Friday, December 31, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Last year in December, I wrote a blog post about my 2009 accomplishments and 2010 goals. I made the list of 2010 goals rather rapidly and without a huge amount of thought. Almost as soon as I posted it, I thought, "Why did I put down 'agility?' and 'walk or run a 5k'?

Goals for 2010

Finish his OTCh.
Accomplished in January 2010. Did only a few other obedience trials the rest of the year, possibly the fewest I've done since I started competing in the 1980's.
Finish his MH
YES! Finished Labor Day weekend, 2010. Gryffin is only the 6th retriever in AKC history to be a CH OTCH MH. I am still beyond proud of accomplishing all of these titles with me handling & training him for everything. He is such a great dog and I feel so blessed to have him at my side, whatever the adventure.
Submit HOF info
Got it in the mail with a week to spare.
Nope. Another one of those spur-of-the-moment additions that I'm not in the least upset about not accomplishing.

Get her SH
YES! Finished the same weekend Gryff finished his MH. A lot of ups and downs. Some days, she can be brilliant, others, I really wondered how she had ANY legs at all. Getting to the Master level may well be beyond her/our capabilities, but we'll learn a lot together.
Start her UD and beyond journey - Utiility by National in June
Didn't show in Utility until two times in October, and did miraculously earn one leg. I made the very wise decision to do Graduate Open at the National in June. Signals were just too fuzzy for her at full distance, and we were spending too much time training for the hunt tests. She did get 1st place in GO at the National.
Advance her MH work
She has probably had more exposure to MH level work at this stage than Gryffin did simply because I am working on it with Gryffin. We still have a LONG way to go on water blinds. Her memory on water for marks is also pretty erratic. I doubt she could do a triple on water with any complexity. But with time, it may come.
Nope. Another one of those spur-of-the-moment additions.

Earn RE
He got one leg in February, a 2nd one in October, and actually did pass a 3rd time, but I was sure we'd missed a station, so asked the judge to NQ us.
Earn UD
He also only showed 2 times in October, and also miraculously earned a leg, with my first ever score in the 170's.

Get Totally Fetching finished and released
Mission accomplished! Well, at least the finished part. Release should be sometime in early January 2011. I'm currently in that limbo period of "What if no one likes it?" that hits just before release of a new product.
Get started on Drop on Recall project
Mostly just thought about it, but I did write an outline just recently, mainly to get it out of my head.
BNI membership
Still on the membership committee. Still debating whether the effort of membership produces enough benefit.

House dejunking - keep it up!
Did a lot early in the year. Later on, not so much, partly because other projects took priority.
FlyLady work
Same as above
Keep using Things and gettin' organized via 'Getting Things Done'
Doing well with this one. I still love my 'Things' software, and use it daily.
work out consistenly
My December 2009 surgery curtailed working out early in the year, then a shoulder injury caused a multiple month layoff from Curves. Thought about giving up my membership, but I'm glad to say I went back late in the fall and have definitely noticed a difference. I'm also walking regularly while doing rehab work with Gryffin. Not long periods of time, but it's better than nothing.
walk or run a 5K
This was one of those spur of the moment, toss it in goals. Didn't do it.
Finish out MWFCR Presidency smoothly
Sigh. Because we never had an annual meeting (mainly because many of us were involved in helping with this year's National in June), the election never took place. Then our secretary resigned. We're basically in limbo and I can't stir myself to really care.
Keep on top of Marshbank's trial work
The 2010 trials saw our biggest entries ever. I hope to add a few additional classes and nice title rosettes next year.
Travel trailer
I spent a huge amount of time researching and test driving various possible tow vehicles. Test drove a fully loaded Suburban and a bare-bones cargo van in late July, then discovered the Sportsmobile website. Poured over van designs during vacation, visited the factory in August, flew to California in early October to look at a used one, 95% sure I was going to buy it. TOO BIG! Rethinking the whole thing. With Gryffin injured, the whole thing is on hold.
Apprentice for several weeks with field trainer
The timing simply didn't work out to work with Mitch White in the spring. Darn. Still hope to do this someday.


o Keep on trucking! He'll turn 14 on March 3.

o Finish his UD & RE

o Get him sound and keep him that way.
o Qualify and attend the 2011 NOI in Orlando, FL. He has been invited 3 years in a row, but we've never gone. We will obviously need to show a lot more than in 2010 to accomplish this, since about 1/2 the qualifying period is already past. This seems much more attainable than qualifying for the Master National.
o Qualify for the Master National. He has 2 of the needed 6 passes. We'd hoped to run two more tests that counted in September and October, but his mid-September sliced hock made that impossible. This goal is probably out of our reach because of his injury, but I still want to shoot for it. Aim high, I like to say. Even if I can't go with Gryffin, I hope to make the trip to at least watch some of it.

o Finish her UD, see if she can get some UDX legs. An OTCh seems pretty far fetched right now. I'll just have to see what develops.
o Keep working on her Master level training in the field. Entering a Master by the fall of 2011 looks out of reach right now. I think 2012 is going to be MUCH more realistic.

o Sell 400 copies of Totally Fetching
o Update website - maybe learn how to do some of it myself?
o Keep developing social media usage for my businesses
o Host a training camp
o Write the script for the someday Drop on Recall video
o Get back to using Constant Contact consistently - maybe a monthly newsletter?

o Work out at least 110 times @ Curves. I made it to 390 total workouts since joining in January 2007, and I'd like to be at 500 by end of 2011.
o Keep honing my use of 'Getting Things Done'.
o Complete AKC Open apprenticeship requirements.

Friday, December 24, 2010

How to order 'Totally Fetching'

Totally Fetching: Teaching & Proofing a Reliable Retrieve is Adele Yunck’s update to the long-popular 1995 VHS video, Positively Fetching: Teaching the Obedience Retrieves Using Food. She kept the best of the original video and redid the rest, adding a section on building your dog’s hold, and greatly enhancing the proofing section. This 73-minute DVD takes you through the whole process of teaching your dog how to retrieve for the AKC obedience ring, from choosing the right equipment through proofing and problem solving. See a large variety of dogs from all of the AKC breed groups learning how to retrieve. You will see successes as well as errors. The companion booklet includes some photos and is a great supplemental reference when you are away from a DVD player.

See a fun trailer for the DVD here.

Update 1/9/11: I picked up the DVDs on 1/7/11 and have shipped all advance orders. To order your copy of the DVD and booklet, send your payment (write your check to “NDT”) to:

NDT • 3676 W Ellsworth Rd • Ann Arbor, MI 48103

Include your shipping address and your e-mail address if available. I won’t cash your check until I ship your DVD.
The cost for early-bird orders postmarked by January 31, 2011 is $45 including shipping/handling.
The DVD/booklet package will sell for $50 + $4 shipping/handling starting February 1, 2011.

Do you have an old VHS copy of Positively Fetching still on your shelf? Return it with your order for the new DVD and take $15 off the prices listed above. That means you can get your copy of the new one before January 31, 2011 for only $30! I plan to recycle any old VHS tapes collected.

While I will eventually have the DVD available via Amazon and other resellers, for the first couple of months of 2011, this is how to get it.

Please share this link with anyone you might thing is interested.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Hall of Fame

I've been working on a Photoshop collage of photos of Gryffin for his FCRSA Hall of Fame page, and this inspired me to create the new collage of photos of all of my dogs for the top of the blog. What do you think?

Gryffin has actually been eligible for the Hall of Fame since he completed his UD and SH in 2007, but I wanted to see how far we could go in our title pursuit. I'm glad I waited :-). Trying to condense our 7.5 years together into a single page isn't easy. I've got a write up done, but need to sit on it for 24 hours. Hopefully, I can get a good print of the collage to send in for the FCRSA HOF album.

This process has once again reminded me of the wonderful ride I've been on with Gryffin. I am so fortunate that Helen picked him for me. It is such fun looking back on the highs and lows of the journey together.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thank You!

Now that the dust is starting to settle from finalizing the work, I would like to thank the following people for their help and encouragement to get Totally Fetching done:

• Raissa Hinman and her Alaskan Malamutes, Aura and her son Bootstrap
• Kay Braddock and her German Wirehaired Pointers, Jet, Hank, and Belle
• Belinda Venner and her Labrador Retriever Sparta and her German Shorthaired Pointer Tesla, forever preserved as the cute puppy she was!
• Joanne Silhanek & Shetland Sheepdog Kelly
• Brenda Riemer & Shetland Sheepdog Liza. Brenda has also been a great support and Gentle Nudger when I needed it. I'm not sure if I returned the nudging for her projects as much as she would have liked, but I surely appreciate the pushing she gave me when I needed it.

All five of them participated in several taping sessions over several months time (as I started and stopped working on it), both in front of and behind the video camera. I appreciate them being willing to show both the good and the bad of the process!

