House and a weird retrieve

Wow it's been a busy month!  Lots of exciting changes completed and coming up.  We are still living in my parent's basement but our old house officially was signed away and keys turned over yesterday.  And *knock on wood* we are set to sign for and move into a new house the last weekend of July.  Plenty of room for child and her things.  And the good news is that my new yard will definitely still work for agility.  Large, flat and very few trees!

In training news, Splash has surprised me with throwing me something completely different in our retrieve training than I have seen before.  Of the hundreds of different dogs I've personally put retrieves on over the years I have yet to have a dog offer this interesting behavior:

He cracks me up!  This is actually an improvement. I've been selecting for open mouth along with the lip catch on the bar and you can see he actually is opening his mouth now a little bit. 

Today's session Splash did actually give me 2 very tiny open mouth OVER the db bar so I'm optimistic that we are on the right track. 
I just don't think I could have taught this lip catch thing if I tried!


MN Agility Cup

I took the tollers to the first annual (hopefully!) Minnesota Agility Cup this past weekend.  It's not affiliated with any organization so no potential for legs and titles. Just really fun "international" style courses, a laid back atmosphere, and of course the draw of winning big bucks!  Or at least the opportunity to win back your entry fees.

I was really surprised at how few competitors were there.  This is what agility is all about to me!

The courses were super fun.  And super long.  SO much spacing between obstacles that we're just not used to here.  And I think they ranged from 200-240 yards each.  I learned I am way out of shape.  Not that it was really new to me, but it sure made me think about the upcoming US Open this November!  Of course I'll only have 1 dog and more time between runs so that will help. But still.  Considering doing some sprint training....

My dogs weaknesses weren't new, but they were certainly highlighted this weekend.  No hiding from them on the international style courses!

Really Zumi was very over aroused and didn't get better.  I think the wide open spacing really kicked her into gear.  She still handled very well and I was proud of how she did this weekend but we do have our work cut out.

So my to do list includes:
- Actually training a strong "here" type cue so I don't have to do really lame handling to try and push away from the tunnels calling out to my dogs.  I've always just given up hope and call my dogs name as I see them sucking in and of course they always just go in...

- Startline stays with Zumi.  (Well and Vito technically too, but it's Vito and he knows I don't care with him.  He definitely broke every startline this weekend.)  Zumi I thought was fixed.  She was back to sitting up nicely and not scooting.  But major breaking, not just but scooting this weekend. On the positive side she did respond to her back up cue to help reset her!
- And the teeter stay?  She broke on the last course too!

- Trained threadle cue.  I was actually really proud of Zumi as she did a double threadle with me pretty far behind, but it could be a lot better.  And I know it's not consistent.

- Dogwalks.  Our lack of training with Zumi shows.  Some great ones, some leaps.  And all were straight exits...

Zumi technically won the 20in class with her billions of off courses, and Vito won the 16in select class.

Zumi round 6 agility.  240 yards...

Vito actually ran very well.  This trial was my potential last trial with Vito as I wasn't sure if he would put up with me trailing him anymore based on the last UKI/USDAA weekend.  But he was running great even though it was an insane amount of yards and way more than the 2 runs per day I had been doing with him.   So I guess he rewarded my greediness and I'll just keep an eye on him until he tells me he's really done.  He's certainly doing well physically.

Vito's final round. 230 yards.  His 7th run of the weekend!:


FDSA Camp Trip

Last week I escaped home life to go to the FDSA camp!  I didn't think I was going to be able to go this year but thanks Mom for babysitting Vito and Netta!!!

Of course camp was amazing.  Fun to meet people I've only seen online and wow there were a huge variety of breeds! 

I brought Zumi to camp to be my emotional support dog for all the socializing required, and because I wanted the opportunity to work with her in that type of environment.  We played in the empty rings about twice a day working on ring entrances, heeling and then a mix of exercises from gloves to go outs. 

Mostly I worked on Zumi dropping the ball at my feet when I put my hands behind my back in order to work. 

I usually train with her tug toy (still primarily fetch) and Zumi's great at offering that drop and knowing it starts work vs how I cue another toss.  But I haven't been applying this type of consent cue to her agility training when I use a ball.  With some brilliant reminders from lectures at camp I decided that I really needed to have this clear opt-in signal from Zumi in her agility training too.  I know the ball is harder for her drop since she loves to just squish it!  So instead of just trying to start right away applying that to agility I thought I would bring her ball to obedience work where she at least already knows the routine.  Baby steps!

The first few sessions were  difficult.  She chose to lie down and squish her ball more than work.  And that was ok!!!   We can't ask our dogs if they are ready to work and then ignore their answer!  But it definitely improved over the few days at camp.  I know she's not ready yet to do that in the context of agility but we will get there. 

I managed to break out the tripod to film her last little session of work with the tiniest bit of heeling, retrieves, a break, and then more retrieves.   And of course her dropping the ball work. 

I'm also pleased to report that Zumi really settled in well with her hotel stays.  April was her first and only hotel stay before this trip and she was a little stressed when it was just us in the room whenever our roommates were out.  She also went off her food.  This trip I was prepared with a bag full of different brands of kibble!  Zumi actually ate pretty well with her mixture of different foods, not even picking out her normal kibbles out of the mix like she did last trip.  She was also much more settled about being in the rooms even with different roommates and hotels! 

