Those Damn Stays

I am on several competitive obedience group email lists and facebook groups.  One topic that inevitably rears its head every few months is about the group stays, especially the out of sight stays in open.  And of course the discussion is heated on both sides of the debate with apparently everyone believing either that:
"group stays are massive fights waiting to happen and all small dogs are in jeopardy" or "stays are a training problem and if we only got rid of all those people training with cookies and prayers there would be no issue."

While those aren't direct quotes from people, I believe it pretty much sums up the sides that others will classify you in, regardless of your actual belief and logic used.  Since this is my blog, I want to spell out my thoughts.

First, the AKC has done a pretty thorough study on the number of incidents happening from the group stay exercises.  What they found is that incidents are very, very rare.  We have all heard some pretty horrific stories of dogs being attacked during stays, but the numbers say that there is far more likely to be a fight outside of the ring gates rather than inside.  Whew.

However, judges only report events that deserve a write up.  Actual fights gets reported, what does not get reported are dogs breaking to go visit another dog with friendly intentions or not.  And these are the type of broken stays that I care about.  I am grateful that in this area I have seen very few dogs breaking to go visit other dogs in the B classes.  The A classes (novice and open) are a different story.  In my experience, at least 1/4 of the trials have at least one A dog going to visit another A dog, either while lining up outside the ring or during the actual stays themselves.  Usually the owner in novice quickly goes to gather their dog, but not before a quick sniff or stand over the other dog is done.  And in Open the time taken to gather the dog can be even longer.  Even if the my estimated percentage is off, I'm sure we can all agree that visiting dogs on the stay exercise is not a rare occurrence.

Some may argue that their dog is trained to stay put regardless of whether another dog visits or not.  And I'm willing to bet that my dog's training is that good too.  I may train with cookies, but prayers are only used to keep me from passing out from nervousness!  But the sad thing is that I shouldn't be putting my dog in that position where he has to try so hard to be a "good dog" while being rudely molested.  In training, I make a promise to my dogs that they don't have to worry about other people or dogs.  I have their back and they can trust me.  I actually use my dog's out of sight stays all the time in public as I move their crates and training gear to my car or the other end of the building.  But in those situations I always leave them with someone else watching.  Not so much for watching to see if my dog's move, but to make sure that no one else approaches my dogs.  In a trial, I can't keep that promise I made to keep my dog's safe.  I'm not even in the same room. 

As a quick note to the people who believe positive training equals permissive and is the cause of our stay problems- I note that competitive obedience has very, very few "positive" trainers.  We are a minority group and numbers wise can certainly not make up anywhere near the number of problems that the stay exercises are having all over the country, even if we were all very poor trainers!  Positive is not permissive.

I don't know what the answer is.  The new "pre" classes in AKC where there are no stays are a welcome addition but in my opinion aren't the solution.  I agree with many that getting rid of a stay requirement would be a huge detriment to the sport of obedience.  Even though John Q Public doesn't actually see obedience trials any more, let alone know they exist, stays are the single most impressive thing for the general public and often are the benchmark of a "trained dog."  But changes need to be made.  At minimum, keeping leashes on the dogs is a good start in helping with the "collection" of dog's leaving their place.  UKC has already implemented this change and I applaud them.  Perhaps a second answer would be to have the 3 stewards sitting behind the group of dog's who would be easily able to step on the offending dog's leash within 3 seconds, cutting the time the dog is up at least in half for even the slowest moving steward.  Unfortunately neither suggestion prevents another dog from interfering in the first place.

In UKC obedience there is also an honor stay.  The owner still goes out of sight, but the only other dog in the ring is heeling with its' own owner.  As a working team the owner is there in the ring to protect their dog if needed.  As the honor team, one is still out of sight and out of position to keep their promise, but at least I have never seen a dog try and interfere in the UKC trials I have been to.  I greatly appreciate the human to dog ratio on the honor stay and the fact that the working dog should be focused on his own handler and not even noticing the other dog in the ring.  The downside to the honor exercise is that the judge can not honestly judge 2 dogs at once.  Stewards do not have formal training and may not know whether the foot movement or turning of the body that they see is OK.  Pros and Cons.  From my perspective this seems to be the best option.  Hell, it can even be a stupid sit.


Lesson learned- no obedience in the heat!

Lance and I went to an obedience trial this past Sunday.  Our first time trialing obedience in a non training club building!  It was still held indoors in the barn but it wasn't exactly cool being in the low 90's.

