Super Q #2 And Starters Standard Dog!

USDAA trial on Saturday for the red dogs.  Too far to go back for a second day as pretty much all of Zumi's agility trials are turning out so far this summer.

Vito
This was Vito's first re-attempt at trialing since his little shoulder injury this spring.  My hopes weren't super high as Vito has been a complete idiot in his class every other week and really at home too.  Foundations dog instead of masters dog.  I had him in 3 runs to kinda test where he was at physically and mentally I guess too.

Standard he was an idiot.  A very happy idiot.  Broke his startline which isn't completely unexpected in a trial, but usually he is a good dog and we play the "know I mean it" game, because well he is Vito.  He apparently didn't think I meant it :)  which left me completely unable to handle his running dogwalk as the 2nd obstacle.  Then he broke his teeter which again left me out of position to handle a tunnel entrance.  He had fun.

Snooker he was magically back to being good toller.  Not quite as high, and in a thoughtful but decent speed mode.  And then he was a little naughty, but completely saved my butt.  I apparently thought I should throw in a spontaneous threadle after a backside in the closing of snooker and Vito thought that was stupid, a 180 was easier and obviously that's what the numbers said anyway.  I groaned and then realized the whistle didn't actually blow.  And then I realized my dog was way smarter than I am and finished the closing.  This magically earned us a super Q of which Vito gets the sole credit.  Super Q #2!!!  I didn't think it would happen again as we don't exactly win on speed when there are the many ties on points.  Our course was 7-7-7 through the closing, but no 4th red that apparently ate people up for time so they didn't finish the closing, or screw ups in general.  It's possible he could get that championship after all?

No video of the Toller :(  There wasn't a ton of people around and I didn't make a big effort like I did with Zumi since she is new at all...

Vito got a massage at the trial too before his jumpers run and checked out pretty well!

Zumi
Zumi's 3rd day of trialing and at the same location as her first trial.  Maybe she likes it here better, but she was way more focused than she was in Duluth at trial #2.  No focus issues at all going into the ring!  Of course there was also a lot less people working in the ring, we were a little short on workers at time.  But maybe she was just embracing her training.

Standard did all the things and in the correct order :)  A little naught on her teeter but did stop and then took a step back when I cued her feet again.  Dogwalk would have been perfect back foot hits but she slipped the last stride.  Judge did not' call it and it was a clean run for her 3rd leg and very first agility title!


Grand Prix was a fun course for her.  She got a little too excited and missed the weave entrance.  Then even more excited and flew off the teeter  like she thought it was the dogwalk. Dogwalk was a bit high.  But I was proud of her very tight rear cross on a jump, something that isn't very well practiced.  And a tandem turn to a tunnel which can always be a bit hard for her.


Snooker and Jumpers were also Qs!
I didn't notice how close the ending line was in jumpers but wow was she awkward.  Clearly Zumi does not know how to bounce jump the closer distance!  I'm shocked she kept the bars up.

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The Rats

In other news over our long break from blogging I had to say goodbye the the coolest rat that has ever lived.  Penelope developed a tumor that grew very fast.  We had it removed but unfortunately during the surgery they discovered it wasn't the tumor they thought it was.  Female rats are sadly very prone to tumors and Penelope's regrew in a much shorter time frame than we expected.  And it grew fast.  We finally said goodbye to her just a month over her initial surgery.

Since Penelope was a stray rat (a fact that still makes me smile and laugh!) we don't know how old she was. We had her for 15 months and she was fully grown when we got her but that doesn't mean much.  The reason why she was a stray was super obvious.  Once Penelope became comfortable, her greatest joy was figuring out how to escape from anything.  She was such a trouble maker!

And insanely smart.  I kinda lost motivation to train Penelope as the months went on, but she learned quite a bit when we were working!  Weave poles!  Rolling over!  Picking up a ball!  And some other little things.  

Evee has been a bit lost without her.  She looked depressed actually.  Evee was never the bravest rat despite my initial feeling that she would be.  Evee never once dreamed about escaping the expen setup.  And while she had no problem interacting with me, she startled super easily.

So I went looking for friends.  Since I spayed Evee when Penelope had her tumor removal surgery (to try and prevent Evee from getting tumors) I wanted boys this time.  Boys are known to be dumber and more cuddly.  I thought that sounded nice.

Rats in rescue were again not really there.  So this time I found a breeder.  I got 2 young boys.
Meet Spork and Splatter.


Splat.


 Spork.


