Lance UDX leg, tiny OTCH points!

2 day obedience trial with the Corgi!

Saturday
UDX leg #5!  Lance did amazing in open.  With a few fronts and finishes knocking our score down to what is usually out of placements.  But with some bad luck of others, Lance managed to get 2nd for another 2 OTCH points!  Heeling was really nice with a much more enthusiastic fast time than recent trials, and the first about turn was good.

Biggest happiness for me is another held sit stay.  After last saturday's failure he has been seeming to start stressing over it again.  We did lots of little tiny sit stays this past week for huge rewards.  Still not sure what long term plan is to help.

In Utility Lance was very squirrley!  Very nice go outs, but 2 no sits.  I should have given him another cue to sit on the 2nd one but I froze.  Signals went well but his about turns were a bit wore again.  He punched me on the recall and then decided not to do the finish.  Corgi smirk.

Big pro in utility was his continuation of a happy down on the signals and also keeping eye contact with me on the glove pivots.

Sunday
Pretty good run in open.  A little more corginess than the day before as he was bordering on forging on the heeling and added a bonus woof as he did the drop on recall.  Really good finishes for hte most parts but off on most fronts.

Did his sit again!

In utility his brain fell out.  Go outs were first and like the day before Lance didn't sit on the first cue.  This time I was ready with the 2nd verbal right away.  But even on the 2nd go out Lance still didn't sit on the first cue and waited for the 2nd!  On gloves Lance was busy staring at the crowd and stood put as I pivoted to face #1.  With his back turned to me I still managed to send him out and he did actually get the glove!  And then bobbled the pickup, twice, in his enthusiasm.  Heeling was pretty good but Lance was checking out, very briefly, quite a bit.  I barely got the stand cue in as he chose that moment to check out.  But he did stay and remained in a stand as I gave the stay cue and walked away.  Then he must have doubted himself as he was already sitting as I got to the other end and turned around :(  So no UDX leg for us.  Finishes were mostly spot on, and even his fronts were better.


I still can't believe how great he's been doing this year.  Lance is now halfway towards his UDX, has 162 out of 200 points towards his Obedience Master, and actually has 11 OTCH points!

Things on the to do list include:
1.  Working hard on fronts, especially with an object in his mouth.  Lance seems to have gotten worse about the severe angles in practice, so polishing that up should help the straight approaches in trials.
2. Finishes- although I'm really happy with the progress the nose touch has given us.
3. About turns- not sure how to replicate the loss of eye contact and thus the wideness on the abouts.  I've very recently started doing about, immediate side step right in practice to see if that will help.
4. Stays.  No clue how to fix Lance's confidence issue.  So far I'm just continuing doing them often, with food behind him.

Keeping an eye on:
1. The no sitting on the go outs.  Have not replicated this in practice or even the rare match we go to.  This may be his *new* issue, if the ones below are really fixed!
2. Glove pivots, auto marking- Hasn't done this the last 7 days of trials!
3. Downing on the drop on recall and the signals- doing good so far!

Run!

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Gracie level 4 graduate, and dog parks

Gracie passed the level 4 test at the organization yesterday!  She likely could have squeezed by last month, but a month more of practice made her very solid on all items.

The only one I wasn't sure she would do was the go visit to another person.  I'm sad to say that Gracie has never actually had any practice in doing this to anyone besides myself.  I have worked a lot on lowering her head to a chair and keeping it there with distractions, but never actually had a person sit there.  It goes to show what a dog can problem solve if you have the foundations in place!


We've also been taking a tour of dog parks the last few weeks.  Lance and Gracie have been helping me find a dog park suitable for the Toller.  That means a park that consists mainly of trails and easy to avoid larger open areas where people might be throwing balls.  Vito is just so ball obsessive that he glues onto anybody who has a ball and Toller Screams loudly.  People do not appreciate this.

While I don't plan on going to dog parks very often, the opportunity to be off leash and explore is something I miss giving my dogs.  We found 1 park that fits Vito's needs but with the long drive we haven't been to it in over a year.  At least the 2 normal dogs have been having a blast exploring new places.  And we're doing our best to avoid the actual dogs at dog parks.





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NADAC Sunday

After Lance's obedience day on Saturday, both dogs went for a NADAC trial on Sunday.  Because the contacts weren't rubberized, Vito was only entered in jumpers and chances.  There's no way that dog is ever doing a non rubberized dogwalk.  With Lance's slower stopped contacts I felt safer asking him to do it.