Utility was a train wreck.
Started with articles and I make the first turn to send and Lance just sits there, now facing the opposite direction of me.  After a second he turns left and takes the jump, slowly looks around and then moseys on over to the pile.  At least he remembered his job.  2nd article send was fine.

Signals- I start moving and once again Lance just sits there.  Verbally call him to me and he at least is somewhat with me for the pattern.  Does the signals so at least I'm really happy that he did the down again!

Gloves- The pattern continues.  Lance pivots with me but then just sits there when I mark and send him to glove #3.  A 2nd cue and a little thrust forward of my hand gets his butt in gear but he brings me glove #2 instead.

Stand- no issues there at least!

Go out #1- Stops halfway and looks at me.  I resend him out and step forward and he continues all the way to the gate but then sniffs at a spot and doesn't sit.  2nd cue for that.
Go out #2- much better.  Goes all the way and sits nicely when asked.

All exercises- fronts were horridly crooked, no real effort at all put in.  Finishes were OK I think.

Open was better but not real great.
Heeling was still a bit laggy and wide but at least he started!
Drop on recall- Like last Sunday, Lance stopped but didn't down.  This time he started looking around too.
No real issues with the other exercises but it was difficult to get him set up.  Lance was crooked everytime and had no interest in moving to fix it.  Fronts sucked again and finishes were worse.

But Lance held his sit!!!!  So I guess that makes the trial worth it.  And now I know never to enter Lance in an "outdoor" obedience trial in the summer again.  Luckily there's not much need to do that in Minnesota.


Review- Orijen Freeze-Dried Dog Food from

I recently got to try a bag of Orijen Freeze Dried Dog Food from  I currently just feed good old kibble for my dogs but have been looking at switching Lance, and maybe Vito too.  Lance suddenly started losing weight 3 months ago and his daily food went from 2/3c a day to a full 1c a day.  Didn't notice it until a few weeks after his dental, but full blood work was done at that time and he was even on probiotics then.  His weight is almost back up to 24lbs so I'm still a bit concerned, but not as much.

Anyway, this was my first experience with a freeze-dried dog food.  It came in patties and according to the bag Lance should get just under 6 patties a day.  Super easy to re-hydrate with warm water and took less than 5 minutes.  Of course the corgi was pissed about the delayed meal.  I'd say he thought it was worth the wait, but it's a corgi we're talking about.  If I want a true taste test I'd need the picky toller.  Who actually was extremely interested in what was going on in Lance's bowl.

Big pros, Orijen has AMAZING food.    If you feed raw, then this would be a great substitute for times when it's simply not doable.

Cons- Not single ingredient for those doggies with allergies.  But the biggest con for me was the price.  Orijen is already an expensive brand and this style of food is off the charts.  It would cost me $6.50 a day to feed Lance, a 24lb dog, and that is way more than I spend on myself!  I would say this food is best used as an occasional meal, for when vacationing, or for those with really small dogs.  For those uses, you can't get anything better!

So I'm still looking for Lance.  Thinking about The Honest Kitchen but not sure on the prices.  It does seem that has the best prices around though!


Couch to 5K!

I'm not a runner- in any way.  People who see me are surprised.  I think mainly because I'm half the age of most dog sport people and I look like I could be in shape.  I'm also able to do a decent job of doing the short sprints around agility courses.  Actual jogging for anything longer than a minute left me breathing hard and I'm pretty sure that 5 minutes would have killed me.

But I love my dog.  Vito does best with lots of exercise but the hard part with him is keeping his arousal levels down.  It's not uncommon for Vito's excitement to spill over into anxiety.  Just last week a trying to be helpful coworker found out the results of taking Vito outside when I wasn't there.  Toller screaming could be heard across the building before he even made it to the yard.  Major panting and eyes dilated from just the thought that maybe she would throw the ball.  About 45min to an hour later he finally calms down and no exercise was ever involved.

So, running.  This is my 3rd time of starting the Couch to 5K program but I've never finished it before.  First time was in the fall and then I quit when it got cold.  2nd time was that folowing spring and then I quit when it got hot.  A year later I started up again and this time I've stuck with it and then some.   I drag myself out of bed early in the morning and head out with Vito.  I'm extra proud of myself because I am so not a morning person.  Luckily Vito doesn't care if I can only speak in grunts.  Started in June and completed the C5K program which ended with me jogging for 30min 3/ week.  Since my jogging speed is barely above a crawl, we weren't to a full 5k yet.  Downloaded a 10K app a month ago and worked on duration.  Recently I've quit that program since I really don't want to jog a full hour, even with a few walking breaks, so now I'm just going about 3.5-4.5 miles and trying to go faster.

