Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 Goals review/2012 Goals

Joker (10), Sonic (4 months), Ty (7), Gryff (8)

One of the things I love about the week between Christmas and New Year's is the time to reflect on what I accomplished in the year that is ending, and writing up what I want to achieve in the upcoming new year. 
I found my Dog Goals post from late 2010 yesterday. In it, I listed my 4 dogs, and 4 separate goals for most of them: Lifetime, this year, this month, this week. I forgot all about this document :-).

Java: Lifetime: OTCH UDX RE... already there
Quite unexpectedly, Java was suddenly sick, and we had him euthanized on January 30. I'm glad for him that it was such a quick ending. I have a lot of fond memories from that last month or two, when I was exercising the dogs a lot in the building, and he was right out there zipping around.

Lifetime: UD RE
  • Finish UD. Finished in May. He earned his 3 UD legs in 8 trials, failing articles the most, and remarkably, failing every exercise except the Directed Retrieve. Remarkable because it was where he made the most mistakes in training.
  • Finish RE-- April
Coolest thing was getting that 3rd place for his 2nd UD leg, and earning a phantom OTCh point. I'm very glad that I ended up pursuing a UD with Joker. I think he really enjoyed the learning process, not to mention the chance to earn cookies, and it was fun being more concerned with qualifying than winning. It is helpful to be able to tell people that he didn't learn to retrieve until he was 5 years old. He needed to learn some exercises differently than my other dogs, further expanding my tool box of training options. 

  • Get him sound! These next two depend on the 1st. Certainly better, but after a hard month of fall field training, he wasn't very sound. 
  • Qualify for and attend 2011 NOI - he needs some # of OTCh points by end of June. Didn't happen, since we didn't show in any regular classes. 
  • Qualify for 2011 Master National - he needs 4 more passes by July 31. Also didn't happen, but we DID run in 2 fall tests and pass one. 

Lifetime: CH OTCH UDX OM2 MH (VERY tall order)
  • Finish UD -- March 2011. She earned her 3 legs in 4 trials. 
  • Double her lifetime Open Q's to 6 :-)-- Hey, we tripled her lifetime Open total - she's got 9!
  • Earn some UDX legs (I'm thinking 3-5 might be attainable)-- We got 2 UDX legs 
  • Advance her field work: specifically, her understanding of water blinds and multiple marking set ups, both on land and water.-- I still can't imagine her passing a single Master test let alone 5 for the title, but she did show some marked improvements over the year before. 
Ty also amassed 140+ OM points, and got an unexpected HIT and Open B 1st in November.
I think the best thing from this year is I feel like we have turned the corner in our training relationship. As Helen said, she's never before been my priority. She's always been in Gryff's shadow. With him retired from obedience, she's who I have to show, and she has stepped up and I think is enjoying the limelight.

    My 2012 goals for my dogs

    Joker - 10 years old
    Having accomplished my LIfetime goals for him in 2011, he is now the resident retired dog  in the family. Playing with Sonic helps keep him young.

    Gryffin - 8 years old
    Keep exercising him through the winter, with the hope of running several Master tests in 2012.

    Ty - 7 years old
    • Finish her OM1.
    • Earn her OTCh. There, I said it! We'll see how it goes.
    • Earn her UDX. I actually think this will be the toughest one of the 3.
    • Earn her OM2. Haven't had one before.
    • Qualify in a regular class at the FCRSA National. Haven't managed that with her since her HIT Novice B debut.
    • Qualify for and attend the AKC NOI (National Obedience Invitational) next December in Orlando.
    • Field goals are vague. My pursuit of Master with her will depend on Gryff's soundness. I like having 2 dogs to train in field, but 3 is unwieldy.

    Sonic - 4.5 months as I write this
    She is such a dream to train! I haven't started a puppy so young for field, since I knew next to nothing about it when I started Gryff, so I have no sense of how good she's likely to be 
    in the field. She shows great promise for obedience.
    • Show her in conformation.
    • Have her ready to match in Novice by the end of the year.
    • Lay foundation for scent discrimination so she understands how to use her nose before completing her field basics.
    • Get her through field basics.
    • WC
    • JH
    • RN

    Saturday, December 17, 2011

    Whistle sits

    Yesterday, I worked on whistle sits with Sonic, which is something she'll need for handling on blind retrieves. I did it very much like I do cookie-toss downs, but using a platform that she has to come back to and stop and sit on. I was probably 6-8 feet away from the platform. I also did some calling her over it, like I do when working the CT down. What was interesting was that she was very good at getting to the platform from one direction, even from off center, but wanted to run by going the other way.

    Here's a short video showing her doing the drill. I don't remember that I saw exactly this drill on Pat Nolan's website, but I was certainly inspired by his retriever training for puppies website.

    Today, I put out a 2nd platform about 15 feet from the first one, similar to how I add a 2nd barrier to my Drop on Recall work. It increases the options from stop or don't stop to:

    1. stop at the 1st one 
    2. stop at the 2nd one 
    3. stop at both 
    4. stop at neither. 
    It was fun and I think Sonic enjoyed it and was learning a useful skill.

    Sunday, November 27, 2011

    I believe, I believe, I believe!

    Ty worked wonderfully again today at the Sunday Toledo KC trial. We did Utility B V first with judge Rich Strong. All was fine until the Signals. She did a lovely drop. When Rich signaled for the sit, I had this feeling Ty might pop up (which she has never done with a real judge, but several times in training) into her sit prematurely, and I didn't take my time and refocus on her before giving my signal. And, as many times before, she just lay there. One difference was that when I paused and then gave it again, she did it nicely. In the past, she has continued to lie there or stood up again. So I think it was progress :-). I told Rich that I felt I owned that goof. She certainly might have done exactly the same thing if I had waited, I'll never know. Rich seemed more disappointed than I (it's not like this was a surprising thing for her to NQ on, after all), and said something about us working a really nice class. And we did only lose 1.5 on the other exercises, so yes, it was a really nice class. For a change, though, I was more disappointed in myself than my dog, and very, very happy with the improvements she'd made since yesterday. Today's go-outs were rock solid, without the head checks we'd had on both yesterday. In fact, everything except the sit signal was mighty fine.

    So no UDX leg was possible, but maybe we could get another Open B Q? She worked another nice class. I was especially pleased with her solid holds on her dumbbell fronts (Ty had THE worst fronts and holds with a dumbbell when we started that I've EVER had with a dog). I had an 'oh dear' moment on the broad jump when I noticed the middle board was closer to the last board than the first one, but she jumped it just fine. I tried not to get my hopes up too high before stays were over, since there just isn't a use in that! Yes, she did her sit stay and down stay! At the end of the class, there were about a zillion runoffs, but I wasn't called for one. Much to my stunned surprise, we WON the class with another 198.5! It netted us 6 OTCh points, the all-important-nearly-impossible-to-come-by-in-this-area Open B 1st, and High in Trial!
    I grabbed judge Del Lund as he was heading home and begged for a picture.

    Shaking Rich Strong's hand.

    Ty's 1st All-breed High in Trial!

    I am still so surprised because Ty's highest Open score before this weekend was a 197, and that happened in July, beating her previous best of 196. She hasn't ever worked as consistently as she did this weekend. To earn TWO scores of 198.5 was beyond anything I thought our team capable of.

