A Note to Obedience Exhbitors

To my fellow obedience exhibitors,

There has been quite a bit of great discussion on the new proposed changes to AKC obedience.  Many people are taking the time to think out what the changes could mean to our sport and we all have strong opinions.

I know that you are passionate about the sport of obedience.  You don't want to see it dumbed down.  But we too are passionate about obedience.  We want to see our sport thriving and to keep it challenging as well.  We are not a fringe group.  We are the majority of small dog handlers.  We are the handlers of dogs who have been interfered with on the stays.  We are handlers who are concerned about the safety of our own dogs and the safety of all the dogs.  We are handlers at all levels of training including people competing side by side with your dogs in the B classes.  Competitive handlers fighting for OTCH points as well as those in Novice A.  We are not the ones with the stay problems.  We abhor those who continue to show when they know they have a dog who may interfere with others just as much as you too despise them.

The continued topic of group stays is because we already have a problem.  If you are regularly competing in obedience then you know that dogs going to visit other dogs is not a rare issue.  While the A dogs sadly encounter this more frequently, we all know dogs in the B class that if they show up at a trial next to your dog you would pull.  That is a problem.  A problem not due to any type of training method but a problem due to poor training in general and a lack of consideration for fellow exhibitors.

So please, don't lump all those who want to see change into a "fringe group" of exhibitors who want to get easy titles.  I urge you all to think beyond what would personally benefit your own training to think about what would benefit the sport at all levels of participation.

Personally, I don't know whether I like the idea of only 1 stay, judges choice.  The idea of a dog earning their CDX without having to get those 3 long sits is off putting and the journey to the UDX will also be changed.  The OTCH would become easier for some dogs, but then would become harder for dogs on the cusp who have earned their points when the slightly better dogs went down on that sit.  But when I look at the problems we are having in our sport and the number of dogs effected by wandering dogs, then I can't help but support the change.  The P-classes are amazing idea and need to be given a fair chance to succeed by offering them frequently and having advanced titles in them.  But that move alone does nothing to address the problems that are currently existing in the A AND B classes.  My personal choice would be for an honor stay(s) and/or food refusal exercise.

Would any change to the classes bring back those who have left obedience and moved onto other sports?  Probably not many.  But it would prevent even more people from leaving , open the doors to some new people, and show the world that AKC isn't completely covering it's ears and eyes from the problems that are occurring.

Again, go here to write your input, and here to see the changes.


More CDSP Obedience

Back to the CDSP trial on Sunday.  Much better night of sleeping for all parties and I am hoping Friday's night of panic remains a fluke for the Toller.

I decided to run Vito in Open instead of giving another go at Utility.  I was tempted to see if we could do it again, but ultimately decided there wasn't much benefit to it.  I already had my feedback of how ready he is with the exercises (much further than I thought!) and really need to be trying to continually build up his confidence levels with exercises he has a much better handle on.

So Open it was.  Attitude was pretty high outside of the ring during our warmup.  But his focused change in our ring entrance and I actually stopped right before entering and took a few steps backwards to repeat it.  The reset helped and he remembered our rules of attention during the entrance, leash off, and run to the first setup spot.

Drop on recall was first and while it wasn't done at a run, he still had decent speed and had a beautiful fast drop to just my hand signal.  And then he did a fly by and came straight to heel like he did on the first exercise on Saturday.  He was a little flat and not wanting to do all his hand touches in the transition but still seemed happy and excitedly ran with me across the ring to the start of heeling.

Heeling was much less dog than I want.  Technically precise other than 1 lag after the first left turn.  But not a lot of dog.  Certainly not my pushy forgey dog that has been showing up even in trials recently!

Crashed the broad jump as apparently that remains our trend with the running version :(  In trials at least.
I got him to do quite a bit of jumping and play after that exercise before heading for the retrieves.

Didn't run for either retrieve and was stealing a few glances at people on his return from the retrieve on the flat.  Defienetly didn't want to jump up afterwards but I did get him to eventually.  And then I need to rethrow the dumbbell after it landed out of the ring for the retrieve on high so I got to ask for more jumping.

