The majority of our weekend was spent at the disc dog event playing Up Dog games! Goal was just having fun and getting Zumi more experience with working in front of an audience and around dogs. But since Up Dog actually allows rollers for anyone who thinks that is the best choice for their dog, Zumi was technically competing in all but the Frizgility game where she had to run as FEO since she's not doing jumps yet.
This weekend Adam and I took the dogs down to Rochester for a disc dog weekend and camping! The original decision to go was due to Adam wanting to take a little break from work and the disc event being offered was Up Dog. Up Dog is the newest disc dog organization and they allow rollers to be used in competition! Since Vito's forced early retirement from disc 3 years ago (since I could not get him to safely collect for the disc versus insane launching underneath it) I thought this would be as super fun way to get him back involved. Disc + Vito = pure happiness. No worries, no motivation issues. And then Vito injured himself last weekend so is on exercise restriction. :(
Ended up deciding to go anyway and let Zumi have fun. While I'm doing an occasional actual throw in the air for her to catch, 90% of her practice is with rollers. I wasn't too worried about her focus with playing in front a crowd, and she only did the occasional loopy return on the first throw.
Bonus reason, I got to eat at Fazoli's for 3 days :) I don't know why the chain isn't present in the Twin Cities!
Vito got some extra drugs for the long-ish ride down and did very well. And then had a few panic attacks on all other trips. And Vito got to check off a goal from his bucket list. Neurotic dog + super loud thunder + tent = anxiety achievement unlocked. Sigh. Knew it was just a matter of time before Vito added another issue to his list.
Lance was a good dog like always. But we noticed a disturbing reversal in his partial nerve paralysis. His right side of his face has been doing so well and barely noticeable. This weekend the left side of his face decided to collapse. Not blinking in his lift eye, drooling lots, ear way down. Identical to how it first started on the right side. Not good news at all. I'm afraid to find out what this means for Lance and if he needs surgery after all. I don't see how it can't be related to that herniated disc. Only positive is that it has improved from Friday to Sunday.
Will post later about Zumi's actual disc runs!
Penelope is starting to get angled poles in her weave pole training! I realized after making this video earlier this week that I should move the 2nd set further away from the 1st set. That helped a ton and now we have even more angle than shown below.
And look, Evee is playing more! Really I should train her separately since she is further behind than Penelope, but eh.
Interspecies interaction is always interesting. Kitty is mostly behaving himself.
And somehow Zumi was lucky enough to actually get to play with Penelope! Only happened once but super cute!
Sunday the trio returned to the 3 sport cluster!
After we got home from the trial on Saturday Vito started to do some whincing when getting up from a down :( I don't know how he managed to injure himself, but it might explain his last run of agility on Saturday where he didn't want to go in the tunnel or take the frame when sent. I was thinking it was just Vito being Vito and possibly worrying because he was "wrong" on the discrimination. Sorry Vito.
So Sunday I was luckily able to get him massaged by a good friend and he got to visit the chiropractor before his first scheduled run. Both thought they identified some tight muscles in his front, especially his right, but worked it out and should be fine. So I decided to do his first agility run and evaluate.
I then almost pulled him as Vito was reluctant to jump on me and cringed into a puddle if I went to ruffle him, but again he's Vito and he's so hard to tell if he's being weird because he had just been proded a billion times and didn't want to be touched again, or if he was hurting. Of course I show him a toy and he magically turned fine again. So I ran him. It went OK. No weird striding issue and his time was right in his "good" range. Not Sad Toller, not amazingly fast toller, but still a fast run. And I know my handling sucked because I was worried and didn't push as hard as i usually do. I actually had to do 2 rear crosses because I wasn't driving as hard as usual.
Since he didn't seem to bobble at all I decided to do the obedience run about 15-20min later. Again he didn't want to be touched but wasn't showing any other obvious signs of dicomfort. Apparently I made the wrong decision. Vito worked hard and it was his 3rd time of entering utility instead of our usual open runs.
