Easter Eggs

Happy Easter!  I dug up this video of the boys learning to put easter eggs into a basket from 4 years ago.  Vito was just 6 months old!


Puppy Swap

This past week Gracie left me to visit her brother's foster house.  In exchange, I took brother Rooney for boot camp.  Rooney apparently needed work on not eating people, household manners, and being brave around other dogs during playtime.  My 2 said whatever about the whole thing.  Was there even a trade?  Lance just wondered why he suddenly had less room under the desk.  Rooney was a whole 8lbs bigger than our own Teacup Labrador.

Rooney, not Gracie.

It was interesting to compare the two siblings.  After getting some ground rules in place, Rooney turned out to be much calmer than Gracie.  He actually reminded me a lot of Chuckles with his goofy personality.  Both are pretty confident puppies, but whereas Gracie has never shyed away from anything, Rooney takes a short time to be sure.  He was a quick study though and I had fun catching him up, almost, to Gracie in training.   Puppies are so easy :)

In exchange, Gracie spent the week being an only dog and learning to ride the bus to work.  She also had a quick study in lying under a desk all day and going to meetings.   Rooney's puppyraiser noted that she had much more of an opinion about the boring work days than Mr. Rooney.

Sibling reunion!   Blurry picture #1

Blurry picture #2.  After I took charge and decided puppies were doing downs.  Here you can see the size difference a tiny bit better.

Rooney, I hope you're behaving yourself for your family now! 


Booot Camp for Stays

The corgi has been practicing lots of sit stays since the trial three weeks ago.  My plan of attack was to replicate minor amounts of stress in hopes that knowing he could work through it would transfer to trials.

Here's what I found:
1. Lance really does not like food behind him, a fact that I discovered about 2yrs ago in my attempt to have a "security blanket" behind him so he didn't feel completely abandoned.  I didn't do it again until now.  Lance has always been that good dog who will actively take a wide berth around food, toys, or even fuzz on the floor; something I've occasionally tried hard to fix on go outs and recalls.  This means conflict for stays.  So far he hasn't broken a single stay with food behind him but he sure looks sad.  I've recently started releasing him to the food behind him vs picking it up off the floor to give him and this makes Lance a bit happier.

2. Random distance sits continue to produce stress.  This is where I'm sitting on the couch and tell him to sit and stay while he's 10ft away from me just hanging out.  Sometimes I then continue to ignore him on the couch, sometimes I go out of sight.  Mostly he holds the sit very well.  On 3 occasions I got him to break after I ignored him, then left for awhile, and then came back to sit on the couch again.  I guess Lance figured I forgot about him, or maybe just doubted that I ever gave the command in the first place.

3. Stays in places other than home actually have the least amount of stress as long as food isn't behind him.  It's like he's in more of a training mode and better understands that I might want him to sit awhile.

4.  I've apparently taught him to love chairs.  I'm not sure when I started occasionally asking Lance to hop on a chair, but I've done more of them these last two weeks and Lance is obsessed with it.  I've never asked for it at home (although I guess that's a good idea, I'll try a sit on the couch!) but at dog classes Lance is constantly offering to hop on a chair if there's one near by.  Zero stress; I guess he like being up high!  It would be awesome if I could just bring a little chair to the lineup with me in a trial, can't you picture the corgi on his chair sitting next to a Great Dane :)

5. Some issues are starting to pop up with the release word.  There are times where Lance will not move on my first OK.  This is not the case if I release him to food behind him of course :)  I know that he does know the release well, and truly knows a verbal only.  In agility practice I release him without any movement on my part.  And while I can sometimes fool him once by leading out, pausing to face him, then sprinting away without releasing  I can never fool him a second time.

6.  I haven't really been worried about focusing on other distractions.  Inevitably we end up practicing some anyway as when other people see Lance sitting in the kitchen at work, or on a chair at class and ask what we're doing almost everyone starts helping on their own.  The corgi can add successfully resisting recalls by his favorite people with momma out of sight to his checklist.


Gracie 14wks

Lessons this past week:

1. Retrieves- Picks up object nicely, now working on me moving backwards and her bringing it to my hand. 

2. Light switches- Her first few lessons in using her nose to flip a switch held at nose level.  A tube is attached to make the switch bigger.  I think she now understands her job is not to bite it.

3. Position work- Needs a perch for learning the verbal cues only.  Without a perch she offers pivoting to heel and side position and with a side step she knows which side I want her to be on.  She's also done some backing up in heel/side this week and a tiny bit of side stepping.

4. Mat work- Still working on her remembering the down needs to happen on the mat.  Currently she's backfeet targeting the mat and I want her front feet on it.