    So, my hat is off to you, Ty-Ty. Thanks for coming through so well this weekend, and convincing me that I just gotta believe... 

    Saturday, November 26, 2011

    Goals for Ty and Me, and TKC Today

    I showed Ty at the Toledo KC trial today in Open B and Utility B. We were just 1 for 4 at the October Marshbanks trials held at my building - so much for home court advantage! - but we hadn't done a huge amount of obedience after training field from July through early October. The Marshbanks trials did give me a read on the work we had undertaken on all the band-aided exercises from July (let's see, we were having issues with Signals, articles, broad jump, drop on recall, and stays... yeah, we were a mess), and we've been working pretty consistently on those weaker exercises in the past month. Ty is closing in on 7 years old (next month), and my goals have been rather vague with her. Sure, an OTCh. would be a lovely accomplishment with her, but I know what it takes, and I'm not sure I'm willing to work hard enough with her to get there, plus she can be such a worrier, great one day and lousy the next. We've also NQ'ed rather a lot this year. I've just spent time catching up Ty's career totals workbook. With our Q rate at 50%  for 2011 - we've Q'ed in Utility 9 times in 16 tries and 4 times in Open in 10 tries - there is a lot of room for improvement. My most concrete goal has been to finish her OM this winter. Given all the weak exercises, a UDX has seemed a bit far fetched. Before today, Ty had 1 UDX leg, and 81 OM points, and 3 OTCh points, all earned 1 point at a time for 3rds or 4ths.

    Ty's Signal Exercise has been an incredibly difficult one for her to master. I did what in retrospect was too much free shaping with Ty related to lying down when she was younger, and she tends to revert to throwing various behaviors at me when we work Signals - rolling on a hip, crossing her front paws, popping into a sit or a stand, putting her chin on the floor, dropping... My long-time student and friend, Raissa Hinman, gave me some excellent advice a few days ago when we were training. She suggested I do a lot of random treating for Ty doing nothing. Well, not quite nothing. But for holding her focus on me and waiting patiently after responding to a signal, instead of guessing what might earn her the next treat. I've tended to focus on the fact that she has failed the sit signal so many times in the ring as her NOT doing something. I think all the guessing has been terribly stressful for her. Ty is very devoted to me, but I tend to lose my patience with her fast. Training in field this past summer without the pressure of soon-in-the-future competitions helped my patience a lot, and was something of an "Ah-HA!" moment for me.

    At the Marshbanks trials, Ty went down on the sit stay day 1 before I was completely out of sight, and at about 1 1/2 minutes on day 2. She showed me that weekend that doing stays a couple of times a week in class was not adequate. One would think, given my lousy history with stays, I would devote more time to them. Since Sonic the new puppy has joined the family (that's another post or three), she gets one more meal a day than the other dogs, so Gryff and Ty have to do stays while Sonic eats first thing in the morning. This has led to a few going down on the sit stay, since Ty is usually rather sleepy at that time.

    We have been working much harder on the Open exercises in the past month than perhaps ever in her life, and I was actually feeling pretty optimistic about our changes for a Q.

    I guess my biggest goal for the coming months is to qualify more often, since we can't get anywhere towards any of the on-beyond-UD titles without that. Reducing my nit picking and working more on attitude and 'do it right the first try' is a bit of a switch for me, but today showed me that I seem to be on a better track. Ty earned a 4th place in Utility B with a 192.5, good for 9 OM points and 1 OTCh. point. To me, she had an unremarkable indivual portion in Open B. I was just trying to concentrate on passing and keeping her attitude up. And of course there were stays to be gotten through. We did order V, which meant the down stay first. By golly, she qualified! When the class was over, I did a bit of warm up, just in case. We were indeed called in for a run off, 1st of 3 teams. I'm not crazy about Ty's heeling, because her position is quite different than my previous Flat-Coats. Parts of the runoff were good, but parts were not. I watched only part of the 2nd teams runoff, but know they are a great team. The 3rd team called in had won Utility today with a very high score, so I didn't even watch hers at all, figuring it would be nice. When the judge was getting ready to announce the scores, he said there were a lot of high scores that didn't place. Then said the 3-way runoff was for 3rd. I thought to myself, "Well, dang, we are 5th." I was ecstatic to earn 4th place with our hightest EVER obedience score with a 198.5. We were the only non-Tanbark Golden Retriever in the placements :-). So we picked up 15 more OM points, bringing her total to 105, just over half way to the 200 points needed.

    I almost don't want to go back tomorrow. Almost. My big goal for tomorrow? Don't let today's successes mess with my plan. First, we must qualify.

    Where I've been and what I've been doing

    I haven't posted much lately because of several factors:
    • I borrowed Flat-Coated Retriever Little from her co-owner Helen back in June when she was 9 months old (I wrote a brief paragraph about her in the post about the Maiden Voyage of T3) and trained her for several months, mostly for field, doing e-collar conditioning with her and force fetch. It was a win-win-win: good for me to practice my basics skills, as well as to have an unpolished dog with whom to demo in classes, good for Little because she got lots of training and learned to swim, and good for Helen, because she got a much more trained dog when I returned her in early October.
    • Gryffin bloated not once but twice on July 27, requiring emergency gastroplexy to have his stomach tacked. A silver lining to that terrifying episode is that his internal organs looked to be in good shape - no signs of any tumors, stomach showed no signs of damage from the torsion. I'd never seen a dog bloat before, but had little doubt once it started what it was. I have since seen this difficult to watch video of a dog bloating on YouTube. The dog survives, so please watch it so you can recognize the signs. Time is critical - many, many dogs die because their owners don't know to get them to a vet in time.
    • I went on a 9-day field training trip to Ohio in the travel trailer in late September/early October. Gryff was entered in two back-to-back weekends of Master tests, and Little was entered in her 1st Junior test. Gryff failed the 1st series in the 1st test, but got his 7th MH pass the next weekend in completely miserable conditions, and Little earned her 1st JH pass. My friend Corinne came and stayed with me in the trailer and we had an excellent time training during the in-between week. 
    • I have a new puppy!!! Coastalight Prime Time, AKA Sonic, was born August 14, bred by Wendy Tisdall, who is from Nanaimo, BC in Canada. Training Little right up until I left to pick up Sonic helped me keep my excitement to a dull roar. I haven't had a baby puppy since Gryffin 8 years ago in 2003, nor an 8 week old puppy since Treasure in 1993. Sonic is a complete gem of a puppy, loving training and mostly not too naughty. She's 15 weeks old tomorrow. Sonic and I flew home on the day she turned 8 weeks, and we haven't missed any days of training except when I was away in Lakeland, Florida to do a seminar when she was 10 weeks old. Fortunately, I discovered Pat Nolan's Retriever Training for Puppies website before getting Sonic, and I've done a bunch of little exercises from his videos. This also got me started videoing Sonic's training, and there are now a couple dozen short training videos on YouTube. Look for them on my channel AdeleYunck or search for 'Sonic the FCR'. You can subscribe to the channel, which means you get a notification via email any time I post a new video. I have quite a bit of footage not yet edited and released. I'm trying hard to video her when we start something new, to show the rough edges that usually exist at the beginning. I also just started reading Denise Fenzi's blog about training her new Tervuren puppy Lyra, who looks to be about 2 weeks older than Sonic. It is interesting to see what she is focusing on vs. what I'm focusing on with Sonic.
    So that's where I've been and what I've been doing. Training a LOT and loving it like crazy. I really do love puppies and training them.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Another fine training day in the field

