Friday, March 27, 2009

The Big Plan

I want to put together a list of tricks, skills, cues etc for Indy. Things she already knows, things I'm in the process of teaching, plans for the future. It's basically for myself, just to help keep me on track and focused, but I thought I would share it....this way anyone who feels like it can call me on anything I'm not living up to!

At 5 months
* = skills already understood * = skills partially taught * = skills we haven't started

Basic behaviors & Tricks

  1. sit *

  2. down *

  3. come when her name is called *

  4. wait to be released from all open doors & her crate *

  5. 1,2,3,4 lift each paw on cue *

  6. perch work *

  7. step backwards onto any (appropriate height) object (this leads to teaching handstands) *

  8. cover face with paw *

  9. put all feet in small bowl *

  10. ride a skate board *

  11. walk backwards *

  12. weave through legs *

  13. weave backwards through legs *

  14. run and pounce front feet on target *

  15. left & right directional cues *

  16. walk in heads up heel position *

  17. handstand *

  18. sit up/beg *

  19. cover face with both paws *

Agility specific things - the only agility specific things we've started are the teeter with me holding the end, she's doing really well and loves it! The table, again I'm really pleased with her, we've started recall to heel exercises.

  1. Have full understanding of postional cues

  2. teach jumping using Linda's foundation work

  3. teeter- run to the end, crouch down and wait until board hits the ground and move

  4. Contacts-Silvia's method. (With full ability to turn using direction cues, and fully independent of my position)

  5. Table- get on, stay on, get in postion fast and leave on cue, quickly

  6. Come in close when cued, not after taking an obstacle, immediately come to whatever location is cued (AKC courses are getting tighter and tighter and I find I'm needing this skill more all the time).
  7. Full understanding of verbal obstacle cues....I tend to run silent and depend 100% on motion cues, it does work well, 99% of the time, but I need to break this habit.
  8. Full understanding of forward & lateral sends.
  9. Weave poles- find the entry no matter where I am, stay in no matter where I am, with speed. will probably use 2 X 2 but may try channels

I'll probably be adding to this list over time.

Any thoughts on things you would teach if starting a young dog

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Nationals video coverage

There's going to be live streaming video of the challengers and final round (and hopefully more)this year.

and if you're wondering, no we're not going. I kept going back and forth, should we, shouldn't we and in the end I just couldn't justify the trip at this time. Kittie's bar knocking just gets worse and worse all the time. It's getting to the point where I may need to re-evaluate some goals this coming Fall, and consider partial retirement, or possibly moving her to preferred. Jumping her at 4" just isn't real exciting to me though, and I'm struggling with the point of it. She has the points for her MACh 2 but only 1 double Q....and I'm just not sure she's going to be able to rack up the doubles anytime soon. We're still pretty out of sync right now, so I need to give the both us some time to come back together before making any major decisions. Abby on the other hand seems to coming into her own lately. It's funny, she's 1/4 of an inch taller than Kittie, but jumps 4" higher and knocks significantly less bars.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Beginner agility classes

We all have to start somewhere, and when you're new you don't even know where you should be starting. I know I made a lot of mistakes with my dogs when I first started, and the way we trained things makes me cringe....pushing too fast, luring too much, not building real value or understanding for each and every element of agility.

Just look around on a site like youtube and you'll see it, dogs are running sequences before they have any real understanding of what's expected or any real drive to do what's asked.

The way I train has changed slightly with every dog. Kittie, Rudy & Willy all started within months of each other, we were all clueless together. Even though Kittie has had some success, she really has very little criteria.....

agility according to Kittie
* weave poles- stay in as long as mom is right with me, if she pulls away or runs too fast, do what you can to weave faster, but if you can't keep up just come out of the poles

* A frame & Dogwalk- Just run like heck, mom usually turns in to me, which makes me collect just enough that I usually hit the contact

* Teeter- Run to the pivot (like she was taught way back when) put all your weight in your front and get ready to launch as soon as it hits the ground, Usually hitting the yellow and safely getting on the ground, but once in a while getting called for a fly off, or even worse being hit by the board as it starts to come back up while I'm flying in the air over it

*Jumps- just fling yourself over them, if you hit a bar, oh well

*Table- Boring, do what you're told, but as slowly as possible...Kind of scary too, when it's a down with all those dogs and people around everywhere.

