Gracie 16 months

Gracie will be 16 months old soon.  Other than some proofing work I need to do on alerting under distractions, Gracie has almost completed her diabetic alert training.  Her alerts also need to be reigned in a tiny bit :)  Gracie likes to do her nose nudge alert with a jump so she punches your stomach.  At least it's not subtle!

Since she isn't technically in her final training stage yet, there's still a chance she could be destined for another job.  But she sure is damn good at hitting on the scented gauze pad in an insanely short amount of time!  Gracie did pass her final health clearances recently so the chances of her being career changed at this point is very low.  *knock on wood!*

She is the most doggy loving Labrador I've had.  Loves being in physical contact as much as possible with her friends.  Here's Gracie saying hello to her mentors currently in for final training.

One of the prettiest Pocket Labs around.

Still waiting for her to mature a little bit.  Jumping on people is still an issue.  Luckily she takes her training pretty seriously and isn't doing it at all out in cape as she remains focused on me.  But when off leash or even at the dog club, Gracie thinks everyone who says hello would love a punch in the gut.  I don't think I've ever had a puppy still so persistent in their jumping!  Vito and Lance are exempt of course as they have no rules :)


Vito's best and worst trial

Vito had a USDAA agility trial this time.

Saturday's first run was Gamblers and Vito was nuts.  Even though the car ride was only 10 minutes from our new house and we were at the site for almost an hour before the run, Vito was still worked up.  Big plus was Vito stressing UP instead of down.  He certainly put all that neurotic energy into his run!!!  Pretty sure that gamblers run was Vito's fastest run ever in a trial.  He also made some interesting choices out there.
We ended up coming super close to getting the gamble!  Vito redirected back out to the tunnel but then took the wrong jump on the way back in.
Happy, neurotic toller!

Standard felt insanely slow compared to that gamblers run, but video doesn't show it beggn that bad.  Then again Vito did have EIGHT hits on his dogwalk compared to his usual 6 or even 5 sometimes when he's really moving.  NQ for not wanting to get on the table right away, but otherwise an ok run.

Actually entered steeplechase since it was the 3rd run of the day and I wanted to only spend a half day at the trial.  Vito actually sped up again even if he wasn't quite as smokin as gamblers.  We ran clean and manged to place 5th for a Q!!!

Sunday was not as great of a day.  Vito had 4 runs since he made it into steeplechase round 2 and each run started slower than the previous.

Jumpers was clean other than a knocked double.  And he really did pick up speed the 2nd half.
Snooker I lost him into a dummy tunnel but not fully his fault.  We made it through 3 of the 4 reds planned.
Steeplechase he cut behind me to go into the wrong end of the tunnel.  And we had the weavepole march of death.  Definitely a Sad Toller run.
Standard he pulled off the #3 jump as I looked to fine my line and then started sniffing the ground as I swung him back so we skipped it entirely.  The table was the 7th obstacle and he did sass at me for the stop.  Afterwards he started to pickup speed and actually flew over the aframe so fast that I was super late on a front cross a jump later.  So a win for recovering from that awful start.

On all of Sunday's runs he had a hard time warming up.  Going into the ring he was looking around quite a bit and only gave a few Toller screams.  Leading out our usual 5 feet he likes lead to him looking around even more. Before the last Standard run I desperately even tried to warm up with food instead of a toy, something I stopped doing years ago since he doesn't drive hard for food.  Apparently that fact is still true!


Vito Drug Update- Starting Amitriptyline

We started weaning Vito off is Prozac shortly after our move to the new house in December.  At 40mg, we had a long way to get down to nothing.  Finally after 2 months we had a new fake baseline.  "Fake" since Vito is still on twice daily doses of Clonidine and Clorazepate.

The process showed that Prozac was pretty much doing nothing for Vito anymore.  There was very little difference between Vito on 40mg and Vito on 0mg.  That was great news for me!  We  never had the falling out that I was dreading.  Of course in some respects that was because he was already so much worse that he was a year ago.

Differences I saw were as follows:
- Reactivity to people didn't get any worse, but he's still reacting several times a day at work to people talking and/or approaching my cubicle.  Does so with or without me there.
- Car rides were mixed bags between complete panic attacks with severe trembling and panting, to rides where he wants to eagerly stare at me waiting for cookies.  Mornings are currently worse than evenings.  A trend that seems to reverse itself every few months.
- Recovery from car rides or other stressful events are a big longer.  Most days he still has a quick recovery, but there are days where he has really bad mornings at work now.
- Leaving at home was initially OK for 90min.  But now he's howling and panting at 20min.  I don't dare leave him alone ever anymore.
- Higher energy.  Wanting to play a bit more than before and more eager to train.  Things that I desperately want to hold onto with drug changes.