I may not love running but I do love going out with my dog.  And the little running journal is doing a pretty good job of R+ my efforts.  To further encourage me I've been looking to run an actual 5k race and trying to find one that allows me to have my running partner.  Today we met that goal.

Vito instantly recognized that despite the presence of a ton of dogs, we weren't at a dog show.  I don't know how he does it.  So a tiny bit of screaming and a bit anxious.  Thankfully he started to calm down relatively quickly and was able to relax while we hung out and waited for it to start.  Not even bothered by all the oblivious people with their rude doggies.

Then Vito was calm lining up at the start, at first.  But quickly he started to become excited and I wasn't able to fully relax him.  When we started running the screaming began.  I pulled off toStarted-screaming-pulled off.  Repeat several times.  Thankfully the Toller Screaming stopped after only a few minutes and we were able to re join.  My perfect running partner wasn't so perfect for the first half mile as he tried to choke me by pulling on his over the shoulder leash.  Slightly better for the next mile.  By mile #2 he was fully settled in and running right by my side the rest of the way.  Several people commented to me on how cute he was with his little white paws running by my side.  They must not have heard the early screaming.
I made my goal of not stopping and even beat my goal time!  Real runners be quiet, but I was proud to make it in 34:33.


Lance Obedience- UDX leg #4

The Corgi had a 2 day obedience trial this weekend!  Our first AKC trial since April.

Saturday Utility- Q
Articles- Very distracted by someone crinkling a treat bag right near the ring while we waited to go on the 2nd send.  Thankfully sent out, but a bit of a bobble on that article pickup.
Gloves- He didn't auto mark!!!!   But behind me on the pivot though.
Signals- Great first 2 about turns, but our normal issue on the 3rd about turn of going wide and looking around.  Almost anticipated the down signal.  He looked away ever so briefly, looked back and I could see his little brain thinking maybe he missed the signal.  Started to go down just as my signal started.  Big plus- at least he was going to anticipate the DOWN instead of sitting like he has the last few trials!  I think he was proud of himself as on the recall he punched me before sitting :)
Moving stand- he actually didn't forge as much as usual!
Go outs- crooked on the 1st one, better on the 2nd one.

Finishes looked much better and I had him do the nose touch after most exercise finishes.  We lost points on 2 of them, and actually only 1 front!   Q, 193.5

Saturday Open- Q
Heeling- bit off, looking around some.  About turns sucked, especially the 2nd one where the judge almost ran me out of the ring and Lance took the opportunity to look around.  Figure 8 was very nice though.
Drop on recall- I thought Lance was a little slow to down than usual.
Retrieve on flat- tiny bobble on the pickup.
No main issues on retrieve over high or on broad.

Finishes- lost points on 2.  But 3 fronts.
And of course he held his long sit!!!!  Super, happy!   Q, 195.5  And UDX leg #4!

Sunday Utility- Q
Lance was really on!
Signals- mostly great, a wide about turn again.  No real forging!  Did his down no problem!  then got excited and barked and took a step on the sit.
Articles- awesome.
Glove- poor pivot again, but didn't automark the glove for the second day in a row!
Stand- tiny forge.  Big props for being ok with the judge standing in between the handler and dog for a 2 second stare each time, then going around behind to start the exam.
Go outs- crap.  Veering off right and stopping short.  The second one was even worse.

Zero points lost on fronts and finishes!  Holy cow! (although I think he was blind on the moving stand)
Q with a 193

Sunday Open- NQ
I thought it was much more connected than Saturday's, but we had some issues.
Retrieve on flat- good.  Worked really hard to nail the front after he was a bit wide on the return.
Drop on recall- stopped and stared at me from a stand when I cued the down :(  I gave a 2nd verbal.
Retrieve over high- fumbled the db right before he took the jump.  Stared at me on the side close to me, I gave another verbal to go get it.  Had no problem with taking the jump 2 more times from a 2in take off.
Broad- good.  finish crooked.
heeling- awesome!  really good halts on the fig 8.  No forging on the heeling and a good 1st about turn, 2nd one was wide again.

