Banner - 2o2o Contact Training DVD

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Spot Makes the Trip to the Rainbow Bridge

We lost Spot tonight.

Funny how an average good, happy day can suddenly change direction. I mean it was still a good day, but it has ended very sadly.

While I'm shocked, I can't say I'm surprised. I always knew in my heart that Spot wasn't going to be the dog to last into old age years. Health issues were never in his favor and as a puppy mill dog, life started off rough and while his spirit was amazingly strong and forgiving, his body just wasn't built to perfection.

Ah, the stories I could share about that boy. My favorite (and I mean no disrespect to anyone) is that I always said if he were a human, he'd have been a personal shopper. Seriously, I'm certain that boy was overly in touch with his feminine side and I LOVED that about him! I loved that he went to the beat of a different drummer, was thrilled with that direction and completely comfortable with it. I also said if he were a human, he'd bring me flowers every day - just because.

But now I find myself at a loss without my Spottie-boy and honestly, I wouldn't have picked today to say good-bye. I would have picked a date far, far into the future because I want to be selfish and I still want MY Spottie here with me. Unfortunately, that's just not how reality and life works.

I can't help but wonder why things have to change. I mean today I was happy with exactly the way things were and then without notice or warning, they changed without my permission. Now I'm an endless fountain of tears, snot and  glowing eyes from crying. Think about it, if our entire lives are about being in pursuit of the ultimate happiness, why is it that when we achieve it, that things change? I mean why is it that we can't freeze things and just stay in that moment forever?

I realize these are the ramblings of a woman feeling the emotions of a loss, but there is also a bit of clarity that comes at times like this too. That clarity is that no matter how hard we may try to control things, we're really left to the mercy of 'Whatever Blows In Our Direction'. And just so you know, it doesn't have the courtesy of scheduling itself ahead of time in our date book!

So, I'm left with reality, which is that tomorrow I'll wake up and Spot will be physically missing from life. The reminder will come immediately as the morning ritual included him jumping up and laying next to me as I woke up. On a normal day I'd pet, hug and talk to him and he'd share small little kisses with me (he never kissed anyone else). Tomorrow when that moment comes, Spot won't come when I call his name and I'll remember that he's gone...besides feeling the loss, I know I'll think "But I wasn't ready to let him go..." After all, are we ever ready?

In the end, I know we were so very lucky to have each other. Spotty, I will ALWAYS love you. Thank you for everything and God speed my sweet, sweet boy.


Your Momma

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Courses - WI Rapids Kennel Club Sunday

One (of the many) things I love about my friends in Wisconsin is that they have really good, solid handlers and wonderful dogs.

What I mean by this is that these guys are rock solid when it comes to their training skills and they have dogs who are enthusiastic and have fun. As an example, today's Novice Class was one of the best I've seen and these folks can do their weave poles! This gives a hint as to the skill level the Excellent handlers have and these guys can handle a good challenge with a smile.

So in their honor, I like to try different types of courses because I love watching how the course runs and how these solid teams step up to the challenge. That brings us to today's courses.

When the Excellent JWW course was setup, I was excited. There was flow, there was some skill and there was a place for the dogs to stretch out and run on their last day with me. Yeah, then we started with the large dogs and I began to wonder about the course...

The problems began almost immediately from the exit of the #3 tunnel up to the#6 weave poles. Dogs were either knocking the #4 or #5 jump, numerous dogs went into the #10 tunnel entrance and countless dogs missed the weaves all together. But the biggest issue was the triple and I soon began to wonder if I'd inadvertently created a safety hazard! Heck, I even started to consider moving the triple because it was an ugly sight at times. I also started to doubt the course and my 'nice design'.

However, once we were out of the 24" group, the 20" group and the remainder of the dogs did an incredible job. So, being the Type-A personality that I am, I watched closely and here's the conclusion I came to. Simply put, people were WAY over handling the weave entry.