Lance- 3 of 4, including another chances Q!
He really ran well in jumpers and a 5.4yps is near his top speed.  In regular he was a bit slower and I'm not sure if was due to the contacts or just because he remembered he usually runs slower on grass.  Round 2 of regular I pulled him in too hard for a aframe/tunnel discrimination and he came all the way to me, and then went in other other end of the tunnel.  He was moving quite a bit slower on that and looked hesitant about wanting to take the aframe.

Vito had an OK 2 runs.  Jumpers was actually pretty good considering it is always his slowest class.  But then again, the corgi beat him by 2.5 seconds.  Ouch.  Chances was sad.  Vito said the jump was too far away and then when I stepped over the line to run with him he still pulled off every other obstacle.

I admit I'm a tiny bit disappointed with Vito's trial results.  We've been working on leaving a toy at the start line during practice for just over a month now.  He's doing really well with leaving it sit there and turning away from it as we run!  By ourselves his speed remains mostly unaffected and he's Zoomy Toller.  In his group class I'm doing it only on short sequences and he also seems to be doing well.  In NADAC you can carry your reward on you, as long as it's secured in a bag and you don't even point to it within 10ft of the ring.  But Vito didn't act any different even though he knew I had the ball in my pocket compared to USDAA trials.  Still happy to go in the ring with me and lots of screaming.  Broke his start line again too!   Screamed and broke his start line to just float out there...   At least he's happy.

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A Teeny OTCH Point

Lance was entered in obedience today.  Indoors and much cooler out than the outdoor trial he was at a few weeks ago where he went on strike.


Open B
Lance did pretty good!  Since he's failed to down on the drop on recall for 3 of the last 5 shows I decided to give a signal instead of a verbal.  Plan worked nicely!  We had a big delay before the retrieve over the high as I set up and had to comment that the jumps were a little high.  Apparently the steward heard the 16in when I checked in and said 8/16 so the jumps were set to 16/32.  Had to say it several times before the judge changed them, but Lance handled the delay nicely and did some tricks for me.  Heeling was nice except for the last about turn at the open gate.  Just like the last show Lance got distracted looking at the crowd so we get hit with a wide and a lag.  Only hit on one front but 2 finishes. 

Going in for the stays Lance wouldn't look at me again.  Never a good sign when he does that :(  And yup, Lance went down on the sit as soon as the we were all out of sight.  Sadly our score would have been tied for 2nd place.  Clearly our stay issues are not fixed.  No clue how to proceed.

Utility B
Lance was ON!  Awesome go outs, kept eye contact with me on the glove turn (although pivot still sucked) and had really nice fronts and finishes for most exercises.  Signals he lagged on the fast time, had  a poor halt, and another lag on a about turn.  But no issues on the down again!

Before the awards I was jolted out of conversation as our number was called!  Totally not prepared, I rushed in the ring and didn't even know what direction to face.  Lance could have used some warming up!  He actually did really well but lagged a tiny bit on the fast time again.  So we lost the run off, but Lance got 3rd place and 1 tiny OTCH point!  

Vito came and played in the warm up ring during the Friday night ring time and during the show today.  Friday he needed 2 restarts before he was fully committed to not looking around on set up and giving me full drive on our heeling steps.  But then he had fun in the ring and did a great job.  Didn't want to jump up for hand touches while moving but would do so happily if standing still.

Today at the real show he was worse.  I think I did 5 attempts to get into the ring with him but aborted each one before even stepping foot inside.  Vito seemed kinda sassy as he would yell at me as I aborted and got nicely into our waiting position, but just would not explode out of it with the attitude I want.  I tried a few short down stays in between to see if allowing him to relax and look around would help.  But Vito didn't actually seem to want to look around at all and looked like he wanted to engage with me- he just didn't want to work.  So I took him back to his crate for a few minutes.  Session #2 he was still not giving me the drive I wanted going into the ring but it was better so I took it.  Once in the ring he did a nice job, but still not wanting to do a jumping hand touch while heeling.  Baby steps of progress.

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Happy, Happy, Obedience Toller

The majority of Vito's obedience training for the past year has been working on ring entrances.  Tons and tons of entering the ring to have a party.  Gradually doing a bit more heeling once inside.  It has helped a TON with entering the ring and setting up at the handful of CDSP obedience trials we've done, but has been a mixed bag  ranging from extremely happy to eh once we take that first step off the line.  And once inside the ring, Vito sometimes will jump up on me before getting his treat (In CDSP food in allowed in between exercises) and sometimes he says no thanks.