Sit- held for a 4th trial in a row!!!   Previous longest streak was 3 days of trialing which he had done a few times, but never 4!  I thanked the judge and told her to mark me absent from the downs so we could have a jackpot party :)

I am so happy with this trial!
Did the down signal both days in utility!
Didn't auto mark the glove both days in utility!
Did the sit stay both days in open!
Pretty good ratio of nice finishes that only got better on day #2!
No forging issues on the heeling patterns!

Things still on the list:
Pivoting for the glove
Forging on the moving stand
Arching and turning in early on the go outs
Wide and thus laggy on the about turns
Fumbling retrieves (but not really on purpose so I'm not sure I can fix it?)
Some fronts and finishes

And on another note, I am so happy I was brave to leave the ring again after held his sit stay on day #2.  Of course already having NQed gave me the push to do it again.  But people need to lighten up about it.  Before going in the ring for stays I let the exhibitors on both sides of me know about my plan.  Person #1 was my friend and had no problem.  Person #2 was misinformed about the rules and was adamant that I had to say either me or my dog was sick or I would be taking away available OTCH points.  I calmly explained that I had already talked to a rep about in the past about the proper way to do it and that I would be marked as "absent" or "left ring" instead of excused and it wouldn't effect points.  He was still pushy so I calmly ended by just repeating, a few times, that I just wanted to let him know since he was next to me.  Lance did hold his stay, yay!!!  So as I calmly and quickly left the ring I told the judge "thank you, please mark me as absent from the down" and she didn't' say anything but rolled her eyes at me.  Not really appropriate, but at least she handled the scoring correctly.  People need to get over the idea that once we enter the ring we're chained to it.


Gracie- 8 months with video!

The Labrador is 8 months last week.  39lbs and looking to be just barely over Vito's 19in.

She's getting a bit better with not launching herself at people.  But she's also working on mastering the new skill of climbing gates.  Gracie likes to boing when kept in the kennel runs at work and has been steadily evolving her abilities.  First it became jumping up and touching the gates with front paws for some oomph. Then jumping and letting all 4 paws hit the gate like one of those Garfield dolls.  And now she's actually pushing upward with all 4 feet on the gate so that she soars into outer space.  I curse at her when she does it in front of me so that's pretty rare now.  But one person is notorious for talking to all the doggies(!) and getting them all amped up whenever entering the kennels.

Gracie also had her introduction to the Gentle Leader a few times this month.  I don't use one with the dogs I raise as I can be patient and consistent enough to train without a tool.  But even if Gracie ends up being a perfect walker 99% of the time, without knowing what her future person has as a disability I can't say that they'll be safe if she does pull 1% of the time.  Thus the Gentle Leader introduction.  I didn't take it slowly, sorry Gracie.  Thankfully she's a fast learner and after her tantrums were done on that first walk, she hasn't had any the other few times she's worn it.

Bad news: Gracie has officially lost blanket privileges in her kennel.  She started pooping in her crate again like she randomly started doing a few months ago.  Not every night, but she's done it 3 times this last month.  Each time I took away her blanket for a week (as seemed to solve the problem the last phase), but within a few days of having it back she would poop again.  Completely solid.  So blanket will now be taken away for at least a month and fingers crossed she won't do it again.  This makes Gracie angry though.  she wakes me up in the middle of the night now as she clunks around her crate.  Abuse!

Training done:
1. Tugging heavier items- opening the fridge, sliding doors.  Gracie is doing great with sustained strength
and is just learning how to maneuver to be at the correct angle.

2. Nudging close-  Shaping nose touches to cabinets.  She prefers paw whacking, but we're getting there!

3. Backward circles- working on counter clockwise.  2/3rds of the way is pretty consistent, just trying to get a full 360 without help.

4. "Agility" fun- running through tunnels and jump standards just because.  And jumping into a 2o2o on the bottom of the aframe and dogwalk.  Gracie really seems to love running.

5.  Frog legs- officially calling this splat with her as she combines it with her sad trick.

Video from a few weeks ago:



USDAA trial today.
Continued good news:  It's been a long time since Vito has seemed worried about going into the agility ring.  He hasn't been doing any stares at the judge or ring crew in several months.  Vito's still reactive and even had another episode at the trial, but none while getting ready to go in the ring.

Our warming up games of finding the tennis ball on my body, screaming at me, and doing a few reverse vaults continue to be happy.  Vito is also doing well with our routine of having him stare at the course during the dog before us.  I think letting him look out builds excitement as well as allowing him to see where all the people are.