Evee is not thrilled.  She's a bit of a bully actually.  Needless to say they are not moved in together.  But since it took 3 weeks for Evee and Penelope to move in together despite all the rat forums saying baby introductions are easy, I'm at least more prepared this time.

Evee got kicked out of the mansion to live in the temp cage with bars too big for the boys to stay contained in.  She's not happy.


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Catching Up

It's apparently been awhile.  We've been busy, kinda.  And also very lazy.




The things.
Dock Diving
Zumi and Vito went to a dock diving competition 4 weeks ago.  Much better experience than our first time.  This one was hosted by a club and everyone was very nice and willing to answer questions.  Plus having an actual briefing before the event started was helpful.

Vito only had 2 jumps at 11.5ft and 11ft.  Both jumps were larger than the other competition and more consistent.  He kinda did a stay for me on the dock the second turn but wouldn't at all on his first turn.

Zumi wouldn't jump.  I had hopes of her jumping since she finally made it to the dock when we were at Purina Farms.  But no such luck.  I took her 2 official turns and went straight to the ramp.  Even on the ramp she was a bit hesistant to actually enter the water, but of course super excited both before and after.

Then today I drove a ways to actually practice.  Their 3rd offical practice session, first time at this location.  No idea how far Vito jumped but he looked a lot better.  And actually stayed for me during his second set of turns on the dock.  Due to crowdedness each dog only got to have 2 sets on the dock.

Zumi and I just went to the ramp and never tried the dock.  The good news is that she didn't do any of the hesitancy she showed at the actual competition and it was the same setup of above ground pool.  The bad news is she made zero progress from jump 1 to the last jump.  Still eagerly running the short distance to the ramp and then going down the ramp until her feet touch water.  THEN jumping.  She's so happy.  And I don't know how to get her to progress from there.

Disc
Zumi went to a disc dog seminar a few weeks ago.  Had a blast!  We worked primarily on flatwork and teaching me how to time my throw with her striding.  Also taught me a better way to throw flip throws, and a few other little moves for Zumi.  If you're interested in disc, the presenter Sara is now at Fenzi Academy teaching her first class this session!  I'm hoping it will motivate me to actually practice disc.

Agility
Vito is back to going to agility practice, alternating weeks with Zumi in class.  His brain hasn't come back yet since his break.  Seriously, he's an idiot.  Stays are hard for him.  Actually following my handling is hard for him.  All the things are hard.  But wow is he excited.  Certainly not my nice consistent dog who almost never goes off course.
At home Vito is doing better with the listening department but he's still an idiot with jumping.  I don't think it's due to his shoulder still as whenever Vito is over the top excited he has always knocked bars.  Vito has a very hard time with arousal levels.

Zumi is doing pretty well.  We aren't practicing too much at home so haven't made much progress with her aframe turns since last posted. Actually I don't think I've touched the aframe.  We have done a few little sequences at home though, trying to kinda keep up with the online class I have been taking this summer.

Obedience
Zumi and Lance went to a WCRL rally trial and CDSP obedience trial last weekend!  I had plans to show Vito but when I looked at where it was held I knew that Vito wouldn't be entered. It's just too crowded of a site and usually very difficult to actually get into the ring.  Lots of pressure usually from people watching and the crating area.  It turned out that this trial was light on entries and with a surprisingly large amount crating from their car I think Vito could have handled it.  But better safe than sorry.

Lance was entered in 2 runs of level 3 rally on Saturday, and just 1 on Sunday based on his last trial in April of being tired on day 2. That held true this trial as well.  Very sassy and barky corgi in rally!  A bit naughty, but always such great focus and attitude.  Sunday he was still sassy but visibly tired so I was greatful he only had the one run.  I would have loved to entered him in utility obedience at this trial but realized that without regular practice it wouldn't really be fair to him.  He's such an experience dog that he could easily handle novice and open without practice, but utility really takes a ton of confidence in the exercises.  Articles, signals, go outs I feel are a little unfair without practice.  So the corgi won.  He has always loved rally more than obedience anyways.

Little Duck got to play in level 3 for the first time!  She had 2 runs in level 3 each day and qualified in all.  I was very proud of her focus in all runs.  She earned her title easily :)  And beat her way too sassy corgi brother


And then I decided to be brave and enter her very first obedience trial.  We did one run of starters novice on Sunday when I realized there was no stand for exam.  She had a few tiny moments of attention lapses but overall I was very proud of her run.  Her stand for exam was the biggest point loser in that it took an extra cue to get her to stand (CDSP judges this portion, AKC would not have).  

I've also been trying to practice Zumi's stand for exam when I take her to the club before I teach on Wednesdays.  She is really doing well.  Now if only I can start finding new people to generalize it to.