    Marshbanks GRC is having our annual WC/WCX field test next Saturday @ Spencerfield near Concord, so we had a pond clean-up work day this morning and training after. About 8 of us met up with weed-whips and clippers and spent a couple of hours clearing out giant burr bushes, goldenrod, wild roses and blackberry bushes (ouch!). We really improved accessability. Then we moved up to one of the rolling hay fields that has a dozen or so big round bales and did some marking drills. The cover wasn't too high, so the young dogs got some great experience with running down and up hills to a reasonably visible target (big white bumpers), plus past the bales. The Big Dogs did two sets of converging in-line doubles. Then we did a WC double set up and then a triple for those who wanted to do it (I didn't. Little ran the 3 marks as singles VERY nicely, plus had her first exposure to gun fire out in the field). Then the Big Dogs did 4 slot blinds - using hay bales to define the path. Gryff lined 3 of the 4 - it is SUCH a thrill to be back working him so much and we are both in heaven. The next 2 dogs lined the 1st one, and had a fair bit of handling for the other 3 blinds. Ty had a very poor initial line on the first one and I could tell she was weanying out some, but I did get some nice casts from her and kept my patience with her. On water, I let Ty watch a blind get planted (several bumpers thrown out into a big patch of water lilies), then put her away. The path to the blind was about 20 yds of land diagonally across a swim-by pond corner of the pond, angling across a point with about 40 yds to the water lilies. Gryff took a good line to the point, but when I stopped him and gave him a left back, he jumped in and headed for the right shore. I recalled him to the point, got him back to the same spot, repeated the cast, and this time got the correct response. With Ty, I walked her out to the point and ran her from there first. Her initial line wasn't super, but she got into the water lilies without too much horsing around. I left her sitting with her bumper on the point, walked back to the other side and recalled her to there, then ran from there. As she likes to do, she squared her entry into the pond. Because I'm trying to avoid too much nit-picking, especially early, I let her swim across. She arrived about 10 yds to the right of where I'd sent her from. She got up on the point, turned left, moved down to that spot, turned, jumped in and swam right to the lilly pads without any intervention from me. We quit on that happy note. I had Jan throw a couple of marks for Little just in the water near the 2nd point and ran the mark 1st from the 1st point, then walked her back around and had Little repeat the mark, getting out and back in. She did a very fine job on it, reentering with no problem at all.

    The solid week of training every day sure does pay off! I think Gryff is back in pretty fine form, Ty is getting braver, and Little has made some really nice strides.

    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Training Update

    I've had a really satisfying training week, mostly field, but with some obedience with Ty tossed into the mix. It is probably the most training days I've been able to string together since July. We were up north on vacation in early August, then the following weekend (Aug 20) we went to Wisconson for my nephew's wedding (probably the coolest and most joyful wedding I've ever attended, not to mention dancing up a storm with my extended family - fun, fun, fun!), and last weekend was my club's hunt test weekend. I coordinated one of the 2 Master flights, so was there from Friday early afternoon until Sunday afternoon. I got a chance to use my travel trailer again, and Gryff unexpectedly ran test dog. I had considered entering him in the test back in July, then when he bloated**, that idea went right out of my head. The person who had said she'd run test dog wasn't there on time (note to self: don't ask a pro who has a jillion entries to run test dog - just not gonna happen), so I pulled Gryff out. He hadn't seen a triple since last September, and needed to be handled to the long bird, but we managed it. His afternoon work wasn't much better, but Ty got to run bye dog (there was an honor in the 2nd series, which means an extra dog is needed to run the test while the last entered dog does the honor), and did a lovely job on the water double, much better than Gryff, actually. Sunday's series was a land/water triple with a double blind, both under the arc of the falls, one on land, one thru the end of the pond (middle mark had landed out in the pond). It was an extremely well designed test (Mitch White and Joe Smithberger were the judges), and my friend Corinne who was marshalling said she'd never heard so much discussion of how to run a test. There was a lot of variation in how people did it, some successfully, some not so much. It was so much fun to run, and I could tell Gryff had shaken off some of the rust from Saturday.

    Best of all, he was sound after running the test, and has been doing well with the work thrown at him this week. So I'm looking to enter tests the last two weekends of September, with the hope of camping in the area (the tests are both in Ohio) and training all week.

    Little, the young Flat-Coat I borrowed from my friend Helen back in June when she was 9 months old, came back last Monday for another month of training. But she came in season yesterday, so we'll see how that goes. I am really enjoying having the green dog to demo with in classes, I gotta say.

    My Suburban customization is working out wonderfully. I love training out of it with the 3 dogs. And it is still organized, even after several weeks!

    And I have my name on a litter of FCRs that will be 3 weeks old tomorrow. They are all the way out in BC, so, oh, no, I have to make another trip to Vancouver Island :-) (I was there in Feb). I don't have firm desire for boy/girl/black/liver (there are 3 brown puppies), which will hopefully make the choice broader.

    ** Gryff bloated on the morning of July 27, just after coming out of a pond from his 3rd water retrieve of the morning. I've never seen a dog bloat before, but it was pretty clear to me - staggering around trying to vomit (but failing to do so), looking shocky, abdomen swelling up). Ironically, given that two of my frequent training partners are vets, he bloated on a day when neither was there. With the help of Maria and her cell phone's GPS, we got to a vet within about 20 minutes and they got him back on his feet. His stomach had started twisting, so they had to do a needle aspiration to get enough air out to get a stomach tube into him. He ejected a lot of pond water and air, and reappeared looking tired but back to normal size. I took him home and kept an eye on him locked in an x-pen in my kitchen all afternoon, allowing him only small amounts of water at a time. That evening at about 7 PM, he started bloating again. Apparently he didn't want to wait for the stomach tacking surgery I'd scheduled for the next day; he wanted it on an emergency basis that night. I heard from the vet at midnight that he'd come through the surgery just fine, with no involvement of his spleen or pancreas (apparently, if the stomach twists in a certain way, it can wrap around other organs). His stomach lining looked good and the silver-lining to the whole thing, no sign of any cancer. I picked him up the next evening and took him home for recovery. He had about 20 staples running from breastbone to near his penis, but was being a good boy and mostly left them alone. Helen kept him when we went on vacation, and took the staples out the day we got back. I've been gradually ramping up his exercise and he doing great. Since he loves field more than anything in the world, that is what we are doing as much of as we possibly can.

    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Are You Ready?