After the retrieves I was able to hand the dumbbell over to the judge while keeping his attention, but as went by her to setup for the mini go out he went to check her and his dumbbell out. I gave him a second to correct himself and he came back without me having to say anything.  The go out was nice.

The Corgi turned it on for his 1 run in utility!  Happier attitude, better focus, and better precision.  Practically perfect combination!

We've been working on new ring entrance routines to get his training up to what I require of Vito.  Still working on his burst into heel from his (already well known) waiting position, but did you see the eye contact on the leash removal?!  Lance has not seen the purpose of me suddenly asking for eye contact during the leash hand off in all the years he has been training.

Other new thing I tried was not pivoting to face him on the directed jumping.  I'm thinking it will make him have to work harder to find front so hopefully he will be thinking more.  And then the bonus factor of allowing him to be lined up for next go out after the finish, something I know he's already thinking about while performing!  I think it helped but time will tell.

Errors made during his run was a slight forge on the moving stand (not scored), finish on the moving stand, pretty much anticipating the 2nd directed jump, and dropping the article at my feet.  I'm not sure what he was doing as it just kinda spat out as he sat.
Great moment were doing nice glove pivots, sitting on both go outs when told, happy signals, and really good fronts and finishes.


Toller Utility Debut!

The day did not start out well.  Vito was having a panic attack staring at 12:30am and lasting until we got out of bed Saturday morning.  No apparent trigger.  Just lots of panting and pacing.  While he occasionally gets a bit frantic sometimes in the evenings, he has always calmed down immediately the moment we get in bed for the night.  So needless to say the morning car ride was not great and it broke the fabulous streak he has been having.  It took Vito quite a while to calm down at the CDSP Obedience trial but he eventually did and by the time I brought him out to warm up he looked downright sleepy.  I was too.

Vito warmed up well though and while he wasn't intensely driven in our little doodling and squishes he still had a great attitude and was eager to work.
Staring Toller in CDSP Utility A:

Great ring entrance and leash removal, but he did steal a tiny glance.  Signals were first and he started nicely with me for the tiny steps of heeling required in CDSP.  Did the stand without walking and he even did his down!!!!  It was the awful butt first and slow plop into it that he does whenever he's not super excited, but I'll take it!  I thought for sure he would just move into a sit at his first trial. What then surprised me was Vito's failure to move  into the sit and then the recall on the first signals.  I repeated my signals for both the sit and come and Vito did respond on each 2nd cue.  For some odd reason, CDSP just takes points of for a repeated signal and you can still qualify as long as you don't talk.  Then Vito skips the front and flys by around me into heel.  He does play with me at the end though and happily comes with me to articles.

Articles for some reason are an exercise Vito has never had a problem with.  He may not love them, but he never stresses over his choice!  He confidently went out on the direct send (a portion I am sad to say I very rarely practice over just informally revving him and releasing), did a fast search, and even did a nice front!

Then we had a little mixup as the gloves appeared and both the judge and I setup for them.  The judge quickly recognized the mistake in that go outs are 3rd in CDSP!  I was able to take the opportunity to play with Vito and reward his nice setup as we waited for the gloves to be removed :)  He kinda did some jumps over my leg and did one chest vault!

Go outs I was shocked!  Vito confidently went out, was straight, and actually had one of his best turn and sits ever!  No loopy wide turn to sit!  Considering I didn't start full distance go outs until a few months ago, let alone having the jumps in the picture, I couldn't be happier with his performance.  After signals I thought this would be a weak exercise for him.

Gloves were finally next! It's done twice in CDSP and we had gloves #2 and then #1.  The first pivot wasn't the greatest but he did fix himself.  The last few weeks Vito has been having some confidence issues with gloves as he goes out correctly and then stops right as he lowers his head to pick it up.  Thankfully he did not do that at the trial and as soon as he grabbed the glove I praised him!

Moving stand was last.  Vito has never enjoyed this exercise but he handled it well.  A little bit of flinched ears on the approach and first touch but not too afflicted looking.  The send around to heel from a distance is not one I practice often but he had no issue.

So we managed to qualify under CDSP rules!  9 points lost in signals and only 1/2 point lost elsewhere!