Heeled fairly well for the short pattern, but did look away at the judge. Sat on the down signal but laid down when I gave a 2nd signal. And then on the come he did quick cry as he collected into his sit :( I kept hand touches pretty low for all most between exercises activity and he did pretty well with that. Tried to see if he would jump up a couple times and sometimes Vito would, sometimes not.
Articles he needed a second command to leave me and then when he did he looked loss.. And then quickly found the correct one and promptly took it to the judge. Can't say that's happened before!
Go outs were fairly straight on both sends. On the 2nd jump he started to come straight to me but I was able to step out and redirect him.
Gloves he needed a 2nd command to go on the 1st glove.
On the moving stand he needed a 2nd command to come to heel.
Clearly a recurring theme and I don't know whether to chalk it up to confidence or discomfort.
Scratched the rest of his agility runs and saw the chiropractor again. He was very tight again and she was puzzled. More massaging, icing, and now we're on exercise restriction for a bit.
The corgi was entered only in the first trial for utility. Did his down signal!!! And then sassed at me on the sit signal to let me know he desreved a cookie for his great down I think :) I did metal today for articles instead of leather, no issues.
Nice go outs, but he did give me a small heart attack when he slipped a tiny bit on the first jump (at 4in). Seemed to recover very well and no issue with the 2nd jump. I am so guarded of him now!
Gloves were nice, a quick cute little head toss on the pickups, but no dropping of either glove today.
Moving stand he moved a little bit on the exam again. All 3 trials this weekend.
Good enough for high in trial!
The Duck only had 1 round of puppy rally today. Didn't want to push it! She started off a bit more distracted than Saturday, but still very nice focus. Couldn't be happier with her performance. Certainly crushed my goals of happy attitude and good focus!
Day 1 of a combined CDSP Obedience, WCRL Rally, and NADAC agility trial! All 3 dogs got to do something! I think it's the first time I have ever done agility and obedience/rally at the same trial? Vito apparently loved going into the obedience ring after agility!
3 Agility runs. Another amazing jumpers run, continuing our streak of happiness about non-contact obstacle courses! The course seemed odd for NADAC as well as I counted 6 crosses, and even the opening didn't have 3 jumps in a straight line! Regular was next with another super happy Toller and 5.44yps for his 3rd fastest Regular run of all time.
After 2 runs of agility he headed into the obedience ring for Open. Super super happy Toller! Handed off the leash with focus! Great go out! Fast drop on recall, and I was brave and used hand signal only versus the simultaneous verbal allowed. Fast retrieves and even had to call him off during a rethrow. Engaged heeling, minus one look away towards the judge (steward?) during the first turn. No cutting corner on the broad jump, but a horrendous finish. So, so proud of his attitude and happy transitions between exercises.
The corgi had 2 utility obedience runs. First run was very nice and he did his down signal. So happy! And then confidently grabbed the wrong article, so I played with it and pretended he was correct. I think that's only the 2nd (3rd?) time in a trial he has ever brought back the wrong article so I'm not going to sweat it. Horrible arching left on both go out sends. Some playing with the glove on the 2nd glove exercise. Fronts were also pretty bad for most of them.
Round 2 was sassier. Great, straight, go outs! Bonus jump when sent for the article pile- confident ran to the middle of the ring, hesitated and took a jump, then excitedly saw the pile and quickly found the correct one. Major forging on stand for exam. Dropped the 2nd glove send not once, but twice due to too happy pickups. But sadly only went 3/4ths of the way down on the down signal :( Frustrating problem.
Zumi's 2nd trial!!! She did puppy rally in April, a few days after her 6 month birthday and did very well then too. This trial had even more focus and I didn't have to fake my way through anything, other than the around finish. Her first lesson on arround was in the parking lot at the last trial, her 2nd lesson was outside the ring at this trial.
Round 1 had only 2 total sits and the rest was all straight heeling. I think Zumi had 1 small glance away and 1 other time when she seemed to be doing a small gag on a treat. Overall amazing attitude and happily did bouncing in and out of the ring when asked. Earned a "perfect" 210.
