Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: Our year in review



As I write this I had to dig up the last years post - for those who are interested in such things it's here.

  • My obedience goal for Teller was to get him through CDX this season. That didn't happen. While I think he's very technically competent on the Open (and Utility) work he's not there mentally. We had three obedience weekends this year and he thought the party was all about him (he's partially right). Stewards and judges are really distracting to him - particularly during heelwork where he's on his own so much. We squeaked out one leg this summer though - he's got to refocus his brain - I think perhaps a couple of jaunts into the breed ring might be the ticket and/or going up to Canada to work on a Canadian CD.

  • My goals for Teller in agility was his novice preferred titles. He did that and more. Between March and November in eight weekends Teller knocked out his NAP, NJP, NA, NAJ, OAJ, AXJ, and a couple of OA and MXJ legs and a few MACH points. It was a good year! I did see his a-frame contact fall apart and I'm working to fix it - it's going to be reps and reinforcement I think - build up a history of success now that he's got so much confidence in competition. Speaking of confidence - he's got it - and he's a blast to run. He LOVES the game and plays the game for the entire run. We had a small (and I mean small - twice maybe) distraction episodes out in Syracuse (his first trial) but that has all melted away. The boy knows his job and he's honest - ring crew and judges aren't as much fun as agility....{{now if only to get heelwork as fun as agility}}. Almost all of those legs were first or second placements (one third and one fourth) - we're literally swimming in rosettes these days and will have to come up with a creative use for them...now that we're in Excellent B I'm sure that rosettes will be few and far between - but it's nice to dream ;-)

  • I didn't get an OA on Murphy. Murph entered more or less retirement, though he did come out and play preferred agility at the GMGRC show. He liked the easier game and he did seem to have a good time. Murphy got two NJP legs and finished his NAP - though I did see a stress issue in one of his JWW runs when he goofed an entry at the weaves. To be determined if I'll enter him in our other home show in April...

  • We didn't get out tracking - between the rain, rain and more rain this season and just not having enough hours in the day it didn't happen.

  • And the same thing happened with hunting and conformation - not enough hours in the day. For conformation Teller has to carry more weight and I'm just not willing to do that to him while he's playing agility. I'm just not willing to put him on a shelf in agility for conformation right now...

  • We're still looking for commercials and print ads if anyone is looking for a well-trained photogenic golden retriever!

  • As far as our last bullet item - we're totally having fun. I've (shocking I know) been able to keep things light and fun. Teller doesn't know this trial stuff is work and he's ready to go every time I let them out to the truck...
  • Monday, December 07, 2009

    Yankee Golden Trial

    Our last trial of the season - there will be time to recap - but that's not here, well it's here, but it's not now. And if I'm not making any sense - well that's probably to be expected.

    So the trial this weekend was at "All Dogs Gym" in NH - I've heard so many awesome things about this place it was interesting to see it in person. This was the first AKC trial for this location that usually offers CPE and USDAA trials - and lots and lots of CPE/USDAA trials. Because there was equipment already there the host club didn't have to hire Max 200 to truck in equipment...there were problems with the USDAA specs and the AKC specs - the chute for example was an adorable doghouse with snoopy on top - but the opening was too small for AKC regs.

    Of course this wasn't noticed or reported to the judges until the Ex STD course was setup and walked (and dogs lined up to run) which stopped the whole freakin' trial for 90 minutes while they went to find another chute (I think they went to someone's house to get their chute!). Saturday started at 8am with Ex FAST and ran until after 9pm finishing with Novice JWW. LONG day. We were the third dog on-line for Ex JWW and we still didn't get out of there until 7pm. There wasn't a chute delay on Sunday but we still didn't get on the road headed home until just before 7pm - which made for a very long ride home in the dark and snow.