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Aframe Turns

Now that I don't have to worry about adding any more height to Zumi's aframe (thanks USDAA!), I need to really start focusing on teaching her turns off the aframe.  Well not so much turning tightly as you don't really need tight turns off the aframe, but being able to handle my different positions and not powering straight forward.  With Vito this was never an issue but clearly Zumi needs to be actually trained on this.  Training, how rare!

I've done a few reps with this at home this last week and thankfully had the great idea to use her pole from the running dogwalk turn training and plop it at the end of the aframe.  I wouldn't have initially thought it would be as helpful since she doesn't really need to go as low on the aframe as I want on the dogwalk, but clearly it caused her little lightbulb to turn on!  We've had some great success!

This was our first session this week both without the pole at the start for 2 awful reps, then with the pole.

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USDAA #2- Discovering People!

Zumi and I woke up well before any human should be awake to travel north for a USDAA trial.  Thanks to needing to be measured, we had to make sure we were there bright and early!

Another measurement for the win though!  And a win for me being brave and asking the judge nicely to measure her again ;)  It's hard to get a young dog to actually relax when they have been in the car for hours, arrive bright and early in a new place, and are SO excited by all the things!  But Zumi re-measured down that 1/4in to be 17.5in and eligible for that 18in jump height!

Then we had 4 runs.
Gamblers she was fast and focus.  Had 2 beautiful dogwalks, weaves, and a teeter.  And kinda messed up a very easy gamble.  But such a good dog!

Then her next run she suddenly discovered the existence of people.  Or maybe it was the further realization I set her toy down combined with the existence of people. Unlike Vito's concerns over an audience, Zumi thought the crowd was there just to see her.
It didn't help that we had to enter the ring late to help out the lovely team before us who could be a bit reactive.  Zumi was excited to enter and immediately tried to jump on a kid bar setter right behind the first obstacle.  And then had several more moments where she briefly left our course to go wave at her fans.  She did come back, but not without several "Ducky!" calls.  One such wide sight seeing adventure caused her to run by the aframe but I continued on.  Overall not a bad run, but I was caught off guard by her sudden interest in an audience when she hasn't shown any signs of caring in agility before.

Before her 3rd run I warmed up with heeling by people and rewarding her when she focused on me.  A little difficult at first, but then she remembered the game.  We still had a hard time focusing before entering the ring.  And then she started fixating on something and I couldn't tell if it was a bar setter or not.  I was able to get her jump up and do some tricks in the ring, but it wasn't smooth and easy.  On the release she bolted straight towards the cone by the weaves.  Luckily just a quick disappointed sniff.  No real sight seeing in this run, but did have some quick winks at the audience in a few moments.  I waited about a second longer on the table to release her as I wanted her to actually look at ME and not her fans, and she did.  Teeter a bit slow this time, and then I purposefully ran her to far forward with her dogwalk and aframe to ensure she hit better.  Manged to qualify though in starters standard!


Her 4th and last run was snooker. This time I warmed up with leaving her ball on the table and going away to do some tricks and heeling before putting her in a sit and going to get her ball reward.  We still had a difficult time focusing entering the ring but had even less winky moments.  My handling was not so great.  Snooker is always hard for me to handle with a purpose!  But we qualify!


Overall I'm still thrilled with where she's at.  The people issue I expect in obedience with her which is why we're not quite ready, but it threw me off guard in agility.  It was pretty minor overall and based on the improvement from just run 2 to run 3 I think it will go away quickly with more experience and some work on it.  Her next agility trial is just over a month away!

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Excellent Obedience Foundations

In less than a month a brand new online obedience titling organization is going to be up and running. I know, some of you have mixed feelings on online titling and I guarantee I had the same thoughts.
But the way this program has come together is completely different than any other obedience organization out there.  Regardless of whether you want new titles or not, you need to check out Fenzi TEAM Titles just to get an extremely thorough progression of training that will take you through novice, open, utility, and well beyond.

Unlike all other obedience organizations that I know of, the TEAM program is about extremely solid foundations.  It mimics excellent training.  Instead of people just training to get through traditional novice (heeling, heeling, and more heeling), the start of retrieves, scent articles, jumping, and even backing up is in the very first level.  Actually you won't see anything resembling traditional heeling until you get to level 4!  The TEAM levels encourage people to have all the little bits and pieces before they move on.  That means teaching the dog how to move their rear end around a disc in heel position.  Teaching true side steps and backing up.  Little doodles that test if the dog truly understand heel position all before you go forward more than 2 feet at a time.