First, the problem started with handlers not supporting the #4 jump and dogs were either incurring a runout or (as you can see by the red line) where dogs had to make a hard turn to the #4 jump which then put them at an awkward angle toward the #5 triple. At the same time, handlers were running up to the weaves and then slamming on the breaks. Since the dog was behind the handler, they would pull up (as well as have a bad approach to the triple) and knock or crash into it.

Second, many handlers would go flying up to the landing side of the triple and either put their right hand out or come to a slamming stop and turn into their dog. I'm absolutely convinced that several dogs were certain their handler was setting them up for a rear cross and so the dog turned to the right and went into the tunnel.

Either way, this is an exercise I'll be setting up for class in the near future. I'm really curious how my students would handle it.

The next area I would have like to work was #11 through #13. As you can see by the path in red, dogs went very wide. I'd like to see the green path for handlers which I believe would lead to the green path marked for the dog. In other words, how can this wide turn be made more efficient?

Next was the Excellent Standard course. I might get shot for saying this, but I loved this course!

I felt it had subtle challenges, but encouraged a bit of speed as well.

The main area dogs had problems with was the #9 jump. It seemed dogs were focused straight ahead at the tunnel and simply by-passed this jump.

Oh, the other item was that for some reason, there were several fly-offs from the teeter. Since the dogs weren't available to be interviewed, I can only guess the speed in the beginning of this course had them psyched and collection and slowing down to properly perform this obstacle just didn't seem to be a priority for some

I'd say the majority of teams did a spectacular job on the courses and it was a pleasure to watch them all.

I'll be back to WI in September and I'm looking forward to it! Thanks again to the club and to all of the exhibitors, you guys rock!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Courses - WI Rapids Kennel Club Fri & Sat

I haven't been timely in uploading courses so today I have Friday's Excellent JWW and both Excellent courses from today (Saturday).
First is Friday's Exc JWW course which had a nice Q rate.

At jump #1, most handlers started with their dog on the left and did a front cross on the landing side of #3 which set them up nicely for the correct end of the #5 tunnel.

On the #6 landing side, most handlers did another front cross to set themselves up on the inside (dog on their right) for the long line of jumps leading to the weaves. I have to admit, I was proud to have gotten such a nice open running space in this smaller sized ring.

After the weaves, most handlers did another front cross (so the dog was on their left), heading for #14. The surprise on this course was that quite a few dogs missed the #15 jump. As you can see from the dog path (the red line drawn on the course), handlers who picked their dog up at the end of the weaves and assumed a straight path from the end of the weaves through #15 were shocked when their dog curled in and bypassed #15. I have to admit, I was equally as surprised!

The #17 jump required a bit of patience and most handlers did great in this area.

Next we have Saturday's Excellent Standard course.
The first unique feature is the start line which had handlers starting with their back toward the middle of the ring. The second unique feature had the #6 jump taken four times - a new record for me!

The surprise on this course was the number of dogs who, after jump #7, took the off-course #15 tunnel exit. It was like dogs were possessed and even when handlers were standing still, dogs gleefully accelerated while handlers tried to call their dogs back.

There didn't seem to be an overabundance of Qualifiers and I'll have to take an unofficial survey on what people thought of the course. I do know the 24" dogs didn't fare well, while the 20" dogs did much better!

Next came Excellent Jumpers with Weaves. Luckily for me, the course seemed more popular with handlers and the Qualifying rate was higher - yeah!!!!

Most handlers started the course with the dog on their left side which allowed them to 'pull' their dog to the correct end of the #4 tunnel.

Next handlers did a front cross either before or after the #5 jump which set them up for the inside path as dogs headed through the tunnel and up to the weaves. Most handlers then did a front cross after the weaves.

For the serpentine, handlers were split as to who handled it on the right side of the course and who handled it on the left side of the course. Either way, the surprise on this course (get the feeling there were surprises on all of the courses so far?) was that several dogs weren't pushed far enough out to the take-off side of #12 and would end up on the landing side of #12 without having come full around to the take-off side.