5. 2o2o- Is just starting to back up to get into a 2o2o position on a box.  Not fully consistent with it yet.

6. Stand- I've decided to use the hand touch method for a jumping stand with her.  I've used it on adult dogs at work but haven't used it yet to teach one of my puppies.  Will be interesting.


Lance NADAC trial

The corgi had his first agility trial since October.  That's almost half a year!  I didn't realize the implications when I entered weavers as his very first run.

I yayed as he got the 1st entrance, but then we had a mini face off as he popped out at the 10th pole and ran to just inches away from the next obstacle.  I won, but not before he entered wrongly and we had to try the first set of weave poles for a 3rd time.  The rest of the course and their weave poles went well and we managed to qualify by half a second.

In Regular I was proud of him for stopping on both dogwalk and aframe, and for doing it in the yellow vs just above it.  Lance's doing great with it during open ring time, but in a class environment he's still not 100% with the aframe on exactly where he should stop.  We Q'd although there was an awfully close off course thanks to the damn barrel.

Chances and Jumpers were both NQs due to off courses.  Lance nailed the layered weave poles distance challenge in chances but failed an easy switch cue to take a bonus jump first.  In his defense I was a tad late with my cue, but not so late that he couldn't fix it!  Jumpers he apparently decided he wanted more distance between us.  He also started to stutter on his jumps on the ending speed loop.  Lance really looked very nice on his jumping in the other runs Saturday; some early take offs but none of that stuttering until the jumpers round.

Lance had 4 more runs.  Both Touch n Go and Regular were very smooth and I was happy to see Lance again confidently stopped 4on with all 3 aframes and 2 dogwalks.

Chances was beautifully executed but he knocked a bar.  We just can't seem to qualify in this class even if we actually get the distance portion.

Jumpers wasn't quite as stuttery as yesterday's run and we qualified. http://youtu.be/_rTggbj48a8
Lance earned 5 titles this weekend with one of them being his open versatility title!  Not entering anything with contacts off and on for 3 years kind've makes it hard to get there :)

I already have a chiropractic appointment set up for him in 2 weeks and I'm thinking he really needs it.  He just felt a little off this weekend with his speed and of course I noted the same thing at the
obedience trial last weekend.


Vito NADAC trial

Our first NADAC trial since October!

Regular was first.  I was a bit worried as we were surprised with doing barrels on course (WTF NADAC!) and the first one was right after the dogwalk.  Vito's running dogwalk was trained to hit at the end of the board and drive to the next obstacle.  I never fully was able to get that first half without the 2nd half, thus our turns issue and ultimately adding a stopped contact option for him.  So I was worried as I highly doubted Vito would drive to an obstacle he's never seen before.  There was a practice barrel outside of the ring and Vito thought the job was to whack it.  When one paw clearly did not get him the reward he thought jumping at it with both was necessary.  Awesome.  I did get him to actually run around it eventually.

Luckily since in NADAC there's basically a 90% chance the dogwalk is either the 2nd obstacle or the 2nd to last obstacle, I was able to do a lead out and beat him to the end of the dogwalk so he drove to me and then around the barrel was an easy push.  The 2nd barrel he had a very slight moment of WTF but then since I was sprinting to get a blind in after the aframe he happily finished it and ran after me.  We qualified and it was close to being one of his fastest standard runs in a trial at 4.98YPS and that was even with an extra set of weaves on course.

Chances I was terrified as he fixated on the judge as we waited to start.  I had to release Vito with him staring at the judge so I wasn't optimistic, but Vito sprinted on course with me instead!  He did one of his fastest rear crosses, well a tandum turn I guess, ever but knocked a bar and then entered the weaves at pole #2.  But I was so proud of him for holding it together at the start and then even running!

Jumpers was sad Toller.  We were 2nd in the ring and I got stuck explaining my video camera to the nice person I got to tape us.  Vito got straight of the crate and had maybe 30sec before going in the ring.  That does not work for the Toller.  Knocked the 2nd bar and had a slow first half, but started to pick up speed by the end.

Moderately happy Toller on Touch n Go.  A rear cross in the beginning was hard to recover from.  But the dogwalk to barrel appeared again and I was able to use some distance and running to make it there for him to charge to me.

Super happy Toller appeared for Chances.  Singing for the whole world to hear before we even walked in the ring :)  Broke his stay and of course I let him.  (Don't get any ideas Mr. Corgi!).  Chances was much easier than Saturday and he made the distance challenge like his corgi brother, but kept the bars up :)

Choking Toller walked in the jumpers ring.  Well, at least a throat-irritated toller.  During our warm up he coughed up a piece of kibble that was fed to him about an hour before.  He was happy to play with me but his scream was more of hack.  There wasn't much decision time as he was the last dog anyway so into the ring we went.  It was slow and I heard a few coughs, but he managed to qualify.  Poor guy.