I also owe big thanks to the woman whose name I never learned who audited the June 2009 seminar I did at the DTC of Champaign Urbana. She did a really fine job taping the 35 minutes of the retrieve portion of the seminar. I was able to use a lot of the footage in the update, and I really appreciate her efforts! If anyone can help me learn her name, I would be grateful.

Back when I first started contemplating how to begin the update process, I consulted with a couple of guys at Russell Video in Ann Arbor. I had gotten VHS tape duplicates done there for many years. They encouraged me to do a lot of the production work myself, both taping and editing. I've been assuming that I would go back to them at the end of the process, but because they are a PC shop and all my work has been done on a Mac, I ended up opting to finish up with World Class Tapes, also in Ann Arbor. My son Ryan had his One Year CD mastered and reproduced at WCT last year. It also didn't hurt that owner Sue had trained one of her dogs at Northfield in the past.

A few weeks ago, I met with Mike at WCT, and he walked me through the process of how to get my iMovie projects into a final duplicatable DVD. Another learning curve followed, and I am grateful to him for his patient guidance. Being the computer geek that I am, I've really enjoyed the process.

Now to get busy with marketing and preparing for shipping loads and loads of DVDs...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Happy Dance of the Done DVD

Some of you may know about this from Facebook... I've been making a big push since early November to *finally* wrap up my DVD update to 'Positively Fetching: Teaching the Obedience Retrieves Using Food'. The update is called 'Totally Fetching: Teaching & Proofing a Reliable Retrieve'.

I did a premature happy dance last Weds morning, when I successfully burned a DVD and thought I had a good master. Since there were problems with the menu selection order, it wasn't good. Darn.

Sunday afternoon, I started wrestling with iDVD, trying to customize the menus as I wanted them. I'm reasonably confident that today's DVD burn produced the final master for duplication. I dropped it off at the shop that will be doing the final packaging late this afternoon.

The original was a 60-minute VHS tape. The update is a 73-minute DVD. Today I watched it all on my TV for the first time (as opposed to my laptop screen), and I'm just so darned happy with it. Also quite tired of looking at it :-).

When Judy Byron and I did the original video, we hired a local (to Ann Arbor) production company, and so I sat in on most of the editing sessions, to supervise how it was put together. When I first started contemplating this update (oh, sometime in early 2009, I think), I decided to invest in the latest iMovie software and do as much of it myself as I could - I could certainly learn how to use the software myself. As it turns out, I did pretty much all of it, with some excellent guidance for the final production process from Mike at World Class Tapes, the company that will be duplicating and packaging the DVDs. I also had to learn how to use iDVD. Having been a computer programmer in my Life Before Dogs, this is actually something I enjoy doing. I'm even looking forward to whatever the next video project will be, since it will be much easier since I know the software so much better.

I don't know what the ETA of the salable DVDs will be, but I'm pretty confident it will be by mid-January. I'll have ordering info available in several places when the time is right. Among others, I'll put in on my JABBY Productions Facebook fan page.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Shocker in Ann Arbor

About 10 minutes before going in the ring with Ty today in our first attempt at Utility, I suddenly thought, "Oh drat... Every one of my dogs has gotten a Q their 1st time in the Utility ring. My streak is bound to end today." (Joker was also going in Utility for the 1st time.) Then I remembered that Tramp (my 2nd dog, 1st OTCh.) did NQ her 1st try at Utility, earning her 1st leg the next day. Okay, just never mind. And besides, who else REALLY CARES???

Ty did show in Grad Open in June at the Specialty, which meant we were training regularly leading up to it, just not quite ready distance-wise on Signals and Go-outs. Joker hadn't had regular training since... March? April? Before? Both had done some Util matches last winter/spring, but VERY crudely. Then I spent all summer doing field work with Ty & Gryffin, with nearly zero obedience practice.

When Gryff cut his hock in September 19, it slammed our field season to a halt. I immediately jumped into obedience training, concentrating on Utility with Joker and Ty. We did two consecutive Friday matches @ NDT, with a productive week of training in between. I made a quick 3-day trip to California two weeks ago, so no training Thu-Sat, and was in Florida last weekend and missed 4 days of training.

On Wednesday this past week, Ty could NOT do her signals - and it wasn't just one of them. She was failing them every which way - on my drop signal, she might down, or sit, or stand and wag. On her sit signal, she might lie there, or sit, or stand up. I was SO frustrated. I'm very glad my friend Belinda was there, because I think her presence helped keep me from completely losing my cool. After that session, I was sure we couldn't pass signals. Okay, so we'd see if she could do the rest of the class. I was pretty confident with the other exercises. Then she decided that immediately after the Moving Stand exam, she needed to just return on her own. EEK! I practiced with a toy behind her to which I'd release her after an exam. Yesterday, on the last try, she started breaking to the toy instead of to me. Progress!

How to solve the signal problem??? I thought back to our meltdown on Signals in March, when she wasn't staying on the stand and was having drop problems. I pulled out a clicker and worked on those two things (stay put and don't anticipate, but DO drop when signaled). On Thursday when I went out to train, I had my temper well under control, and got out a clicker and worked on back chaining - I did several signal recalls from a sit for a click and treat. Then left her in a down, sit, click, toss a treat. We worked our way back to the drop. Her training ended on a definite up note from Wednesday.

Joker has been getting steadily better at the overall class exercises but he is just SO green. I thought he could probably do the signal exercise - he's been MUCH more reliable than Ty, and articles have been solid. The corner gloves are dicey, his moving stand is poorly understood (stop is good, return usually okay, but the exam... OH the exam... "Oh, you are coming to pet me? Let me come closer so you can do it sooner!"). My biggest concern, though, has been Directed Jumping. Three weeks ago, he was failing the exercise in multiple ways - not leaving me on my send command; not waiting long enough after the sit; and taking the same jump twice. My husband Fritz even came out one evening and called commands for me, which caused both dogs to make mistakes.

I finished up feeling SO good about everyone's training that day. Gryff had his first really full training session - during my California trip, he'd injured himself and was on three legs again. I hired my son Ryan to leash walk him while I was gone in Florida. Gryff was absolutely fabulous training Thursday. He was entered in both Open and Utility both days. I decided to give all the dogs a brief run in the agility yard. And Gryff ended up on 3 legs again :-(. Can we say dumb owner? We ended up at our local rehab vet Friday morning. She feels the injury is in his lower back, and suggests we see a chiropractor. Given that that couldn't happen until next week, I opted to have her do an acupuncture session. I've never seen one before, and it was fascinating. The needles that were in the muscle on the right side of his spine (the sore side) were twitching and dancing and bobbing. Once done, he did trot out (vs. the hopping he was doing on the way in). It wasn't a totally sound trot, but definite improvement. I was instructed to apply heat, massage, and ice a couple times a day. He is totally acting like his regular crazy self, which is a bit frustrating, but it does make me think that he can't be hurting TOO much.

We had order I in Utility today, which meant Signals first. I was in with Ty first (I did not show Gryff today), so figured we'd be able to relax after a prompt NQ. She had a significant lag on the fast and then didn't sit on the halt, but the rest of her heeling was fine. And she DID HER SIGNALS! I told the judge, "Well, that was unexpected!" Her articles and glove (#2) were all fine. Okay, would my bandaid hold for the Moving Stand? Her stop was quite good, and OMG, she stayed still when the judge stepped back! Decent finish for another passed exercise. Her 1st go-out and jump were fabulous. As the judge passed in front of us to switch sides for the 2nd half, she asked if my heart was pounding. Oh, yeah :-). Great 2nd half, and our first leg!

Joker was in Exc. B rally, and earned his 2nd leg with a 1st place 99. We went into the Utility ring about a 1/2 hour later. When we were ready to start Signals, oh, drat, he was looking forward, and when I started, he didn't. I immediately gave him a verbal command to heel. It's an expensive error, but not an NQ (it cost us 5 points). The rest of his heeling was quite nice (well, for Joker :-)), and he also did his signals. Good boy! He plugged away through articles, the glove retrieve (dangling it by a finger, but holding without dropping), and the Moving Stand. OMG, could we have another Q? He looked out well, and dashed off on my go-out cues. Oops, he pulled up shorter than I like, and I gave him a fast sit command. Jump was fine. Second go-out, same pulling up short. Not 10 feet past the jump short, but still far from where I'd like to see him. He waited for my command, I took my time, and then... he took the correct jump, came in and ... another Q for my team!

Ty ended up with a 190, 4 off the Signals, and then crooked turns, fronts, finishes on most everything else. Joker had my first ever score in the 170's :-) - a 178. He lost 9 on the Signal Exercise (ouch!), which would have been -4 had he started with me as he usually does. He lost 8 on DJ (another ouch) - I didn't ask the judge how she deducted, but I'm betting 3 points per go-out, plus fronts and finishes.