Round 2 also had great focus and the course was a little bit more complicated with some extra call fronts, and finishes. Kept her focus up well minus one spot where she got distracted by a gigantic painted "target" on the ground. I decided to backup to get her focus on me although I don't think re-doing the sign was necessary. With the redo we earned a 207.
Let the training beginning! Method will be a highly butchered version of 2x2's, channel, and luring. My plan was to start with the 3 sets of poles squished together to form a tiny channel for the first lesson, gradually pulling them farther apart but not angling them in any way. I thought this would be the easiest as it would kinda be like a tunnel for Penelope.
I quickly learned that Penelope is bigger than I thought! But thankfully the spacing will still work, just not as ample room as I was picturing as I cut the wood. I also learned that it's way easier to reset a rat than a dog! And discovered that weave poles taste delicious to the ratties!
But Penelope did learn the "reward line" :) And for the most part she's rockstar at 3 sets set up in a channel even if there's room in between to cut out. So recently I started angling the sets. Lots more errors!
Oh and Evee occasionally pokes her head out and wants a free cookie. I try and lure her a little bit, she's certainly not ready to offer any behavior! But Evee is getting a bit more pushy about the treats each session so I have hope!
Video of a session earlier this week, I think it was her first time with anything angled and you can see I'm super indecisive of how I want to progress.
The journey continues! Took an unplanned full week off her RDW training but picked up right where we left off. After the last blog post I guessed we would be at that height for while. I was wrong as the 2 later sessions that week both went fantastic. Almost no jumping being done, and only a few extended strides over the zone! This Monday I raised it a teeny bit at the end, and Tuesday we started with the new height and then moved it up again the last 2 reps.
More excitement of a dog running a plank.
I would think we have to be at baby dogwalk height now, so the plan is to do another session at the newest height and then re-attach the board to the dogwalk and lower the whole thing to 2ft. Backchain it slowly until she's doing the full baby dogwalk. I know the added speed will destroy everything she's learned, so fun times ahead! Vito never got to do this step and I suspect it will be super painful for me as well as very beneficial in the long run.
Seminar weekend! I do hardly any seminars with the dogs but love working with Loretta. It's a far drive for Vito, but I'm thinking about going down for some lessons a few times this summer to work with the red dogs.
Zumi spent Friday afternoon working with a novice dog group. Her first time really doing agility away from home minus the couple weeks she did of that puppy agility class I felt wasn't a good fit for her. But Zumi came out with great focus and was ready to work instantly! While she still is a huge launcher onto people when she's not working, gone are the days of Zumi running away from me to cling onto whoever her new best friend of the moment was.
Zumi also made me look like we had been practicing as she had some amazing little sends and mostly did a nice job of holding her line. I would say the current scales tip much more towards handler focus than obstacle focus, but if I did a better job of fully supporting things Zumi looks really good! It was a good reminder that I need to spend time on straight-ish lines and just general jump commitment. I very recently started doing more extension work and less wraps so timely information. Also got some good ideas on using reward placement to get her out of those wide loopy "yay I'm running!" turns she sometimes does.
On Sunday Vito got to play! Very hot day but Vito did a pretty good job staying motivated. I did the first turn with leaving the toy at the start like I try and do often in practice to replicate trial conditions. Second round I kept his ball on me due to the heat and trying a new move.
I am SO SO excited to share that I have a new way of motivating Vito thru threadles! I kinda suck at traditional threadle handling and Vito hates the pressure of me having to (half) face him. On best attempts from both our ends I can pull him through it and be a decent way down the line but Vito always slows down so much. Also wants lots of babysitting the turn to come in which is kinda odd for Vito as he's a nice turning dog. Just too much pressure and not enough running from me.
Now we have fancy spinning. Vito likes fancy spinning. I still have to get better at my timing and not being so close to the first wing, but anything that helps motivate Vito better thru tight turning is worth it. Attempts at my practice last night at home. Love that video shows me what I'm doing wrong as it was hard to tell in the moment.