    A recent theme in my classes has been the topic of how to know if you are ready to show, so I thought it worth exploring the topic here.
       When I was first starting out in obedience in the '80's, a common recommendation was that when you could go to three novel places (ideally fun matches) and do a run through just like you would in a trial - no food on you, no special training collars, no toys, no extra use of your voice - AND your dog would qualify on each exercise and you would be satisfied with the results, then you were ready to enter a real trial. I think this is still excellent advice.
       In the AKC Novice obedience class, your 200 points are broken down into 2 heeling exercises, worth 80 points, 3 stay exercises worth 90 points, and one recall exercise (which also contains a stay) worth 30 points. Of that 30 points, the sit in front is worth 3 and the finish is worth 3. Heeling is more important to your final score in Novice than in any other class, as are stays. It usually takes longer to teach a dog to heel well than most other obedience exercises.
        There is a large chasm between a perfect 200 and a just passing 170. To me, that is one of the wonderful things about obedience. You don't have to be perfect, or even all that close to it, in order to earn legs towards a title. There are a lot of factors that go into qualifying. First, there is the amount of training that a trainer puts into her dog. Most people who excel with a dog do so because they do their homework. Lots of homework. Yes, there are dogs who are easier to train and ones who are harder. Some dogs can handle a lot of repetition, some can't. Dogs usually learn and perfect obedience exercises via repetition, and lots of it, so it stands to reason that the dog who can handle a lot of repetition is going to reach the end goal a lot faster than the one who doesn't do well with repetition. But it isn't a race, so what's the rush? Sometimes students tell me, "Oh, we should be farther along with exercise XYZ." Since life has a way of interfering with our dog training at times, the reality is you are where you are with your dog, and you should just do your best to move forward. 
         My most recently completed Utility Dog title (May 28, 2011) was with Joker the Border Terrier, who turned 10 in early May this year. We purchased him for my son when Chris was 12. They did agility training for a couple of years, but Chris wasn't interested in trailing, so they stopped. In 2006, I asked Chris if I could take Joker to a Border Terrier National, where he earned his first RN leg. Joker didn't learn to retrieve formally until he was at least 5 years old. He learned scent discrimination when he was 7. As long as you keep your older dog in good physical shape, there's no need to be in a big hurry. (Yes, I realize some breeds don't live a long time. Yes, you need to be in more of a hurry with them.)
        Are you practicing being silent when you heel with your dog? This is one of the biggest sources of stress for dogs transitioning into the obedience trial ring, especially if you have first shown in rally where non-stop chatter is acceptable. Their handlers help them too much in training, chattering, encouraging, fixing. No wonder dogs are confused! You have got to practice heeling for longer periods of time with your mouth shut and no extra help or encouragement from you. One of the exercises I do occasionally in my Novice Practice class - the holding point for students who have gone through my four 6-week Novice teaching classes - is the 30-second test. We do group heeling for 30 seconds or so, which is roughly the length of a typical Novice or Open heeling pattern. I call for halts, about turns, pace changes, etc. Before we start, I tell everyone to keep track of anything extra that they do that they couldn't do in the ring, whether praising, encouraging with their voice or body, correcting, or treating, and to just add it all together into one number. When the 30 seconds is over, I ask everyone for their number. Most people start out with at least 3-4. The goal is to get that down to zero on a consistent basis before trailing, or to at least have the errors you are fixing be small ones as opposed to ones that would cause a substantial deduction (3 or more points off). If your dog is frequently not sitting automatically when you halt, for example, this will blossom into a lot of points off and possibly even an NQ (non-qualifying score) under some judges in the ring. 
        Are you practicing without any treats or toys for even a few minutes at a time? How about for 5 minutes? Ten minutes? How about with no external motivators on you at all for that length of time? Your long-term goals will determine how important this stage is. The farther you hope to go (UDX, OMx, OTCh), the more critical it is. If you are only going to trial occasionally, and will stop after earning titles such as a UD, this weaning process is less crucial. But it is still important. Because I knew our path was "UD = U Done" with Joker, I didn't concern myself with perfection. At a match shortly before he finished his UD, he went 10 feet off center on a go-out. I didn't fix it. I sent him to the opposite jump, proving to myself that he would still jump from his incorrect destination. Yes, it is several points off when they end up off center. But it is not an NQ.
       When I'm preparing a new dog for Novice, I do a lot of heeling. I don't fix every little error. I know my dog will make some errors in the ring. If, during training, I always fix every little error, what will happen in the ring when I don't? I do make a mental note of any errors that are consistent, such as going wide on about turns when we are turning away from a wall or gate. If I'm seeing any consistent errors, I pull that part out of general heeling (or whatever the exercise) and do some drills in order to strengthen my dog's understanding and commitment to being correct. I also check on my handling. Am I doing something badly myself that is causing the dog to make his error? A common problem with dogs who go wide on about turns is that their handler steps to her left as she is doing the turn, causing the dog to go wide.
        I look at trials as a test of my training. Going into my most recent set of trials, I knew I hadn't been training as regularly as Ty needed. We had several shaky exercises. We showed in 6 classes, and NQed in 4 of them. But in the two in which we qualified, we earned 3rd places, and even 1 OTCh point. And much of the work she did that was qualifying showed some promising effort. I don't plan to enter any more obedience trials until October, since I want to take a break and work on field training for a few months. We also clearly have some homework to do on several obedience exercises. With time to train and effort on my part, we'll be more ready the next time.
         Nancy Gyes wrote an article called Train like you compete, compete like you train way back in 1997. It is specifically about agility, but there is plenty of help for anyone competing with a dog in any venue.
          Connie Cleveland has several excellent articles on her website. Here's one related to this month's topic, What Motivates a Dog to Perform? 
          I hope this has given you some useful food for thought. Until next time, happy training.