I am still in shock... even though we have been cramming for this for the past month, there are just so many things that could go wrong. I wasn't that convinced when I sent in my entries that either was likely to pass, but how can I pass up this once-a-year opportunity to show in my building? And yes, we have a HUGE home-court advantage. They aren't ready to go elsewhere yet, but this gives me a good read on where they are.

And oh my gosh, they each have a Utility leg!

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Utility Training Update

I've lost track if I mentioned it here, but Gryffin sliced his left hock a couple of weekends ago. Not, thank god, a career ending slice, but it had him on 3 legs for a couple of days, thus ending our wonderful season of hunt tests. The silver lining is that I've leapt back into obedience training, particularly with Joker and Ty in Utility. Neither of them has shown in Utility yet, nor even done that many matches with any sort of thought of being even vaguely close to ready to trial. Joker hasn't really been trained regularly since sometime in the spring - maybe March? April? Ty Q'ed in Graduate Open at the National back in June, but since then, we focused on field work, with next to no obedience work.

I had matches here at home today and a week ago. I ran them both through last week. Ty had pretty disastrous signals and various other issues. Joker stood there on the down signal, but did the rest of his signals nicely. I don't think he actually did too much else right.

We have trained a whole bunch since then - almost daily, in fact - mostly at home, but we did take one road trip Wednesday to the Toledo KC, where we'll probably trial in late November. Gryffin just LOVES to show there.

Ty passed everything except for anticipating the MS return. In her defense, because she kept turning her head during the exam, the 'judge' kept pushing her head back. She probably pushed Ty's head about 5 times. When she finished the exam and stepped back, Ty started in. I think the alarm had gone off in her head... "Times up!" Other than that, she did a lot of excellent work. I'm not overly concerned about fronts and finishes right now, but even they were pretty good. Certainly, she did all of them without more than a 1/2 point off. I waited a little extra long to cue the 2nd jump. She was twitching towards the high jump, which she'd already done, but she waited and stayed attentive. She also started slightly in the wrong direction on a couple of finishes, but then went the right way. One was to my right, one to my left. I am VERY pleased with her progress in just a week.

Joker also did a lot more correctly today. Most of the problems he had were familiar. We started with Directed Jumping, and doing go-outs cold? No goes on both of them. But I've gotten that when I've done some glove/go-out proofing and he's made mistakes, so I wasn't that surprising. I still need to work out the best position for him when I send him, what the best signal is for me to use, etc. He also wanted to repeat the HJ on the right. He doesn't quite seem to get that after doing THIS jump, we do THAT jump. His moving stand was good, though I asked the judge to do a simpler exam. He went to glove 2 instead of 1. I already knew I had a problem with glove 3, so that's why I picked 1. It is probably his weakest exercise. Guess what we'll be doing frequently this week? He missed his first article, which was in the center. He had circled and sniffed all of the outer articles twice, and I think simply timed out. This is unusual, so I'm not particularly worried. He's actually been showing me a very nice and deliberate work on them. He got back on track, and his 2nd one was fine. AND... drum roll, not only did he do his signals fine, he actually heeled NICELY with me. And notice, I didn't say "Joker heeled nicely, for him." No, it wasn't perfect. But he was with me. We've been starting each of our training sessions with a dozen or so set ups. His understanding of heel position is so poor, that it makes training the Utility exercises cumbersome, because it takes so many tries to get him in decent enough position to get started. This set-up work is paying off - our last two training days have resulted in much less effort from me to get him there. Again, he isn't perfect, but he's improved.

Gryffin did Open after not doing much work on it at all. He was brilliant :-). I caught him in some attention lapses in Utility which caused him to bark at me when I corrected him. Mr. Sassypants. Overall, some really fine work from him. He is my 'comfortable slippers' dog now. Who would have thunk it about my goofball?

It's amazing what a week of consistent training can produce. I guess it is time to get off my duff and fill out those Marshbanks entries...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Town & Country Camp Ground pond blinds

I attended AKC obedience and rally judges seminar this weekend in West Salem, Ohio, hosted by Linda & Mike MacDonald, long time obedience competitors. I had another enjoyable camping experience at the Town & Country Camp Ground that's all of about 1/4 mile down the road from their property. Lo and behold, there was a great big flat and closely mowed field right across from the camp site I selected that worked great for the Walking Baseball field drill I did Saturday morning. There were also several ponds on the grounds. I asked at the check-in office if it was okay to swim the dogs, and was told it was okay. So, when the seminar finished Saturday afternoon, I headed back to the campgrounds and did some training. When I got home, I looked the campgrounds up on Google maps and grabbed the pond photo to make my diagrams. I love the internet!

On Saturday, I did these blinds with Gryff:

Blinds 1 & 2 had a similar theme of cross open water and then parallel the shore. As expected, he kept wanting to cut in to the shore on Blind 1. Pretty ugly, in fact. Blind 2 was better, but it was also further off shore. On Blind 3, he tried for the point instead of going past it. There was a tree about a yard to the left of the blind, and once past the point, he swam straight for a long time, seemingly marking off the tree.

And these with Ty:

I put a pile of bumpers at spot X for her, and did it multiple times from different spots along the shoreline from which the shorter line originates. We finished up with the long blind. The blue zig-zag is an approximation of her path to the blind. LOTS of trying to go to the right shore. It was quite a struggle. Once she got beyond the point on the right, it smoothed out.

Today, I did these two technical blinds with Gryff:

I taught him the blinds via back-chaining, starting at position 1, then moving back to position 2, then ended by running the whole thing 2-3 times from position 3. His cheating tendency, especially when there is a shoreline to his right, showed up on blind 1 when starting from position 2. He wanted to veer right to take a bit more land instead of the desired entry near 1. Then when we'd backed up to position 3, he kept trying to land early and enter water late. The photo doesn't show the Gazebo that was between pos 1 & 2, to his right as he ran the blind.

He had a lot of trouble on blind 2 exiting the water near position 2 and taking a straight line across the land to reenter the water. We've done a fair bit of decheating lately, and I think he was being overly honest. But once out, he'd take a line like he was going to run around the left end of the 2nd portion of water.

Today, I did this series of blinds with Ty:

I was really pleased with her effort today. She does continue to want to enter the water in the same place, which means if we move down the shore, she veers. I stopped her and called her back to try again. I did some moving up. Once, I had her stay and walked forward and showed her the entry point. On her last blind, which was essentially a repeat from Saturday, she leapt in with enthusiasm, and did a very nice job. The photo doesn't show the fountain that was spouting, nor the 3 geese swimming off to the shore at the top of the photo :-). Whereas she kept heading for the right shore on Saturday, today she seemed to be heading for the fountain, then the geese, but then corrected and did most of the 85 yd blind without intervention. Bravo, Ty!

The biggest downside? They smell like a swamp. But what valuable training it was!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The rare combination of Ch OTCh MH

Earlier this year, when Gryffin earned Master pass #3, an email friend told me that his Toller was only the 5th retriever in AKC history to have earned the special combination of Ch OTCh MH. That has been in the back of my head ever since, but I didn't want to jinx myself and do any research myself before Gryffin finished.

In the past week, I've corresponded with John about this rare achievement. He said the AKC was unable to verify without spending a boatload of money for reports. Not the way to go. It would seem that Gryffin has joined these dogs:

Two Golden Retrievers:
(someone sent me who the other dog is, but I can't find it)

Two previous Flat-Coats, both owned by Paulette Schwartzendrubber:
CH OTCH Hob-B's Knite Ryder, MH , WCX
CH OTCH MACH Clisocha Big Tyme Hob-B, UDX, MH, MX, MXJ, WCX

One Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, owned by John and Marie Simon:
Ch OTCh Westerlea's Sir Edumnd UDX3 OM1 MH WCX

So with Gryffin joining Paulette's two Flat-Coats, that puts Flat-Coats in the lead for the most in this elite club.

I think it makes him a one-in-a-million dog :-). And I'm especially proud that I have done all of the training and exhibiting to all of these titles.

Master pass #6 for Gryffin

I'm writing this from the Chain O' Lakes campground, where the dogs and I camped the past two nights. We're having a leisurely morning before heading home.

I got up way early on Friday morning (had to teach until 9 pm Thursday), hit the road at 5:30 AM, and was at the test site by a bit after 8 AM, for the Friday Master test at the Backwater Retriever Club. We were running under Dan & Peggy Ramsey. I've run Dan's tests numerous times, to Peggy for the 1st time back in July (pass #4). They seem to put on very reasonable tests, and are really pulling for the dogs. And they both really like Gryffin :-).

Most of the tests for the weekend were near Albion, Indiana, where our field events were held for the National this year. Because of the big entry, the Master flight (division) I was in was held in Topeka, IN, which based on the large number of horse and buggies, is a large Amish community. If my info is right, the test site is owned by Amish people, which means it can't be used on Sundays. The site was an old gravel pit, and frankly, a bit of a junk yard, but it was nice to be in one place - with a porta potti - and not have to drive around at all.