When landing from the #13 jump, quite a few of the dogs were pointed down toward the bottom of the course toward the #6 jump. On the other hand, some handlers did a beautiful job of turning the dog's head so they would land heading toward the top of the course and toward the correct #14 jump.

After #17 quite a few dogs were wide turning toward #18. Again, in contrast, some handlers did an incredible job of working the #17 jump to gain the advantage of a tight turn to #18.

Over all, these courses were different than some of the designs I've done in this building in the past and I liked that. We'll have to see what tomorrow's courses bring in terms of challenges.

Have a great night everyone, I'm off to bed!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Agility in Hawaii...Our Amazing Experience

As you probably know, Dan is here to judge agility in Hawaii. He's definitely dressed for the part and is looking very...well, Hawaiian!

The club has been absolutely amazing. They greeted us at the airport with traditional Lei's, drove us to our hotel which has beautiful views of Diamond Head and of Waikiki Beach (just 2 minutes away), served steak for lunch, had 15+ workers setting up & doing course changes and everyone is so welcoming and nice!

I spent Saturday making good use of my camera and took over 1,200 pictures of the dogs. When you take into account that there were probably only 30 dogs entered, that's a lot of pictures! I'm in the process of uploading all of the shots and will make the pictures available for a flat per dog rate of $30, with all of the funds going directly to the Puget Sound Dalmatian rescue group. Enjoy a few sample photos I've included in this blog and stay tuned for the picture link and the Paypal link for the rescue organization.

Back to the dogs...I was very impressed. The handlers had wonderful skills and the dogs were well trained. There was a variety of dog breeds and the club is excited to be able to open up their trial to Mixed Breeds in just a few weeks. In preparation for that day, Dan and I measured quite a few dogs who have their Companion Partner Certificate from the AKC and will soon be competing!

For small clubs like the one here in Hawaii, opening up and including mixed breeds is an absolutely WONDERFUL thing. Now everyone can participate, which is great because trials are limited and it is expensive for handlers to travel from island to island. When I return in November, I'll be judging a larger group since mixed breeds will be joining us!

I'm so overwhelmed by how friendly and welcoming everyone in the club has been. I don't feel like I've done them justice in my blog, but suffice to say that I am so looking forward to coming back. This is an amazing group of talented and warm people. I feel very blessed to have been able to come and spend the day with them. I Dan was equally as impressed with the group as well.

Thank you for having us!!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Honolulu Zoo & China Town

Today was another beautiful day in Honolulu. We started off the day with an inexpensive and easy bus ride into China Town. 

I love cultural experiences and this one was terrific! Dan and I had a few interesting food taste testings with our favorite being a fried banana dessert that was simply yummy! We also found some unique gifts so I was officially able to kick off my Christmas shopping for 2010. I think this is the earliest I've ever started, but I do try to use my travel time to find unusual gifts so I don't have to do the boring mall shopping in December.

After returning to the hotel, we headed across the street to the Honolulu Zoo. Today's picture is of one of the beautiful Tigers. I love the big cats! The zoo here is smaller, but very nicely done. They're redoing the African exhibits (elephants, etc.) and have a TON of beautiful tropical birds. It's a nice place to walk around and it's right off of the beach.

Tomorrow we're up early so that Dan can judge. He's all set and even bought a nice Hawaiian shirt for the occasion! I'm planning to bring the camera and take lots of pictures. I'll be back here in November judging so this will be great to go and help out at the event.

Welcome to Hawaii - Yes There is Agility Here Too!

Seriously, I'm not even going to pretend that this post has anything to do with dogs...

Oh wait, except that we're in Hawaii because Dan is here to judge Agility, so see, I was able to make this dog related! 

Dan doesn't judge until Saturday so I won't have anything to share until then, but I do promise to upload a course or two and to let you know what Agility is like here in Hawaii.

