TEAM 4 Baseline

I decided to seize today's nice weather and Daddy napping with the toddler to actually train my dog!  Win for me!

I decided to look at the TEAM 4 test behaviors to train some new things and yet still have a ton of carryover for our AKC Open prep work.

We haven't officially put anything together yet for this test but I was confident that she had the foundations necessary for it.  Indeed looking over the test items today it was more so the putting together of the various chains that were new for us, not the skills themselves.

So I decided to take a baseline.  Run through the test and see where she was at:


1. Send to target with distractions, position changes, recall.
Send to target between distractions went well!  I know Zumi can struggle with this and we've done quite a bit of work on it in the past.  3 position changes on a single cue, check.  We've been working those cue discriminations for open and it paid off here. I just have to remember to pause longer!

Recall on a hand signal only- oops.  Zumi "knows" this but apparently not well enough to do it out of context.  Recall signal after a go out and with her toys out just wasn't there.

2. Big figure 8 around distractions.
This one surprised me!  Zumi left the distractions alone fairly nicely.  Well I guess she did almost try to steal one after the exercise finished from the previous exercise!  But the big problem here was stopping as we heeled!

In her defense, we have been practicing our moving sits, moving stands, and moving downs recently!

3. Retrieve and pivoting away.
This one is just so hard for Zumi!  She squealed, but did ultimately turn with me both times.
And then spat out the dumbbell, likely due to all the snow in her mouth!

4. Moving stand, drop, return to heel.
Good girl on the actual exercise. But a lot of auto marking ahead before we started!  We'll  have to work on doing heeling starting out towars the go out area!

Here we took quite a big break.  I'm not sure what grabbed Zumi's attention but she clearly wasn't ready to work.   I thought it might have been the 2nd retrieve item the way she was searching but I'm just not sure!  Either way, I tried to be patient as I told her to take a break, and then yet another break when she wasn't really ready again.

5. Backup-position change- broad jump
This was the exercise I was the least certain about.  I'm sure I've backed her up in front of a jump but not enough to have her think!  I was actually surprised that she did catch my cue eventually and back up vs just jumping!
Didn't sit on the first cue though!

6. Articles.
Good girl!  I've actually practiced articles a small handful of times the last few months which is much more than usual for me!  She had no problem in the snow.


I was pretty pleased!  Big takeaways to work on are:
- recall signal with distractions out and after a send away.
- pivoting away from a thrown item with more confidence, less conflict.
- actually heeling, not stopping!
- backup cue when in front of a jump.
- heeling starting from the go out spot.

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Open Obedience

Well we went to the AKC obedience trial today!  Zumi was entered in Open A for her 2nd trial.

I was both happy and worried when I saw that the steward for Open was a child.  A lovely young girl who did a great job stewarding all day!

It's just that Zumi wasn't well socialized to kids and she's very nervous by them.  A recurring them in some past problems we have had with Zumi working in both agility and obedience trials.  A problem that is purely my problem, not a fault of the club and certainly not a problem that she was there stewarding.

I was optimistic that since the girl was older we would be fine.  I could keep Zumi in "drive" and hopefully have her not even notice her.

That didn't' happen.  Zumi saw her right away as we were getting ready to enter the ring and started worrying.  She recovered really well as we got to run to the heeling setup spot and heeled relatively well.  Some lagging. A few glances to the steward table, and a brief moment where she cut behind me to heel on the wrong side.  But trying hard and playing with me before the figure 8 setup.

Then a little worse.  Zumi needed to sniff the girl and did some ducking away.

At the start of the cue discrimination, she was still a little worried and not able to focus on my first cue to stand.  NQ.

But then I was really proud of how she pulled it together!
No squealing on the first retrieve!  Just a tiny squeal on the retrieve over the high.

She did her down from a sit for the stay, complete with a "sad" chin rest!

Lesson learned for me.  If there is a child steward, even an older one, I should just pull.  Zumi tries hard, but she can't quite handle it.  And it's certainly not worth pairing that stress with a trial!

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Obedience Training

I happen to have entered Zumi in an AKC obedience trial this coming weekend.  Apparently, I didn't really plan well with training time.  Looking at the calendar, the only practice we've had outside of my small living room since the October trial was one. The week after.

I get the building once a week before teaching classes.  But my night is Wednesdays and then it was Halloween, leaving to travel to Florida without me a few days early, staying another 4 days with friends driving her back, then the Thanksgiving holidays.  That leaves this Wednesday as our 2nd practice in over a month.

Unfortunately, it's shown with her arousal in retrieves again.  I just doodle on little things before dinner, mainly fronts and finishes.  The occasional retrieve has had more whining and even worse, back to some jolting forward on the throw. 

Zumi really needs her ball reward for dumbbell retrieves, not food!  The higher value ball reward actually helps to calm her excitement for the dumbbell as well as more satisfying victory laps to relieve some energy.

At least I feel like I'm tackling her other issues that showed up in the trial.