It has been extremely slow going to get that first and second entrance completely engaged with me and ready to work without showing him the prize up front.  Motivating Vito has certainly been one of the biggest challenges I've faced in the many dogs I've trained through work.  He's a paradox of being extremely obsessive with toys and sometimes even food, to being eh.  Vito has challenged me to hold a strong line on effort required and to be strong in having the work be exciting because of his engagement and not the other way around.

The past two months has seen the most progress in all of our long time doing this.  Vito finally seems to be making the connection of ring=fun and is choosing to give 100% effort on that first entrance.  If by chance he's a little lacking on those first few steps in, I immediately turn back around and Vito doesn't fail to turn on the charm for the second attempt.  I've been able to up criteria to include quite a bit of heeling fun before the party and occasionally add in a little bit of extra work such as signals.  The main problem we're having now is our heeling is a a jumbled mess of forging, bumping, and jumping as precision completely flew out the window.  I am thrilled!  I just started adding back in a tiny bit of criteria for the forging by adding in some tight left turns on the worst parts.  Awesomest video:


If Vito keeps on this path, things to add in include:
1. Going to more and more places and doing this.  I started doing this a few months ago with him and that was going really well.  More recently I've been having Vito work a bit at empty baseball fields (no ring gates), after doing some exploring with the other dogs.  I've been thrilled with his decision to work without seeing any reward upfront.

2. Tightening heeling criteria back up, and doing longer stretches of normal heeling before exploding into a fun hand touch or something else.  Also adding in more and more of the quick flowy versions of other exercises.

3. Down time- Adding on transitions to other exercises besides heeling.  This will disrupt our flowy fun

4. People- Vito's been doing pretty good with the judge and stewards at the last scattered trials.  In general if I can keep his drive high he doesn't have time to worry about others.  But I do need to continue to reinforce the idea that other people in the ring are no big deal.

There is a CDSP trial next month.  Realistically I know that even if Vito continues to do amazing in practice, 1 month is not enough time to have the carry over I want.  But I will be entering Vito for one run of Open C anyway.  The really nice thing about CDSP is that I have no fears of setting back any of our training.  The ability to praise at any point, and to give food in between exercises is pretty amazing when trying to teach the dog that the ring= a good thing.  So I'm sure that Vito won't have the intensity I want in between exercises, but he's been far enough along in his training that I know he'll still be engaged with me and we can work on classical conditioning the ring.

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La Crosse NADAC trial

We took the boys down to La Crosse for a NADAC trial.  Lance was the only one pre-entered due to the 2.5hr drive and we decided to let Vito decide the morning of.  Had Adam get up way before the crack of dawn so Vito could get his drugs 2 hrs before the possible car ride.  While calm before leaving the house doesn't automatically mean it's going to be a worry free drive, a panting Vito on wake up certainly predicts that the drive is not going to be a good one.  Lucky for me, Vito actually woke up very calm and sleepy at the final alarm clock and thus got to come with!  And even better, he forgot that he distrusted the car and slept most of the way down!

Vito went 3/3 and seemed to get more excited each run.  His dogwalks seemed to be back to more of a running dogwalk versus a trotting dogwalk- and as a Vito Bonus, the regular courses each had the dogwalk done twice and the chances course main challenge was the dogwalk at a distance :)  The chances course also finished up his open versatility title.  Our only big bobble of the day was me pulling him in too much on the aframe/tunnel discrimination as Vito decided to skip both and come to me instead.  I was thrilled to have him yell at me as we circle back and he didn't lose any speed from my error.


Lance also had a perfect day of 4/4!  His jumping looked amazing too!  I don't think there was a single stutter in the first 3 runs of the day and jumpers had only a few.  Contact criteria of 4On was also much more confident except for the first aframe.
And Lance nailed the chances course for our elusive hunt for a chances Q.  I must say it was the easiest one I've seen in a long time though and the qualifying rate certainly reflected that.  Instead of only the sad rate of 2-4 Q's that I usually see, I think only 4 people didn't qualify in all levels.

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Gracie- 9 months

Gracie is 9 months old this week.  Finally grew a bit too!  She's been about even with Vito's height for several weeks and then one day I looked over and she has a good inch on him.  Officially surpasses Teacup Labrador size and is firmly in Pocket Labrador standards.  Or is it the other way around?  41.4lbs.

