Saturday, July 11, 2015


I got my start in dog sports in 1985, and earned my first obedience title in 1986. I did some tracking in the late 1980's/early 1990's. I was again a Novice A person when I started agility circa 1990. I got heavily into hunt tests with the Flat-Coats circa 2006.

Last month, I went to a Barn Hunt workshop on a Saturday afternoon. Sonic was tepid at best, but Jag... he was in heaven. He definitely got more and more into it each time we entered the ring area for our turn.

The basic idea of Barn Hunt, which is for all breeds of dogs, is for the dog to locate a rat which is hidden in a tube - a piece of sewer pipe with holes in it. The tube is hidden somewhere in a structure built out of straw bales. The dogs also have to "tunnel" - i.e., go through a tunnel through the straw bales, and they have to do "a climb" - hop up on the straw pile as they hunt. At the Novice level, the tunnel is open at either end, and the bales are at most 2 bales high. There are 3 tubes - one with a rat, one with used bedding, and one empty. The dog has to indicate to the handler when he finds the rat.

Last Saturday, we attended our first Barn Hunt trials, entering the Instinct test, a very basic test, where all 3 tubes are laid out in plain site. Jag passed that fairly easily.

In the first Novice class, we were in the first "blind" - a group of up to 5 teams that all have their tubes in the same place - so didn't get a chance to watch much before we went in the ring.  He did quite a lot of searching in the ring. When he started biting at a tube, I called "Rat!", but alas, it was a tube with litter in it. I took him to where the tube with the rat was (after the judge pointed it out to us), and he got more excited than he had on the one with litter in it.

In the second Novice Class, he darted through the tunnel, turned left, I encouraged him to hop up on the bales, and he almost immediately started to indicate that he'd found a tube. I eventually called "Rat!" and this time, it was right. 27 seconds out of the 2 minutes allowed. First RATN leg!

Today, we headed off for another new adventure, and went to try Earth Dog for the first time. The property we were at is simply beautiful and the weather was perfect for spending it outside enjoying our dogs. I didn't manage to take any photos, but Jag thought Earth Dog was Da BOMB! We started out with Beth Widdows (who trained 3 of her Westies in obedience with me years ago) helping us rank beginners with how to get started going through short tunnels above ground and getting to practice "working" the rats. Jag caught on very quickly and was soon biting the bars like a pro. After a break in the Burb, I went out by myself to see the Intro and Novice tunnel set up.

We tried the Intro course next, which was a simple tunnel with a left turn, but requiring him to go down a short ramp to enter it. He didn't have any trouble with the tunnel, but he was a bit hesitant to "work the rats". The dog needs to show noisy enthusiasm for the work - just staring won't cut it. It is one reason I've never been sure I wanted to try Earth Dog, since I loathe barky/whiney dogs. So here I was, encouraging him to bite the dowels that separated him from the rats, to whine, to dig, etc.

Next we proceeded on to the Novice course. The Novice tunnels are 30 feet long. This one had 3 turns on it. He again arrived at the rats fairly quickly. He also figured out how to turn around and come back out the entrance, which isn't desirable at the beginning levels. The Novice dogs are removed from the tunnel right by the rat cage via a trap door. He worked pretty hard at the rats with encouragement, but he'll need to learn how to keep up the work for 60 seconds with zero encouragement from me.

I put him away in the Burb, took a break, then had one final turn. One of the things I've vowed is that I won't give him access to the rats unless he is keeping his emotions in check. Getting from the Burb to where the tunnels were was a lengthy affair, as we proceeded 5 steps forward, 3 steps back. The 2nd turn was actually better in terms of him restraining himself somewhat on the walk to the tunnels. Reminds me a lot of what Sonic was like when we started our field work. It is SO exciting!!!

Next Saturday, we will be doing two more Novice Barn Hunt trials, with a practice session tomorrow at the grounds where the trials will be. It is fun learning a new sport, and it is great seeing Jag turning on to the sport he is bred for.

Monday, February 16, 2015

2015 Southern Odyssey Part 1

Sonic, Jag, and I left Ann Arbor dark and early on Tuesday February 11 to travel to Lakeland, Florida for the 4 days of conformation, obedience, and rally trials put on by the Lakeland-Winterhaven Kennel Club. We had an uneventful couple of days of driving, making it all the way to south Atlanta Tuesday evening after 730 miles that day.  