Down from a sit for the stay exercise was almost non existant in the trial.  She needed a 2nd cue on all 3 trials, even with a stupid hand point.  So I practiced added a little more excitement to the down, getting her used to hand point as I almost never do it, and adding in her "sad" chin rest to the ground to make it more of a trick. Plus "sad" is more down than down and it never hurts to teach "more"!

And then her finishes.  This isn't just a trial issue as it certainly shows up in practice.  On the left finish she usually is great, but sometimes can be a little wide.  So I'm doing left finish + side step.

And on the right finish, we do consistently have the problem even in practice where she doesn't come far enough, tucks her butt behind me.  It's why I rarely do it in a trial.  For this I started doing lots of cookie tosses forward before she fully completes the finish.  Also mixed in some right pivots so she has to go further than expected to come up to heel.

Here was Saturday's session on the down and finishes:

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UKI US Open

Zumi and I headed down for our first agility championship event, the US Open, last week.  While I had taken Lance to the AKC obedience invitational I had  yet to do any type of big agility event before now!  Vito's car anxiety kinda limits how far we usually go.  But Grandma had Vito and the toddler all week to let me fly down to our first big event and Zumi hitched a long drive down with friends!


She even got to hit the beach the day before the trial started to run with border collies!

The event unfortunately had us in the group where our very first run of the weekend was the official "Round 1" national run.  I expected Duckie to be really high and a little whee! with obstacle scoping and handled it with layering a jump in order to get further ahead for a blind. 

Zumi had other plans in apparently being just the tiniest bit lower in arousal than usual and a little sticky.  She got the layer in the sense she didn't come in, but she also didn't take the jump on the other side.  I really wish we had a do-over after seeing that this bit of stickiness was a constant for her runs! 

Overall I thought she did an incredibly great job with the environment. She held all her stays over 4 days and 9 runs.  She ran fast.  And except for the very last run of the weekend, we actually had zero "off courses" that weren't just a skipped obstacle in the sequence. 

Mainly it was just me struggling with maintaining the amount of connection with her that she needed.

I can't wait until next year!  And hopefully I'll actually get some regular training sessions in with a slightly older child once the ground is thawed again!











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10 Years

Vito is officially a double digits dog.  He's finally 10 years old!  Vito has been going on about 14yrs old for several years now, going grey at the age of 5.  There have been numerous moments over the last 10 years where I didn't think he would ever make it to this age.  I thought for sure we would have to say goodbye to Vito at a young age. 

Yet we made it.  And he's taught me more than any other dog will ever teach me.  Has launched my passion for creating ring confidence in dogs.

And I truly can't imagine loving another dog more than I love Vito.


Vito's 10th year also marks the 10th anniversary of this blog. I started this blog to chronical my training journey with a new puppy and my adventures in discovering dog sports.  It evolved to include many more puppies from dogs I puppy raised to be service dogs, fosters, a returned puppy, a Zumi, and much more stories.  It hasn't always been kept up over the years but it's still kinda kicking after 10 years!


Happy belated Halloween from the crew and my mini kling-on. 






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Zumi AKC Open!

Well we did it!  Zumi and I entered our first AKC trial in a year, our first time in Open, and my first time with the new rules last weekend.  2 attempts on Saturday, 1 on Sunday.

My goals for her this last weekend were
1. Confidence.  Zumi is my sensitive girl and while she's even half of what Vito is in terms of anxiety, she is sensitive.  The AKC atmosphere isn't easy for her.  So I was hoping for heeling that was energetic and the ability to not worry about the judge.

2. Duration :)  aka not anticipating anything.  The retrieves were my biggest worry of course.
I had officially given up on not getting squeals on her sends in a trial environment. Practice is actually going very well, but it's also still very easy for me to replicate a squeal if I wanted to!  1.5yrs of working on the squeal and we haven't yet made it.  So I said it is what it is, we will keep practicing on not squealing, and we will start showing too.   I was hoping for eye contact before I sent her, and no actual anticipation.

And I'm happy to say that both goals were met!!!  Zumi had perfect ring entrances with energy and focus on me during the leash removal, transitions, and I didn't catch any worries at all with the judge!

Heeling/8- Her heeling wasn't super drivey, but she was right with me on all 3 heel patterns.  We had a minor issue on the figure 8 in the first trial with a small lag the first quarter, and a bigger issue on the 3rd trial with it. 

I was also an idiot during that trial and went left with her on the figure 8 when I should have gone right.  I always go right.  Right for drivey dogs, because why not!, and right with more laggy dogs because I want them to practice getting up and going.  I might get a lag right away, but I tend to get better recovery.  Going left I think stressed her a little and then we just didn't get our get up and go on so she crossed to my right after the first loop.

Cue discrimination-  All very solid in terms of position changes!!!  I even did one trial with signals only!   We did discover a minor issue of walking on the stand stay after I left. Well minor on trial 1, major on trial 2- basically no stay at all, and back to minor on trial 3.

Drop on recall- All beautiful.  Well on the 2 she stayed.  Because clearly related to the other exercise, Zumi didn't want to stay while I walked away.