Onto the fun stuff...the pictures attached are taken from our hotel room 12 stories up. We have a beautiful view of both the Waikiki Beach (a block away) and of Diamond Head, which is straight out our balcony. An added bonus is that we're right across the street from the zoo which we plan to walk through during our visit.

While the flight over is long and boring (6 hours), once we landed and stepped out into the sun and warmth, it's impossible not to be grateful to be here. At 11 p.m. (2 a.m. at home) it's well past bedtime and we have all of the windows and doors open so that we can enjoy the tropical breeze. This trip is doing wonders for my 'cold', which I'm now more convinced than ever is allergy related. Mainly because I'm feeling better and better with little coughing, sneezing and stuffiness. I'm so glad we've got 5 days here in paradise! Mentally and physically, I needed this trip more than I realized.

Speaking of trip, I had a ton of time to sit and think while on the plane. Ah yeah, most of it did have to do with Agility. While I was able to finally finish off some tough courses (due to odd sized rings), I've been giving a TON of continued thought to the basics of my Agility program. Specifically, getting it down on paper.

With that goal in mind, I'd like to invite you to look forward to more exercise/instructional diagrams. Not only are they great for my students to use as reference material, but it is wonderful for organizing my non-stop thought process!

As always, I do miss my puppies. : )

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Front Cross - Teaching the Mechanics of the Front Cross

I've been working on a project for about 5 years now to get some basic agility skills down on paper as a reference for both myself and my students.

This is just the first of several diagram based guides and training exercises for Front Crosses.

This particular Front Cross game is safe for young puppies as well as mature dogs and can be played inside when the weather is bad or when the snow is too deep.

If you don't have a tall cone, here are a few links to purchase from Amazon. I've also seen them at Home Depot for about $15.

Another idea, when in a pinch, a plunger may work for most medium to smaller dogs.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Puzzle Toys for Dogs

Here are more dog toys to add to the list:

NINA OTTOSSON'S PUZZLE TOYS and others - These are amazing toys that not only keep your dog occupied, but challenge them mentally and physically.  For example, one of the puzzles has blocks that move in four different directions. After putting treats under select blocks, the dog finds the treats by pushing the blocks with either their nose or paw. Some of the puzzles come in different sizes for large and small dogs. Oh, and did I mention it's pure entertainment watching your dog figure out each of the puzzles?

The Art of Racing in The Rain

A friend of mine lent me the book "Racing in the Rain" by Garth Stein and I had to share what an amazing read it is!  I don't often give book recommendations, but this one is a must.

The book is written from the perspective of a dog as he witnesses and participates in the life of his family. Don't worry, you don't have to be an obsessed dog lover (like me) to enjoy this book. As the author's website says:

"Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn't simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life's ordeals..."

One of my favorite insights from Enzo is on page 101 where he says:

"Here's why I will be a good person. Because I listen. I cannot speak, so I listen very well. I never interrupt, I never deflect the course of the conversation with a comment of my own. People, if you pay attention to them, change the direction of one another's conversations constantly. It's like having a passenger in your car who suddenly grabs the steering wheel and turns you down a side street..."

Don't worry, the book isn't all philosophical and Enzo has several moments of laughter as well. Chapter 21 starts off referring to the little girl "She made me wear her bumblebee wings she had worn the previous Halloween...." Now who didn't dressed their animals as a kid and now we get to hear things from their side!

Again, this is a great book that will make you think as well as bring a smile to your face.  Enjoy!

Favorite Dog Toys

As I travel around the country, I'm always on the hunt for a good dog toy. When I walk in the door after a trip and unzip my suitcase, my dogs have learned to dive in and search for the newest addition to the toy collection. After 15 years, thousands of dollars later and with dozens of test dogs, I consider myself a semi-expert in the dog toy field!