Gracie 13wks, with video!

She must be one special puppy as Vito has secretly given her his paw of approval.  He lets her cuddle with him without doing too much grumbling in protest.  And he has even played with her a few times at work.  In his awkward, creepy looking way of course.

Applause is also needed for Gracie passing the level one test at the service dog school.  I believe Bubba was close to 5 months before he could manage the 30second stay and Gracie can almost double that time.  Such an easy puppy!  A sit and down for another person was difficult for her at first as she really cared where I was going.  This is newly developing these last 2 weeks so I need to work on handing her off more!

Gracie is starting to become more spunky this week!  A little more vocal in her playing, more crazy with her tugging, and she also had fun dragging the full water dish across the living room.  She's very full of herself.

This week's learning:
1. Perch work- No luring needed!  Working on maintaining position through pivots.  She's also started to offer position without a perch and pivoting pretty nicely without the perch.

2. Shaped retrieves- I decided to skip my plan B and cheated by taking the easy route.  Since Gracie transitions nicely between food rewards and tugging on a toy, I knew she would have no problem biting one of her toys.  Some very minor steps in getting her to bite it for a click and cookie treat vs tugging with it, but I'm now starting to very the object presented and tried our very first non-toy object today.

3. Stays- Doing very well!  I'm starting to add in my movement to the side of her in hopes that next week I can walk around behind without her moving her feet to face me.  I also added in the concept of staying under a chair this week.

4. Go mat- apparently we need to revisit this more.  She kinda lost criteria on downing as soon as she gets there, or that she needs to actually be on the mat in her down.

5. Other behaviors- Many more behaviors are getting on verbal onlys.  When she's thinking we have mastered sit, down, spin right, weave through my legs, and sometimes rollover.

Almost 14wks and only 17.5lbs.  I'm thinking she might be one of our teacup labradors like Fiona turned out; pocked sized!


Lance obedience trial

Another obedience trial for the corgi this weekend.  Short summary: 2 NQs in open due to lying down on the out of sight sit, and 2 Q's in utility.

Open Runs:
Heeling was off both days.  Not giving me his constant eye contact so was actually lagging at times, very odd for him.  Was good by figure 8 on both days.
Fronts were horrible on Saturday, I think we got docked on every single one.  Finishes weren't great either.
On Sunday he pulled it together and while he was still off in the heeling pattern, he had spot on fronts and almost all great finishes!  Actually Lance had a 197 going into the group stays on Sunday.  In this area that means tied for 8th place, but it still would have been nice.

Of course both days he went down on his sit.  Saturday he lasted 45 seconds, and on Sunday he went 1min 45sec.  I'm really desperate for advice on fixing this issue that only appears during trials and fun matches.  Honestly, this issue does not happen in class or on sit stays anywhere else.  I can replicate stress though by putting food behind him on the stays or by having him do a sit at a distance while at home and then continue to ignore him.

Utility Runs:
Heeling was again off both days.  Not bad, just again not giving me his eye contact and thus was a bit close to lagging at times, especially on the fast which he usually loves.
On Saturday he had issues with the first article.  Sniffed it, then moved onto search the rest of the pile, repeat like 3 times.  No issues with article #2 or with either article on Sunday.  Actually on Sunday we had the same judge as the Herding Club trial in January where Lance didn't like how close he stood the pile and how  he immediately starts moving forward the second the dog has the correct article.
Go outs were really nice and straight on all 4 sends although he did his tiny "S"thing on Satuurday.
Our glove pivots sucked both days.  Lance is just locking onto the glove as soon as he thinks he knows where he is going and thus not focusing on his heel position.  On Sunday I think this was made worse since he yawned right as I started the pivot.  Of course in practice he's a pro at keeping eye contact with me until I bring my hand down for the mark, and I often pivot multiple times before sending him.

Sigh.  At least utility continues to be going well with 5/5 for the year. I think I'm going to schedule another chiropractic appointment.  It won't explain the stays as he's had that issue ongoing, but he is due for an adjustment and perhaps it is a tiny explanation of the heeling.


Spring is here?

I did not know how much Corgis shed before I got one.  Oh yeah, they only shed twice a year...6 months at a time.

The Toller tried to compete but didn't quite make it.
I'm hoping they're trying to say that the large dump of snow occurring this past week is the last of it and spring is right around the corner. 