I also have homework on building more drive towards shaky hand. Ways to create movement on my end for him when I can't really move much.
Spent the day at a UKI agility trial. Love that this UKI trial is held at the soccer arena where Vito likes the big space and doesn't have any footing issues compared to the location of all the other UKI trials where Vito needs foot spray.
Zumi turned 8 months old today. Feels like such a grown up age to me. 7 months still feel so "puppy" like but this milestone is magically mature.
Training wise we're focusing on big girl stuff. Still major props to me for continuing my motivation on scent article practice. For the most part Zumi can work pile of 5 metal articles with me right at the pile and has had one session with me at a distance. Only rarely do I need to interrupt frantic grabbing. Zumi recently graduated to doing a set of leather bracelets. I will need to build distance on those, and continue to build confidence on the types separately. Current plan is to start new metal and leather objects but not combining the two types for awhile yet to prevent her from developing a preference.
More focus on heeling recently as well. Starting to work on forward motion now more than just a few steps. Focusing on building up a rhythm so worrying less about precision and more about focus and drive. She has pivots and sidesteps down fairly solid so I know I can eventually merge that back in and get precision with the forward motion too.
Of course in agility I've already written about starting her running dogwalk training. And doing a little bit more work on short sequences. Discovered that the Duck needs quite a bit of work on call to hand as she easily slips into wide orbits and thinks nothing of going behind me in her orbits.
No new tricks. Resuming some work on getting back some of the earlier tricks I taught her that I haven't done in months. Sad, Scootch, and shame all are broken and unfortunately all are currently supposed to be done from a down position which makes working on them harder. I try not to do 2 tricks in a row from the same position with an inexperienced dog, especially if the tricks aren't well known. It just makes switching between behaviors harder.
Running dogwalk training continues. I've been proud of myself for being a little more committed this last week. I think I got 3 quick sessions in and a little bit longer one today. A few big leaps, more extending her stride so she skips the end, and a few nice hits. Zumi gets the toy every time but it's either followed by lots of praise and tugging or just sending her back on up.
Since some of you expressed interested in the excitement of watching dog run over a plank, here was Zumi's session today with a little break somewhere in the middle. I suspect we will be at this height for awhile.
Ratties are doing well. I joke that Penelope is my pet and Evee is Penelope's pet. The little girl is still very easily startled and when out of her cage she doesn't venture too far from under the cage or behind the tv where it's safer. But yesterday for the first time she did start "grooming" my fingers! Lots of little rat kisses and a few tiny nibbles.
Penelope continues to be a little rock star and I finally started a little bit of trick training with her. We're working on offering interaction with props :) Going in the little tunnel, 4 feet on a little box, and standing on the teeter. PP is starting to get the concept of it but gets stuck a lot with trying to just mob me directly for the food. She's so cute as she runs off to eat the treat and then runs right back. And after a few treats she just quickly runs to stash it away but is so food motivated she will keep coming back forever! Sometimes she just stores a little piece in her mouth and then tries to tell me I didn't give her one.
Evee is still working on coming to the recall noise. And sometimes I can get her to lure onto a prop.
Super boring video of a training session a few days ago:
New xpen setup is working alright. But I was a fool to think they couldn't climb it without the horizontal bars! I've removed Penelope about 30 times the first night. Thankfully she seems to be climbing it less and less each day. I don't doubt that it will need to constantly be watched, but I am hoping that she will mostly give up.
Kitty is behaving himself. He has not been allowed to interact with them, but I'm not too nervous that he would injure them if chaos happened and they ended up meeting. With the (wild) mice we had in our house last fall (eek!) Kitty sadly only toyed with them and was of zero assistance to our problem. Still, based on how he played with the ferrets I think he would be too rough with the girls.
Another dog agility blog action day, this time on the topic of stress. A topic near and dear to my heart with the Toller. I have written extensively on the work I have done and continue to do with Vito to relieve his stress in the ring and increase his motivation for working. From ring entrances, to jackpot training, to tons of work on building value for behaviors I can use on the startline (in agility) and in between exercises (in obedience).