    Sunday, July 10, 2011

    Maiden Voyage of T3

    As I wrote about on June 21, I was planning on my first travel trailer trip to be to the Ann Arbor KC trial this weekend in Monroe. All DID go as planned. I seem to have given The Travel Trailer the nickname of 'T3'. Much easier to say. I brought it home on Friday June 24, after taking an hour of video of the guided tour of the trailer itself and of the hitching process. This has already turned out to be an excellent thing, since I've referred back to it to figure out several different things.
       I spent quite a bit of time last weekend shopping and outfitting it, and Fritz and the 4 dogs (our 3 plus visiting FCR puppy Little) spent Sunday night (July 3) sleeping in it, parked in the driveway a short walk from the house. I think I got this excellent suggestion from a Facebook friend. It only took 3 extra trips to the house for stuff I forgot. It was hot and stuffy in there but we couldn't get the AC to work. It had worked fine at the dealer the week before, but I couldn't get the breaker panel cover open, so we muddled through. It did cool off over night just fine.
       Fritz was up and out early the next morning to run in a 4th of July 5K. I made myself tea, had breakfast, and took a shower, which meant figuring out the water heater (it can be either electric or propane) and the water pump. Step 1 of the new adventure completed. I also figured out how to open the circuit breaker panel with the help of the video tour, and sure enough the AC circuit breaker was off. My 1st trouble shooting success.
       That afternoon, after reviewing the hitching video footage and improving my list of hitching instructions, Fritz and I got it hitched up, and I took it for a short drive around our country block, then parked it behind the training building, which will be its storage spot when not in use. I am very glad it is such a wide area, since my backing skills are on the poor end of the scale right now. But the wide parking area is plenty wide enough for me to get it turned around in, which is a relief.
       Gina Czapiwski, her husband Rob, and their daughter Tracy were also going to camp at the AAKC trial, so Gina very kindly went to the Monroe Fairgrounds and reserved us adjoining camping spots.
       We were finally packed and ready to leave home a bit after 2 on Friday. The drive was thankfully uneventful. When I arrived at the fairgrounds, I pulled off to the side and walked in to find my camping spot. I didn't want to end up with the Burb and T3 trapped in a maze of twisty little passages, unable to extricate myself. Luckily, the spot was such that I was able to make a loop and pull in, no backing up required. Yeah! A 25' x 50' spot sounds really large until you pull into it with a 23' trailer attached to a Suburban. The show building was close enough that I could walk there in about 3 minutes, so I was able to leave T3 hitched all weekend.
       Next step was to get hitched up to water and electric. I'd plugged into 110 power at the house and behind the training building, so I had appropriate extension cords for that. I dragged my cord over to the pole, popped open one of the covers and... uh, oh, it was a 30 amp receptacle, not a 110. Ack! Deep breath. There was a 110 plug on the other side of the pole. I plugged in, but when I checked in T3, there did not seem to be power. Then I made the dismaying discovery that without being plugged in, the 110 outlets don't function. Uh, oh, what would I do to charge my various electronic gadgets to which I'm addicted?
       Next, I pulled out the brand new water hose to hook up to the water supply, uncoiled it, and... it reached about 1/3 of the way to the water supply. It looked like I'd be unhooking the trailer and driving somewhere to buy more hose. When my neighbors noticed my predicament, they kindly offered me a new 50 foot length of hose, which they didn't need since they were close enough to the supply on the other side to not need it. I got both ends hooked up, turned on the water and it dripped like crazy at the source. So I turned the faucet back off and PHSSSST, the water sprayed liberally out the top of the hose, getting me rather wet in the process. Fortunately, it was a hot afternoon. I switched so that my neighbor's hose was hooked to the faucet instead of mine, but it still leaked. I gave up and finished doing other set up stuff, putting out the awning, pulling out the big straw mat underneath it, and putting up the hardly-been-used X-pen. I put the dogs in it, made myself a cup of tea, and sat under the awning to enjoy it. My neighbors continued their much lengthier set up process - they had MANY more dogs than I did. I posted on Facebook about the fact that my attempts to get the water and electric hooked up had failed. Not 15 minutes latter, a white mini van pulled up and there were Charlotte and Jim Lovelace, who just happen to live 3 miles away from the fairgrounds. I've known Charlotte since my teen years in 4-H, and she's trained several dogs at NDT. They offered much welcomed assistance. The power wasn't working because the GFCI button needed to be reset. Once done, my power was on. The water issue was solved by filling up the tank and then just running off that via the trailer's water pump.

    I moved the X-pen to the shady side of T3 late in the afternoon.

    Here are all the Czapiewski's Boston Terriers. We figured out their 8 dogs probably weigh about what my 3 FCRs weigh.

    T3 has an outside shower with hot and cold water. Within 10 minutes of turning on the water heater, the water was warm enough to give Ty a bath on the adjacent grooming table. That was nifty! The water pressure wasn't great, but it was easy on my back.

       I had a reasonably good night's sleep. All was quiet at 3:15 when I got up to turn off the fan. A lot of dogs erupted in barking at 5:15 - I later found out that some bozo had driven by on M50 honking like crazy, which I didn't hear - but I went back to sleep until 6. I wheeled my equipment-laden cart over to the Expo building about 7 AM and got my crates set up. Many friends were arriving at about the same time. I returned to the trailer, had breakfast, then walked back with the dogs.
       I showed Ty in Utility B first, and alas, she once again did not do her sit signal after a lovely drop. But she did both articles, which have somewhat mysteriously been a problem lately, and everything else very nicely. Her go-outs were better than most of the dogs I saw. There was a lot to be very happy about in that performance.
       Next, we were in Open B. She had failed the down stay in her past 3 trials, and also had some problems with other exercises, but we'd been to several matches and I was reasonably optimistic about our chances. Her heeling ended on a sour note, with a big wide on the last about turn that lasted almost to the halt. Her broad jump front was also very poor, but the rest of her work seemed quite good. And she did her stays just fine, hurray! This meant we accomplished another of our goals for the year, which was to double her lifetime Open Q's to 6 :-). Much to my delight and surprise, she earned a 197 and 3rd place in the class. That is the highest Open score she's earned. 2.5 of the points lost were on heeling, the other 1/2 on the BJ front.
      In the afternoon trial, she once again stuck in the down and didn't do the sit signal, and in spite of a lot of searching, finally gave in and got a wrong 1st article. On her 1st go-out, she pulled up just a bit short, just as I gave my sit command. What flashed through my head was that if I have to do DJ in either of the Versatility classes in which we are entered, I'd better do something about this. On the 2nd one, she again turned a bit early, so I reminded her to go, and she did.
       Because of the stay issues in the past 3 trials, I only entered Open B the one time, and entered Versatility in the other two trials. When I looked at what exercises we'd have to do, my heart sank. SIGNALS. Also the Novice SFE, the Utility Moving Stand, the Retrieve on Flat, the Broad Jump, and the Novice recall. Unlike other times I've done Versatility, the exercises were quite mixed up (vs. 2 Novice, 2 Open, 2 Utility). She once again (ick, 3 times in one day, now that was discouraging) failed the sit signal. Then she trotted through the broad jump. Then when I really looked at it, they boards looked spread too far apart. I mentioned that to the judge, so he had the steward check it, and sure enough, she'd made an error and set it at 52 instead of 44 (she measured to the 1st edge of the last board, not the last). It was reset, and Ty jumped it fine. Without much thought, I threw up my hands and praised her when she landed and just released her. Heck, we'd already blown it and she'd had the too-large jump to contend with, so why not? She did do a very nice front fix on the dumbbell retrieve, which was nice to see.
       I had a lovely dinner Saturday night with the Czapiewskis, then did a bit of bumper training with Little, Gryff and Ty. I did run T3's AC for a bit, proving to myself that it worked, but later in the evening, just running the fan was fine. As I cleaned up my dishes from dinner, I found it very satisfying to be settling into my new home away from home.
       This morning, I had a text message from Brenda Riemer saying she was outside the rig, was I up? So she came in for a visit while we finished our morning beverages.
       We had Utility 1st, and lo and behold, Ty managed to pass everything! She made several stress-related errors - her heeling was sloppy and she slowed up and then stood about 18" away on the signal recall - close enough to Q, but a substantial deduction. Her Moving Stand return was also lacking in confidence - she slowed up about 2 feet out, and walked around to her finish. She was really over thinking things. On her first go-out, she hooked to the left somewhat, but sat fine and jumped the left jump fine. I think it was in response to the pressure of the stay line up on the right side of the Open ring, on beyond the end of the Utility ring. Her 2nd go-out was to about the same place, but she jumped the right jump fine, too. When all was said and done, there were only 4 qualifiers out of 13, and we earned 3rd place with our 188, good for 1 OTCh. point. She now has 3 :-).
       I apprentice judged Open B under judge Michelle Armitage, who is from Ottawa, Ontario, with a break to go do Versatility again. This time, we had to do the Novice Heel Free, SFE, the Open Drop on Recall and Broad Jump, and the Utility Moving Stand and Directed Retrieve. She heeled better than she had all weekend - I wish I knew why! - but didn't come on the DOR. She started to, but froze in a stand after only a couple of steps. I called her right away again, and she completed the rest of it fine. Her Moving Stand was much better than it had been in the morning, and she really had some zip on the Directed Retrieve, so it was a nice way to complete the weekend.
       I had a lazy afternoon, with a late lunch at T3 and packing up to come home.
    Here's Ty, enjoying the cool AC blast:

    Gryff doing the same.
    And finally, Little looking like she has no bones, lying up on the bed.