    Now for the Teller recap. We are only a week into his box work - and well, it's not there yet. Which is to be expected honestly - it's going to take a lot longer than a week to solidify the behavior. His FAST runs were fun - he's seeing lines and he's so tuned in that if I make a mistake he's responding to it. He comes right back, but there were clearly moments when I got myself into a position I didn't want to be, tried to move too soon, or took a line for granted (without telling him where to go). I saw some nice speed and continued confidence - he's really into the game right now and that's most important part of this endeavor. He'll come together and it's going to be brilliant!

    Monday, November 30, 2009

    New look for our youtube page

    Played with some layouts on youtube today - I like this much better than the bright pink happy-happy version.

    I've got some other graphics and web design stuff in the works - but I can't reveal them yet...an interesting change from the usual geek stuff :-)

    Saturday, November 28, 2009

    Running contact progression...

    About a month ago I bought Rachael Sander's "Reliable Running A-Frames", I made a box - though a slightly modified version from Rachel's so that mine sits on top of the slats and doesn't need to be fastened to the A-Frame. The thought here is that what isn't fastened can be safely displaced and what doesn't have to be fastened is a lot easier to take on and off for things like run-throughs when we might only take one or two reps on the a-frame.

    So we've done a lot of groundwork - a lot of just sending to the box on it's own, some sequences and then the running grid that Rachel talks about in her DVD - essentially getting the striding right on the flat will save a lot of wear and tear for the dog on the a-frame. We've been lucky to work this once or twice a week as we're either involved in something other than working on our own or if we're at home it's been too dark after work to get any reps in.

    So yesterday was the day to put the box on the frame. I skipped the back chaining part of the a-frame work. Teller is not keen on being physically manipulated and would not have liked being picked up awkwardly and placed on equipment. So I started with the 4'4" a-frame as in the video. Teller immediately got the striding and hit nicely within the box. Sweet. Let's push it a little - running ahead of him - he's getting it. Behind him, he's getting it. A wait and going the entire length of the room - releasing him (like a cannon) and he got it! Holy crap!

    Today I moved the a-frame up to full height and found that I could reproduce what I saw at the lower frame. He NAILED all of his contacts and had his striding correctly most of the time (two hits on the way down). He does seem to vibrate the a-frame a bit and displaced the box once by vibration alone. He hit the box with a hind foot too - also displacing the box.

    In general he's such an honest dog that I knew (know) that our contacts in trials are a result of something I've left out. He doesn't understand what his job is on an a-frame in competition. Hopefully the box-work will clear up his criteria on the a-frame...

    So here's his work on day two - my word for the contact zone is "yellow" {smile} - it seemed fitting.

    Wednesday, November 25, 2009

    Four Years ago today....

    It seems so strange to think that Kasei has been gone four years already. The suddenness of his passing, the catastrophe of his cancer - so rapid, so quickly bringing him down at the way too young age of eight and a half.

    Kasei was the start of all things golden. He taught me so much and asked so little in return. Kasei approached each and every day with a tail wag and gusto. Kasei lived every moment of his life, stoic to the end as usual. As a rescue with a pretty crummy start he had his share of baggage - he was an outstanding therapy dog, specializing in his work with kids. Kasei was loyal to a fault and seemed to appreciate "the good life" once he had it. For his last couple of years, he was a tough but fair "older brother" to Murphy. He didn't want to play the dog show game - he didn't want to travel to dog shows, stay in hotels but he was obedient and trainable - he just came that way. I often wondered what he would have been like if he had the advantage of positive training from the beginning.








    We love you Kasei and we miss you.

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    Thanksgiving Cluster in Springfield

    We've had some time off since our last trial (mid-October in Virginia) so we were excited to be out for the weekend.

    The weekend started off badly - I worked on Thursday instead of taking the day off as a travel day. In general this isn't my habit as I like the time to pack properly and then leave in a somewhat leisurely fashion. I got the car packed by about 4pm, planned to hit the bank for some cash and then head out of town. I loaded the dogs in the car and put the key in the ignition...NOTHING! Onstar sent someone out to give the battery a jump - which didn't get the car started so the car was unpacked, dogs unloaded and the car towed to the dealership. I got a rental but the little Buick was not suitable for transporting two golden retrievers and their gear to a dog show.