While I love coming home with something new and fun for my pups, it is frustrating to have spent my hard earned cash on a toy that lasts a mere 10 minutes. So I thought I'd share my experiences and list some of the toys that my dogs not only love, but I've found to be a great buy, thanks to their fun-factor, practicality and durability. (The items listed below are not in any particular order)

GOUGHNUT - My latest find is the Goughnut ( which is pictured above. The Goughnut comes in two types of toughness (the green and the tougher black) as well as two different shapes, round or stick form. It's not only durable, but floats as well! Another perk to this well-thought out product is a safety feature and guarantee. The website states: "If your dog chews through the outside wear layer, Green or Black, to expose the indication layer, Red, GoughNuts will replace your toy ..." I love a product the maker is willing to stand behind!

WEST PAW DESIGN - Next, I really love the products from West Paw Design. They're fun, they're flexible and pretty darn durable even for my perpetually tough chewers. They have various sizes to fit each dog and different designs to fit your need (chew toy, throwing or tugging). You can view several of their items by clicking Here and below are my personal favorites.

JW DOG TOYS - JW has some really nice products as well. The flying disk with the squeaker in the middle is great for tossing, however you may not want to leave it around for general chewing. While it did take awhile, one my dogs was able to chew into the middle section to disembowel the squeaker device.

The rings were also great for tugging and lasted quite awhile, but again, as soon as my dog was hell-bent on chewing through a ring, she worked tirelessly on it and eventually succeeded. However, the individual rings were a hit with my dogs too so it wasn't a wasted toy.

The surprise hit was the soft, squishy football! A Doberman person told me about this toy and I had my doubts. After buying it, I'm happy to report it lasted a long, long time (years). I'm not sure whatever happened to the toy (I suspect it got buried in the backyard), but I wouldn't hesitate to buy this one again! It was soft, flexible and great for throwing in the house.

EVERLASTING FUN BALL - These are absolutely my favorite in the house. They are soft, flexible and very durable. Great for tossing in the home since they don't leave marks on the wall and are light weight so the chances of knocking something down are less. Also, you can put treats inside if you'd like your dog to entertain themselves. Comes in two sizes (large and medium).

GO-FRRR SLINGSHOT - Speaking of absolute favorites, this is the best throwing toy with its rubber slingshot 'rope'. This toy is easy to carry (ball size that fits into a pocket) and thanks to the slingshot style 'rope', it goes far with little effort. Also, the ball is softer so my dogs love retrieving it. This is NOT a toy to be left lying around chewers as the ball is not made for that type of activity. The ball comes in various sizes for different size dogs and a small slingshot device is available, although not a requirement.

RINGZEES DOG RING - A friend recently turned me onto this soft tugging ring that is made of wool. It is great for dogs with softer mouths and can scrunch up to easily be hidden in a pocket and whipped out for tossing or tugging when needed. There are different ring sizes and colors and I'm told the company donates a portion of their profits to an orphanage in Nepal. This toy is not meant to be left out for chewers, but holds up well to tugging.

If you're looking for a tough chew toy, the squirrel below is a keeper. Just be aware that it is heavy so be sure to keep your toes clear if you have a dog who tends to suddenly drop their toys on your feet! We've had ours for years and while there are some teeth marks, not a piece is missing from this toy.

CHUCKIT! - I'm sure most of you are familiar with this company since they revolutionized the way we throw tennis balls for our dogs. Here are two of my 'must have' toys. I love the flying squirrel for use during agility training as it can fold up to go in your pocket and be tossed easily as a reward. When dirty, simply hose it off for a fresh look.

For exercise, who could resist the traditional Chuckit! There are different size Chuckit!s and for those who don't like to touch squishy tennis balls or bend over to pick up the ball, this product fits the bill. The only potential disadvantage is carrying the Chuckit!, especially if you're trying to manage more than one leash.

I'm sure there are other toys out there not included on my list. If you have a toy that you'd like to suggest, please write to me and share your thoughts. Also, a special thank you to for letting me use a picture from their website to show their product.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Courses - Puli Cub, Zanesville, OH March 6 and 7, 2010

It was another fantastic weekend in Ohio (I love my pals there!) and we were indoors on soccer turf. An added bonus was that the facility was very nice and the owner/manager was very dog-friendly and personable.