Retrieve on flat-  All eye contact before the send!  Some without dancey feet!  And 1 of them had no squeal (trial 2)!!!!

Retrieve over high- All with eye contact!  Trial 3 had no squeal!  We had some punching on the fronts though :)

Broad: No problem cutting the board and I generally stood in the middle.

Sit stay: No issues. 

Down stay: did not want to lie down on the first cue.  all 3 trials needed a 2nd cue. I even gave an exaggerated down signal on the 3rd trial and nothing.   No problem with me leaving and getting my leash though.

So 2 NQ's and 1 should have been NQ but ended up a Q.  The last trial I screwed up and blurted out "down" as I gave a hand signal to lie down.  Well actually it was my hand that blurted up as I planned on the verbal.  I immediately recognized my mistake.  When I talked to the judge after the show I thought I was discussing that error and she told me it was considered a substantial deduction, but not an NQ.  But I realized when I got home that I think we were discussing different things.  I'm pretty sure she thought I was asking about the repeated cue to lie down on the stay-get your leash exercise, not the accidental double cue on the drop on recall!  Oh well.

Trial 2, I thought this was her best one!


And Sunday's trial.  Our worst one.

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0 for 10

Zumi had her last UKI trial this weekend before the US open cutoff.  And actually her last UKI trial before the big event.  I was hoping for those 3 stupid jumper Q's and the trial scheduled lent itself well those opportunities!  Between the master heat jumpers and the regular jumpers, she had 2 jumpers Friday, 3 jumpers Saturday, and 1 Sunday.

Spoiler alert, it didn't happen. Not once.

Apparently, Zumi has some weave pole issues.
Mostly not entering.  Either entering at the 3rd pole or running alongside the poles like she doesn't know what to do with them.

We had several would be clean runs that ended with weave pole faults.  :(

And then we had one run on Saturday that had a mini meltdown where Zumi went off course right before the weaves, went off course after the weave and then as she returned to me and I tried to keep handling she couldn't do anything.  Wouldn't jump.  So I took a few seconds to have her jump in the air and reconnect with her and then she finished strong.

sensitive girl.

The last run on Saturday I chose to do a NFC, aka toy run.  It was a jumpers run and I rewarded her weaves (which she nailed just fine) with a ball. Did some more things, then had her weave again when she also did just fine.

Sunday she only had speedstakes (no weaves) and jumpers (weaves) but she could weave just fine.
She must have been feeling sassier as she broke her startline on speedstakes and my handling to try and make up for it was too late.  And on jumpers she had a beautiful run and then took an off course tunnel right at the end before the weaves that no other dog took.  Avoiding weaves? or just unlucky?  She nailed the weaves with her new made up course.

Overall I'm really happy with how she handled on the courses this long weekend.  Lots of beautiful moments.  A few crappy handling moments on my part, but overall

I guess we have some training to do.

I can't say we've done much agility training at all in the last 2 years :(   Obedience has suffered as well, but is still generally easier to do tiny bits at a time, even with a toddler needing to climb you.

And in semi related news, I am going to try to commit myself to a running program if I can squeeze it in or can make it work with a stroller.  I'm not a huge fan of running but would like to not be so out of shape!  No issues with weekend trials, but I'm thinking about those long, long courses that could be present in November!

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Zumi TEAM 3

Zumi earned her TEAM 3H title!  It's been difficult to make time to practice any element, let alone the whole thing so Netta accompanied us. 



Level 3 is so much fun!  It's really where all of the foundation behaviors start to come together and you actually look like you're doing real obedience!

In the "H" level, Zumi is limited with rewards (just the distraction reward by the retrieve and then the very end) and it's supposed to be at a place you haven't submitted before.  Well outside our house is both new in that we just moved(!) and new in that I haven't had to do an outside one yet.    As we go into the 4-6honors level we will have to visit new parks or training centers to film!

TEAM 4 will actually be great prep for AKC open!  It will have work on focusing and being calm after a dumbbell throw (as you have to pivot away from it, throw a 2nd one, then pivot back!).  And has quite a bit of position change work that should help the new cue discrimination exercise in open, as well as figure 8 work aroudn distractions, and a broad jump.

The biggest thing we will be focusing on this next month, besides TEAM4, will be Zumi's drop on recall.  Apparently we are goign through a bit of anticipation issues right now with Zumi dropping or just stopping on the recall, before I cue the drop.  A very normal phase!  Just one I wasn't expecting as I thought I worked through that last year!  Apparently when you don't really practice it much at all and the dog isn't 100% solid on it then problems come back ;)

I have decided that I'm going to enter Zumi (well if we can fix the DOR!) in our club's AKC trial the end of October.  Her arousal with the retrieve is pretty darn good in practice now.  Not 100% but close to it with not vocalizing or pattering her feet.  And I'm honestly not sure I will ever be able to fix it for a trial environment.  We will keep working on it and keep shooting for reaching a 95%+ in practice.  And then I'm ok with the "it is what it is" mindset for trials.  At least that's where I'm at right now.


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