    And then I was saved! Lori was heading down to the trial already and had room for the three of us. We left at 5am on Friday morning, but we got there - and what a weekend it was!

    We've been struggling with our contacts since September - like so many problems he's missing the contacts in trial, but not in training - complicated by his performances in Virginia where he nailed his A-Frame AND his dogwalk in all of his runs. We're trying the Rachael Sanders box method but we're still working the box on the ground - only now at the point of putting it on the a-frame and I didn't want to put the box on the a-frame the week before a trial. The holes in our contacts were evident at the cluster this weekend. The A-Frame cost us two Q's this weekend on otherwise solid runs (the third standard run he got the contacts by a toe-nail but had both a pop-out in the weaves and a refusal when I got in his way).

    The thrill of our weekend were in the JWW ring. Teller earned his first Ex A JWW leg in Granby at the end of September and his second at the Mattiponi Kennel Club show in Virginia. Friday he came together in the afternoon and nailed his EX JWW run with a 1st and Q to finish his AXJ title. Teller is now a Can CH SunKissed Light and Magic CD RN NA NAP AXJ NJP CCA CGC CGN.

    It just so happens that Teller's AXJ earned another title - this time for Daddy Robin - as AXJ is a seven point GRCA title and finished Robin's outstanding sire "OS". What a thrill for us to be part of the qualifying progeny.

    Teller was not finished though - Saturday we walked out of the JWW ring with another Q, this time in Excellent B and with FIVE MACH points!! Teller's first MACH points!!! Holy cow! Sunday he spoiled me again with another JWW Q for Four more points! Teller now has NINE MACH POINTS!!!

    This is Teller's first season out playing agility - my goal for him this season was for him to have fun, build some confidence in the ring (though confidence isn't really his issue) and to hopefully finish his novice preferred titles. He's done that and more. In May I moved him up to 24" to see what we had. He finished his Novice titles in two weekends and his Open JWW title in another two weekends. We had a weekend in July with some runs that were really close to an excellent JWW leg - but one of us made a mistake each run. We took August off and enjoyed the pool and summer. So in six months and eight weekends my Woo has gone from Novice to MACH points. I'm still walking on air.

    Oh and I got my car back tonight...so we've got wheels again :-)

    Monday, October 19, 2009

    Mattaponi and Virginia

    What a whirlwind week! On Tuesday we went to the Bouvier des Flandres of America (sounds more important than it is) agility trial in Essex Junction - hard to pass up a local trial that is so close to home. It was the club's national specialty and while last Monday was a GORGEOUS fall day, Tuesday was MISERABLE! Rain, wind and 39 degrees. I went because I wanted to see what Teller thought of 24" weaves and also to see where our contacts were now.

    So, 24" weaves - they weren't a big deal in Novice FAST with six poles, we NQ'ed on time after a lovely run when I got in his way and we spent 10 seconds goofing around at the finish jump - oh well...In Open STD, he gave me another lovely run - popping out at pole 7 of the weaves and then blowing the a-frame. In a very technical (and slippery) Excellent JWW he was so on - got his weave entry then just sort of fell out in the middle. He finished nicely....

    There's a bit of a trend here. For a while (July) we had great contacts but were having weave problems - either entries or poles 8 or 10. The 8 or 10 problem was basically striding - he started bouncing more - and indeed in the 24" weaves he was bouncing higher - which was odd. He was also JEEPED in the cool wet weather - so that could be part of it. Then in September we had LOVELY weaves but started having problems with the A-Frame contact. We're in the process of going back to Rachel Sander's Reliable running A-Frame (box work). While we're doing box work I've been using his willingness to DROP to get the A-Frame contacts - however, on Tuesday I didn't get the word "DOWN" out in time to affect the contact performance. He's such a young dog still - sometimes it's easy to forget that. He gives me such great moments, he'll come together in time. So I've got to remember that it's OK that something falls out as something else gets stronger. One of our fellow competitors (who has an AWESOME golden) made some time to come over and tell me how well he's doing - he's going to be there. I just have to be patient :-)

    The next day (Wednesday) Teller went in for CERF and cardiac clearances - he passed both (yay). The clinic ran SOOOO late, so instead of getting on the road at 9:00 we didn't get on the road until nearly 11:30, then driving 11 hours to northern VA to visit my mom and dad. We ran into an accident (and a closed road) on I-295 which further delayed us - we didn't get there until 11pm - and my folks are NOT night owls!

