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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!


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.


All the Things

Wow, life has gotten busy and summer is almost over!  Here are the last month's happenings!

We sold our house, moved out of my parent's basement where we had stayed for just over 3 months, and moved into our new house.  It was kinda a disaster but things are finally coming together now.  Lots and lots of cleaning.  New floors in the basement.  Appliances that work.  Fenced yard and a potty yard.

The Boykin finally got adopted a few weeks ago!  And yes I did manage to teach him a hold, and a stand, in case you were wondering about his progress :)  I even started working on moving from a stand and hold to a sit and hold for fun!  And more importantly, his new family just adores him.

And now my current foster is a cute litter terrier, Speck, who hopes to be a hearing alert dog!  Aside from some minor terrierness fun, he is an incredibly easy dog to live with.  A welcome change from Splash's high level of training and management needed!

Oh and I got a chinchilla for my birthday!  Meet Kix!

Training wise, still not doing much with my own dogs :(  
Zumi has been able to do more TEAM work though this last month and I'm happy to say she earned her TEAM 3 title and I'm waiting to hear back on her TEAM3H title!  Level 3 is really fun!

I've done a few agility trials with her the last few weeks in attempts to finish up the last 3 jumpers Q's she needs to pre-qualify for UKI's championship, the US Open.  Unfortunately, we seem to be cursed with beautiful runs and then a dropped bar, or I miscue a jump and get a backside instead, or don't get the backside, or...  So still 3 jumpers legs needed and just 1 trial left.  Between the masters heat series and the normal championship level runs we will actually have 6 chances over the 3 days for a needed 50% Q rate.  Which is still 100% higher than our current Q rate in jumpers.

On the other hand, Vito earned his UKI championship title for the "select" division last month!  The IWACs!

The Corgi has struggled a bit these last few weeks.  We're pretty sure he either slipped another disc or has swelling, or something going on with his lower back.  On the positive side, he already started improving in a week before he had his vet appointment.  And he's certainly feeling better being on carprofen!  He's on a bit of rest right now and then we will reevaluate things next week!


Problem Solving a Stand

I've been working with Splash the foster Boykin spaniel for several weeks now in reinforcing standing.  He was dealt a very bad structure (early closing growth plates) and standing is not something he naturally wants to do.  Splash very much wants to sit. 

So I've been reinforcing just waiting in a stand a lot.  A lot.  I  hate auto sits in how it makes pivoting so difficult!  And we've come a long way in Splash at least learning that waiting in a stand pays. 

I thought a higher reinforcement history for standing would make it easier to actually teach the action of a kickback stand.  But we still struggled with my usual methods.  He has an awkward body and I just wasn't communicating what I wanted well.

Back to the drawing board.  I decided to introduce the idea of a rear foot target to get a kickback stand.  I know many people have taught a stand simply by capturing the beginning of a dog backing up.  It hasn't personally been my method as I really like the picture that front feet completely still offers but I thought I would try to blend the 2. 

It was a fascinating progression over several sessions!  But now Splash will offer a stand with a front foot target, no rear foot target needed.

While Splash will also now offer a kickback stand without any target, I'm finding I still want a front foot target as he has some tiny backing up in there without it.  I'm not sure if that's because of the initial rear foot target work or because of his structure.

Right now we are working on actually getting the verbal cue attached before going back to getting rid of the target.

On a side note, Splash is available for adoption for anyone local to Minnesota!  He has been career changed from the service dog program due to his legs.

And on another side note, registration for my Stand with Me class at FDSA opens tomorrow!!!  We can talk anything about stands from teaching a stand in heel or at a distance to getting a dog comfortable with an exam!


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!

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Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.- Roger Caras

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