So now Vito started Amitriptyline 3 weeks ago.  So far there's been no difference but he's only been on 25mg x2/day.  I increased it to 25g in the AM and 50mg in the evening this week.  
Vito will be staying with a wonderful friend who volunteered (yes, really!) to take care of him while I'm in Pennsylvania next week.  


Proofing for the NOC


Lance has been taking over the Ring Confidence class we organized at the obedience club to help work on happy ring entrances for Vito.  Sorry Vito for stealing your people.  It's been great though as I've discovered that Lance thinks it's perfectly ok to look away when I leave him, like for signals.  Does fine in heeling and is trying really hard to ignore obnoxious people distractions when set up in heel for pivots and stuff.  But leave him on that stand stay and it's fair game!  Pretty much as soon as I take one step away he allows himself to look at the crinkling food.  We failed, a lot!
Oh well, I'm very grateful that I can replicate this problem in practice and I know he will get the rules soon.  I also had an epiphany that this problem got worse after I started having "judges" feed him on the group stays.  Oops!  But I certainly don't regret that decision as I think it has been helping his confidence when left in a line up.

Other proofing work we have been doing have mainly involved our go outs.  Currently I see Lance's go outs as his weakest exercise.  It wasn't until maybe 2 months ago when the club got our very first traditional ring gates and stanchions where I started to train Lance to target the stanchion itself.  Prior to that, and most of our training still, involved looking straight ahead and run until you hit a barrier.  Thus Lance's best go outs are to walls and solid barriers!  We have some issues when there's a busy background of stuff or when we're close to a corner and the side walls look appealing.  But the new stanchions are so much easier as a very obvious target.  Lance is doing pretty well but he's not completely sold on the STANCHION training and will often touch the gating 6-12in next to it.
So back to proofing- I've discovered that throwing a jacket/blanket over the gating is like a magnet.  I've been warned that there will be banners on the gates at the NOC so I'm trying to work on it every time I'm at the club.  This week's session went MUCH better.  Maybe he's finally getting that Yes I want him to go to the obvious stanchion, No I don't want him to go to an obvious other distraction.

At home we're just doing fronts, fronts, and more fronts for dinner.  He's alright with that since drilling equals food!

And Lance and I are eternally grateful to everybody who came to a little game night fundraiser to help support our trip the the NOC.  Lots of people came out and I think we now have enough donations to cover half the cost!  And the cutest corgi shirt ever!


NADAC weekend

Decided to enter the boys in a NADAC trial this weekend since it is one of the few trials left in this area where we can still run on dirt!

I limited Lance on his runs since he just received his chiropractic adjustment to "zero him out" before the obedience championships in two weeks.  Mainly entered in the non-contact classes.  He also hasn't really had much agility practice at all in the last 2 months and during his last practice 2 weeks ago it showed.  Quite off in the teamwork department.
That unfortunately continued at this trial, especially on Saturday.  Lance was wide on several turns, doing some "window shopping" of obstacles but mainly refraining himself from actually taking off courses, and just a bit slower in general.  Sunday was MUCH better and he was closer to running full speed as well.
We did manage to qualify 5 out of 7 runs.  The only 2 NQs being chances which of course is what we have left for the NATCH.

Vito was having an awesome trial.  Happy, screaming Toller on the start lines.  And Vito broke 3 personal records for SPEED!!!!  On Saturday Vito turned in his fastest jumpers run ever at 5.4YPS, on Sunday he had his fastest tunnelers at 6.4YPS, and his fastest regular run at 5.6YPS.  Quite likely the judge was a little different in her measuring, but either way Trial Vito was certainly getting closer to practice speed.  I even did 3 rear crosses over the weekend and on 2 of the 3 Vito didn't lose any momentum!  On one he didn't seem to read it well and I was a little late.


AKC Obedience Advisory Committee

AKC is currently accepting recommendations for changes in obedience!  An advisory committee meeting will be held this summer.  I know, I know, it's not as if AKC has actually listened to the advisory committee in the past.  But let's be optimists!  Write your feedback here.

Here is what I will be arguing for:

1. Severing obedience and rally from the conformation "dog show" regulations.  Let's have general performance rules and thus allow changes to be made MUCH faster and with the use of common sense.  Changes like the simple allowance of "excused" dogs to count towards OTCH points or even the ability to wear clothing with a dog's name on it.  I'm pretty sure the judge can gather your dog's name in the first exercise!