    I did the tourist thing on Thursday and Friday - but unfortunately I brought the cold weather down there with me - it was upper 40's low 50's all four days I was down there - with drizzling rain and wind...NOT FUN. The weather affected my tourism opportunities and also my ability to get the dogs out to run...that and that there are ZERO places within 30 miles of my parent's house to run the dogs - I spent over 2 hours on Friday looking for a fenced place to run the dogs as my parents have an invisible fence - but my dogs are not radio trained - I'm pretty sure Teller would take a shock to go see a squirrel, deer or dog-fearing child anyhow.

    Saturday and Sunday we were entered in the Mattaponi Kennel Club Agility trial (held here: http://www.cedarrunhc.com/). It was in a HUGE indoor arena. I was impressed with the footing - I expected the sand to be much deeper - I was pleasantly surprised - sand with a lot of rubber. The dogs had great traction on that surface and it appeared to be pretty clean. Folks in Virginia are apparently not used to 40 degrees and raining - so it was funny to see so many dogs (of all breeds - including nordic breeds) wearing coats! I worked out of my car, which I think works well for Teller - the trick is to not bring him in too soon. So on Saturday I brought him in, let him see the place and smell the place - played some attention games - which all went very well, then put him away again. Saturday's STD and JWW runs were in direct conflict - chaos. I ended up running JWW first - Teller gave me a great effort and came out with a 2nd and Q for his second Ex A JWW leg. Standard was a trappy course - but so much fun to run. I'm not sure if it was that I didn't know a soul - or we were just connected but we put down a 51 second STD run (SCT was 71) and we missed the weave entry, popped out and had to restart - and STILL came in so under time. I was bummed about the weaves, but thrilled with the contacts (A-Frame and dogwalk) and how nicely he worked for me a mere 10 minutes after his JWW run.

    Sunday we ran STD first, blew the entry to the weaves and he put his head down before jumping on the table (that's two R's). On Sunday I rear-crossed the weaves in JWW, he made his entry and I thought he was committed to the poles and he wasn't - oh well! The rest of the run was on the money - there was a really low Q rate on that course - lots of traps - so I was pleased that we made it through everything else.

    In the larger scheme of things: Teller saw his first horses - on Sunday one walked within 10' and he didn't bark, nor try to eat it. Teller did not try to eat or roll in horse poop, and as clean as that arena looked, that my fleece and jeans from the weekend STILL smells like horses means that there were horse smells in there - and he wasn't at all sniffy...There were a lot of pigeons in the arena - flying back and forth all day - which he noted and then ignored. When that dog is on, he's so on and I love that about him.

    Both boys handled integration with my parent's dogs beautifully. Their aussie is a bossy control freak and has bitten Murphy a couple of times in the past - always when Teller and their lab are playing - he gets frustrated so he takes it out on Murphy. Murph spent the weekend giving him a wide berth - calmly avoiding the ruckus. Teller took the bossy aussie in stride, managing the situation with looks and dismissal. There was no chasing of their kitty (who unlike Q does not believe that she's a dog). Teller had his stuff stolen all weekend (his chewies, his toys) and gave them freely. Now the barking when my parents got up at 5am - that was unnecessary...but considering we NEVER stay in other people's houses and I NEVER ask them to integrate into other packs (sharing chewies, water bowls, toys, and kitties) they did really well. They're good boys and I tend to not give them enough credit.