    A kindly gentleman helped me with the thrilling chore of my first fairgrounds dump station visit, showing me the ropes and giving me some suggestions about other items to purchase to make the task a bit less onerous. The trip home went just fine. I got the trailer unloaded and unhitched successfully.
       What a blast!

    In case you are wondering who Little is, she belongs to Helen Szostak and her breeder, Cheryl Kistner. After Joker finished his UD in May, I asked Helen if she had a young dog I could borrow to do some basic field training with. I transported Little to and from the Maryland National, and she's been with me for training since. But that is another post. She'll probably be here until the end of July, when we'll be going on vacation. She's now 10 months old and a wonderful sponge for training.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2011

    New Adventures

    Just recently, I discovered a message I wrote to someone in late 2009 about needing a bigger tow vehicle than my mini van, so I obviously started thinking about travel trailers/RVs 2 years ago. I do often say I move at the speed of a glacier.

    Five days before leaving for the 2011 Flat-Coated Retriever Society of America's National Specialty in Frederick, Maryland, I finally took delivery of a new vehicle, a 2011 Suburban LT. I've had 3 Chrysler mini vans, starting in 1989, and I have loved loved loved my mini vans. I had my 2005 double-sliding door van fitted out very nicely, thank you, for either obedience or field training. Although it was fine for light-duty field training, the frequency of trips over rutted farm lanes and fields were really taking a toll on the van. And I got stuck twice in the mud last year, making me long for a vehicle with 4 wheel drive. I have test driven numerous vehicles with an eye towards towing a trailer, including a Chevy Traverse, a Hybrid Chevy Tahoe, a Silverado pickup truck, an Express cargo van, and a Suburban. Last winter, when I restarted my vehicle contemplation, I thought, "What would I get if my mini van had to be replaced immediately?" Suburban was the answer.

    Having already put > 1500 miles on the new 'Burb, thanks to the MD trip, I can certainly say that I love it. I even got nearly 21 MPG on the drive to MD. Not quite as good coming back, and around town... not so great. That was the hardest part of the decision for me, quite frankly. I have always been conscious of energy conservation - there is a ton of insulation in both of our dog training buildings, for example - and making the choice to get a big SUV took a long time.

    I think I first stopped at an RV dealer 2 years ago on the way back from an Illinois seminar, so I've also been thinking about them for a long time. I went through a long period last summer and fall trying to make a conversion van work, even flying to California to look at a used Sportsmobile that I was 90% sure I would buy. It was an extremely well spent $500 for the airplane ticket - driving the thing was nerve-wracking and the thought of taking it to the grocery store was ridiculous. Scratch that idea off the list.

    Before leaving for MD, I told Fritz that I would get serious about getting a travel trailer when I got back. A week ago, we went to a local RV dealer and climbed in and out of about 15 travel trailers. While I have done a lot of in-person and on-line window shopping for RVs, he hadn't. It gave us some good points for discussion. Last Saturday, I went back and discussed my wishes and needs with a salesman, and he showed me some new and used units that he thought would fit the bill. Then I took my top choice for a brief test drive. I haven't hauled anything more than a garden tractor cart since hauling horse trailers in my 20's, so I needed to prove to myself that I could cope. It will take some getting used to, but it was more comfortable and easier to drive than the conversion van. So that hurdle was completed.

    Last Sunday, Fritz and I went back and I showed him my top 3 choices, and in the end, he also liked my 1st choice best. If all works out as planned, we will make our maiden voyage to the Monroe Co Fairgrounds the weekend of July 8-10, where I'll be showing Ty in obedience. It is a pretty straight forward drive to get there, I've done it plenty of times, it isn't too far away, and since it is a dog show, there won't be any difficulty about having dogs.

    So a new adventure is about to begin. I've tent camped quite a bit in the past 3 years with the dogs, so am at least somewhat familiar with what that's like and the camp ground scene. I'm looking forward to outfitting a trailer and getting familiar with all that will go along with it. Any advice is welcome!

    Thursday, June 2, 2011

    A Different Kind of Journey

    Last Saturday morning @ the Grand Rapids KC trial, I earned my 8th UD. Border Terrier Joker is now Kandu's The Joker is Wild UD RE RL2 and officially our Retired Dog. Joker turned 10 on May 5 this year. We bought him for our son when Chris was 12. Chris trained him in agility for a couple of years, but didn't have any desire to compete with him. Back in 2006, I asked Chris if I could take Joker along to the BT National, which would prevent me from putting all of my eggs in Java's basket (plus it's much more fun to show a couple of dogs at Nationals and in several events). Joker earned his 1st RN leg there and his only agility leg (in Std). 

    Over the intervening years, I kept plugging away on his training - "Oh, heck, we might as well finish his RN." "Oh, what the heck, let's try Advanced Rally." "Oh, let's try for a CD." And so it kept going. We didn't do rally excellent initially because he didn't know how to stand without physical help. Once I taught him the signal st and for utility, we went back and got his RE. He didn't learn to retrieve until he was 5 years old or so. He almost always got only leftover training time from me. Sometimes, he only practiced exercises at seminars doing demoes. Because of my summer time devotion to hunt test training with my Flat-Coats the past several years, he got essentially NO training during the summer months.

    It was never my intention to try to be competitive with him, but instead to see what it was like to title a dog without being concerned with high scores. His first Utility leg was a 178, and I was thrilled when we got that green ribbon. That was in October last year, after 5 weeks of cramming.

    All in all, we showed 8 times in Utility B together (B because of my OTCh titles), finishing his title in the 7th trial. He failed Signals only once. He failed articles in 3 of those trials (in all 3, that was all he failed), Directed Jumping twice, and the Moving Stand once (he anticipated the return the trial before his 3rd leg). What is remarkable is that he never failed the Directed Retrieve - remarkable because it was his most frequently failed exercise in training.

    Joker taught me that you can judge quite a bit about where your dog is during heeling or pivots via shadow - I often couldn't actually see him, but could see by his shadow that he was close to heel position. I'm much more aware of the frequency of shadows at trial sites than I used to be . Quite often after an about turn, I would glance ahead and to my right - phew, he's not there, I guess he must be reasonably close to where he belongs.

    So, thanks for joining me on this different journey, Joker. You made me try some different ways to train an exercise, since my usual way wasn't working for you.  Training you has helped remind me of how much I enjoy training my terriers. You helped make a lot of people smile, especially me.

    Happy Retirement, Joey!