The test started with a land triple, double blind, and an honor. We were in a flat field that had clearly been carved out of the land in the past. It had fairly steep sides on the left and back. The first mark came from a gun station up on top of the cliff to the left - kinda cool, I've never had a mark come from way up high like that. It landed conveniently next to a small mound, which gave me a good land mark to remember (I'm a terrible marker - it's why I appreciate my dogs' abilities). The 2nd one came from the middle of the field and landed behind the large patch of taller cover in the center of the field. The 3rd was a shot flier from the right side of the field. Gryff was his usual Steady Eddie self, grabbed up the flier, having to hunt a bit on the center bird, and going right to the bird by the mound. The shorter blind was to the left of the tall cliff, cleverly tucked into a little pocket with trees and bushes and a hill behind it. He went almost al the way to it on my initial send (yeah, Gryff) and had just a couple little handles at the end. He essentially lined the longer blind, which was between the left and middle stations. His honor was rock solid, as usual.

The 2nd series was a walk-up (walking to the line, the first bird goes off while you are still in motion) water double with a blind. What was unusual was that we had a 2nd flier - never had that before. The flier came out of a station on the left shore, and instead of landing about in the middle of the pond, it was hit late, and landed where the 2nd bird was supposed to land. So we had a 'no bird'. I put him back in his crate and waited for 3 dogs to run (as is typically a good idea). One of the skills that I realize I don't ever practice is coming out of a holding blind and having to stop to pick up the handler gun. I frequently carry one out of the holding blind, but the stopping to pick it up while maintaining control needs some work. I need to come up with a gun stand in order to do so. I got some ideas from some friends at the test.

So on our rerun, the flier was shot correctly, and the other bird came out and landed farther to the left than where the no bird one had landed. This meant the two birds were pretty close together. As he swam out for the right bird, he looked longingly over at the high-floating flier. He ducked in behind the bush where the no bird one had landed, but fairly promptly came up with the bird. No problem on the 2nd one.

The blind was set up so that it was under the arc of the flier. This is one of the scenarios I drilled with him quite a bit in August, and wow, did the work pay off... I lined him up, gave him his cues, and he locked on and swam right to it. Very proud training moment! This time, there was no doubt in my mind that we would go on to the 3rd series.

My training partner Corinne was running her Toller Neon in just their 2nd Master test (1st pass back in July), but in the other flight. At the end of the day, she really didn't think she'd get called back, but between me and one other person, we convinced her that staying when you haven't passed is much better than leaving if you have. Turns out to have been a good choice, since they nailed the last series and got their 2nd pass.

I got to the test site earlier than planned, which turns out to have been good, since they called for test dog almost as soon as I arrived. It was a land/water triple, really fun little test. We ran from back in the woods, looking out across two ponds separated by a narrow dike. The first bird came out left to right across the ponds, landing in the back corner. The 2nd one came out of the woods to the left across the right side of the closer pond, landing cleverly in a patch of leaves, which very effectively camouflaged the duck. The final bird came out of the first gun station, but came straight at us.

We had to sit on a bucket as the birds went down, and during the handler briefing, Dan had shown where he would put it if he was running a dog, but said we could put it anywhere we wanted. After how inattentive Gryff had been on the walkup the day before, I was very pleased when he came out of the blind with me and lo and behold, did a very fine sit stay while I moved the bucket and picked up the gun. The apprentice judge even made a note about his fine line manners for that one! When I sent him on the go bird, he leapt into the water with a big squeal of delight, something I don't remember him doing in a test since he was 16 months old in his first WC test. He got right out to the first bird. I sent him for the shorter right one next. He got out and veered left, almost as though he wanted to peek over the hill to see if that middle one was still there. He had to hunt a bit for the bird that was hidden in the leaves, but his nose won. When I sent him for the middle bird, he took a nice line to the dike, but then hunted to the left. He then ran back along the dike and around the right side of the pond, cheating black heart that he is. He quickly found his bird, ran back around the edge, but when he got to the dike, he ran back along it until he was straight in front of me, jumped in and returned. A small spurt of consciousness?

I got hugs from both judges before leaving the line, since they weren't going to be at the awards that evening. it was great to know before the ribbon ceremony that we'd passed :-).

So that is our 2nd of the needed 6 passes to qualify for the 2011 Master National. It sure was a fun test, and though I was somewhat nervous, nothing like when going for the title. Kind of like after you get your final OTCh points, suddenly, you are hard to beat :-).

Ty ran her last Senior test and was fairly awful. Makes me doubly glad she titled last weekend! I ended up calling her in on the land blind because she was totally ignoring my whistle sits and casts. In fact, I ended up walking out to her to put her leash on her, since she wouldn't come. I think that got her attention!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

A Dream Realized

Today, I accomplished a goal that seemed like an impossible dream early in Gryffin's life. I think it was my dear departed friend Leslie Reichard who first planted the seed... CH OTCH MH. I poo-pooed the idea. I think she even suggested that before Gryff had his JH. I had done the first two titles with 3 other dogs. But an MH? Naw, too far fetched. Leslie was nuts! I couldn't possibly. I'd never even earned a JH on a dog, let alone anything higher.

Back in January this year, we reached the pinnacle of obedience, and my jolly boy completed the requirements to become my 5th OTCh dog. So, I set my sights on reaching that impossible dream. We had earned 2 of the 5 passes required for the title in 2009. Could we get three more? It became my #1 goal for 2010. We earned leg #3 at the FCRSA Specialty. We failed our next test, but I learned a critical lesson. At $70-75 an entry for a Master test, believe me, you remember the lesson when you do something dumb! We earned leg #4 in July. Last weekend, we failed again. Granted, it was on the toughest test we'd been in, but still... Add to that Ty's failure in Senior, and we had our 1st double flunko weekend. I was SO disappointed Sunday. I thought a lot about an essay I wrote early in 2009 about dealing with disappointment. Although we still had several more tests we could enter this fall, I wasn't sure I could maintain the training schedule. I pushed myself to train this past week,
and we had a lot of up and down sessions, especially for Ty. Friday, I tried to remind myself to concentrate on Gryff's successes instead of dwelling on Ty's poor work.

Gryff got through the first series yesterday without having to handle on one of the marks that many people DID have to handle on. While his blind wasn't 1st class, it was okay. The 2nd series had me nervous. He again did the two marks (a double with the very close 2nd bird a 'wiper bird', i.e., one thrown across the line to the 1st one to wipe out the dog's memory) without any handling from me (the generally preferred method), but the 2nd half of the 1st water blind was not very good. Okay, it stunk! The 2nd one was very nice, though.

So we went home exhausted late last night with no real idea of whether or not we'd passed. I arrived back at Omega about as the 2nd series was wrapping up, hoping we hadn't made the trip in vain. And we made it through to the 3rd series!!! Yippee, another chance!
The final series was a water triple on a pond on which we had failed two 3rd series last year. We've trained on it a lot this year, which has it's good points and bad. He got the left go bird promptly, but had a looooong hunt for the right bird that was thrown on the right end of an island. To his credit, he stayed tight in the area of the fall, but geeze, did it give me a racing heart, trying to make sure I was ready to help him if he got too far off! I had my whistle in my mouth, but having seen several handlers need to handle on the long middle mark, I didn't want to use it up on the right bird. When I took delivery of that right bird, he looked out up the middle, and locked on the spot where the middle bird had landed. I gave him a loud GRYFFIN to send him and he rocketed out and almost immediately snatched up that bird. Oh how sweet it was!

So my dear, wonderful, jolly, goofy boy is now:

Ch OTCh Grousemoor Gryffindor UDX RE MH WCX

Thanks, Leslie, for planting that seed so many years ago. I sure wish you could have been here to see it realized, but somehow, I think you know.

Adele & Gryffin CH OTCH MH

Ty's 4th SH pass

I'm very happy to report that Ty earned her 4th Senior Hunter pass at yesterday's Michigan Flyways test @ Omega Farms, and is now:

Ch Grousemoor Timeless CDX *SH* RE WCX

Her land series work was simply superb, probably the best overall she's had in a test. We had to do a walk up to the flier as a single, then run the blind behind the flier station, then do a double to the right of the flier station. While I didn't watch close to all the dogs in Senior, of those I watched, her marking was the best. I actually saw a lot of handlers having to handle on their marks. Her initial line to her blind was fabulous, carrying her 3/4 of the way to the blind before the slope of the hillside, the mound of dirt, and the flier station all sucked her down the hill. That was so exciting! And then she went and 'stepped on' both birds in the double.

