Meet Gracie!

Ahh, another black lab!

Miss Gracie is the newest service dog in training we will be puppy raising.

Gracie and her brother were donated to the organization by a generous breeder who has donated pups to us in the past.  I was excited since this breeder puts an emphasis on field ability and hunts, as well as shows.  Her donated puppies in the past have been a bit higher energy and have done well as diabetic alert dogs.

Actually, if Gracie grows up well she is being looked at as a potential momma for the organization's breeding program.  But it's way too early to tell if she will turn out for either program, so I will be raising her in the meantime. 

It's pretty hard to tell what her personality is going to be like.  So far she seems very calm but opinionated and extremely confident.  She certainly likes my slippers.

Lance is pouting of course.  But I already caught him playing with her outside in the snow.
Vito just keeps bringing me toys.  

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The Corgi has OTCH points!

Lance and I just had one of the best weekends ever!  We participated in our first AKC obedience trial since October and broke our sad streak with a bang.

Sat
In Utility Lance qualified for the first time in AKC since exactly 1yr ago and 8 other attempts.  His heeling continues to be a billion times better in the forging department but fronts and finishes continue to ruin us in trials.  I used our new tiny gloves for the first time but forgot to give Lance a firm "drop it" versus the normal "yes" cue I always do in practice and Lance happily tugged back on the glove when I grabbed it.

We watched the rest of the class as dog after dog NQed on something.  By the end we were the sole survivor and I was shocked to receive a first place and OTCH points!


Unfortunately, Lance didn't see the need to get what would be our only high combined award ever, and blew the drop on recall in Open.  Sigh.  But the great news is that Lance held his out of sight sit!  He still wouldn't make eye contact with me when we walked into the ring with the other dogs, but he did it!

Sun
In a nerve wrecking performance, Lance managed to qualify in Utility again!  After the signals I wasn't sure if we were qualifying as Lance seemed to almost anticipate the down signal.  I analyzed my video frame by frame and he doesn't start moving until after my hand starts, but he was certainly down before my hand returned to my side!  Articles were terrifying.  Lance grabbed the correct one right away, but then seemed to notice the judge and dropped it.  He picked up the correct one, turned toward me, and dropped it TWO more times, every time after the nice judge took one step forward towards us, thinking of course that the corgi was coming front.  Finally he pulled it together and actually brought me the damn thing. The rest of the exercises went well and Lance happily ran and grunted as he worked.

Again, we watched the rest of the class drop like flies, but one other dog did qualify with a really nice run.  2nd place earned us a few more tiny OTCH points!

In Open, Lance had a really nice run.  Fronts were horrible, but otherwise he was spot on.  Stays were held once again!!!  Lance actually managed to get 2nd in the nice class.  This earned us our second leg towards the UDX, finally!!!

Getting an OTCH is a dream of mine and the few points earned this weekend were thrilling.  I don't think that Lance has the precision to actually finish the title, but he always has so much fun showing.  We'll just keep plugging away towards the UDX and OM titles.

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Vito's Agility Lesson

Earlier this week Vito and I had a lesson with Loretta Mueller.  I wanted her help on Vito's tendency to pull off  jumps if I have to send him and run off somewhere else, and his difficulty of getting back into drive after tight turns.

Vito was thrilled to play with only ourselves in the building, and his tennis ball of course.  Loretta quickly gave us some great solution for addressing both issues.  In the past I have rewarded Vito for pulling off of jumps since I saw it as him responding to my handling.  Yes he should commit to the jump if I tell him to take it, but I couldn't help but feel my bad because I turned my shoulders or something before his 2in commitment point.  I've only recently started to look at how often Vito pulls off jumps and realize it's a problem that needs to be addressed, and I wasn't sure how to handle it without pulling Vito out of drive.  Loretta suggested something I had just started doing, which was standing my ground and pointing if he hadn't yet run by it.  When he does blow by it I am to quietly bring him back around.

On my own I've also tried to tackle Vito's loss of drives on turns and getting him to accelerate out of it.  I've done a lot of wraps to chasing me/throwing a ball but it hasn't helped transition him to accelerating out of turns on a sequence.  Actually, Loretta pointed out that it has likely contributed to his pulling off of jumps as she noticed Vito immediately came into handler focus after wraps.  To fix this I am to to work on lots of sends to turns and running away, but running away so Vito can accelerate into a line of jumps, or his beloved contacts.  Reteach him to be in obstacle focus.  This should be much fun for the Toller!  I also think it is going to be key to fixing his speed in trials.

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Happy Obedience Toller!

I am so proud of my Toller today!  Vito was entered in a CDSP obedience trial this weekend.  For those unfamiliar with the venue, it has exercises very similar to AKC but is much more laid back.  Handlers are allowed to praise during exercises and even give a treat after each exercise is done.  Vito earned his CDX-C (open title) last year, but you are allowed to stay in the Open C class indefinitely and even earn a "championship" title for each level.  While Vito is trained in all the utility exercises, I don't think he is ready to move up yet.  Utility needs the dog to be very confident and be able to think away from the handler and Vito is still working on trial=good.