2. Offer "championship" titles for the individual levels to reward continued showing.  Experienced people know that the training required to move from novice to open is huge and from open to utility even bigger.  We start training open and utility exercises from puppy hood so that there's not much of a wait between the classes.  But many new people aren't working on open and utility from early on and are no where near ready to move the next level once they get their CD or CDX.  I think CDSP and Cynosports have a fantastic idea by offering level championships.  CDSP offers these titles for earning 10 scores with a 185 or higher.  I see many people in this area going for them!  It's a win-win as CDSP gets to keep getting entry fees and the exhibitor and dog are able to keep up trialing experience.  It may even be some small motivation that they need to keep training obedience instead of getting sucked into their other sports training and leaving obedience on the sideline.

3. Changes to the stays.  I have lots of mixed feelings surrounding the group stays.  There's no denying I have a dog who has stress issues on them and we have failed the sit a lot.  But if you can look past that bias, I do think the stays are unsafe.  Fights are rare, disturbances are not.  My conservative estimate when I wrote a blog post on the stays was that 25% of trials have a case of one dog visiting another dog.  You can not deny that staring, sniffing, even humping of other dogs is not a rare occurrence in the "A" classes.  And no, the Pre classes are not an answer.  They are a great addition, but they are not a path for anyone who's serious about doing upper levels with their dog.  A Pre-UDX is just silly as the sit stay is half the battle for many working on that consistency title, and a Pre-OTCH would be even dumber as I highly doubt there would ever be any real competition.  To get an OTCH you have to be able to beat other OTCH dogs!!!  I do however love the pre classes lowered jump heights as an option for older dogs and they are a half answer for those of us who are unwilling to do group stays at all.

Since I think the AKC would roll over and die before getting rid of the stays, here's my actual suggestions on improving the safety:
a. Leashes attached and stretched out behind the dog.  Let's make it easy for stewards to safely grab a wandering dog.  Leashes are only problematic if an actual fight breaks out but, as AKC readily states, fights are rare.  And who the hell would ever take their leash off the dog and place it neatly behind them when leaving their dog in a public setting???
b. Stewards sitting either behind the dogs or at both ends to more quickly gather offenders.  Let's drastically cut the time it takes to grab the wanderers.
c. Cut the long down to 3 minutes.  Do any dogs ever move position from the down stay after the first 2 minutes?!?!

Other idea if AKC is open to real changes:
d. Honor stay either replacing one stay or both.  MUCH safer dog to human ratios, and I have NEVER seen either dog interfered with at the UKC trials I've stewarded.  At least the chances would be lower and one of the owners is there.  Can be a stupid sit.
I honestly believe that getting rid of the group stays would bring back some people who currently won't go past novice because of their fear of stays.  Yes, said people do exist.

4. Allow FEO entries and the ability to reward in the ring. With fun matches being a rare thing in many parts of the country, many dogs aren't getting any actual trial experience until they actually enter their first trial.  What harm does it do to allow FEO entries at a lower price, or even to turn your real run into a training run, and the ability to praise your dog.  I would even push for the ability to bring a non audible toy into the ring and perhaps even food (at minimum the lickey stick type).  I think this would increase entries and thus more money for AKC and the clubs!

5. Relax the rules on training in the ring.  I'm pretty sure that the original intent on the rule against training in the ring was not so that exhibitors could feel nervous about giving extra verbal cues or to remain silently frozen in place if their dog starts to form a bad habit in the ring.  Luckily in this area most judges are exhibitors themselves and will let most things slide if done in a respectful and non forceful manner.  NQ us yes, but please don't excuse us!

To me, perfectly acceptable allowances of training in the ring involve quick and quiet verbal and/or hand signals used to redirect the dog's path, interrupt the dog's behavior, or to praise during an exercise.
Unacceptable corrections would be if the judge perceives such verbal markers to be overly harsh and any instances of physical touching of the dog or collar to correct a performance.

6. More challenging heeling patterns.  While yes, I have only once achieved a perfect 40pts in heeling or signals, it would still be nice to allow more variation.  This last trial I was thrilled to have much more complicated heeling patterns in open than I've seen!  I would welcome with open arms in the Open B and Utility B classes patterns that allowed turns done in slow time and possibly even fast, and more turns in general being encouraged.  I would even enjoy moving downs/sits/stands like they have over seas.

More complicated patterns would certainly decrease some of the run offs!