She shocked me by passing the CGC this week!  I really only took it because my club was hosting it and we haven't been offering it as regularly as in the past.  My favorite time to take the test is around 4-5 months old.  The puppy really doesn't know anything, but if you have a good foundation in attention work you can pretty much fake your way through it!  The worst time to take it is between 6-13 months old.  Those crazy teenagers!
But Gracie really turned on the charm!  After jumping in the air and butting me in the face when I told her to sit the first time, she settled in.  Probably the best walking skills she's ever done with distractions.  Way to show off hind end awareness while walking through the crowd!

Launching herself in the kennel run at work is still occurring.  Has almost reached outerspace.  Is getting a tiny bit better with the morning kennel staff person by having her cue a sit.  And Gracie has also become brilliant at knowing if I'm there hiding and waiting to enforce it.

Crate pooping news- :(  She's had no blanket for a full month and just as I was about to re-grant her privileges, she had another silent pooping incident last week over night.  That's the first time she's done it without any blankets in the crate.  Happens so infrequently that I'm at a complete loss.


Currently training:
1. Turning OFF lights-  Confusing the little lab brain by teaching the nudging down instead of just up.  Progressed from the stick in my hand to now on a low wall.  Have not yet scrambled her even further by combining both light with switch.

2. Object placement- Dropping an item onto a chair was started last month, now doing a little bit of distance before I start adding in height for future rise-drop applications.  Also just started teaching her clean up into a bucket.

3. Nudge close- Has strength and graduated to drawers vs cabinents.  Can usually close it even with tug rope attached.  Am now working on varying height of the drawers so she focuses on lowering her head versus just resting her chin on top of the drawer.

4. Praying- Am just starting to transfer thisfrom doing it on my arms to the couch.  Many difficulties!  Gracie really wants to visit the couch (resting her chin) and even if I do get her paws up she is awkwardy curling backwards and would fall over if I'm not behind her.

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Experimentation

An experiment is in process with the Toller's agility training.

Mini thought process:

  1. Vito is super happy and runs full speed when we train on our own.  This is often done either when we're the only ones in a building or pretty close to it.
  2. Vito can be almost as fast in a very small group class, 1 dog at a time, on Monday nights at location A.
  3. It takes a lot more effort to get Vito running fast in the very loud, split ring class on Thursday nights at location B.  This is typically Lance's class, but Vito's always there.  Doesn't seem to be stressed about anything.
  4. New class started on Wednesday nights in place of Monday's, at location B.  Has only had 4 classes so hard to really judge.  So far he's been fast on 3 of 4 nights, so I'm saying he likes it.  Is quiet, but split ring.
  5. At any group class, he almost always goes faster if he does a sequence and then we immediately get to do a second turn, without another dog going or longer break time.  Opportunity to do so doesn't happen that often.
  6. At trials Vito no longer seems all that worried about ring workers and the judge.  His screaming going into the ring is mostly done un-cued now and he's not looking around for people to worry about. Occasional reactions still happen outside of the ring, usually at at tent setup or at a quieter further away section from the ring.
  7. His start line behavior no longer predicts how fast he decides to run once he actually gets released.
So, I've deducted the following:
  1. Some of Vito's issues is likely still stress related, even if it's not really specific anxiety.  The difference of behavior in classes leads me to think this must be the case.
  2. Training is still going well with being more committed to jumps and accelerating out of wraps/turns!  The times he runs full speed this isn't much of an issue anymore at all!  But I need to keep working on it and building his confidence.
  3. Toys.  I almost always tease Vito with a toy while I'm going into the ring to practice and I think he is currently dependent on seeing the toy for motivation at the start line.  When he's slow Toller I've tried to get him jazzed by playing with the toy first, although it can sometimes take a bit of work.  I haven't wanted to run him without getting his drive up but I also feel that when he's not feeling it I've fallen into the trap I was in with his obedience training.  
This is the new experiment I'm working on, solidified by my plea to the great Silvia Trkman.  I sent her a video of Vito in a slow jumpers run, a video of him practicing, and then my thought that I don't think his trial issues are anxiety related anymore.  I wanted to know if she thought going through her amazing online Foundations course would be helpful for him.  She suggested the toy issue.