The Corgi
He's a good dog.  The end.
I was presuaded to enter him in Cynosports Rally in the morning, level 3.  I looked it up as it's been a good 2 years since he's done it.  But man is he such a great rally dog!  Lance really loves all the doodling, especially any of the moves that require hind end awareness.  Vito on the other hand is more of a straight line and curves type of dog.  Vito knows all the doodling moves but doesn't really turn on.  Give him flow.

So Lance got a perfect 210. But actually I wasn't thrilled with the run.  Lance started out a bit distracted and while he was in decent position he certainly wasn't giving me his full focus.  By the first pivot sign though (#7?) he was ON.  Very animated and focused.  Doing quite a bit of forging at the end!  And of course had had to bark on his backup away from me sign for the bonus :)

Later in the day he did Utility C (championship class for utility).  Much more focused and overall it was a fantastic run!  Only screw up was needing a second command to sit on go out #2, the first exercise done.  All other errors were 3 fronts and 1 really bad finish after the first go out.  Ended up with a 194.5.


AKC Obedience Changes

Go here, right now.  I'll wait:  http://images.akc.org/pdf/events/obedience/2014_OAC_Fancy.pdf

WOW!  I am in utter shock at what the committee recommended.  I thought everyone would drop dead before some of these changes were proposed!
- Leashes on dogs in stays!
- Dogs who NQed not being invited back for stays!
- Only 1 group stay of judges choice!
- Broad jump on both sides!
- New P-UDX and P-OTCH titles based on scores!
And the list goes on!

Now go here: http://www.tfaforms.com/336185#
Rate every suggestion.  Write thoughtful comments.  Make your voices be heard and pray that AKC listens to even 25% of the proposed changes.


Learning to Relax

Vito has no idea how to relax outdoors.  Inside, unless on a bad day, he's calm and cuddly.  Outdoors apparently means we're supposed to be doing something.

Before moving here this past winter the dogs never really had a backyard to just chill in.  The first duplex puppy Vito lived in was the closest he had to it.  It had a small yard and a patio that we sometimes hung out in but due to the dog living upstairs they were never unattended and we moved before he was 2yrs.  The next place we weren't really set up to relax outside and our last place we fenced a section the size of a shoe box and an aggressive doggy neighbor.

I absolutely love just sitting in the yard.  And Vito's learning.  After several months he may finally be starting to get it.  Of course he still has to at least try lots of whining and obsessively standing at the gate to the big yard first.

And well, this next picture was taken at dinner time with the bowls in my hand.  But that's not unusual!


Bursts of Work

Vito accompanied me to a puppy raiser outing at a public park this weekend.  I was planning on bringing Gracie but she's still in the slammer.  I knew that this would be difficult for Vito as he has a hard time adjusting to "non-dog show" environments but was also pretty certain he could handle it.

On arrival Vito did a bit of stress whining from the parking lot to the entrance.  I parked farther away so that he would have a bit of a walk and hopefully tone down the whining before getting to people.  And for the most part it worked.  We were able to hang out and wait at the park entrance for the small group of puppy raisers to arrive.  It took Vito about 20min of looking around at all the people walking by for him to be able to work for 5 seconds.  Then he came into heel position nicely, did 5 great steps of heeling, got some cookies, and then I released him back to the environment.  He needed more time to soak everything in so I put him back in a down and waited again.  Another 10 minutes passed before he was ready to work again but this time after 5 seconds of work, a reward, and a release back to the world he re-engaged me with me almost right away!  I think we did maybe 4 or 5 more bursts before I could feel him waning and we went back to hanging out.

A little bit later we went for a walk around the large playground and made several stops for the dogs to work on attention and behaviors.  Vito was able to work at a few.  In the 90 minutes we were at the park we probably did a grand total of 5 minutes of quality work.  At one spot towards the end he started getting anxious about nothing in particular.  I found that just giving him treats for being calm and lying down nicely did nothing to help him.  But work he understands.  Vito wasn't in a state of mind to offer nice work and focus but I could fake it by showing him a cookie upfront before doing our 5 seconds.  Repeat.  The heeling was lovely and his attitude was great.  But that's still not something I want to get in the habit of doing with Vito.  Bribing doesn't get you very far in the long run and certainly won't hold up in the ring.  At least it kept Vito from having a melt down in a situation we couldn't leave.