7. Make Advanced Teamwork a titling class.  Give people a real incentive to train for the fun exercises!!!  I think it would increase in popularity if there was a tiny reason to spend time learning new exercises instead of just drilling old ones.

8. Combine the "Pre" classes with the "A" classes in judging.  Would take up less time since the only difference is in jump heights and the lack of stays.

9. Changes to the Novice Class.  Get rid of off leash heeling pattern but instead make the figure 8 off leash.  Make the recall over a jump.
Heeling is an advanced skill and it makes no since for there to be the most heeling in the novice class.  I would also think that by adding a jump you make it more fun to train for and a better introduction into open and utility.  I would even support being creative and compeltely overhauling novice.  The heart of obedience happens in the open and utility classes.  Novice should be preparing and encouraging teams for those classes.

10. Allow the execution of the broad jump on both sides.  The broad jump is the dumbest obedience exercise.  Jump the creek, dog!  I'll stand in the middle to help you!  Now come back and stand in the creek with me!  If we have to keep the stupid exercise than let's at least allow the handler to stand on either the right or the left side of it.  There is no compelling reason that the handler has to be on the dog's right side when standing in that creek.  But by allowing both sides you at least help to balance the impact of that hard turn on the dog's front.
Or, and even better, allow the handler to lead out 10ft past the broad jump but not pivot for the call front.  This brings both handler and dog out of the river and makes the front harder!


Last trial before the championship

The corgi also had 2 more attempts at that last elusive UDX leg this last weekend.  Sadly it was not meant to be.  Again.

But the good news is Lance was MUCH better than the trial 2 weeks prior.  The corgi had his attitude back and for the most part we were connected.

Sat Utility
Looked away on signals right before I was to give the sit cue.  Staring intensely at someone doing something apparently more interesting than me.  *sigh* Naughty corgi.  He did a really nice job on most of the other exercises and got most of his fronts and finishes!  Go outs I took the opportunity to train as Lance once again started to turn to early.  It was far enough past the jumps, but definitely not close to the gate so I verbally sent him farther out.  Then I have no idea why but he took the wrong jump just like last weekend.  WTF!  On go out #2 he went all the way (thank you!) and I re-signaled him to the same jump which he took just fine.  I suppose after the re-direct he was farther the left than he was to the right, but he it wasn't that far off center and he's pretty well trained to be sent from the far corners.

Sat Open
Forgy corgi is back!  Oh Lance.  At least the attitude that was missing the previous trial re appeared.  The precision on fronts apparently disappeared in it's place.
But he held his sit!!!! Lots of sniffing the ground though :(  We qualified with a 196.

Sun Utility
Not quite as peppy.  I don't think Lance was prepared for daylight savings time.  We were early on so it would have been about 7:15am according to his clock.  Mostly it was a nice run and he was decently focused, but he didn't do his bunny hopping run that he usually does.  We NQed on signals again.  This time he yawned a second before the down signal and I guess I'm using that as an excuse as to why he only went 3/4ths of the way down and then decided to just sit.  Fronts were atrocious on almost everything.  And again he started to turn a little before I would call the sit on his go out.  I chose to train and give him another verbal cue and his 2nd go out was good.

Sun Open
Started off with a bit of a disconnect but heeling was first and the pattern was amazingly fun and challenging!   Lance perked right up after what was 2 left turns in very quick succession.  Actually he lost zero points on heeling for the first time ever!  Fronts and finishes were much better too!
Another held sit!!!  And I'm told there was no sniffing and he looked much more relaxed!
198.5 and good for 3rd place and 2 more OTCH points in the large class!  That makes us at 40 points.  Slow and (steady?)!

Three more weeks before we head to the National Obedience Championships!


Vito's Re-Debut into AKC Obedience

Today Vito and I are celebrating.  After more than a 3 year hiatus from AKC obedience we stepped foot inside the Pre-Open ring together this morning.  Long time readers will recognize what a long journey it's been for us, and will continue to be for us, to get to this point where I finally felt ready to give the AKC ring a try again.

Pre Open is one of AKC's new optional titling classes.  It is essentially the exact same as Open, but without the group stays and the option for lower jump heights.  Since I've essentially spent the last 2 years working solely on Vito choosing to play with me without bribes, and a billion and one ring entrances, I haven't exactly done any group stay work with him in ages.  At this point while I think he would be OK in a lineup, it's not really something I wanted to gamble on with his confidence and certainly not something that was relevant to my goal for this trial.  So Pre- Open it was.  While Vito has done CDSP obedience a handful of times over the past 3 years, the experience is not quite the same as that of an AKC trial.  CDSP offers the ability to praise during exercises, treat in between exercises, offer simultneous hand signals and verbal commands, and a generally more relaxed atmosphere.  AKC is the gold standard of obedience for a reason.