Zanesville had some amazing large old homes with incredible architecture and century old cemeteries. I would love to walk around on a nice day to photograph and explore the town more, but that wasn't going to happen this cold trip

I've attached my Excellent courses from both Saturday and Sunday. I liked each of the courses, but Excellent FAST was the most fun to judge as the Send Bonus had a few options and it was fun to watch people work it out and come up with a fun strategy.

The bonus gave several options (as you can read in the directions below), but in summary whichever jump you started with, you had to take the next jump and then wrap back to the original jump taken. While the obstacle points only gave two obstacle's worth (i.e. if you took 5-4-5, you only got 5 points once), BUT the fun part was watching exhibitors figure out how to get the third jump's worth of points as well.

For example, as noted on the red line provided (dog's path), if you took 4-3-4, you could then send the dog to the 5 jump for those points as well. I try to get creative with my FAST bonus' to encourage creativity for both the handler's interest, but also for my own.

Today I judged all of JWW as well and attached is my Excellent JWW course.

While I can't say it was a rocket scientist type of course, it did at least take into account the field turf and allowed the dogs to stretch and run. A perfect course for the end of the day on Sunday!

The biggest issues were as follows:

1) from the tunnel to the weave poles. My observation was that people were moving forward before the dog's focused on and loaded into the weaves. Having the handler  momentarily pause would have been helpful for most dogs.

2) Jumps 4 through 6. For handlers that did a front cross before #5, some dogs continued to accelerate toward the off-course #7/16 jump and for those handlers that did a rear-cross, some handlers did a sudden deceleration after #4 and the dogs either had a problem getting over #5 (they were positive they were heading toward the off-course jump #7/14) or the dogs took #5 without a problem and continued on a natural path which put them over #9 and incurred a wrong course when handlers weren't able to clearly signal they were moving up toward #6.

As a side note, I was surprised most people chose rear crosses on this course even though they were ahead of their dogs. For some it worked well, but for others, I would have loved to have seen them push just a little more to get into place and "lead the charge" through the course rather than wait for their dog and the comfortable rear cross scenario.

Next we have Saturday's Excellent Standard course which includes a beginning I've used a few times in other parts of the country because it's so fun and works well in narrow, long rings (my favorite tunnel to tunnel exercise).

On this course, the challenge area was mostly the sequence from 9 to 10. Most handlers did a front cross on the landing side of #9. While that would have been my first preference for this sequence, the challenge in getting a timely cross started down at #6-7. Given the various tunnels, a front cross was almost impossible before the #7 jump due to the speed the dogs had going into the #6 tunnel and the fact that most handlers wanted to stay at the #6 tunnel entrance so they didn't risk pulling the dog up the a-frame.

That meant that most handlers did a rear cross over #7 and therefore if they wanted a front cross after 9, they needed to trust their dog to take the #8 jump on their own. Instead, most people chose to hang there with their dog and those that did leave to get to #9 signaled the front cross late or continued to travel way up the the landing side of 9 with their movement. I was thinking some handler deceleration would have been good for that sequence so that the dogs collected while going over #9 and were able to turn tighter to #10 and therefore to the weaves.

Instead, most dogs were sent to #10 at such an angle that they landed heading to the right and had to make a very sharp turn to the left to head toward the weaves.

All in all, it was a blast to watch the handlers and I have some thoughts for my own classes this coming week.

Thanks again Ohio, it was so much fun to see you guys! I'm looking forward to Hamilton in May : )

Friday, March 5, 2010

Yet Another Judging Hotel Moment - Ingenuity or a New Low?

The best moments are sometimes the unplanned ones and well, I've got a moment to share.

As a little background, I'm in Ohio for a judging assignment and it's frozen, snowy and cold here. So I had this great idea that I'd take a nice hot shower before bed to warm up. As I prepared, I realized I didn't have a shower cap to keep my hair dry. I thought about heading to the front desk, but that would require me walking outside in the cold and I wasn't game for that trip.