    In all, the agility community in VA did not appear to be all that different than the scene in New England. I would have expected some more diversity - it's still a "white lady" sport, there are the same "super-stars" - young, amazingly athletic and talented handlers (they were really super sportswomen too) going for world-team spots. But the majority of the folks are out there to play with their dogs and have fun. Lots and lots of rooting for everyone else - collective "ooohhhhhhhs" when a dog got sucked off-course - which happened a lot! Lots and lots of running contacts and lots of blind crosses. Those super-star types used a lot of blind crosses - which worked beautifully for them (remember fast, athletic, talented) but didn't seem to work as well for the not so fast and not so athletic. I didn't see as many lead-outs as I would have expected - I had some comments about my four jump lead-out on Saturday. There were quite a few straight lines, tunnels were used as traps in almost every course I saw....

    We got home in under 9 hours today (we went I-95 by way of the Jersey Turnpike all the way to New Haven where we picked up I-91). I think it saved some time over the I-87 to Fort Ann - all those back roads can go either way - but we're limited to 50mph for well over 100 miles and in heavy tractor trailer traffic it's a nightmare..that and they closed the Champlain Bridge - that thing is a death-trap anyhow.

    As with everything as nice as it was to visit - it's great to be back home again. Q missed us. I heard him crying from the driveway before I'd even gotten into the house. I know he was well cared for while I was gone, he was fed and watered and he's not big on attention from me - but he loves his dogs and really misses his Murphy.

    Sunday, September 13, 2009

    Pioneer Valley Kennel Club...

    We were down in Granby again this weekend. Same bat place, same bat times (approx). Had some super moments - and some utter failures :-) I'll break it down - mostly because it's helpful for me to think about what went wrong and what went well - even if it's only decompressing.

    Saturday started with standard - lets just say it was not our high point ;-)
    The opening sequence was nice, the course pretty much expected you to layer obstacles, a straight line in the opener with a tempting off-course to a tunnel. I layered a jump and he got the teeter (yay), then came around and layered another jump and instead of pulling to the table he took the triple backwards - then lost his mind a little bit - jumping off the table to pick up (as in rip out of the ground) the number for the weaves, retrieving it to the table to hand it to me (I sheepishly handed it back to the judge). Then he blew his a-frame popped out of the weaves...lets just say it was less than stellar - but he was entertaining.

    Saturday JWW he eek'ed out an Excellent A JWW leg. He wasn't particularly fast, mostly because of his weird angles to some jumps - he was wide on quite a few turns - particularly the 180 to the weaves, a 270 and a 1.5 pinwheel. We got a "gift" and left with an Ex JWW leg (our first excellent Q!).

    Today's standard course was wicked technical. Some tight angles and interesting choices and a hard weave entry. He blew his A-frame (again) but other than that handled the course cleanly.

    JWW was a different story. He took an off-course tunnel then really struggled with his weaves - I think he had three shots before he got them - it was weird, that's not like him AT ALL. The last line of jumps he didn't handle a layered jump - which was all my fault as I didn't keep my hand out to send him away from me - as a result he actually jumped INTO me (though not making contact) - it was not our finest moment :-)

    Oh but we did win a spiffy new dog bed in the worker raffle. It's really PURDY and POOFY and just so happens to fit in Murphy's crate in my rig perfectly. I'll have to see if he likes it!

    Wednesday, September 02, 2009

    Eastern Springer Spaniel Club

    The problem with entering trials three months ahead of time (that close 3+ weeks before the trial) is that in the case of outdoor trials ANYTHING can happen. In this case it was tropical storm Dan. The Dufrense Park in Granby is a nice place to trial - lots of trees mean easy shade, REAL bathrooms, plenty of space for three rings of agility and ample parking/walking paths, etc. The downfall is the occasional snapping turtle and the unfortunate experience of that place in the rain. Several years ago I was at a trial there with Murphy when we had something like two inches of rain in an hour - the whole place was a sloppy mess with really bad footing. The show committee decided Friday afternoon (as it was raining) to move two of the three rings to the parking lot area - which is actually better footing all around I think - though I'm sure it gets dusty when things are dry....