So I've been seeing if leaving the toy outside of the ring is having an impact.  Training by myself, it did not.  He was still crazy and we ran back to it often to reward.  Only issue is self rewarding when our line takes us near the area and Vito decides to just keep going instead of turning.  On the positive side he will finish the line of jumps instead!  It's actually been harder for Vito to start at an angle to the toy versus with his back turned to it.  I've been trying to make sure that I tell him to sit and am personally the one to grab the toy and throw it for him when I decide to reward versus letting him grab it himself.

In Wed group class results clearly show that Vito is slower.  Then our 2nd class implementing this strategy the instructor came up with a really great idea.  I left the toy near the ring gates but then she picked it up once we started running.  During mid course she threw the toy at a pre set location so Vito still got a reward.  I'm not fully ready to implement this plan yet in group class.  First I want to make sure he's a bit more confident with leaving the toy on our Tues morning alone practice before I start asking him to do it in group class.

Fingers are crossed that working through leaving a toy at the start line will help his motivation in trials.  At the very least it's a good skill to have!

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Aging- not much to say

The dog agility blog topic this quarter is on aging.  I'm on my first two dogs, the oldest of which is only 6.  I myself am also in the minority of dog sport handlers in that I'm still under 30.

Not much to say here in the youthful fountain camp.  I have questions that I will have to ask myself on when to drop them down in height, when to limit their runs, retire them, and when to say good bye.  Because my dogs have only a year and half separating them, I'm likely going to have to make all these decisions pretty close together.   But I have no answers.  No experience to draw from.  And no basis to draw judgement on others on their own answers to those questions.  As for my own aging, I am still in youthful bliss that anything will ever change.

So far I'm just loving living life with my dogs.  I try and prolong these young days with magical blankets, supplements, and chiropractic care.  They're my team mates and exercise motivators, but they're also great bed warmers, good listeners, and my daily dose of laughter.  I don't think any of that will change when those days come.
 
Go read some other bloggers with much more wisdom and experience than here.

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Vito USDAA

0 for 6 at the outdoor USDAA trial this weekend.  It seems we're still in a slump of slow Toller.  1st run both days started out slow and sad.  Even half the dogwalks were added strides (but still deep in yellow) and weren't the power boosters of usual.  2nd run each day was better.  3rd runs were happy :)

Continuation of no obvious anxiety issues and bonus behavior of Vito picking up his tug leash at the end of some runs and actually tugging!  He's never shown any interest before as he's wanted to get to his ball as soon as possible.

Saturday Gamblers- NQ
sadish.  Odd because he felt naughty enough to break his start line.  I picked a plan with the dogwalk twice and aframe twice but the boosters in the contacts must not have been turned on for his run.  Teeter was the first obstacle in the gamble and Vito barely got all 4 feet on before he turned and asked me why I wasn't coming.

Saturday Standard- NQ
Bit better attitude but knocked a bar in beginning.  Dogwalk striding was back to normal and he did speed up a bit after it. Weaves weren't a death march!

Saturday Pairs- NQ
Happy!  We went first for half that was basically a speed loop with just a few off course opportunities.  Vito ran fast and clean but partner hard some bobbles.  Yay for happy run!

Sunday Jumpers- E
very sad.  Another broken start line on the first run of the day, but still no speed from it.  I threw in a ton of blinds but he just wasn't moving and also knocked 2 bars in beginning.  Tried to throw in some bonus side changes to keep me moving.  Botched the first bonus and we went around some jumps.

Sunday Standard- E
moderate.  Started out slow and knocked 2 bars in beginning.  Picked up speed greatly after the table, which included a wrap to the dogwalk.  Extra stride on the dogwalk but it seemed OK.  Had no problem nailing DW to weaves, but he was slow enough that I was able to be right there at the weave entrance waiting.   Missed a jump at the end but I'll take full blame for that one.

Sunday Gamblers- NQ
Yay!  Loved starting with the dogwalk-jump-jump-back to dogwalk.  Dogwalks were much closer to normal speed.  Bit of a bobble before the aframe when he didn't jump as tight as I expected and this put me a tiny bit behind where I was planning to be when the buzzer went.  Vito actually did the gamble!  But we were over time by .6sec.

I have a new hypothesis on Vito's trialing, but I just started working on it this last week.  I no longer think anxiety is a major player in Vito's running.  Minor supporting role I guess.  Super yay!  But problem solving fun begins.  Will write up what I've been experimenting with later.

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

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