I trained Abby very differently, my focus was all about speed and independence. Which I did get, At least initially. Abby has always loved agility. I did a lot of baby sequences with very low jumps with her, she would just fly and was really flashy and fun to watch. Give her an open, flowy course and still today that's where she shines. I taught her to get out in front me and not need me to be by her side, so she has independent weaves and contacts.......I did not however teach her that it was okay for *me* to get out ahead of her, she worries about where I'm going and just looks for the fastest way to get by my side, I did not teach her collection either, so tight courses typical of AKC excellent are very hard for her and that hurt her confidence quite a bit and for a while I lost a lot of that speed I worked so hard to get.

I'm taking things really slow with Indy. The only actual agility she's done is the teeter ( I hold the end and she runs out and I gradually drop it) and the table. We're also doing some flat work, just recall to heal at this point and lots of trick training and skills for developing body awareness. We're doing some work at training directionals, mainly to use at the end of the contacts (something I didn't do with Abby). We will spend a lot of time on jumping and foundation skills. Haven't decided what method I'll use for weaves, either 2 X 2 or maybe I'll try channels this time, but it'll be a while. I may start working on some entries in the near future, but no real weaving. We'll probably use Silvia's method for running contacts.

My main point in this long rambling post, is it's important to have an educated plan, even if you're just doing agility for fun. Dogs will have more fun and stay safer if they know what their criteria truly is. Many beginner agility classes try to be all things for all people and end up doing a huge disservice to all involved. Educate yourself and stick to your guns about what's right for you and our dog.

Do I have all the answers at this point? Probably not, our ideas change all the time, the sport changes all the time, our goals change and the unique personality of each dog you work with changes things.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Look who's in the lead

Yes, that's Rudy's little apple head leading the pack!!
Indy, ears pinned back for maximum speed

Getting closer to that group photo.....they're all here, just not exactly looking at the camera. Counter-clockwise Indy up front, then Rudy, Willy, Kittie (looking particularly gray and grandma like these days) & Abby.
Rudy's doing well, yeah, I know it's mostly the pred. that's doing this, but honestly, right now.....I don't care. She's happy, she's getting out doing what she loves, she's playing with the puppy and causing all kinds of trouble around here, she's acting like the Rudy I know!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The little tri-colored Blur

It' shameful how few pictures I have of Indy. It's not for lack of desire or effort. She's just always on the move, doesn't see the point in sitting still to have her picture taken and if she gets sight of the camera strap, she's hurling her little 5 pound body at me, playing tug with it!

Here's my best efforts over the last few weeks.

Posing with Kittie's MACH bar in the background, "I'll earn a few of these one day".
I'll be putting a video together of all her tricks and general cuteness soon, I just need Bill's help to get everything taped.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Rudy & I

I've been thinking....Rudy and I really are very similar. We both can be a tad difficult, we're opinionated and not afraid to let those opinions be known, we resist most all forms of control, we both hold grudges, can be highly suspicious, we're very passionate about the things and people we love, we both have ants in our pants and like to be on the move.

And that's probably why Rudy and I have clashed over the years, we're too similar, I'm not sure who's more pig headed than the other.

A bit of an update on my crazy girl, Generally I'm pretty opposed to drugs like predinsone, lots of BAD side effects, but when you're watching your dog just wilt away before our eyes, you throw those feelings aside. I have to say, it's been a huge help. After just one dose, she was 100% the Rudy I know. The bad part, she can't stay on it forever and there's a very good chance all her symptom will return.

We went to the holistic vet today, and lets just say Rudy and I both aren't so much into new age, pan flute type music.....normal Rudy doesn't much see the point of lying still, unless she's napping, especially when somone is poking little needles in her feet. Only about half the acupuncture needles managed to stay in place. We're going to keep trying, and go to weekly appointments for a while, wish us and the holistic vet some luck!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Kicked Out

Of Puppy kindergarten!! Yes, that's right Indy and I got the boot from puppy class.

I did make the decision to try a puppy class with Indy, I figured, what's it going to hurt and the more socialization the better, right? I looked around at schedules of classes offered everywhere I could think of, I only had certain nights available, the class had to advertise itself as using only positive reinforcement and it had to be fairly close.....I'll drive insane distances for good agility lessons, but we're talking about puppy class, how bad could it be?!

I reluctantly signed up for a class at the same place Rudy went to when she was a puppy. There were some things in that class that I wasn't crazy about, but overall we had fun.