After the week we've had training water (mostly really, really frustratingly poor), I figured the only way we could possibly do a passing water blind was if the destination was one she had been to in the past. We got very lucky :-). We were on the heart-shaped pond. The line was on the north hill. The memory bird was just on the shoreline on the east side of the pond, and the go-bird into the north east corner of the pond. She got the go bird very nicely. After taking delivery, she didn't quite wait for me to send her, but headed off enthusiastically. She got into the water, but then turned back to check. I kept my mouth closed, and she figured it out. She started hunting to the left of the gun station (fairly common), and suddenly headed back along the shore towards the go bird location. Shades of last week when I stood and watched her run all the way back to the go bird location! I blew a whistle tardily just as she got behind the very high grass on the shoreline and she disappeared. I was sure she would pop out near the go bird, when suddenly she appeared out of the corn up the hill from the duck. I'm not sure how well she was really responding to my come-in whistles, but she did get there pretty quickly once she appeared out of the corn.

The water blind was to a point on the opposite shore. When we did this blind 2 weeks ago, there was also a gun station on shore to the right which had sucked her in badly. The start was shaky at best, which didn't surprise me in the least, but a light bulb went on and she got going in the generally right direction. The end wasn't beautiful, but it was successful. We had to honor to complete the test, and she watched the next dog's birds go off with great interest, but remained steady.

I was thrilled to complete her title under two Flat-Coat owners, Clint Catledge and Ed Zawodny.

Next step for her? Attempt to build her water confidence on blinds! Oh, and that pesky UD title yet to be earned...

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 June Buckeye Retriever Club Hunt Test

This past weekend was the Buckeye Retriever Club's spring hunt test, at Hambden Nursery south of Cleveland. Gryff finished his JH there, earned his 1st SH leg there, and his 2nd MH leg, so I'm quite familiar with the grounds. The Ohio hunt test crowd is simply great. Great people, fine judges, excellent workers, and super grounds.

I'm bummed to say Gryff and I went out in the 2nd series of thes Master test, the 1st time we haven't gone on to the 3rd series (this was our 6th test). His morning land series was great - a walk-up triple with a double blind. He picked up his go bird on the right and the left bird with almost no hunt, and got the middle bird efficiently. He lined the left blind (which was between the left and middle marks, just outside where the left mark landed and only took 2-3 whistles on the 2nd one.

The 2nd series was deceptively simple - a water double with a diversion bird. The diversion bird was thrown when the dog was just reentering the water on the return from the 1st retrieve, AND it was thrown in-line with the memory bird. Gryff got the go bird and the diversion bird just fine, but instead of getting in and swimming past where the diversion bird had splashed, he chose to run down the bank on the left and then all around the pond to the bird. And then he didn't get wet on the return. The judges said if I'd handled him into the water (successfully, of course), it would have been okay. The pond was small enough that it simply didn't occur to me to handle. I kept thinking he'd get in, and then he was beyond where that was possible. One other dog did essentially the same thing and he was also dropped. I think the failure was a combination of zero work on in-lines since last summer and his cheaty nature that hasn't been addressed lately. He did some pretty significant cheating during the Steady Singles at the National as well as in training during the past week. Bad me for not addressing it better during training.

I do know what I'll be working on in the coming months with Gryff. WATER! Lots and lots of water. Since Ty's water is weaker, this will be good for her, too.

Ty had super land marks in the Senior test on Sunday. It was a walk-up double, with the memory bird thrown from the right hedgerow, angled back, and the go bird thrown from behind a bush, landing just to the left of a big pine tree. She walked out with nice focus out into the field, and sat promptly on my whistle. She turned well to mark the 2nd bird, and dashed off right to the bird on my cue. She lined up and delivered it well, and got the memory bird with only a short hunt. The blind was about 180 degrees from the left bird, toward the corner of the field. We had to send directly into the corner of high cover, with tempting mowed paths to both left and right. There was another mowed path in the middle. Her blind was decent, though I have some homework ideas from the experience. She wasn't sitting at all crisply, and in fact, didn't sit a couple of times. She stopped and gave me her focus, but not completely. She was standing with her body facing down one of the paths, her head turned toward me. I waited a LONG time for her to sit, and to her credit, she didn't 'auto cast' and take off on her own. I finally gave a come-in whistle and another sit, and finally got a sit from her. On my next cast, she did go into the next strip of cover and made it back pretty close to the duck. We had some horsing around in the trees, but she finally came up with it.

Here's a short video showing the land marks as they were thrown for the first dog.

Both judges complimented me when we finished the land series. I haven't watched Senior much lately, so I've forgotten the leniency of expectations compared to Master .

Water was in the dumbbell shaped pond relatively near the entrance to Hambden. She took a great line to the go bird - I was really proud of her effort there. I wasn't sure how hard she'd work on it, but I needn't have worried. She drove out to the bird through some cover and over logs and plucked the bird out of the water promptly. She did a bunch of hunting into the woods on the memory bird, but she came up with it (it was on the shore in the little pocket on the north side).

Here's a short video showing the water double. I was a bit late in starting the camera, so you have to look fast as the memory bird lands just as the video starts.

The blind was a swim across the right end of the dumbbell, with a bit of an angle entry. The duck was 10-15 yds from shore, under the left side of a bush. The start was rocky. She got in and went along the right shore line some. She took a cast that I let her carry for a while even though it wasn't superbly on line because I didn't want to totally tear down her momentum. She finally took a brilliant over back to the center of the pond (she swam like she spotted something on the far shore that she headed for), and then a great straight back almost to the end of the pond. We had some horsing around at the end, but I was relatively pleased with the ending. Her training water blinds last week weren't super confidence inducing for me, so I was happy with the results.

In the end, we did indeed pass, so now Ty has 2 Senior legs. We won't run another test until late July (Ft. Detroit @ Omega), so we have lots of time to work on the problems this weekend showed me. That's what these tests are for: showing me where our strengths and weaknesses are.

FCRSA 2010 - Obedience Day 2

For Day 2 of obedience at this year's FCRSA National, I had Gryff entered in Versatility, Ty entered in Grad Open (1st try) and the pair entered in Brace. Gryff earned his one VER leg at last year's National, and this would be our 1st time doing it since then.

Versatility has 2 exercises from Novice, 2 from Open, and 2 from Utility. When it was a non-regular class, it was up to the judge to pick the exercises. Now, there are 12 different combinations from which the judge picks. We had V4- Novice Heel Free, Recall, Retrieve on Flat, Retrieve Over High Jump, Moving Stand and Exam, Directed Jumping. What was interesting and a bit worrisome was the judge had us heel to the outside of the high jump that was on the left. We did a fast with the dog between handler and jump and I wondered if some rally or agility dogs would take it on the fast. We also did the Novice recall there. I did see one dog take the jump on the recall.

While Gryff had been decently "up" on Tuesday, he was at his jolliest in Versatility. He warmed up a bit more crisply and he worked the same way in the ring. It tends to make a nice spiral upwards, in that when he's like that, when I release him between exercises, I'm happier, which in turn makes him happier. It is something I need to keep in mind when I get back to obedience with him in the future! It all added up to a 197.5 and 1st place in the class.

Back last fall, after Ty finished her CDX, I have been aiming to show her in Utility for the 1st time at this National. But about three months ago, her signals were a mess, and her articles were still tied together, and, and, and... About two months ago, I made what turned out to be a superb decision, which was to aim her for Grad Open instead of Utility. What it meant was that I continued to train her in Utility, but without the pressure I might have felt (okay, would have felt) had we been going into Utility. Because of the field work we've been focused on, there wasn't that much time for obedience training, but it was enough to feel ready. When we entered the ring Wednesday, I felt ready for the simplified exercises required in Grad Open. She did have a no-sit on heeling, and walked back with the correct article (I haven't had a walk back since Tramp did several 20 or so years ago when showing outdoors in 90+ degree weather, so it was a bit of a shock!), but her signals were great. I used a verbal on the stand stay and on the down, but more as insurance than necessarily needing them. Her sit and come were great. Her glove was zippy, especially when compared to the slow article return. Her moving stand? Zero off! This from a girl who hasn't been quite sure about the call to heel. Her go-out wasn't quite where I wanted it to be, but we haven't proofed for go-outs towards an in-use rally ring. She ended up with a 192.5 and 1st place in the class.

The morning of the day we left on the trip, I trained some obedience, particularly some brace work. For the brace class, you do a Novice routine, but with two dogs. You are allowed to 'couple' them together with a coupler, i.e., 2 clips connected to a ring for your leash. The clips attach to each dogs' collar. I didn't use one last year because Ty kept ending up in the wrong place, and I couldn't sort her out without either physically moving her or uncoupling them. I decided that Friday morning to try Gryff on the inside, since when he is on the outside (which is how I did it last year), they were both heeling badly - Gryff forging and side-winding, and Ty lagging because Gryff was crowding her a lot. I found with him on the inside, at least he would heel well. Warming up at the trial, I tried holding my left arm straight down during the on-leash heeling, and I think it worked pretty well. All in all, the routine went MUCH better than last year, with one no sit from Ty. The only funny part was the recall - Gryff was looking over his shoulder when I called (I DID wait for him to look back, but then gave up). Ty came promptly, Gryff shortly after her. When she was almost to me, she turned around to see why Gryff was chasing her, and he ended up in a nice front with her more or less already finished.