And I slept the best I've slept in 18 months.  Amazing. 


Retrieve Arousal Levels Update

I've been continuing to work on Zumi's little squeal with her dumbbell sends.  And I'm excited to say we have made another breakthrough, however small!

I've been trying the following ideas to help bring Zumi's arousal level down with her dumbbell:

  1. Doing work with the db on the ground for awhile before sending.
  2. Throw the db and heel away, then eventually mark and send her to it.
  3. Throw random objects for her to retrieve from keys to water bottles to anything else I find around me.
The first idea wasn't really new to her.  Zumi is very used to having her dumbbell and other stuff on the floor while we work and doesn't really obsess over it.  It's primarily the excitement of the throw that gets her, but it was good to revisit this idea to make sure it wasn't an issue.

The next idea was something I again did a while ago with her but haven't done in a long time.  This is still mildly difficult for her.  Zumi can turn away from the db and do work but I can see some slight hesitation on the turn away.  Occasionally if I'm heeling and halt facing the db I can see Zumi give the db a quick glance.  That toss before doing work certainly gets her arousal level up.  However when I eventually mark and send her to the db she doesn't squeal.  I will be doing more of this work in her future.

The final idea was doing formal retrieves of different items.  Zumi already knows how to retrieve random items, although she's a little rusty with being smooth with the pickup and delivery.  I do a quick warm up with each item by handing it to her to hold before setting her up and tossing it.

This has been the biggest help to her arousal issues in the last few weeks!  No squeals at all on sends to different items and then I can even throw her db pretty far and she still doesn't squeal! I think the reason for this is because she is thinking so hard on HOW she is going to pick up the awkward items that it just tones down her adrenaline a bit.  It's hard work!

I'm not sure if this will continue to help as her confidence increases with being able to smoothly pick up all the items, but it's at least been an interesting route!


UKI & USDAA weekend

We had one more agility weekend this past week with the tollers!  Split the weekend from an indoor UKI trial  and an outdoor USDAA.  I was torn between my greater lover for UKI trials and actually getting to play outside!

Saturday was UKI.  Thanks to her big points she earned from her master standard run at the midwest cup she only needed a single game Q to get out of senior and into the championship level.  Zumi really ended up sailing through senior, especially considering how long we spent in novice!

She managed to earn that in a gambers run on saturday.  Sadly no other Q's.  Nice runs, listening SO well without any over arousal issues at all.  Just a stupid refusal on a backside serp, or doing a bonus backside, or sucking in out of a straight tunnel....  All my fault. 

This was one of my favorite runs on Saturday.  I missed that she didn't make her DW until seeing the video.  Then at the end I don't think I really cued the bonus backside but I sure didn't cue the front of the jump either!

Sunday was a gorgeous day to be outside!
Gamblers was made for Zumi but somehow we still didn't get it. Sigh, zero masters gamblers Q for Zumi so far...

Standard was clean though!  And she listened to her pleading "come, come come" cues for the DW turn! I knew I was going to do a late blind before the aframe but it worked and we managed to be clean!

A super Q in snooker too!

And a jumpers run that she oddly went around the outside of a jump and then sucked in later off another jump.  Maybe just tired at the end of the day?

I thought Vito was running pretty slow in all his runs this weekend.  It wasn't until I got home and actually looked at videos that I saw it didn't look as bad as it felt.  He wasn't fast, but he was still trying.

This was Vito's first run of the day on Saturday and it felt like a death march. But doesn't look too bad!  Video always makes it look better :)

He did seem to get faster over his 3 runs on Saturday.  It doesn't help that jumpers always been his hardest.

But Sunday was definitely slower.  Snooker should have been a super Q run with points but he really was plodding and ran out of time at the 10th weave pole of the last #7 obstacle in the closing.  Oh well.  He made someone else very happy to earn their ADCH with that last super Q!

Standard we did a random backside but at least was faster than that snooker run.

Maybe he's liking indoor trials more now in his old age?! Or he's just Vito and I never know how he's going to feel like moving!

Boykin came along and did pretty well with offering focus to the best of his 4 month old ability!
However when I did let him say hi to people he was way more mouthy and jumpy then he's been recently!!


TEAM 3 Practice

Now that the weather is finally nice and we can train outside I've been doing more TEAM 3 stuff with Zumi again.  All the exercises are very familiar to her and have been for a while.

The challenge we are working on now is putting stuff in sequence.  I'm always amazed at how behavior can break a little when you start jumping right in from one exercise to the next!
We have great flow and connection between exercises, it's just the confidence of getting it correct on the first time without any little warm up!

It's not always the same thing that "breaks" but of course there's always 1 little thing!

So no actual testing yet.  I'll practice going from exercise to exercise, but not always in the same order and no hesitation to break something out and work on the little pieces again before trying the full exercise.

The exercise that has surprised me the most that she's struggled with on the first rep is the retrieve with distraction!  I ALWAYS have Zumi offer to spit out her toy and than work on the dumbbell with the toy on the ground still.  So I was shocked with Zumi several times went for the toy during our test practices.