I felt brave enough to enter, finally, because I knew we had a good chance getting the attitude I wanted and at last only a small chance of having a meltdown.  I figured even if he wasn't quite ON the way I was hoping for that we could finish the run without having had any real damage done to the work I've put in.  I only entered one day and chose Sunday because the judge is awesome and I knew he wouldn't give me a hard time if I chose to support Vito with extra praise if he needed it.
The greatest video ever:

Vito blew me away.  He had a few moments of disconnects after entering the ring and through the first leg of heeling.  But from then onward he was ON.  Heeling was bordering on forging and we definitely had some crowding!!!!  We had a no sit on the last halt but it didn't seem to deflate Vito at all as he happily jumped on me afterwards.  Actually on every single transition between exercises Vito was happy to jump on me and he even did a few high hand touches on the last transition.  I think this was one of the only times in a trial that Vito didn't just jump on me because I was asking him to, but did so out of joy.

On the retrieves and recall he didn't just trot but actually ran!  On the figure 8 a post was a child!  Wearing a hat!  We did a bonus figure 8 loop because the judge apparently wasn't quite ready for daylight savings and I threw him by going right.  So our halt was right before the inside post, something that can make it hard for Vito to regain momentum and negated my wanting to go right to drive, drive, drive the Toller.  Vito was still amazing!  At the very end he needed to go check out the judge.  But Phil is awesome and just gave Vito his dumbbell, turning the experience into judges=awesome.

Ok, things to work on.  Unsurprisingly, all are skills.
- Fronts :)  Vito is improving greatly at home with his fronts while holding an object but we're no where near being ready
- Drop on recall.  Vito had a slow response to my hand signal.  Actually, I'm blown away that he did it at all.  Vito is not a fan of downs and I wasn't sure if he would do it in a trial.  In CDSP I give both verbal and hand signal and I think he has needed it.  At home I've been doing a lot of drops, followed by backing up in a down (after that seminar).  Vito still doesn't like the initial drop, but LOVES his down-backs!
- Broad jump.  Another neglected exercise and one I can't practice at home.  He pretty much cut the corner and I expected to NQ.  The judge disagreed on the cutting part, but agreed that it was funky and deducted 2 points for the exercise.

Unfortunately neither of the 2 upcoming local AKC trials offer the Pre classes.  I am currently debating about doing 1 day of AKC rally but we will see.  Otherwise we will soon be entering the lull of obedience trials until late summer.  There is another CDSP trial in April that I will likely enter him in just for more fun ring=awesome experience.


Starting Puppies

Puppies.  I LOVE puppies!  Besides puppy raising service dogs in order to help make a huge difference in someone's life, I do it because- PUPPIES!  I have learned so much on what to do, what not to do, and what to just take a deep breath and relax about.

Today's dog agility blog day is on Starting Your Puppy.  I was almost tempted to just repost the one I did for Backyard Agility when I wrote on Foundational Tricks.  Or my even earlier post on My #1 Advice.  But I'll write something new just for you.

1.  Don't be so worried about ruining your puppy that you fail to start training/doing something.  Because I pretty much raise a new puppy every single year and get to train tons more teenage dogs, I've had a lot of room for experimentation.  I think I've taught the stand cue using 4 different methods and the retrieve countless more ways.  While there have been times where I've said Ok, I'm not doing that again!  (as in Gracie's crotch punching, but perfectly straight front), nothing has been so bad that the puppy broke!  So train, experiment, and learn something along the way.

 2.  Talk and insert yourself into your training sessions.  Clicker training doesn't have to be done in a sterile environment.  While you want your puppy to have time to think and problem solve, don't hesitate to support your puppy and certainly use your voice and hands to show your pleasure!  When you're happy and you know it clap your hands!?  Seriously, make sure training is not just about the food or the toy but is about spending time with you.

3.  Socialization is not just about exposure.  It's about creating POSITIVE experiences.  In your quest to have the most outgoing and confident puppy ever, make sure to actually look at your puppy and ask how he feels it about it all.  Pass the puppy might be great for the wiggling and face licking Labrador, and it may be downright terrifying for your little one.  When in doubt, go with the new things as furniture approach.  Furniture isn't scary, it isn't anything to pull and whine with excitement towards.  It just exists.  So yes, it's OK to tell people they can't mob your puppy!  Just tell them you're working on focus exercises.

Make sure to go visit the rest of the blogs!

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