After looking around, I spied a large zip lock bag that I had with me and thought "Ah, ha!" So I emptied it out and starting with the hair in back I flipped my pony tail in the bag and proceeded to try to fit the zip lock bag on my head. Thank goodness it was one of those tough freezer ones because the fit was a little tight and yet I still couldn't quite get all my hair in there. As I glanced in the mirror and saw the vision of me standing naked with a pointy zip lock bag on my head, I realized I was bordering on complete desperation. Some might say insanity.

That's when I spied option #2...the clean trash can liner. Now that was a much easier fit and all I had to do was tuck in the edges and I had a new shower cap! So with a trash bag on my head, I pulled the button to switch the running water to the shower head. Oh was I looking forward to that hot shower and eagerly awaiting the sound of water pounding on the back shower wall. I just knew that simple sound would make the insanity of wearing a trash bag on my head an okay thing. I had already convinced myself that sound was going to proudly move my status up from quirky to ingenious. But more importantly, I'd be warm.

But that's not what happened. Instead of a sandblast of water, a weak fountain of water trickled from the shower head while the remaining water shot uselessly in all directions from the faucet. So I did what anyone would do, I pushed the button so all of the water came gushing out of the faucet (so yes, there was water pressure) and then pulled the button hoping that same pressure would explode from the shower head.

But it didn't! So I repeated those same steps - 5 more times! Can you believe the results were the same? All I wanted was to be warm!!

It was then that I thought a little muscle might do the trick so I put one leg in the bathtub and PULLED up with all of my power on that stupid button. Low and behold, it worked and I had a 1/2 spray available. Yes! Victory was near! So with satisfaction and even more anticipation for a hot shower, I let go of the button and prepared to hoist my other leg into the tub.

Want to guess what happened next? Yeah, the 1/2 spray I was so satisfied with a few moments ago resorted back to the weak trickle. So I PULLED up on that button and let go...5 more times. With the same results. I was so close and yet, so far. But I was determined (and let's not forget about desperate) for a hot shower and no dumb $#& button was going to stop me!

The solution was simple - hold the button while showering. Yeah, so picture this. I have a garbage bag on my head, a 1/2 spray that requires me to actively PULL the button up, I can't stand erect because of that darn button and even with the shower head facing straight down, I can barely get one limb wet at a time and have to keep switching hands to rotate my body through the 1/2 spray. Not exactly how I originally pictured it, but I guess it got the job done.

Tomorrow I think I'll mention the shower problem to the front desk. In the meantime, at least I'm warm for now.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Toys in Training - The Trials and Tribulations

See the wild-eyed dog in the picture? That's Zulu on toys!

I mentioned several weeks back that I was going to try my hand at working/training Zulu & Rouge with toys. It has been a learning experience for sure!

As a recap, I had previously avoided toys due to arthritis which made it painful for physical interaction. Thanks to some new meds, I felt I was ready to give the toy tugging/tossing a try.

Not surprisingly, there were a few lessons to be learned and I'm betting most of you will appreciate my learning curve.

First, the whole coordination thing! What kind of toy works best, where does the toy go, which hand, how do I use the toy and how do I put it all together...

What type of toy - I wanted something that would allow me to actively interact with my dogs so a tug toy was my choice. For Rouge, I chose a toy that I could stuff with food to encourage tugging and I put turkey sausage inside of it. For Zulu, I initially used a long stuffed animal pelt that he loved and then switched to a soft frisbee for easy tossing.

Where does the toy go - Yeah, this isn't a trick question. I thought this would be a simple keep toy in hand and after using a marker word, reward. This works great with Rouge, however, I ran into a few problems when trying this with Zulu.

First, he was overly aroused and simply couldn't think. The other problem is that in his absolute focus on the toy, he kept leaping on me, at my hand and sometimes making inadvertent contact with me when he was frustrated - ouch! What I learned was that the toy is a great motivator...and I needed a bit more of a middle ground. So I did two things, first I went back to working Zulu's toy manners away from the obstacles and second, I put the toy in my pocket which worked far better!