We got to Lakeland after our 1173 mile trip and checked in to our room at the La Quinta - the same lucky one as Sonic, Little and I shared in 2014.

We headed to DogSense for some obedience training and conformation class. All three of us benefitted from the concentrated practice on conformation.

Friday was pretty much a bust at the dog show, with Jag winning a meaningless Winners Dog ribbon by virtue of being the only class dog entered. The single dog special was chosen as Best of Breed. Sonic won her class of 2, but did nothing in Winners. She then NQed in Utility B by getting glove 2 instead of glove 1.

On Saturday, the day started out much better, with Jag beating the younger puppy for Winners Dog for 1 point, and then getting Best of Breed over the same special as the day before, upping his points won to 2.    

Next up was Utility B for Sonic. We qualified with a 195, which netted us a 3rd place, 2 more OTCh points, and High Scoring Flat-Coated Retriever. 

Next was conformation with Sonic. The Southern Skies Flat-Coated Retriever Club was hosting a supported entry, so there were a lot of FCRs entered. She again won the Open Bitches class, and went on to be awarded Reserve Winner's Bitch - close but no points - to a 4 point major. I received a lot of compliments on her, which is always appreciated. 

I had a break, then came time for Jag's Rally Novice debut. I asked to be put first in the class, thinking the terrier group would be starting after that. But the Novice A dogs were taking a while, and I finally realized I had to switch jackets, switch his collar and leash for his show lead (thanks so much to Debbi Snyder and Kathy Shrimpf for holding equipment and being at ring side to help!), and dash over to the group, which was fortunately just one building over, rather than the three it had been the previous day. We had fun in the group, playing a little bit of catch the ball while we waited our turn. It was lovely having time to get him well stacked on the table while the previous dog was gaiting. Most of the time we've shown, we are the only one in our class, so it is all a big rush. After the judge turned his back on our go round to judge the next dog, I released Jag to a cookie, then heeled him to the end of the line in preparation for Rally :-). 

We were released after the winners were chosen, and I dashed out to change his collar and leash, and to empty my pockets of ball and all treats, and return to wait our turn in Rally. We finally went in the ring at the end of the class, and he was wonderful, earning a perfect score of 100 and 1st place by virtue of time. I was so tired from all the classes by then that I didn't have the energy to be nervous.
Once all the classes were over, Jag helped me teach a one hour workshop on teaching Maneuvers. It's a good thing I can teach that in my sleep, because that was practically what I was doing! A couple of people took 15 minute private lessons, and then finally the long day at the show was done. I had dinner with Julie Hill, went back to our room and crashed.

On Sunday, the morning started with a solid Utility B Q for Sonic, once again earning 3rd place and 2 OTCh points. We added on Open B since conformation was over, just her 2nd time in Open since finishing her CDX in October. She managed to do the worst Figure 8's of her life, losing 3.5 of the 5 points she lost in the class just on that, but qualified to earn our 2nd UDX leg.

Jag had a couple of brain farts, but worked very nicely in between them, earning a 96 and 4th place for his 2nd Rally Novice leg. Darned good for 10 month old terrier boy :-).

He then helped me teach a one hour workshop on retrieving, with one more private session. After finishing up with those, I found an area for a bit of go-out practice for both dogs, and gave them a bit of a run.

On Monday, the final day of the 4-day cluster, Sonic and I did both classes again. As there wasn't any more Rally, Jag had the day off. Even though I arrived a lot earlier than when I thought I'd be in the ring, the dog two before me was going in the ring, so I pottied me, then the dogs, warmed Sonic up a bit, and went in the ring. I was again in short sleeves - I've been able to take off my winter clothes, but Sonic is unable to do that. She was warm. Her performance was lack luster, though she didn't have any significant glitches. She trotted when she needed to, sat when she needed to, just not always with a lot of accuracy. Once again, she qualified and earned our 3rd 3rd place of the weekend and 2 more OTCh points. There was a couple of hours break before our turn in Open, so I took Jag out for a 20 minute walk before lunch. 