By the time you get to level 3 of the current 6 (eventually 9!) levels, you should have over half of the foundational pieces for traditional open and utility started.  By level 6 you have mastered utility.  Honestly, I've been working my dogs through the levels and none of my dogs can consistently pass level 3 each time I try.  So close, but not quite there every time.  TEAM is not a gimme.  Indeed you will see that the early emphasis on precision (often with props in the early levels!) and the distraction training built in from level 1 will really push your training to be better, no matter what level you're at.  The testing for Zumi has been especially great as it's getting her used to the feeling of formality and flow between exercises all while being at home and without the pressure of other people.

Here is Zumi working on level 3.  Almost!



And I think this emphasis on foundation, fun, and early success (level 1 should be doable with just a few months of excellent training) can help suck a lot of people back into obedience.  People that may have been wandering away to other dog sports.  Or people who just didn't know how to train past novice.  The levels setup will give anyone interested a very serious guide on how to get their training from step 1 all the way up with distractions, discriminations, and precision.

If you're interested in really good training, regardless of whether or not you want shiny titles, check out the TEAM website.  And if you need help in training any of the exercises, I will be teaching an online foundations class starting August 1st going over all of the exercises in levels 1 and 2.

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Off Restrictions

Knocking on wood right now, but I think the Toller if fully back from his shoulder issue.  I've been slowly letting him play with toys again and do low jumps in agility for the last 2 weeks and I haven't seen any hints of problems.

I took Vito to his first agility class in 2.5 months this past week.  Oh my.  The Toller lost his mind.  So much screaming.  Could not even sit at the startline.  I know I allow Vito to break his start in a trial, but only because Vito is a good boy!  The very few times he breaks his startline in a practice I just tease him and he wouldn't even think of doing it again.  But at class this week Vito was fully incapable of doing anything.  Class was an epic disaster of the funniest type.  I told our instructor we should have came to the Foundations class instead of International Handling.
And wow he is faster at 16in compared to 20 or 22, especially when he's just doing his own thing.

Vito's not really in an official class right now.  My plan was to alternate tollers each week in agility but since Vito has been out since mid April that didn't really happen.  We will see if I'm brave enough to try the crazy one again next week or not!

I hope everyone has a great 4th!  Hopefully the tollers will get to go swimming again.


 

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Acclimation and Engagement

The concepts of acclimation and engagement are the 2 things that changed my dog training the most in the last 5 years.  At that time I didn't really have any words to put to it and I muddled my way through it with Vito.  But it was game changing.  And painful.  Really painful actually as I spent more sessions not working than actually working Vito and often questioned if this was the right path.


Those 2 words were also a core concept last week at the Fenzi Dog Sports Camp.   If there is one topic I wish all teams would understand it would be this concept.  And yet is really hard to understand!

So what is it?

Acclimation
Acclimation is the easy part.  It is simply allowing your dog the choice to look around and get comfortable with an environment.  This may be done through a formal down stay or more commonly it is done by taking the dog on a walk through the environment while letting them see and smell the world.  

This is SO important for many teams.  I think it is a rare dog who is ready to start work in a new place without knowing where they are.  Some dogs have such a high love for their motivators that it can seem like they are ready.  Indeed Lance is one of those dogs.  He loves his cookies so much that I could ask him to work the second I got somewhere and he would, even without seeing the reward since he has been trained well to know that offering work usually pays off.  And with Lance I was lucky.  He's not a nervous dog and the fall out from working him right away would be minimal.  Thankfully I rarely did that.  Lance didn't need much acclimation time to truly give me his all, but giving him just 2-5 minutes would really pay off huge.  No little glances away in his work as he already knew what was around him and felt safe.

With Vito I could also work him right away if I had his magical ball.  And I DID do that years ago.  I tried the advice of getting Vito to go straight from the crate to work.  And if I had his ball nothing else mattered.  But with a dog like Vito who has anxieties about people pressure and who drastically loses motivation without an obsession to focus on, there was no way that approach was going to hold up in the ring when the rewards were gone.  And for some dogs it could backfire big time if they suddenly got too close to a trigger they didn't notice because they were obsessing about their reward. 