All in all, I am very happy with how Vito did at the outing.  The park was very busy and there were kids running around everywhere.  Because it was so busy I didn't expect Vito to have any reactive episodes (nothing stands out in chaos) and that held true.  He took a very long time to acclimate and if I was there on my own I would have brought out his crate for him to hang out in.  But he did eventually choose to work and wasn't bribed or pepped talked into doing so.  Some of the times he worked I feel he did so purely because he's a good dog who knew what I was waiting for.  So he did a little work and upon his release he went right back to watching the world.  That tells me he really wasn't ready despite choosing to do so.  It makes me happy to see that choice, but it also means I was greedy and pushed him too hard.  Overall we were there a long time and he mostly handled the environment well.  See the relaxed eyes and face in the pictures above?!

In case you haven't read it yet, Denise Fenzi posted a brilliant post on the topic of working in challenging environments..


Vito on Zoloft

4 good morning car rides in a row!!!  Lots of praying to Robot!

Vito has been taking Sertraline (Zoloft)z for 1 month now and has had two weeks at his current dose.  Because Vito is Vito, my breath continues to be held that it will last.

Vito is also doing better at work.  Much less reactive episodes to people walking by!  Hard to tell if this good change is due to the new drug or due to our cubicle move.  We just moved 3 cubes down but in the same little hallway so he has access to the exact same areas as before.  He can even lie under the desk of our old cube if he wants.  I thought the move farther away would be hard for Vito because he still needs to hear people to know he's not alone.  But I think having his bed at the far end helps to muffle the noises of approaching people.  The downside is that if he's having a bad day then he's really having a bad day; as his home base is now far away when he stands at the edge of the hallway by the gate to whine for momma.

He is experiencing a bit of a sedation effect still on his new drug.  I think it may be starting to wear off as he gets used to it though.  Always hard to tell with Vito if a flatter training session is because of drugs or because of his low "work ethic."


2 Dogs

Gracie is still in prison and hopefully not getting in too much trouble.  Life here is quiet with only 2 dogs.  Gracie is always very calm in the house and does a pretty decent job of not stirring up trouble, but it's strange how much extra "work" a third dog takes.  Slightly less time of holding the door open for mosquitoes to fly in.  Only one dog on each side for walks.  Nobody for the Corgi to try and herd/be a snot too while I'm dishing up food (as the Toller doesn't bother to get off the couch).  No need to have two separate toys and worry about body slamming during fetch.  Only 1 dog in the kiddie pool.  No one supervising us in the bathroom and no one sleeping on the pile of clothes while I'm in the shower.  It's odd.

In other news, I've finally seen the results of Lance's photo shoot a few months back for Target!
It's the Corgi!

And I'm coming up on the deadline of having to decide what to enter Vito in for the upcoming CDSP trial.  I had set a goal several weeks ago to try and be ready for Utility in order to push my motivation and work with him on the exercises.  For the most part I can say mission accomplished.  Vito has a pretty thorough understanding of all the pieces and has seen all those pieces finally put together to form the completed exercises.  Yay!  The exercises aren't quite the way I want them to be, precision wise, but that doesn't bother me too much.  Attitude first, precision second.  

What is still giving me pause is his confidence with the exercises, especially in new places.  While I've been doing a little bit of obedience in new places recently (like shopping centers and patios and such), his quality of effort in those new places aren't yet consistently high.  Continued work on choosing to engage, block out the world, stuff.  I am happy with how he's progressing and his ability to work with me (high rewards, very short work), but I am still doing quite a bit of ending of work for him not being ready.  And since Utility is all about confidence, and confidence at a distance, I'm a little concerned about rushing it.  At least Open is very well known and we could just practice more of ring=fun stuff we've been doing.  If I choose to enter Utility it would simply be as a reward for my part of the equation.  Utility is fun and I've been doing Open with Vito for a very long time.  Not so rewarding for me.  And I would try and manage his side of the equation by showering him with treats and praise in the ring (as CDSP allows) and likely the issue of his confidence wouldn't even be an issue.  Decisions...