I think the added difficulties were:
- I was the one to put the toy on the ground, not Zumi offering to drop it

- I practiced ending the heeling portion then going to get the toy where it is located off to the side.

This must look to Zumi like I'm getting the toy to reward her great heeling when really I'm just going to get it for the distraction piece and plan on playing with her AFTER the retrieve.  I bet if rewarded her with the toy first then set it on the ground it would look more similar to our usual training setup and be easier for her.

Other little issues that have cropped up are
- anticipating the 2nd position change!  A little bit of a suprise as she's done so well with position changes and waiting, but not a huge shock.

- Angled front after the mini go out/directed cones.  Zumi typically has pretty great fronts from cookie tosses and cone sends but this is making me aware that it's not consistent yet on that "first" rep. The one that really counts!

I've been doing a lot more cookie toss fronts in the house and I've been able to replicate some issues.  If there's not much space behind me after the front she's more likely to be slightly off in anticipation of turning for the thrown reward vs being sent through my legs.  And if I put the reward behind her she has a hard time fully turning her back to the reward even if she's not trying to look at it.  Zumi wants to be slightly angled to the pressure.



The Boykin foster is doing well.  Eating things, well mainly wanting to eat things has been a struggle still though.  He's mostly doing well with ignoring items on the floor that aren't dog stuff (huge win!) but he continues to amaze me with what he will try to get into.  Yesterday I left him in his xpen with a nylabone and his bowl of food while I went to get breakfast ready.  When I returned I found he had pried off the rubber bottom of the stainless steel bowl and had ingested a chunk.  Thankfully only a 1in strip.

I've had others tell me that ingesting items is a normal spaniel thing.  I think that's crazy if they are right!  How do they not get blockages?!

Boykin's training is going ok otherwise.  He's super eager and loves his cookies :)  Not jumping up towards hands or just to punch me in general has been a bigger struggle than I can remember with other puppies.  He quickly learned to wait for food delivery and give eye contact, but motion from me results in boings again.  Boingkin is more representative of his name.

It has turned our pivot training into me teaching the "find heel" while I stand still before I teach "maintain heel" while I actually move around the perch.

Here was Splash from a few weeks ago working on actually focusing on his target and not punching me:

And here he is this past week finally working on me taking a step forward to have him maintain heel.  He's still bouncing with my movement but is actually trying to stay on the perch now!

Splash also is doing x1000 better with his recalls!  I know how environmental spaniels can be and Splash certainly was the most tuned into sniffing and staring at things out of the other dogs I've raised!  But he likes his cookies and usually can be snapped out of sniffing to run to me.  Still a long line!

I am undecided still if I'm a spaniel person or not!  He's super sweet, cuddly. Very closely bonded to his people to the point that I'm recommending Splash have regular foster home vacations every month or so just to get him comfortable being with different households and not stressed about it. 
He just spent a weekend with another foster family and did well! 


UKI Midwest Cup

It's been quite the busy month!  We packed up and moved most of our belongings into my parent's basement or into the shed.  Finding time to go back to our house to actually finish cleaning it and empty the garage has been difficult!

But before I dive into some of the updates I wanted to brag on Zumi!  We went to our first "big" competition this last weekend, the UKI Midwest Cup.  It involved our first trial with an overnight stay.  

Zumi wasn't thrilled with the hotel whenever we were by ourselves. She paced and stood at the door, and wouldn't eat any of her food.  But when our roommates were in the room she was happy, relaxed, and seemed to feel more certain that it was where we were supposed to be.  Zumi also decided she could eat kibble as long as it wasn't hers.

I wasn't sure how she would handle the trial environment but she kept her wits about!  Her startline issues seemed even better than they have been at the local shows!  Day 1 had a little pitter patter and at least 1 run with a quick scoot, but by day 2 she was pretty solid!  

Our jumping type runs were our weakest point but that's true in our local shows too.  She tries, just a few wheeee moments where she can't quite turn.  Some my mistakes, some hers. Her 2 standard runs were my favorite.  

My fault for the knocked bar for being in her way, but she listened the whole run!  And even turned off her running dogwalk to get the weaves and not suck in the tunnel!  

Gamblers was a phenomenally smooth run for 3rd place. Sadly I earned her a refusal in the snooker closing which knixed our chances at a medal.

Day 2 really came together for us.  She was much more handler focused overall.  That meant she didn't make up for my handling on that snooker run, but not as wide of turns.

Standard on day 2, biathlon agility, I wasn't thrilled with my conservative handling of a turn after the wall jump but hey at least I avoided the 2 tunnel trap possibilities with it! And I sadly got rewarded for my wussy approach by coming in first place of the 20in class.  So many border collie E's...

But apparently, Zumi got 3rd for biathlon of all the 20 in dogs!  I left the trial for our long drive home before knowing we would be on the podium.

And her final placement for all 8 classes of the cup was 4th in the 20in class!  We made a lot of mistakes, but the courses were eating dogs left and right.   Super, super fun courses but challenging!

I'm glad we went and now I'm even more excited for November's UKI US Open!

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