I took Vito's lessons and am now applying them to Zumi.  Zumi is more of a normal dog compared to Lance and Vito.  In a new place she wants to look and walk around a bit, but she also wants to check in frequently.  She can fool me into thinking she is ready to work before she really is.  Indeed she demonstrated this at the Camp this past week as Zumi offered sustained eye contact and even tried to further engage me a little bit just a few minutes in.  But I knew better.  I knew that if I didn't immediately shove a toy in her face that Zumi would very quickly go back to looking at the environment and that she needed to do so.  And I knew that if I did choose to shove a toy in her face and play that I could get a bit of work in, but that as soon as the action stopped and we worked on less intense behaviors then she would feel the need to look around some more.  At Zumi's stage in training I want more.  Just forcing her to walk around a bit and get more comfortable in her environment gave me the picture I wanted.  She felt comfortable and was capable of giving me her all.

Acclimation takes as long as it takes.  Some dogs are fast and are ready to work in under 5 or 10 minutes.  Other dogs might need a good hour in a difficult environment in order to feel safe and confident enough to work.  And often with Vito, well we might never get to that working piece.  And that's ok.  I know that in the long run it will pay off.  As dogs get used to the idea that they will get enough time to truly acclimate, it not only will take less and less time for the dog to do so but their work performance skyrockets as they don't feel the need to check out once work has started.

What about dogs getting ready to trial?  I still use acclimation to get my dogs used to an environment.  The difference becomes that everytime I go somewhere to work I acclimate my dogs outside of the ring, or designate an imaginary line that become my work-no work line.  My dogs can walk around and sniff in a designated area and then we work in a place they got to see but not actually walk in.  And that concept transfers perfectly to an actual trial where the dogs do not get to acclimate in the same ring they will work in.

Engagement
Engagement is a more tricky concept.  It looks different with every dog and is hard to pin down.  But in general it is dog driving the work.  Denise Fenzi has written that "Engagement training is the process of moving responsibility for enthusiasm, focus and desire for work from the handler to the dog."  In early stages all the dog has to do is focus on the handler before the handler can start a party.  But the eventual goal is for the dog to work hard in order to get the handler to start play/work, all without seeing or knowing a reward is available.  That is some deep stuff!  

As I mentioned earlier, engagement looks differently from every dog.  Some dogs may just stare at you and wag their tail, others may jump up and maybe even bark.  The key with most dogs is getting them to move at you.  If you back away from your dog do they follow and keep focus?
The lines of engagement and personal play often start to blend.  If you don't reach for your rewards right away once the dog chooses to engage the question becomes will the dog continue to try and interact with you?  Can you use just yourself and no formal work cues to keep up your dog's focus and energy?  The dog making the true choice to work is thrilling and goes a long way to getting the same focus and energy you have when your dog sees your classical rewards to more advanced training when the rewards aren't on you.



In the ring you are stripped of all rewards.  There are no food, no toys, and certainly no corrections.  The only reward you can take in is yourself.  But if you've made it that far in your training there's a good chance you have a great relationship with your dog already!  Your dog chooses to work not just for the external rewards but for the whole package, including your attention, your praise, and your play.  That package of work, rewards and human interaction are blended and really can't be separated out.  Play may vary by your dog's temperament, but every dog can be taught how to engage in some form of personal play with you.

Here is Vito from a few months ago choosing to start the engagement process and gradually we flow into work. He is high as a kite in this session and is very pushy!  Note that if you're just starting out you will not get this type of response and some dogs will never look like this no matter how much experience they have.  In the below video you will also notice that while Vito does grab his dumbbell and I do some interactions with it, it's really not about the object:


And here is a much calmer Vito also starting the engagement process with me sitting in a chair.  But in this case he doesn't really mean it.  You can see how he looks around still and isn't really committed as I continue to ask him if he means it:


If I had chosen to ignore that and started work there is a good chance he would not have given me his full focus.  Or I would have needed to overwhelm him with constant food, toys, or high energy just to keep him focused.  That type of training just doesn't hold up in the long term.  Be exciting in reaction to your dog's own energy, but don't try to use your own energy to overwhelm the dog into playing with you!  The general guideline is to match the energy level your dog is giving you, or just 1 level above.  Notice I am much calmer in the 2nd video than in the first video and that is so I don't use my own energy to overwhelm and try to pull him up.

Denise Fenzi has an entire online class on how to develop engagement in your dog and spells out stages to get there on her blog as well.

I strongly believe the best way to make sure your dog is really ready for the ring is to focus on the concepts of acclimation and engagement.  When your dog is the one driving the work and pushing you to start then you're no longer the one trying to bribe your dog and shoving the rewards in their face to get work.  Instead the responsibility moves to the dog.  You don't have to try to be more exciting than their environment!  You don't have to do cartwheels to get your dog's attention!
But this does take time.  Get ready to settle in and be ready for the chance that your dog simply tells you they are not ready in that session.

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

Email: lkwaudby (at) gmail.com

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