    Sunday, May 29, 2011

    The Highs and Lows from Kalamazoo

    As I wrote about last week, I showed Joker and Ty at the 1st two days of the Memorial Day weekend cluster at Kalamazoo. First, the high points:
    • Joker (10 year old Border Terrier) finished his UD with a very respectable 191 in the first trial Saturday morning, making him the 8th dog with whom I've earned a UD. We got a professional photo of that one, so can't share it here yet.
    • Ty earned her 1st UDX leg on Friday, 21 OM points, a 4th place in Open B (196) and a 3rd place in Utility B (194), which was good for her 1st 2 OTCh points. Wow, only 98 to go! Oh, yes, those pesky 1st places...
    • We had glove 3 in both of the 1st two trials (something I was dreading going into the weekend, given the problems both dogs had had the previous couple of weeks) and glove 1 in the 3rd trial, and we had 6 Q's on gloves.
    • Ty qualified on signals 2 out of 3 times, coming back from a sit signal failure in the 2nd trial to do it correctly in the 3rd. After we finished signals in that 3rd trial successfully, I told the judge that I could go home happy now, whatever happened in the rest of the class.
    • Both dogs did very nice go-outs in all three trials, especially given that the middle stanchion was about 2 feet to the left of center (and yes, I stanchion train their go-outs) and that we had corner gloves that were retrieved before doing go-outs each time. Ty showed no signs of stopping short, which delights me, given that she picked her spot in the previous 3 trials. To top it off, her turn and sits were marvelously snappy, garnering compliments.
    • Ty lost only 1/2 point on Directed Jumping 2 out of the 3 trials. 
    • We were in two runoffs on Friday.
    Now for the low points:
    • Ty failed the down stay in both trials on Saturday by first sitting up before I got very far away and then walking forward out of line. She told me loud and clear that she's not ready for multiple Open classes in a weekend, let alone one day. Both judges had me go to her and take her to the opposite side of the ring and have her stay there. 
    • Ty trotted through the Broad Jump in trial 2 on Saturday, something I'm not sure she's ever tried in her whole life. In her defense, I put her farther back than usual because her striding was poor in the morning. So I'll take some blame for it. She certainly was brisk and nimble about it, watching where she stepped very carefully!
    • Joker failed the article at 12 o'clock in the 3rd trial. Otherwise, he would have had another Q. The first article was there in all 3 trials, and the 2nd one was in the middle twice, his other hard spot.
    • Ty's accuracy on her signal stand position and her article turns dwindled as the weekend wore on. 
    • We lost both of the runoffs we were in. But that means we Q'ed and got to be IN the runoffs!
    I was well aware going into the weekend that we could come home with 9 NQs, a discouraging thought! We came away with 4 Q's out of 9, and two near misses in Utility. As I knew I would, I learned a lot about what Ty is and isn't (yet) capable of. We were losing 2-2.5 on heeling in each class, so there's a lot of room for improvement there, and consistently good heeling is crucial for high scores and winning runoffs. I held up reasonably well showing 9 times, though I sure yawned a lot during the 1.5 hour drive home!

    I haven't shown in Kalamazoo in a lot of years, and I chatted with many people over the weekend, including some previous unmet in person Facebook friends. On Saturday morning, I was flying high from Friday's successes, and wishing I was showing more than one more day. Now that I'm home, I'm also glad to be home. Ty and I have some serious homework to do before our National trip. We (Ty, Gryff and I) leave a week from today for Maryland. I haven't decided for sure what we'll do this summer in terms of obedience vs. field training. While the occasional nice weather has me yearning to get outside, I'm also really enjoying the obedience work.

    Wednesday, May 25, 2011

    What Are We Made Of?

    This weekend - actually, Friday and Saturday - I'll be showing Joker 3 times in Utility B, searching for his 3rd UD leg, and Ty 3 times in Open B and 3 times in Utility B at the Memorial Day cluster in Kalamazoo. My primary goal with Ty is to see what our team is made of. She finished her UD in March, and is 1 for 2 in Open B and 2 for 4 in Utility B since then. I really haven't shown her all that much in obedience, considering that she is 6.5 years old. So this weekend, I want to see how much we are capable of. Can we get a UDX leg or two? Can we make progress on our OM (she’s got about 20 points already)? Can we come anywhere close to some OTCh. points? Note that I didn’t say earn points, but rather come close to doing so.

    I feel like we are starting to gel as a team, and so the grand experiment of this weekend. I can’t remember when I last showed a single dog three times in Open in the same weekend. I’m not sure *I* have it in me to go in the ring 9 times in 2 days, let alone the dogs. Again, an experiment.

    I don’t honestly know if an OTCh is a reasonable goal with Ty. Am I willing to put in the time, $’s, and effort that it is likely to take? Can she rise to the occasion? Can I? Really, only time will tell. But one of the cool things is that I can pursue the UDX and OM1 without having to beat anyone else, and how difficult that proves to be will give me an excellent read on the OTCh prospects.

    Stay tuned...

    Monday, May 23, 2011

    On Turning 50

    Yes, that's right. Today, I turn 50.

    Really? But I don't feel 50. I feel 40. Or is it 35? Or is it 60?

    I've spent more brain time pondering this impending milestone than I remember thinking about when turning either 30 or 40. And now, here I am. I've made it.

    I think perhaps one of the causes for reflections is that my 40's were a great decade personally. I've made several friends in the past 10 years who I consider some of the best people in my life. My family is doing well. My kids are nearly grown and out of the house. I got started learning a new sport (hunt test training) on which I have spent countless glorious hours over the past several years, enjoying what I consider the best summers of my life in the past two years. My business has continued to thrive. I self-published a new book and got the retrieve video updated and released on DVD. My seminar speaking engagements have grown tremendously, taking me to many new places around the US and now Canada, introducing me to many new and wonderful people and dogs. I finished OTCh titles on two dogs. I started on the road to judging for the AKC. I joined Curves and continue to enjoy working out there, in large part because of the amazing community of women who come together there. I started learning about web programming this past winter and continue to make small strides on the never-ending process of maintaining a website.

    As this day has neared, it helps me to remember that so many of my closest friends have already passed this milestone, paving the way for me, acting as role models on aging with energy and grace.

    So, 40's, I bid you goodbye with mixed feelings. How can the next decade top the one I've just left? I guess I'll just have to jump in and start paddling and see what comes along.

    Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    New Scent Articles for Ty

    A group of friends and I have a running joke that she who dies with the most scent articles (or crates) wins. I decided recently that it was time to add to my total.

    The only articles I've had for Ty to use were one of the two sets I had for Tramp, my 1st OTCh. Flat-Coat. Treasure's articles have a very fat bit, and Ty couldn't seem to pick them up straight, especially the metal ones. I decided to order a new set from MAX200, because of all the various sets I've ordered over the years, they've held up the best. I teach and use 'hot scent', so when scenting an article, I not only rub the bar with my palms, but I also hold an end and rotate the bar in my hand. This tends to cause the ends to loosen up over time, something I'm fighting with the articles I use for Joker (Java's old set). 

    I ordered a single metal article from MAX200 to test the size. I do wonder if Ty has some teeth issues going on, since she'll often chatter on a metal one. I'm glad I did order just one, because it still seemed a bit too thick. Then, because I really wanted to have the new ones before our Memorial Day cluster, I plunged in and ordered a set of 8 of each type one size smaller bit diameter. Fortunately, that seems to have been enough. Aren't they pretty??? The stripes are blue and green and the craftsmanship is impressive.