Gryff decided to show me just how briefly he thinks he needs to do a sit stay, and was down before I crossed the ring. This cost us 15 points, and we ended up with a 180 and 2nd place. Interestingly enough, the other 3 braces were all handled by men. I don't think I've ever been in an obedience class with 75% men before :-).

So, Gryff earned 2 1sts and 2 2nds in obedience, and Ty a 1st and a 2nd. Pretty fine results, all in all.

That evening was a banquet along with the annual meeting. Ann G, who is going to be co-chairing obedience at next year's national, picked my brain about what her duties will be. I felt like I was doing a brain dump :-).

The next morning, I packed up to head home to work on final preparation for my son Ryan's graduation party, scheduled for Saturday. Friday afternoon, my husband Fritz and I headed back for the Awards banquet and final goodbyes to my many old and new FCR friends. This was my 7th National in a row, and I'm looking forward to next year's already!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

FCRSA 2010 - Obedience Day 1

Tuesday morning, the obedience was scheduled to start at 8:00 AM. Since I was co-chair with my friend Chris Van Byssum, we needed to be there by 7:00 AM. Chris and I got various trial details attended to, and all the B classes got underway on time.

On tap for today: Gryffin in Open B, Utility B and Team, and Ty in Open B. I showed Gryff in Utility B first. We did pattern III, with articles, gloves, signals, moving stand, and directed jumping. While he wasn't superbly accurate, he was doing his job. After a very nice first go-out, he looked toward the Novice ring on my right as he sat, then focused on me. Judge Sharon Redmer told me "bar jump". As I signaled and said "jump!", he started on his way, but looking toward the Novice ring. He looked like he was going to come to the inside of the jump, but he looked back at me in time, caught my still in the air signal, and veered and took the jump. The crowd went wild :-). The 2nd half of the exercise was fine. After the last finish, Sharon said "You have a guardian angel!" The end result was a -1 for a held signal, 196 and 2nd place in the class.

Next up was Ty in Open B. We've been concentrating on training for Utility, so had not done that much Open work. It showed! She did Q on the individuals, and was still sitting up on her sit stay. Then the Flat-Coat sillies over came her, and she rolled around on her back during the down stay. Here are three pictures that Cathi Winkles took of her during the Grand Roll. She is the one with her feet in the air. The 3rd one is my favorite. Her butt was actually facing her neighbor dog. I was told later that she then stood up, and that's when she was pulled out of line.

Next up was Gryff in Open B. He had a decent run, and only lost 3 points on the individuals, but went down on his sit stay. Darn. I was disappointed but not that surprised. I simply didn't put in the training time on it that he now needs.

Barb Farrah and Vegas, Gryffin's nephew, had a beautiful run in Open A. I simply couldn't get myself to watch the Open A stays, but I needn't have worried. They won the class with a grand 198.5, which put them in a tie for High in Trial. They won the runoff, which means the 3rd year of the last 4 that a different Grousemoor Flat-Coat has won HIT at the National (Gryff did it from Utility in 2007, Ty from Novice B in 2008).

To finish up the day, we did Team obedience. I put together a team of Deanna German, with whom I did Team in 2006, Barb Farrah, Linda Smithberger, and me about two months before the National. We met in Toledo about a month before the trial to practice. Neither Barb nor Linda had done Team before, but both are experienced exhibitors. We had a great time and because of our Drop on Recall success (all of my team mates dogs did it right. Gryff did the drop right, but came on the next person's call. I gave him a 2nd signal, so he did get to do the ending part with his teammates), we earned 1st place. What a fun way to end the day!

I was SO tired by this point, I wasn't sure if I'd make it back for the Ring of Honor, but after a good dinner and a rest, I made it back, and paraded around the ring with each dog and enjoyed receiving the lovely personalized medallions and big rosettes.

Bed felt VERY good that night!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Agility and Veterans Sweeps Day

Monday was my 'easy' day at the National, with only Veterans Sweepstakes to prepare for. Gryffin had turned 7 on Sunday - what better way to spend his birthday then getting to retrieve ducks and swim? - so he was eligible by one day to compete in Veterans. I ended up going over to the agility trial in order to meet Ty's MACH sister Friday and her owner Kathy. In spite of living barely an hour apart, we'd never met. I even got to watch them earn a placement in Exc B JWW. Friday is bigger than Ty but I could see some resemblance. It was great finally meeting each other and our dogs!

Another important event was taking place the next day: Kim & Sandra Hitt's brown girl, Aurora, was getting bred via AI to Gryffin. Yes, he's neutered, but I had him 'collected' before the surgery, and so we are all hopeful there will be Gryff and Aurora puppies sometime in August. Time will tell! Kim & Sandra had left Aurora in Okemos, MI at Schulz Vet Clinic for the AI and zipped to Indiana to show Aurora's mother in agility. I introduced Kathy (Friday's owner) to the Hitt's on the chance she might be ready for a puppy. I also introduced her to Valerie Bernhardt, who owned Ty & Friday's dad Woody way back when.

I eventually went back to the show site and gave Gryff a much needed bath and blow dry, so he would look beautiful for our Sweeps appearance. Ty looked reasonably clean, so I just wet her down and blew her dry so her coat would be flat.

Gryff and I had not stepped foot in the conformation ring since 2007 in St. Louis, but he hadn't forgotten. How can this dog who is lazy on his obedience fasts go so fast on the go round, 3 feet out in front of me???? I moved him too fast on the down and back, but we did make the cut, though no placement. It was really fun to see him strut his stuff. I did practice some signals and fronts and finishes while we were near the back of the line. I had to do SOMEthing constructive to pass the time, right?

Given my need to be up really early Tuesday, I did not stick around for the end of Sweeps. I wanted us all to be well rested (ha!) for obedience.

Day 2 of Field at the 2010 FCRSA National

After a too-short night of sleep, I arrived at the field HQ at 7:00 AM to pick up the supplies for marshaling. I had the honor and pleasure to share the marshaling duties with two of our most experienced field trainers, Bunny Milliken and Karen Peterson. The marshall is responsible for getting dogs and handlers to the line to run in a prompt fashion. I decided years ago that I was good at it because I have two important skills for marshaling: I have a loud voice and I'm bossy :-).

There were 27 dogs in our division (C) of the Steady Singles competition. This is an event held at most FCRSA Nationals, and the goal is to pick a winner, vs. the pass/fail judging for hunt tests. The rules more closely resemble the Field Trial rules, but I don't think I've personally read them (shame on me). The first series consisted of two single marks (all the marks are singles). The 1st mark, on the left, was thrown left to right and landed in front of a tree. It was about 80 yds from the line, through one of those crazily mowed fields. The 2nd mark was thrown right to left, down a slight hill, and was at about 125 yds.

After Karen's nearly-12 year old Sardou ran as honorary test dog, the competition got underway. Dog after dog completed the two marks with very little problem. I went to the line with Ty 1st of my two dogs, and I confess I kept thinking, "Please don't let her be the 1st dog incapable of getting both marks!" I shouldn't have worried. While her line to the long mark wasn't super straight (there were lots of cover patches she was veering around, as did several others), she got both birds just fine. Gryff did as well, as did all 27 competitors, so everyone was invited back to run the 2nd series.

The 1st series gun stations were removed, and one station was set up waaaaaaay our on the hillside (not way out by current field trial craziness, but far by hunt test standards), with 3 gunners in their white coats. The throw was an angled-in one, left to right towards the woods, at 245 yds. This mark definitely separated the experienced dogs from the inexperienced. There were the ones who ran a lovely straight line out to it, the ones that took a far less straight line, maybe hunted the old fall at the right gun station, but eventually got to the bird (Gryff was in this category), and the ones that either didn't go at all or who ran off into the weeds to the right of the correct line (Ty was in this category). Eighteen dogs were called back for the 3rd series, Gryff being one of them.

After taking a break for lunch, we moved to the Backwater club's big stick pond (a stick pond means there are dead stumps and logs in the pond, some sticking up out of the water, some submerged). The judges set up a single mark, thrown from the left shore in a big arc. Most of the throws landed just in front of a patch of reeds in the water at 145 yds. From the shore we ran from, it looked like there was a series of pockets in the reeds, but friends who went and looked at it after we were all done said it was just a big patch of reeds with many submerged logs - very hard going for the dogs. There were also a couple of visible logs near the shore where the dogs had to enter the water. The ideal line was right over those logs. Again, some of the dogs didn't go at all or quit soon after, but many were making the long swim. Almost all of the dogs appeared to see an invisible left turn sign about 20-30 yds short of where the ducks were landing, and headed in to shore. Many dogs had long hunts, most coming up with their duck eventually.