Right off the bat, it was a bit awkward. I went into class with Indy already knowing how to do everything they were doing, but I use different hand signals. The owner agreed to let that go, although she seemed very put out by this. No big deal I comes the parts that I really didn't like 1- "puppy management" I have no idea if this is a familiar term or not, but in this class it means that you step on the puppies lead a few inches from their collar, it puts pressure on the dog, and only way it will be relieved is if the puppy chooses to lie down. Fair enough. It's not how I generally do things, I tend to wait for responses I like and reward them, I like the dog to make good decisions, when they have other options. I wouldn't mind putting a puppy in this position for a few moments at a time, but literally every second the puppies weren't working they were in puppy management.....and this added up to a LOT of time. 2- "restraint exercises" I fully agree that dogs need to accept being handled in all sorts of ways, vets need to be able to exam and treat them, we need to be able to trim our dog's nails, and do any type of grooming. I work on these skills with my puppies very gradually, touch a paw = treats, brush you = treat, look in your ears = treat.....all very gradually, in all sorts of positions. It's a game for them. I'm convinced my way works because I've seen the this class puppies were held firmly on their sides and we were instructed to not let them up, no matter how hard they struggled. I saw we were going to be doing this when I read the email with our homework for the following week and got started on teaching Indy to lie on her side, my way (gradually teaching her that good things come to puppies who lie nicely on their sides). Indy was doing well, until the owner came over and felt that I was doing it incorrectly, and placed her hand over Indy's face, which put her in a panic.....I guess Indy's panic equaled proof that "this puppy really needs this" to the owner. I was absolutely seeing red at this point, I kept calm, most people who know me would expect me to storm out the door, causing a scene at this point, but I kept calm.

One of the helpers for the class, asked how I was doing and I made the comments that, I feel like the difficult student, I do things very differently and we're just here for socialization. Apparently that was too much. I woke up the next day to see an email saying that "someone made of point of telling her what I said about her puppy class and she would like to offer me a refund since I'm obviously not happy. Believe me, she just wanted us out of there. I guarantee if Indy was having trouble, or was a "bad" puppy I would never be getting my money back. It was the combination of Indy being....Indy (bouncy happy, operant & focused) and my issues with how things were done that was the problem.

I think the whole thing (kicked out of puppy school) give Indy some street cred! and I'm glad that I stood up for my dog!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rudy news

This is the Rudy I want back

Rudy's still having trouble. Wednesday Maria massaged her and really felt like this could just be a lot of inflammation and tightness, nothing more. She did seem a bit more comfortable for a day or so afterwards, not herself, but better.

This morning we went to the neurologist, and he's leaning towards disc disease. We haven't done an MRI at this point, and I'm still deciding if it's something I want to do. The other possibility is a tumor on her spine. Both could be dealt with surgically but the odds are not good, and we could make her worse. I've been talking to a lot of people about back surgery and I don't know one person that has been satisfied with the outcome. Please don't think I'm not willing to do whatever is necessary for her, but I want to help her and not put her through any more than necessary.

She has appt. with a holistic vet on the 16th, and we'll be looking into acupuncture, which the neurologist fully supports and said he's seen a lot of success with this.

So, please continue to keep Miss Rudy in your thoughts......aging stinks!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Early take off syndrome

Here's an interesting blog entry discussing early take off syndrome, with videos.

Time Off

So, we've had a very long vacation from agility. No trials (just one in December), only two classes per month since about November, not much training in the backyard either, too muddy.

Two dogs, two very different effects: Kittie, my steady little gal, rarely making any mistakes other than knocked mess!!! She's off coursing all over the place, barking (yelling) at me non-stop, none of this is due to increased speed on her part, she's going about the same pace as always, we just don't have the same type of connection right now and she seems to be focusing more on the obstacles and less on me. I'm sure my timing is a bit off too, and she's quick to let me know about it!

Abby though ran like she always does, maybe a bit better! The only issue I had with her was if I drifted away from the dogwalk she bailed off the side, which truely doesn't shock me. Running contacts can require a lot of work to maintain them and she's only seen them maybe 6 times since October.

All this really makes me realize how different these two are, Kittie seems to be the type who really thrives on a lot of training, while Abby needs things to be less serious. Which makes sense if you know these two; Kittie is the uber nerd and Abby's the eternal silly puppy.

One thing is for sure, I have my work cut out for me to get Kittie back in shape for the Spring/summer season!!