I decided to try warming up for Open with a bumper instead of food. She got the bumper for a good fast and a good Figure 8, and then I put her away until the dog ahead of us was doing their Drop on Recall, the last thing before Figure 8 and Heeling. We had order 2, which meant the broad jump first, and I was pleased with her effort. While her figure 8's were not her best, they were a lot better than Sunday's, and she passed the individuals. She didn't finish on my first command on the flat retrieve - spaced out brain fart, but the rest was decent. We had the down stay first, and her chin was on the floor when we returned. She once again held her sit stay, earning her 3rd UDX leg. She was solid and straight on the sit stay both days, something for which I am so proud of her. I do think all the conditioning work we have done this winter is paying off, and it makes me determined to keep it up.

Our totals for the weekend:
Jag: WD/BOB 2 points, bringing his total to 8, and 2 Rally Novice legs with 1st and 4th places and scores of 100 and 96.

Sonic: 3 Utility B 3rd places (195, 195.5, 195), 2 UDX legs (Open scores of 195 and 193.5), 6 OTCh points (total of 40), 57 OM points (total of 141), and RWB in conformation.

My thanks to the club and its members and all the people who worked to make the shows and trials so much fun! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

How It All Started

Thirty years ago this month, a 4 month old Australian Terrier puppy came home from Sheila Dunn's, her breeder, who I had known for 10 years. That little puppy grew up to be U-CD Hott Pursuitt on the Farm Am/Can UD, AKA Casey, my first obedience dog, as well as my first dog as an adult. Sheila knew Gail Dapogny, the instructor of the Puppy Kindergarten class at the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club, so was able to help me get Casey enrolled in Gail's class within days of Casey joining our family - in fact, we'd had her such a short time, we hadn't decided on her name yet. I loved training Casey, and diligently practiced our lessons multiple times a day.

Above all else, Casey taught me perseverence, because it took a lot of it to reach the goals I set for us. When I first started training her, I wanted to earn a Utility Dog (UD) title on her, having NO true idea what that would really entail. When we started to show in Novice for her Companion Dog (CD) title in the fall of 1986, I thought we'd just stop with that. But then I started training her in Open, and she seemed to kind of like it, so we kept going, and soon she earned her CDX (Companion Dog eXcellent). In fact, she qualified all seven times we showed in Open A, a grand accomplishment, as anyone who has shown in Open A knows is a class with lots of NQs. A 196 1st place in the class proved to be her shining moment in Open. Utility proved far more difficult, though she qualified her very first time in the ring. I look back at that now and just shake my head. It really was dumb luck that we passed that day. In her 2nd trial, she learned that she could down only part way on my down signal and nothing horrible resulted, and that became a huge problem for us. She earned her 2nd leg about six months after the first, when I was about 7 months pregnant with my first son. A full year later, in 1990, she finally passed for the 3rd time (not for lack of trying in between, believe me!), one day before her housemate Tramp earned her UD. That weekend of trials still ranks as one of my all-time best - we finished 2 UDs, Tramp earned her first High Combined, and my 2nd Australian Terrier Rio earned a 3-point major in the breed ring.

We also showed in Canada often enough to earn her CKC UD. The first time we showed in Novice B, Casey won a 56 dog Novice B class at the huge London, Ontario fall trials, earning a 199.5 and High in Trial. Casey had actually tied with my Flat-Coat Tramp, and my friend and training partner, Deb Schneider, took Tramp in for the sudden-death runoff against Casey and me. Needless to say, it took one forward-halt for Tramp to eliminate herself.

My husband Fritz and I wrote lyrics for a song about Casey and the difficulties of Utility, sung to the tune of the Canadian National Anthem:

Oh, Puppadoo*

Oh, Puppadoo, far from your native land,
Why did you sit, when I signaled a stand?
Oh, Puppadoo, what can we do to speed up your retrieve?
Oh, Puppadoo, you brought me 2 when I scented nu(hum)ber(er) 3.
Oh, Puppadoo, what can we do,
I hate the long stand just as much you,
Oh, Puppadoo, when will we ever Q?