Gryff was one of the final dogs to run, and as is his habit, he got in and went 'fat' to the right - he almost always swims in an arc to his right, especially when he has to go a long way. He was doing some connect the dot swimming, checking out some of the logs along the way. I thought he might avoid that invisible left turn sign given his angle of approach, but he took it afterall. He did some hunting on the shore, but disappeared into the reeds and found his duck. He looked like he might be trying to run back to me via the shore, but I guess his conscious got the best of him and he decided he'd better swim at least part way back. His success with this mark meant he joined the large group of dogs who earned a JAM (judges' award of merit) in the Steady Singles.

Once each division was finished, the judges named a winner of that division, and an exciting runoff was held at the HQ grounds. The test dog, Karen Peterson's Po, performed the mark brilliantly. It was a long, downhill mark, with an angled entry across the corner of a pond. The three division winners then each ran the mark. This resulted in another tie between the two younger competitors, so one more mark was planned and executed. It was an exciting finish to a great day of competition.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

FCRSA 2010 - Let the games begin!

Note: this is the first installment of what I plan to be a thorough write up of my week at the 2010 Flat-Coated Retriever National, held in Auburn and Albion, Indiana, a mere 2 hours from home. It is lengthy and detailed because I want to be able to look back and remember what happened.

This year, I missed day one of the FCRSA (Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America) National because my younger son graduated from high school the night before it started (yeah, Ryan!) and my husband and I both worked the 12:30-3:00 AM shift at the All Seniors All Night party.

Gryff was entered in 9 events over the course of 5 days, and Ty in 5. At least the dogs were in good shape. Me? Time would tell! First up was the hunt test on Saturday, June 5. Gryff was in the Master test (going for leg 3 of 5) and Ty in the Senior test (going for leg 1 of 4).

The 1st series of the Master test was a land-water triple with a blind between the two land marks. We were running from a hillside that was mowed in what is becoming a familiar and crazy fashion - with generous patches of cover left all over the place. The marks were thrown left (left to right, angled back), middle (right to left, angled back) and right (right to left, angled back into the pond). The test started with a walk-up, meaning the dog and handler are in motion when the first duck is launched. Gryff picked up the right and middle marks promptly, but had a bit of a hunt on the left one. He took the path most of the way to it, but then bounced a patch of cover and hunted to the right, as did several other dogs. The hill sloped down left to right, which I think was also an influence. He headed back to the left and his nose led him to the duck. The blind went fairly smoothly, with a nice initial line carrying him quite a ways before I needed to whistle sit him. When he was about 1/2 way to the blind, I realized I was holding my breath, which wasn't going to help when I needed to blow the whistle. After the blind, we moved to the honor box. (For the honor, the dog has to stay while the next dog's marks are thrown and that dog is sent.) Gryff was solid on his honor.

I watched a few more dogs run at Master, then headed to the Senior land test. It was a walk-up double, with the left bird thrown into/near a patch of cover, right to left, and the go bird on the right thrown right to left. Earlier in the week, I had worked walk-up drills with Ty, because she was having a bad time with them, and not seeing the mark fall. She had a very good long look at the walk-up memory bird, and when she returned from picking up the go bird, she refocused intently on the area of the memory bird. She had a bit of a hunt, but came up with it reasonably prompty. Interestingly, the lines to the marks in Senior were through cover patches (which many of the dogs bounced around), whereas the Master marks all had a pretty definitive path. The blind was almost 90 degrees to the left of the left mark, and Ty took a very decent initial line - something we've struggled with in the past. It was great to see her improvement. As I had in Master, I realized I was again holding my breath and had to huff and puff to be ready to blow my whistle. I was very happy as we left the line, and thought I heard one of the judges say that it was one of the better jobs they'd seen that day.

The right mark:

Close-up of the right mark:

The left mark:

The blind stake was somewhere in this picture :-):

I went back to Master to await the completion of the 1st Master series. The 2nd series finally got underway about 1 PM. Of the 32 starters, 27 were called back for the 2nd series. It was on a big pond with lots of tullies/reeds around the perimeter. It was a water double and a double blind, one on land and one across the water. The memory bird was a huge arc from the left side of the pond and the go bird was a huge arcing throw from the same side of the pond we ran from, far to our right. The water blind was under the arc of the go bird, and the land blind was to the right of the right gun station. I was the lucky 1st exhibitor to run. Gryff's go bird was fine. When I sent him for the memory bird, I rushed it a bit, and instead of heading straight for the water, he veered left into the tall cover and proceeded to hunt quite a bit on land. The shoreline tullies were several feet thick, creating a wall the dogs had to drive through. At some point, I started to handle. I honestly don't think he was responding very well to my casts, but suddenly, he got in the water and headed for the bird. I was smart and shut up :-). We did the land blind first and he even jumped over a patch of cover at some point. One of the judges said "That will earn you extra points!" I was pleased with his handling on the land blind. The water blind required us to drive the dog through the very wide and tall wall of tullies on the far shore. While we've been working on improving this skill in the past month, we hadn't worked through any that wide (I think they were at least 10 feet wide, if not more). I was prepared and stopped him before he disappeared into the tullies, but he didn't respond correctly to my next cast. I was trying to get him to drive straight back through, but he went into the tullies and started hunting. Because they were also tall, it was hard to see what he was doing. I wasn't surprised, since we've been battling this issue. I hung in with him. When he finally got to the duck, one of the judges said something about that being what he liked to see ... hanging in there with my dog and getting the job done. I wasn't feeling great about our chances of going on to the 3rd series, but I crossed my fingers and left to run Ty's Senior water.

When I arrived at the location for the Senior water, I walked down to watch some dogs run. Problem was, there was only me and one other handler left to run. Eek! I had heard a few people say it was a breaking test, which usually means the marks are short and exciting. One of the judges described the test, which looked pretty straight forward: a water double on a small pond. The memory bird was thrown from the right shore and the go bird from the dike we were running from. Once that was completed, we'd walk down the shore to the right for the water blind and then honor right there. I arrived at the line with Ty and the first bird was thrown. Drat, it landed in the heavy cover, which isn't where I was expecting it to land. The 2nd gunner started duck-calling, but Ty was intent on where the 1st one had landed and she wasn't turning to see the go bird. Then I heard another splash (I was watching my dog) across the pond... the bird boys, having thrown the 1st one poorly, decided to throw another out into the open water. Oops! Ty jumped in, I recalled her, the judge called a 'No bird'. We left the line and waited for a bit, and returned. This time, since Ty had seen two birds thrown from the right side, I lined her up to face where the go bird would land, which also let me block her some with my legs. The strategy served me well. This time, it all came off smoothly and she retrieved both birds promptly. We moved down the shore for the blind. It was the shortest water blind I've ever seen in a test (30 yds?). She looked out with confidence (no bugging this time either) and went right in when I sent her. She again took an excellent initial line. When she started veering away from the line near the end, I blew my whistle. I think she spotted the bird as she started to turn, so started to swim at the bird. I whistled again, and she stopped, but didn't look back at me but stared at the duck. I waited and waited and waited. She finally looked at me and then took my quick cast. Yeah! The honor was a bit scary - she was ready to go and moved forward just a bit, but a quick SIT command stopped her. I didn't know for sure until later, but I was pretty sure she'd passed and earned our 1st Senior pass (she did and we did).

Ty and Adele with their first Senior Hunter ribbon.

I went back to Master, and the water test dragged on and on. It didn't wrap up until about 6:30 PM. Blessedly, we were called back to run the 3rd series. I figured Gryff had to have top marks to pass. It was a land double with a diversion bird, and he did an excellent job on it. One of the judges said "Congratulations!" as I left the line. Our 3rd Master leg!

The awards were handed out at head quarters, and it was so sweet to drive back to the motel with two orange ribbons. Earning a Master pass with Gryff was my #1 goal for the week, so we were off to a super start to our Specialty.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Tennis ball time

I am admittedly inconsistent about keeping my dogs fit. I haven't taken them for walks or runs down our rural road in quite a long time. I've been really sick for over a week, which means I haven't had the energy to train. But I have had enough to run them with our trusty Chuck-It tennis ball thrower. I didn't have the Chuck-it recently, and I was embarrassed at how short my throws were without it.

As we headed out to the large fenced field (we still call it the agility yard in my family) on the front of our 4 acres to give them a run this morning, I started musing about the rules of The Game. First of all, I'd better have at least 3 balls along, or it just won't work. Ty is a tennis ball hog - if possible, she gets two of them and plays keep away with them. Then Gryffin stands there and barks loudly and uselessly. She does not take pity on him. Often, as Gryff races off in pursuit of a ball, Ty pursues him while still carrying her two. Sometimes, she drops them both and wants me to chuck them. She's remarkably adept at grabbing one ball in her mouth and then capturing a second with her front paws, and then gathering it into her mouth somehow. She's often just as happy racing big circles as persuing a Chucked ball.