    I had recently read on the Ring-Tested-Obedience list about letting new articles air for 6 weeks before using. Six weeks? I didn't HAVE six weeks! I unpacked them last Tuesday night and let them air out overnight. The next afternoon, I put out 2 unscented leathers and 2 unscented metals and added a scented one. Ty made several mistakes, picking up several of the new leathers incorrectly. Didn't seem interested in picking incorrect metals. We muddled through with small levels of success, and before quitting for the night, I had her take all of the remaining ones that she hadn't yet picked up, to get her spit on them. 

    We did them again Thursday evening on the eve of my weekend trip to Lakeland, FL. I really wanted to see if day 2 would be better. I started with just 4 unscented out again, and after each successful pair, added a couple more. She was 6 for 6 that night, and 4 for 4 yesterday evening after we got back from the quick trip south. Yeah, Ty! She was working with great enthusiasm and speed last night, and seems to be picking the new ones up really nicely. I love when equipment helps improve my dog's performance!

    I like to have 8 of each article type because it allows for enough for several trials in a weekend without having to put used one back in right away. We are showing once on Friday and twice on Saturday at the Memorial Day cluster in Kalamazoo, so my hope is to only have to use the one set, swapping in new articles for the used ones.

    Saturday, May 7, 2011

    An Update on my Training

    April marked the first month I showed on two separate weekends in obedience in a very long time. Ty & Joker were entered at the Greater Toledo OTC. Ty was entered in Utility in both morning and afternoon trials, as well as Open in the afternoon trial. Joker was entered in the morning trial in Rally Excellent B and Utility B.

    Joker finished up his RE title with a 97 1st place effort. It was great to go in the rally ring before Utility, since it was our first time showing obedience on the field turf. It was also our first try at Utility somewhere they've never trained. They had both showed in Novice and Open in the facility before, though, so it wasn't brand new for them.

    Joker managed to pass everything except the first article. We had glove 1, and he headed that way on both go-outs. One proud moment came during DJ. The bar on the left was the first jump, handy since he was over in that direction. When he sat on the 2nd go-out, he did a small shoulder movement towards the high jump on my right. Although we had worked on jumping from off-center when we were in SC, it hadn't gone particularly brilliantly ("I'm supposed to do WHAT? How about if I just sit here and look confused?"). But that shoulder dip gave me hope. Sure enough, he took the 2nd jump confidently. All in all, I was very pleased with his day.

    Last month, I wrote, "Ty's sit signal, which was so poor last month, has been going very well (oops, hope I didn't just jinx myself)...". Yup, you guessed it. I jinxed myself. It went away again. In both trials, Ty did her down signal nicely, and then did not do the sit. She also didn't come on my first signal in the AM trial. She passed everything else, including very straight go-outs in the first trial, BUT she is clearly picking where to stop. Not an NQing shortness, but certainly scoreable. In the 2nd trial, she veered a bit to the right of center, and also got distracted by a flying dumbbell in the adjoining Open ring just as I started to give my jump signal. So that was also an NQ.

    The highlight of the weekend for her was her Q in Open B. She took several trials to get her CDX back in 2009, and hadn't managed to pass stays the past two times we'd tried. We had been doing LOTS of stays around the house (note to self: get back to doing that!) and it paid off. She also earned her first OM points.

    We showed again at the Saturday Progressive trial, again just on Saturday. I'm thrilled to report that Joker earned his 2nd leg. He did a grand job. We had Order III, with articles first. It was nice to get those out of the way successfully. Ty also managed a Q, doing very fine signals. But I suspect her apparent response to my sit signal was luck. Sometimes, I get lucky. The metal article  took flight out of her mouth as she left the articles pile, costing us 2 points, and she again stopped somewhat short on her go-outs. Imagine my surprise and delight when little Mr. Joker placed 3rd in the class with a fabulous score of 195 (I don't think he has ever scored that high in his brief career), with Ty in 4th place with a 194. A very fine day at the dog show. A fun fact: there was 1 OTCh. point available for that 3rd place, so I can now claim Joker has a Phantom OTCh point (phantom because it doesn't count since he doesn't yet have his UD).

    Gryff continues to have soreness in his iliopsoas muscles. I resumed laser treatments a couple of weeks ago, and found out that the early treatments probably weren't really getting to the right spot. I think yesterday's treatment finally was, so I'm hopeful that he can get some relief.

    I did pull my bike out of storage, pumped up the tires, and have been biking the dogs a couple times a week. Gryff is on a flexi leash while the other two run free. We've been going up and down my looooong driveway (property is 600 feet from road to back) or doing laps in the building when it's been nasty outside. I can much more successfully keep Gryff in a trot on the bike than when I'm walking.

    Next up: three trials in two days at the Kalamazoo Memorial Day cluster, then the Flat-Coated Retriever National in Maryland in June. We are going to a Mother's Day obedience match to see if I can catch Ty stopping where she chooses on her go-outs. Or catch her doing it right in a relatively new place so she can get a jackpot.

    The Care and Feeding of a Training Partner

    What is a training partner? It is someone with whom you can get together regularly to train your dogs. It is someone with whom you can talk over training issues. It helps if your TP has a similar schedule to you, so it isn't too hard to find time to meet. Having similar long-term goals is helpful, though not critical. It will help you a lot if your TP is more experienced than you are, because you will be able to learn a lot from her. Those of us who have been doing this for a long time enjoy seeing new trainers getting hooked on the sport we have loved for so many years. But it doesn't have to be someone more experienced. I continue to learn from new trainers. Sometimes, because of no preconceived ideas, new trainers come up with fabulous 'think outside the box' solutions that experienced trainers don't.

    Having dogs at similar levels is another benefit, because you'll need the same equipment for training, and you can each supply some. It means you can go to trials together and cheer each other on (or commiserate on the days it doesn't go so well). For many of us, the social aspect of dog competitions is a large part of the fun. Of course, even if you aren't at the same level, most trials have classes of many different levels going on, so you can still go to shows together.

    Where should you look for a training partner? If you are taking a class somewhere, ask your classmates if they would be interested in meeting outside of class to practice together. It makes you more likely to do your homework and it simply makes it more fun. You can help each other by calling commands if the dogs are advanced enough; doing stand for exams; putting out scent articles; holding a young dog for recalls. Sometimes it is helpful to simply train alongside each other, but it is even better if you can take the time to play judge and provide distractions for each other for at least part of your time together. When I wrote The Art of ProofingI used different types of bullets to show what you could do by yourself, with one helper, and in a larger group. 

    Another potential place to look is at a local dog club. Even if there isn't an obedience club, you might find someone interested in obedience training who belongs to an agility club or a conformation club. Attend nearby obedience trials and matches and watch people. Look for someone whose dog works like you wish yours would. If you are already competing with your dog for titles, find out where your fellow exhibitors live. Addresses are usually listed in the back of the trial catalog.

    I am blessed to live in a highly active dog training community with many opportunities within a 2 hour radius of Ann Arbor. I once met a friend who lives outside of Chicago (which means we are 5 hours apart) at another friend's training building that is about 1/2 way between us.

    In thinking back over the many training partners I've had over the 25+ years I've been training, I think fondly of the friendships, the hours and hours spent training and problem solving, and the thrill of victory, not just for myself but also for them.

    If you don't already have one, I encourage you to find someone to train with. I don't think you'll be sorry.