Which hand - For Rouge, I tend to keep the toy in the lead hand, or the hand closest to the dog. However, I do this mainly for jumps and especially for collection and do NOT use it for weaves or contacts at this point as I have trained for independent performance and don't want to inadvertently change that by accidentally 'luring' since we are well past that stage.

For Zulu, the toy is in my pocket and I throw it in any manner that will keep Zulu on whichever path I've chosen. More details on that later.

How do I use the toy - the answer seemed easy enough, toy = reward. The real art is timing and that takes practice! I'll admit, it's been a little awkward and similar to learning how to ride a racing bike when you're used to a mountain bike (similar, but still strange). I still use a marker word, but my goal is to keep my dog accelerating after the marker word and to transition smoothly from the exercise to the reward.

How to put it together - Practice, practice, practice! After working with just toys, I started small and moved up to a single obstacle such as a tunnel or jump and with very little movement on my part. This allowed me to focus on my dog's actions and my reward timing. Soon I moved to just two obstacles and I am currently up to three - four obstacles at most. I do randomize when the reward comes, but most importantly I really try to focus on rewarding the behaviors I want.

For Ru, I'm currently rewarding attention and speed and for Zulu his training at the moment revolves around jump work and offering behaviors.

Overall - I'm really enjoying the work and I've seen quick results which has made my mental process and working outside of my comfort zone much more rewarding.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What's Up in March...a TON!

Holy cow, March is going to be a BUSY month! The highlight...well, the picture is a hint. Can you guess what it's from?  HAWAII!

Yeah, Dan is judging in Hawaii in a few weeks and I'm tagging along to catch some sun and relaxation. It's about time I got to cash in my air miles for something fun!

So, before Hawaii I'm in Ohio - where it's cold, but the people are great. Here in Washington we're having a very Spring-like winter with the trees already in full bloom and I'm not looking forward to head to the deep freeze of the East Coast. Funny how just a few weeks of 'warmth' and flowers spoils you.

After Ohio, then Dan and I are off to Hawaii where I can be a bum by the swimming pool! Then, one day after we return, I fly out to judge in WI to experience more deep freeze and more of the wonderful Midwestern hospitality.

In between, I'll be savoring the time with my dogs. After the Stacy P-G seminar, I have a ton of ideas racing through my head and so much to do. I'm trying to keep things in small manageable parts - just like I'd tell my clients. Funny advice for myself because I'm such a perfectionist and want to do it

Another thing I'm looking for is Chicken Camp the first weekend in April. The camp comes at a good time for me personally and I expect my head is going to hurt once I'm done. I like the practical training Chicken Camp provides vs. book learning. I'm not a huge fan of all of the technical terms that handlers throw out these days. Yeah, I know they're accurate and they show the science behind modern dog training, but the general dog training client doesn't give a hoot about the 'Why', they prefer to focus on solutions and practical matters.  Any way, one can't throw out the baby with the bathwater (or the scientific terminology) so I'm sure Chicken Camp will cover those bases as well. As for the practical, I'll be sure to take great notes and do a write-up on Camp as I'm positive it will be amazing.

Oh, an extra bonus on Chicken Camp is that I get to stay in my RV at a friend's place which is 5 minutes from Camp. That will mean relaxing evenings, a bonfire training the dogs and they get to hang with me. I'm so excited!!!!!

As for smaller happenings in my life, I had an amazing birthday as well as a party Saturday night. Next, the dogs are doing great and I started Zulu with a bit of exercise on the treadmill. Holy cow he is such a maniac these days as adolescent dogs are challenging. Mainly because you want them to grow up and be happy, confident dogs and during their teenage years, they take those wonderful qualities to the cocky level . Of course what doesn't help is that one of my dogs is about to go into season and we have hormones raging as well.  Seriously, I could never believe my life is boring and I wouldn't have it any other way : )