My goal is to get out the agility yard to start The Game with as little barking and fussing as possible. Gryffin and Java are the noisy ones, and they wind each other to ever higher levels of noise. Not something I cope with gracefully. It helps if I can get the black dogs out the door before the terriers catch on.

Gryff and Ty returning...

Bologna Tongue is what we call this look.

Ty with her pair of balls.

The terriers mostly just run around, sniffing good smells, eating grass, and peeing on stuff. Sometimes, Java will steal a ball or chase and bark, but mostly, these days, he sniffs. Joker sometimes stalks the Flat-Coats - stares and I supposed points them. He jumps at them as the sprint past after a ball. It never appears that they notice his subtle attacks. He often gets sent flying. Why does he keep doing it? It's just part of The Game.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Wisconsin Seminar

You can ignore this: QGT45ZZTXWQ7 It's there to let Technorati know I am the author of this blog.

I spent this past weekend in Menomenee Falls, Wisconsin, presenting my Balancing Act seminar for the K9 Obedience Training Club of Menomenee Falls. There were a record number of terriers in attendance - nine counting Joker, who went along with me and the Flat-Coats to demonstrate. There were Borders, a Cairn, a Scottie, an Australian, and a terrier mix. I do love the terriers :-).

We started Saturday with a brief overview of my training philosophy, then jumped into playing Karen Pryor's Training Game to get trainers to practice their shaping skills.

The rest of the morning was spent reviewing attention and position changes, which led to an explanation of how I advance the beginning down work into the open drop on recall exercise, with floor time for all of the different exercises.

After lunch, we jumped into heel position maneuvers, a few of my other foundation exercises, beginning heeling (Find Heel and Rhythm Heeling), then closed out the afternoon with retrieving work, including how to get started with shaping the dumbbell and some problem solving.

Something I've done for years is to have participants vote on what we should work on on Sunday. As we are finishing up Saturday, I pass around a list of possible Sunday exercises. Working spot people get 5 votes and auditors get 3. The exercises are ranked, from the most votes to the least, and we work our way through as many as we can on Sunday. This makes every seminar I do a bit different, and helps to customize the work to the audience. I don't attempt to cover everything. I would rather spend in-depth time on what the group considers important. Interestingly enough, I rarely talk about the broad jump or directed retrieve.

Sunday morning started with work on dumbbell holds, including proofing for more advanced dogs. Next, I demoed the many different exercises I used to progressively teach fronts, with floor time for everyone.

Go-outs are typically high on the list of popular topics for Sunday. I asked the group to say how they have taught go-outs and there were about 10 different methods mentioned, which just goes to show you: there is no one perfect way. I described and demoed the 3 components I use to teach go-outs - the mark, target touch for the go-out portion, and a cookie-toss sit for the sit at the end. Then participants came out to practice.

After lunch, we had a discussion on ring stress, with some group exercises I like to do to help alleviate some ring stress. One is my Numbers Set-up game and the second is an Enter the Ring game. Then we talked about Scent Discrimination and finished up the afternoon with work on the Signal Exercise.

The weekend was a lot of fun and I received many appreciative comments. I continue to be grateful that I get to spend my weekends teaching something I love. What could be better than that?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Toledo KC Trials

I enjoyed a really fine obedience weekend with Gryffin, passing all 3 classes we showed in and getting placements in all 3. Yesterday, we earned 4th place in Utility B with a a 196. The only disappointment in Utility yesterday was a sloppy metal article retrieve. His fronts were almost all good, he stayed completely still on both stand stays, his article and glove holds were great, all details we've been focusing on. His Open B performance was solid, but lacking some of his usual fire. It might be he was mentally tired, or that I forgot to bring along string cheese, which I usually use only at trials and matches. I was totally thrilled to reappear after the sit stay to see him still sitting - it has been a lengthy dry spell since we last Q'ed in Open B (I think since last October at AADTC). There were several run-offs, but we didn't get called in for one. I was very happy to be all by myself in 3rd place with a 197.5. We picked up 1 OTCh point from each class.

Today we only showed in Utility B, not wanting to tempt the obedience gods too much about stays :-). We showed early in the class (9:15 ish) and he had a really fine performance. It was the cleanest round we'd had since the Saturday IX trial when he earned a 197 and 3rd place. We were also the first team to Q in the class. It took until lunch time for the class of 27 to finish, and no runoffs (yeah!). I'm very pleased to say we won the class with a 197.5, and 27 OTCh. points. This is the most points he's earned in one class, and it was a really great ending to our weekend efforts.

I also got a couple of Shelties taking a dumbbell over the course of the weekend. Their owners hate the early teaching stage, and I love it. Hopefully the video footage will be something I can use to fill in a few gaps in my retrieve video update.

TKC provides lunch for everyone, toys of exhibitors choice for placements, great stewards and judges. It was a really enjoyable weekend spent with a lot of fun people.

Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the best parts of accomplishing a long-sought goal is that delicious feeling when it pops into your consciousness that IT'S DONE! I DID IT! I have found that the bigger the goal, the longer this popping occurs.

Last Sunday, January 24, 2010 morning, my Flat-Coated Retriever boy Gryffin and I won the Utility B class at Oakland County Kennel Club. This first place netted us 14 OTCh. points. We needed just 9 to go over the magic 100 needed to finish his OTCh. title. So he is now:

Ch. OTCh. Grousemoor Gryffindor UDX OM1 RE SH WCX; RL3 (AND 2 MH legs, lest anyone forget :-)).

The completion of Gryff's OTCh. means that I have now earned that elusive title on five dogs (Tramp, Rio, Treasure, Java, Gryffin), alternating Flat-Coated Retriever and terriers. The dogs have ranged from 5.5 years old (Treasure) to almost 7 (Java). Gryff is right in the middle at 6.5+. With both terrier boys, it was mastering either fronts or finishes that got us over the top finally. All except Treasure finished their title from a Utility B class. The first 3 all earned a High in Trial that magical day. Rio also earned High Combined.

I am not one of those elite trainers who brings a dog out in Utility, earns the UD and a mere countable-on-one-hand weeks later, have finished my OTCh. The journeys, while having their differences, have shared certain similarities. Each journey has been laced with our share of ups and downs, victories, times when we were also-rans, and NQs. Things go right for a while, then something breaks. We fix that, and things go right again for a while.

Of the 6 dogs with whom I've earned a UD, Gryffin was actually the youngest, finishing at 4 years 4 months. He earned the largest chunk of OTCh. points the first weekend after he finished his UD, winning a big Utility B class with a 198, which was worth 24 points. This was in October 2007. We mostly showed just in Utility over the next 6 months, in part due to Open stay issues, in part to solidify Utility for him. His OTCh and UDX took the time they did because we've taken off the last several summers from obedience to pursue advanced field training. When we recommitted to obedience in October 2008, he started qualifying consistently in both classes, and cranked out UDX legs 2-9 with very few NQ's, also garnering points for the new Obedience Master title at a regular rate. At the end of that streak, he earned 3 Open B 2nd places in a row. Although we suddenly started NQing in Utility, he finally earned that elusive Open B 1st place, plus a High in Trial. Frustratingly, the following weekend, he started failing the Open stays, blowing several placements in Open B. He finally completed both his UDX and OM1 on the same day in early May.

We showed one more time in the early summer, at the Flat-Coated Retriever National, where Gryff won the Utility B class for the 3rd year in a row, then went back to the fields for a glorious summer and fall of field work. We ran in four Master Hunter tests, and earned our 1st two passes of the needed five in glorious back-to-back weekends in September.

I didn't really get my head back into the obedience game until late November. We amassed mostly NQ's in the fall obedience trials, but by our last weekend at the Cleveland IX trials, I felt like we were back in the game, working as a team and enjoying our time in the ring. We even won a runoff for 3rd place in UB, netting us 2 more points.

I had some surgery the Tuesday after the IX trials, which meant a big slow down in our training. We didn't even attempt a fast until the Monday before the Livonia and Oakland trials. As I slowly recovered, several friends helped me out, between coming over to train and provide distractions, putting out articles and jumps, and driving me and Gryffin to some matches and trials.

I really appreciate all the cyberspace hurrahs we've received. The friendships made along these journeys are what make it all worthwhile.

Gryff is my first boy FCR, but he probably won't be my last. I decided a while ago that if you don't have a sense of humor, you shouldn't attempt to train, let alone trial, a boy FCR. He is a clown, and lives up to the "Peter Pan of the dog world" nickname. Some of his craziest NQ's have also been some of my most enjoyable memories of trialing him. His constantly wagging tail, quick sits, and leaping finishes are so much fun. Thanks Gryff, for a wonderful journey. Now, how about some ducks?

Note: The first photo is by Cathi Winkles, the second by Karen Taylor.