*One of Casey's nicknames

As I sit here with dogs #9 (Sonic) and #10 (puppy Jag) nearby, I salute you, little Casey, for the wonderful path you helped me start along. You were a good little girl and it's been a great 30 years. Here's to 30 more years of dogs, dogs sports, and best of all, time spent with dog friends.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Adele's 2015 Goals

For years, I have enjoyed the process of reviewing the waning year and how I did with goals I set the previous holiday season and setting my goals for the upcoming year. Here are my goals for 2015:

  • Website - change payment method
  • Incentive program: develop a more consistent exercise (me and dogs), dog training and other work (office-related and project) schedule. I have a plan set up that I hope will work as well to motivate me as the every 50 workout prize did in 2014.
  • Reprint Balancing Act
  • Continue exercise challenge - aim for 200 workouts in 2015, with self-reward prizes for every 50 workouts
  • Participate in a 5K

Sonic (3 years old)
  • Give her time this year to mature into her obedience performances - focus on her motivation and speed vs. nitpicking for perfection
  • Improve finishes to > 50% correct by working on them more consistently
  • Keep her sound via a consistent exercise program
  • UDX legs
  • OTCh points
  • OM1 
  • MH legs
  • BUD [Big Useful Dog] award at National in April (qualify or place in 3 different areas)
  • Qualify for 2016 NOC

Jag (8 months old)
  • RN
  • RA
  • RE
  • Match him for real in Novice, solidify his understanding of the exercises
  • Match him at least crudely in Open
  • Continue his Utility education, with a focus on Signals and DJ
  • Teach him to jump well
  • Work on his CH
  • BT National in May?
  • Try Barn Hunt with him
  • BN in fall if ready
What are YOUR goals?

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Goal Review

It is that time of year, when I like to publish how I did meeting the goals I set a year ago:

Joker - 12.5 years old
- keep him healthy! – after declining gradually all year, we had to let him go in mid-October at almost 13.5 L.

Sonic - 2 years old
- Show in Novice B for CD and ring experience January-early April – We showed 17 times total in Novice B, with a wonderful four High in Trial jaunt to Lakeland, Florida in February the crowning glory.
- Show her in conformation as often as possible when she's got hair! – Earned 1 whole point in several attempts. She was bald a lot L.
- Show for last time in Novice B and first time in Open B at FCRSA National in June in Oregon - this will only be possible if she comes in season before entries close... – did not go, and was rewarded for that wise decision with her coming in season 2 days before the start of the National.
- CDX in fall – completed CDX in early October
- Start matching in Utility by late spring – did first one in February, just before she finished her CD. Utility was going well enough that we moved up to Utility 2 weeks after she finished her CDX, as it was for the once a year trials held in my training building. While she didn’t pass either day, she came within one exercise each time of passing, and also finished her Graduate Open title that weekend.
Best of all, she finished her UD on December 7, with a 197.5, good for 2nd place and 4 OTCh points! We earned 2 more bumper legs the following weekend at the difficult IX Center in Cleveland.
She is the first of my 9 UD dogs to go from CD to UD in one calendar year, and she is my youngest-ever UD, finishing the title at 3 year 3 months. 
- Compete in AKC Classic in Orlando in Novice - again, will depend on her heat cycle – opted out of this, as the chance of season was too great. Instead, we stayed closer to home and finished her UD up the first weekend in December, then went to the Cleveland IX Center trials for 2 bumper legs.
- Start running Master tests with her - June at National if possible, July at Ft. Detroit test if not. – ran test dog at Ft. Detroit in July, Flyways in August, and entered the Marshbanks test in August. Had a great first series, including lining the land blind, but bombed on the water blind in the 2nd series. Pretty much returned to obedience after that test.

Little - 3 years old
- Work on skills for MH when she's with me. – Did this, with mixed success. Not sure where we are going at this point. She went back to Helen when baby Jag came home, mid-June to mid-July, then in mid-August so they could work on obedience.

New puppy - I am hoping to have a new Border Terrier puppy by late spring...
-       get puppy well started on obedience foundation
Riverside Jaguar came home at 9 weeks on June 11. Jag has been super rewarding to train, and has already done a few matches, one in rally and a couple of Novice obedience ones. He learned to retrieve a dumbbell by the time he was about 12 weeks old, and has a pretty good grasp on scent discrimination, having done “Around the Clock” with him starting at 7 months. He is well started on all of the Open exercises and bits and pieces of Utility, as well as quite a bit of Rally and Beginner Novice exercises. He already has a fan base on YouTube J. Also has already earned 3 point in conformation.