International Flavored Agility

Another Dog Agility Blog Action Day!
One of the great things about trialing in the U.S is all the agility organizations available.  I'm an unusual agility competitor in that I choose to do 2 organizations that are polar opposite in course styles: NADAC and USDAA.  I do NADAC because both my dogs love running full speed for the entire course, it's great in building my anxious dog's confidence, and because I love trying distance handling with the other dog.  I do USDAA because I like the course challenges and the greater opportunity for handling choices.

But compared to courses overseas, none of the organizations in the United States offer "international challenges" on a consistent basis in their courses.  USDAA and AKC are both starting to offer these options for competitors in their Masters Challenge courses and the newly demoed Excellent C class.

When I've talked to other competitors about those options, (well since I'm incredibly shy I mean eavesdropped or lurked on forums/facebook) there are such a wide range of opinions about these international options.  Many are excited to try new things, but what appears to be an even greater number of people are scared or even upset by possible changes.  Many echo that they just want to have fun with their dog, they're not striving to be national competitors let alone international.  I think that's the 99%.  Doesn't everyone want to just have fun with their dog?  Dreams of podium wins or not, I personally don't see how a change in course style takes away from the fun they are having with their dogs.

But one thing I do note about international challenges is that it requires a certain type of dog, and foundation training, to do them well.  The challenges require the dog to collect quickly, remain in collection for several obstacles, and then just as quickly accelerate out.  The Toller has the first requirement down in that he reads my collection cues well, almost too well some times.  But he has a really hard time shifting back up into gear once he has been asked to turn tight.  We've been working hard on driving back into obstacle focus and have been making progress, but at this point an international course would be too demotivating for him.  I do have hopes that some day we will both rise to the challenge!  The Corgi and I would have a blast doing the handling challenges, but unfortunately he is not a very good jumper.  Because of this he now jumps 4in and I'm ok with wider turns versus trying to get him to jump tighter and likely stutter doing it.  I have high hopes that with my next dog (who of course will be perfect!) I will train a solid foundation on collection-to acceleration-to collection and thus open up the possibilities for having fun with international courses.  But realistically I don't think international style courses are for every team.  Of course, I also think that many teams just need to give it a shot.  I've seen handlers of all ages and athletic abilities successfully complete international maneuvers with the right amount of confidence and practice.

That also brings me to what we are talking about when we say "international."  When I was looking up videos on youtube in order to write this post I didn't find courses that were threadle, after threadle, after backside jump.  While the runs that I watched weren't NADAC in style :) they weren't all that different from many USDAA courses.  I think that we have to be careful not to make courses too technical in nature in our quest to make challenging courses.  Maybe it's only because of my difficulties with the Toller, but I prefer courses that have a challenging piece but followed by stretches where the dog can open up and really Run.  I do look forward to where the courses in our U.S. organizations are headed, please challenge us!, but hope they don't become technical just for sake of trying to being international flavored.


Doing Nothing

I've was sick last week and the dogs suffered from it.  I've never realized how much Vito depends on a daily level of mental stimulation and exercise until he no longer got it.  For 2 full days he didn't leave the house at all and add an extra half day before that and half day after that and you got a recipe for a neurotic Toller.  Puzzle toys and brief play sessions couldn't cut it.
Vito would wake up eyes dilated and panting and stayed that way for a full week. 

Apparently Vito is not a dog who can just stay at home and be ok with it.  I think it had less to do with physical exercise and more to do with  going places.  My dogs go with me everywhere.  It started as necessity due to Vito's separation anxiety and now is habit plus necessity due to all the dog crap I do in the evenings and weekends.  I have noticed this to a degree on weekends where we don't have a trial, run through, or any other activity planned.  A panting Toller will suddenly appear and the need for a walk suddenly becomes imminent.  But the duration of those episodes were short as long as we got out of the house.  It's amazing how much stress can keep building until it bubbles over and then needs time to simmer back down. 


Gracie 12wks

Gracie had her first "real" outing this past week as we went somewhere other than a dog trial.  She did not want to lie under the table but I told her I'd allow a sit, for now.  She only did 2 quiet demand woofs :)

1. Perch work- Adding verbal cues for heel/side as she now pivots 100% to my leg on both side without help, can maintain position through quarter turns, and can find position with treat tosses to the side.
2. Back feet- Starting to introduce the 2o2o position on a box.  She is "offering" it with me directly in front of the box.
3. Shaping retrieve- no progress on any opening of mouth.  Will start plan B this next week although I'm currently not sure which plan I want to make into "B" :)
4. Stays- Starting to work on stay without her mat or her crate.  Duration or my movement to the side.

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

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