Our run on Saturday was fabulous!  Vito had a bit of a hard time in between exercises where he wasn't quite sure enough to run with me, but did follow behind me.  This was the first time Vito was entered in the "C" class and thus the exercises were in a different order from the normal heeling first then others.  I was a bit worried if he would still be able to have enough happiness to not lag on the heeling, however my worry was unnecessary.  Vito was very in tune with me on the heeling and we actually lost zero points.  The rest of the exercises Vito kept focus and did a really nice job.  It was a great day!


On Sunday I was stewarding the morning UKC trial so again had both dogs with me.  I was debating forever about whether to enter Vito in another run to possibly build on his success and deposit more into his happiness bank, or if it would deplete what was in there.  Since he seemed animated and ready to go when I took him out of the crate, I ultimately decided to give it a try.  Vito astonished me by doing even better than Saturday.  He was not only happy and engaged during the actual exercises, but did them with even greater enthusiasm and also had an easier time of staying with me between exercises.  He once again lost zero points on the heeling.  Our videographer was too busy staring at Vito's beautiful run to remember to start filming, but did give herself a kick after the drop on recall and heeling :)


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R.I.P Glove

Lance created a giant rip in one of the utility gloves today.  Clearly my stomach on legs dog is struggling transitioning to personal play and ring objects as his only reward :)  Lance, you spoil me.
On the downside, I have not been working much in precision lately so I'm assuming our fronts and finishes will suffer a bit at the shows.

We do have 2 obedience trials coming up this weekend and the following.  3 months since our last attempt.  I don't think I'm brave enough to not bring any treats to the trial yet, but I think I will severely limit how many treats I give him before going into the ring.  This first weekend is CDSP so I can legally treat between exercises, but at the AKC show I certainly don't need to be accentuating the difference between IN and OUT.

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Finally, an agility trial again!

Vito had a USDAA trial this past weekend.  His first agility trial since October. 

Saturday
Our first run of the weekend was Master Gamblers and Vito was SO happy!  He ran fast nailed his contacts, even actually a fast 2o2o on the teeter, and we played with some things that Sad Vito doesn't do such as a tunnel wrap to aframe and aframe to weaves.  He did run off to check on a male bar setter after the weave poles, but it was a happy detour, no reactive barking, and Vito came back quickly and happily.  The last time Vito had to go check on someone during a run was 11 months ago so it's been awhile.  We didn't get the gamble but I thought it was a great run.

Standard was next and I was glad to have a screaming Toller at the startline again.  The course started off with the dogwalk and a sharp 180 coming back so I thought it would be a good opportunity to practice our new stopped dogwalk.  Vito didn't like that.  The dogwalk itself wasn't awful although Vito didn't really do our stop.  But he didn't recover well.  I ended up skipping some obstacles, including the table, and ran out with him.  Message received.  Vito is not confident enough to do a stopped dogwalk in a trial yet.

Sunday
Vito had 3 runs on sunday.  Pairs was up first and I chose to have Vito run 2nd even though his happy making obstacles were in the first half.  Vito has really liked running 2nd in the past because he gets to watch the other dog run.  Apparently our pair wasn't crazy enough for Vito's liking as our start was still lackluster.  But it wasn't a bad run and we finished the course without issue.

Standard was about the same.  A nice smooth run with moderate speed and a Q for us.

Good old jumpers was last and I thought it looked like a great Vito course.  I led out slightly so I could do a tiny push and thus sprint with him down the opening line.  Vito handled the tighter sections without becoming too thoughtful and then really picked up at the ending as I sprinted home.  Unfortunately Vito pulled off the last jump.  In his defense a rear cross was the sensible move but I wanted to run with him so it involved a push that I just barely made in position to do; well Vito obviously thought I didn't.

I keep reminding myself that I have no expectations with Vito.  As long as he's not anxious, I am going to be content to play at whatever speed he wants to run.

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No Food For You!

Lance has had a few "reduced treats" lessons now since my early December goal to start using only personal play as his reward.  I'm almost embarrassed to admit that it has gone amazingly well.  Maybe it's because Lance is such an easy, happy dog.  Or maybe it's because in reality not much has changed about our training.  Training has always been fast paced and full of little play.

Honestly, I don't think Lance has even registered that a change has occurred.  I haven't gotten rid of treats completely yet, but the numbers have dropped from probably 10-30 treats in a 5-10 minute session to 1-3.

I think I'm ready to go to no treats.  While I am hoping Lance keeps on spoiling me with his eagerness to keep playing, I'm also preparing myself for rejection and more importantly, being ok with it. 

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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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