- Website
   o implement Paypal for product purchases (finished in January)
   o implement Paypal for class signup (just never got going on this L)
   o plug away at desired additions - set monthly goals at beginning of each month – did some additions, but drifted away from website work again
  o Do GTD "weekly" reviews more consistently - goal is at least 24 for year
-       By no means did 24, but I did them more often than in previous years and mostly felt caught up enough
- FlyLady work
   o keep up with kitchen – Fritz’s new early morning schedule has made this goal come true
   o Zone work – not as good at end of year as beginning, but much improved. Google doc that both of us can refer to about what house chores are needed has helped a lot.
- Get back to some form of aerobic exercise. Goal: 100 purposeful aerobic workouts in 2014, 15+ minutes (biking with dogs, Nordic Track, walking dogs, snow shoeing) – I really rocked this goal, with 200 and counting workouts for the year. Having an every-50-workout prize to work for has been incredibly motivating for me, as was having a FitBit Flex.
Two of my prizes - a gorgeous braided whistle lanyard and a custom leather collar for Sonic.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Momentum and Cookie-Toss Retrieves

My new email signature for the month:  "If you train a young dog for momentum, precision will arrive. If you train for precision, demanding perfection, momentum will depart." - Rex Carr

Momentum is a term thrown about more often in retriever training than obedience training, but it certainly applies to obedience. To me, Rex's quote is all about training for the big picture by building in the speed first. I have always worked for a flashier performance with my dogs vs. a robotic one. Don't get me wrong; I want precision. But I also know if I work on precision too much before instilling the speed I desire, it is harder to get the speed later.

In obedience, we are judged on the speed our dog returns or comes to us: a brisk trot or gallop is required. Anything less should be penalized in some way. While a brisk trot is acceptable according to the regulations, I still strive for a gallop whenever as I can.

Earlier this week while training Sonic, I realized she is rarely slower than a brisk trot as she returns but she wasn't consistently galloping on her returns on her retrieves or on her jumping for the Open jumps. Given the sometimes scary speed with which she returns from a field retrieve–harder driving than any previous dog I've trained–I know she is capable of more speed. I just haven't explained that component well enough to her.

With that in mind, I've been working cookie-toss retrieves with both the dumbbell and gloves: as she picks up the object, I might run away from her, or command her to come, then throw a cookie through my legs when she is almost to me. As she goes through my legs, I race to the other end of the area, turn around and repeat. Sometimes she has already picked the object back up (she drops it to get the thrown treat) and is running back. Sometimes she needs a come command. I'm whooping it up with her, cheering her on, and we are both getting in some wind sprints. Since my wind needs all the help it can get, it is a valuable side-benefit of the game :-). We have been doing about 6 retrieves of the dumbbell this way, and 6 glove reps, adding in pivots and marking. It is not an overnight fix, but I think the long-term results will be very pleasing.

How is your dog's momentum?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 Goals

- Be thoughtful about what new projects I take on
- Website
   o implement Paypal for product purchases (January)
   o implement Paypal for class signup (January-February)
   o plug away at desired additions - set monthly goals at beginning of each month
- Do GTD "weekly" reviews more consistently - goal is at least 24 for year
- FlyLady work
   o keep up with kitchen
   o Zone work
- Get back to some form of aerobic exercise. Goal: 100 purposeful aerobic workouts in 2014, 15+ minutes (biking with dogs, Nordic Track, walking dogs, snow shoeing)

Joker 12.5 years old
- keep him healthy!

Sonic - 2 years old
- Show in Novice B for CD and ring experience January-early April
- show her in conformation as often as possible when she's got hair!
- show for last time in Novice B and first time in Open B at FCRSA National in June in Oregon - this will only be possible if she comes in season before entries close...
- CDX in fall
- start matching in Utility by late spring
- compete in AKC Classic in Orlando in Novice - again, will depend on her heat cycle
- start running Master tests with her - June at National if possible, July at Ft. Detroit test if not

Little - 3 years old
- work on skills for MH when she's with me

New puppy - I am hoping to have a new Border Terrier puppy by late spring...
- get puppy well started on obedience foundation