NADAC- injury, happiness, and rant

NADAC trial this past weekend and we got to be indoors at the Soccer Blast.  Another one of the few weekends we get to steal it from the AKC people!

Unfortunately the Corgi didn't want to jump in the van on Saturday morning.  So I boosted him up and worried.  Worries were confirmed on arrival as he didn't want to do any trick that involved lifting his front end of the ground.  I didn't even try the warm up jump.  Trying what limited feeling stuff I know I felt his back muscles trembling.  A friend tried to help with some massage stuff but it wasn't enough.  Lance had to be scratched from all of his runs, both days. On Sunday I was able to get him adjusted as his chiropractor was there, but he's still on restriction and still doesn't want to do any running or begging.  My fingers are crossed that a few days of rest and he will be back to normal.  Lance was super happy to be out walking about and I think he was confused as to why he didn't get to run.  Definitely as charming as ever to his beloved audience!

Super sucks that Lance has only competed in 1 NADAC trial this year so far, and 2 UKI Trials.  I was really hoping to finish up his NATCH this year and was going to trial him a bit more.  Between lack of money and then a canceled trial, it just hasn't happened.  This weekend Lance was just a very expensive accessory!

And then because I'm super helpful, I mixed up the boys drugs when I got home and wrapped pills in cheese.  I was planning on giving Lance some Traumeel to help with his back and of course Vito needed his anxiety drugs.  An hour later I saw Lance stumbling drunk around the house and I knew what I did :(  Poor Corgi on a large dose of Clorazepate.  At least his back pain was likely less noticeable to him!

While I was looking forward to trialing with Vito I also wasn't sure on the timing.  I had just increased Vito's new drug, Zoloft, a few days before and had started to see a small sedation effect.  I'm hoping it goes away as he gets used to the new drug, and fingers are also crossed that Zoloft will help him.

I need not have worried as Vito has a FANTASTIC trial!  Especially on Saturday, Vito was back to screaming on the start line and mostly running!  Sunday was a little bit more tired but he was still happy and doing some very good moments.

We also worked on our leaving the ball behind to enter the ring and then MYSELF getting it for him on exiting.  I do think our practice work is paying off as Vito not only ran a bit better but fully understood that he had to do a tiny sit stay while I handed the ball to him.  He was clearly tempted to run out of the ring after the last obstacle to get it himself, but called easily to me to get his leash and even walked nicely with me to it.  Yay for little victories!

Total Q rate for Vito was 5 of 9, with a 6th run being completely my fault for sending him off course as I did a "bonus" front cross to try and speed him up in a spot that no cross was needed.  I realized my mistake barely too late but didn't bother fixing it.  Two of the NQs were in chances, but he did some brave handling where he was farther away than he would have been in a trial even a few months ago.  Last NQ was a missed discrimination in Touch n Go.

I like NADAC.  I really do.  The dogs just love running FULL speed.  But on Sunday it was hard to get enthused about any of the courses (Saturday was better).  The elite regular course had a total of 2 side changes and one was at a tunnel.  It was basically a gigantic loop around the outside and then a tiny inside loop with a contact discrimination thrown in.  (On video above).  I honestly had to check to make sure I was walking the elite course and not novice.  I'm not saying that it can't be challenging for fast dogs, and I surely don't have a 100% Q rate in NADAC.  But it was painfully obvious to me how uninspired I personally am about running NADAC courses.  I think Vito is at the point where he doesn't need the courses to gain confidence anymore.  But with Lance it's pretty much the only agility option I have with the shortie other than a tiny amount of UKI trials.  Why can't USDAA acknowledge that small dogs want to play their program too!?  I think trying to get to bonus line distance would be enough to hold my interest in NADAC with him, but he stutters worse when I'm too far away so it's not something I do a whole lot of.  NADAC, please give us a little bit more inspired courses rather than gigantic loops with a pinwheel thrown in.  Ok, end of rant.

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