Wow, we actually qualified in something!  The gamble was pretty darn easy though.  I was really proud of Vito in this run.  I thought I picked a flowy course where I could run hard, and the aframe twice.  Vito seemed happy to be, other than the weave poles which he then popped out of too.  Aframes were a bit weird all day.  Definitely in, but not flying over the apex at all.  Maybe he didn't like the slats on it?  The slats were a bit bigger then used to and didn't seem rubberized like the rest of it was... (looking back at the the other trial here it looks like the did the same thing).

Standard- E
I thought the run felt pretty good for Vito.  Normal slow parts of teeter, going to table, and the weaves.  But I did get him to do a tiny scream coming off of the table!  I screwed up after the weaves and didn't support my send out so I could do a serpentine, so got a refusal.  But he happily went back out to do it.  No clue why he didn't want to do the double.  I did a front cross before it but I think I finish in plenty of time.  Oh well.

Jumpers- E.
Not so happy?  I thought it was a Toller course too :(  I had planned lots of sprinting and lots of blinds.  Shockingly, Vito didn't actually pull off any jumps even though they weren't really supported since I was trying to run.  Ended up doing front crosses for what felt like a good reason in the moment. My one before the last tunnel was late and Vito gave me a sad look, so I said OK and let him go in the entrance he wanted as I took off.  He loved sprinting after me though!
Video shows way different than what was in my head.  I felt an incredibly slow dog, but he doesn't look half bad.  Certainly no slower than his normal trial running.

No pairs entered.  I go back and forth about whether it's ok for us to enter as a draw.

So I'm currently pondering taking Silvia Trkman's online foundation course.  While Vito isn't really a foundation dog, I think her emphasis on tight turns followed by speed is what we're missing- at least in trials/group classes.  Maybe going back to the beginning will help?


Gracie's Kayaking Adventure

The family went on a quick kayaking trip this last Sunday.  I wanted to take my Vito but of course knew that wasn't an option.  Vito's head would explode from the excitement and that high level of arousal would very quickly spill into anxiety.  Then Lance told me that corgi's actually shrink when wet.  So Gracie was the chosen dog to come with.  I knew she liked water, but her only experience has been with the kiddie pool and shoving her head in during our showers.

She was an awesome girl on the drive down.  Calmly lying on uncle's lap in the car, playing nicely with the young shop dog on arrival, and then doing an under for the shuttle ride to the take off point.

There was a little delay at takeoff due to the apparent jump for freedom a kayak took on our shuttle ride. We took the time to practice our boat skills on the land.  Easy peasy she said!

On the water was a little different story.  Gracie wasn't really nervous but didn't think it was possible to sit or lie down on the wobbly surface.  She eventually got the hang of it and the first hour was a bit bored but content.

Then right as we approached some canoers who asked how many times the Labrador had jumped off, Gracie decided it would be a good time to demo.  She apparently didn't think it through as she had a little panic moment when she sank before realizing how to swim.  I was just grateful that I didn't tip us as I hoisted her back on board.

Gracie was very sad after her little dip.  It was a cloud day and the weather was a little cool to be a wet Labrador.  The poor girl shivered for a while and then maybe 20 minutes after he first adventure she fell in while trying to itch.

She did warm up eventually and then was mainly just bored and wanted to go home.  Still too cold to let her romp around in the water.  She curled up in a little ball between my legs, only looking up to stare at the tubers we passed.

I would definitely take a nice Labrador again.  But only a warmer day!


Corgi Minnesota Picnic

Lance went to a Corgi get together this weekend!  So much fun seeing all the cute, and fat, corgis!  I think there were around 50 corgis and honorary corgis at the picnic.
Photo by Kristen Pratscher; 
Lance did what he does best, beg for food.  .

It worked.

He had a lot of company.

Lots of company.

He perfected his technique.



I didn't think it was possible for USDAA to piss off more people with their new jump height announcements than if they just announced there would be no changes.  Well done, USDAA, well done.

Seriously, how complicated do we need to make things.  8 different jump heights?  One of the heights with only 1.5in range of dogs?!

Way to piss off not only all the small dog people, but all the big dog people, and all of the performance people too.

Oh, and obviously when people were hoping for a position less table, or even no table at all, USDAA knew that deep down we were actually crossing our fingers for MORE tables!!  Too bad they didn't take it further and develop Ultimate Table-ers!

Sorry Lance.  I knew that Vito wouldn't be effected by any changes, and was ok with that.  But I was really hoping to bring out the Corgi in USDAA next year.  AKC, CPE, and NADAC must be thrilled that they get to keep all the small dogs!

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