But now I'm going to talk a little bit on what it's like on the handler side of training a dog who stresses easily. All the ups and downs. That extreme high when your dog looks happy and confident and the crushing hopelessness when your dog fixates on a scary barsetter. So much time spent wondering if you're doing the right thing by continue to train for the sport you love and maybe even trial. Weighing pros and cons and assessing how determined you are. And trying to ignore anybody who tries to steal your joy in the little, but huge, successes. There's just so many helpful people out there!
There was only one period with Vito where I seriously considered retiring him from trialing in agility, although in obedience he has been in a semi-retired state for years. In that lowest time I went through a lot of checklists and tried to assess where we were at and if trialing or even training was worth it or if I was being selfish in my want to play agility with my dog. If you are wondering the same things, there is no right or wrong answer but I wrote some of my thoughts below.
|Vito relaxing at the trial this last weekend.|
- What's the most likely "bad" case scenario if my dog is stressed in the ring? Vito's Sad Toller runs are mainly a big decrease in speed now and in the past also included quite a bit of pulling off obstacles and occasionally some reactivity towards ring workers.
- Do you have reasonable hope towards improvement? Is the dog being highly successful in practice at home? Does the success rate continue if in a group class? At fun matches or new places? UKI trials where you can reward in the ring? At one point I realized that while Vito was doing amazing when I practiced with no one around, he was showing some small signs of our trial issues in his group class. I was having to work very hard to get him UP and running fast at the start line before each sequence, although once the on switch was turned on he was fine. Switching to a smaller group class and a different setup helped work through that issue, along with all the other work I put in and continue to do.
|Zumi can't wait to trial!|
Depending on your answers to the questions above, and to other questions you likely ask yourself, taking a break from trialing might be the best answer. Or maybe continuing to battle through issues and fully supporting your special dog each and every run is OK to. Don't beat yourself up over your decision and don't bow to the pressure of others. Agility is such a small part of our time with the dogs.
At this time Vito continues to trial in agility and is mostly on an upswing for the past year! Obedience and rally trials are done on a much more limited basis and usually restricted to organizations where I can reward in the ring. But we continue to practice and work towards our goals of eventually being the Happy Toller at both agility and obedience trials!
For more posts on the topic of stress from other agility bloggers, visit the event page!
Zumi had her first 2 "bad" running dogwalk sessions. I knew it would be coming eventually, the first hurdle of many, many ups and downs in the process. Since we've only been doing it about x2/wk she just hasn't had that many sessions in since we started slightly over a month ago so thus the delay.
In her fairness Zumi has absolutely zero clue that there is criteria now. She's just excited she gets a thrown toy! And on the big positive side, Zumi's not really jumping, but she is over extending that last stride now. Lowering the board slightly helped a bit so I'll keep it at that height for awhile. I also think it was worse than previously since these were the first sessions I grafted the board onto the full size dogwalk versus being propped up on the ground or grafted onto the lowered dogwalk. The increased angle between the full height board and the grafted board resulted in Zumi doing a little jump onto the plank from her start position. Since I don't have anything around that can prop it up to about knee high on the ground I'm going to continue the grafted setup and just try starting Zumi very close to the plank instead of further back on the actual dogwalk.
I was thinking about Vito's running contacts recently and how much I screwed up that initial training. But persistence paid off. Over a year ago Vito did maybe x1 running dogwalk session a week mixed in with sequence practice. And then I lost that open ring time and it's been almost a year now since Vito has had any weekly dogwalk practice. Owning a dogwalk is very new and I still need to better apply the rubber material so Vito hasn't done much with it at home yet.
Looking over his trial records Vito missed only 1 DW contact in 2014, none in 2013 and only 2 in 2012. Of course I know there were some in there that would have been misses in NADAC if it were a 36in zone versus the 42in. In general the faster Vito goes the deeper the hits, so we certainly have had many in trials I wasn't excited about. It just feels so much more carefree about training Zumi's knowing that it will come. And of course I can always turn it into a stop ;)