I was judging in one of my personal favorite places to go, WI.

There are a TON of places I love to visit and always enjoy, but since I'm originally from the Northern IL/WI area, going back is like coming home. I grew up in Agility with these folks and I've known them for over 14 years. It's natural that I really, really miss them and so I always look forward to visiting and I always leave refreshed.

This trip was no different and as always, everyone was amazing.

The facility is indoors on thick horse stall matting and a unique ring size so I get to be creative. The challenge for me is to come up with a unique course that meets AKC's standards, has flow and allows handlers to be creative in how they chose to get through the course.

A perfect example of this is the choice of direction available from #3 to #4.

I have to admit, I was curious to see which direction handlers would chose to go and was surprised when the choice was an almost even 50/50 with half going to the right and the other half choosing the left. Now granted, I was not keeping an exact count (something about having to judge ), but in the end several of us decided this would be a fun sequence to time to see which direction was faster.

Anyone up for taking that challenge?

Boston Club Courses Friday 1-1-10

This is an older post I finally had a chance to finish today....

New Year's weekend my hubby Dan and I judged for the Boston Terrier Club in Elma, WA.

I have to admit, I was a bit surprised when they asked us to judge as I seemed to have recalled a previous member who didn't seem so keen on me. Turns out that person is no longer a member and I'm so glad we accepted the assignment as this club was WONDERFUL!

During our judge's dinner, I learned that about 5 years back the core club members folks didn't know a thing about agility. Not so any more! These days they're now experts and work very hard to put on a great trial.

I have to say, this was one of my personal favorites on the local front and I expect we'll be attending this show from now on.

On to the course analysis...

On Friday, I judged Excellent FAST (course pictured below) and Excellent JWW. Dan judged Excellent Standard (not included - sorry!).

The majority of the course was straight forward, however, two parts seemed to be the 'make it' or 'break it' section for handlers.

The first area was between #7 - #9 and I've drawn a few lines for illustrative purposes.

The majority of handlers stayed to the right of #8 and #9 (see the blue line which represents the handler path) and treated this section as a serpentine. In theory, this would be a good choice. However, as seen by the red line (which represents the dog's path) dogs came into this sequence at full speed and the triple encouraged dogs to land long. Due to their speed and landing area, most dogs were unable to collect and come in on the handler's left side and instead went wide behind the handler. Sure, most dogs were able to get back into place, but this left some of the handlers having to scramble for a moment to readjust their dog or themselves. It was an interesting line that is worthy of a training sequence!

An alternate method was to do a front cross on the landing side of the triple and either a rear cross or another front cross between 8 and 9.

It was a fun course to run and the teams did a terrific job!