    Anyhow, they moved the two excellent rings to dry ground but left the Open/Novice ring down in the swamp - and it WAS swampy!!! When I walked the course on Saturday I had to contemplate footwear. Do I trash the new shoes that have good traction (rubber cleats) or do I wear the crappy shoes that have bad traction (worn down tread)? I opted for the good shoes and minced my way around the course. My intent was to run the Open Standard course conservatively with Teller - hoping he'd handle the turns better - particularly the bit that was under water - if I held him back. The answer there is that he doesn't like that one bit - and I confused him by not playing the game with him. Net result was a whole scribe sheet of complaints. Wrong course to the wrong end of the tunnel, missed a-frame contact, bar down, refusal as I backed off a jump before he was committed. I was glad that it was too rainy for the camera because it was a crappy run and 100% my fault. Saturday's Ex JWW run was equally blagh. Teller was distracted by the swallows that were buzzing over his head on the startline, so when I released him he actually stood up, smelled and cost us a refusal - very un-Teller like. He ran the rest of the course nicely - if not a bit slower than I'd expect for him - this was in one of the other rings (with better footing) but it was still raining non-stop so who knows what smells were in the dirt.

    Sunday dawned a little dryer - though the footing in the open ring was no better. Less wet, more muddy - and got slippery over time. Another not so great runs for us - Teller slid on a corner, ended up too deep for a single bar and knocked it, came off the table through that upright and blasted over the a-frame - missing his contact, then as we came around off the chute the teeter hadn't reset from the dog ahead of us (so we skipped it), which put him at a bad angle for the double which also came down in spectacular fashion. Not our best performance, but we both left the ring as sound as we went in - which is more than I can say for other people.

    Sunday's JWW run was really nice - lots more positive than negative. We NQ'ed on a wrong course - Woo adding a jump to the weaves (which actually made for a HARDER entry that he got). He was under SCT though, if we hadn't added a jump (more on this in a couple of paragraphs).

    Monday runs were all in the same ring - up in the parking lot area - much better footing. Teller was the first dog on the line in standard and kept it together, listening and getting his contacts for a first and Q! Thankfully he saved the weekend!

    Monday JWW was gorgeous - I really wish it was on video somewhere - but alas....Woo made it cleanly through 1-17 (opening with a serpentine that was lovely if I do say so myself), then instead of picking up a 180 after the weaves (#17) he went right for the out jump (#20) - a wrong course (obviously). For the first time ever I called him after the weaves to turn, he looked at me and took the #20 jump anyway - with a look of "yeah, pretty sure you're wrong".

    So...Woo is going to see some broken lines at speed - don't take what's ahead of you if I'm telling you to turn :-) Entirely expected with a baby dog forced to run with a bad handler :-)

    The really good thing - his weave entries and staying in the poles - were right on all weekend. On and off-side weaves, I had speed and determination in the poles - I love that - we have worked hard since GMGRC for that and it's paid off.

    We do need to work some more contact stuff...I need to figure out a way to get 5-10 reps in every day....easier said than done honestly. I did notice that he's now jumping the apex of the a-frame - he's never done that before - he's getting more confident and he's getting stronger - I think that's a large part of why we didn't have a-frame contacts on Saturday and Sunday. Monday's contact was exactly what I ask for in practice - maybe he was tired, maybe it was the work we did on the dryer vent at the hotel on Sunday night? Dunno - we'll see!

    Sunday, August 23, 2009

    The joys of gravity...

    Murphy and Teller had a long day yesterday - A LONG HUMID day starting with agility in the morning - and since there was a relatively small turnout both boys got several turns to play - working a couple of things each turn. Teller is still focusing on contacts - specifically the A-Frame contact. Then we came home and had a 45 minute swim session, then some obedience work and another swim. TIRED doggies. The result was two passed out golden retrievers by 8:30pm. I'm watching a movie and catching up on some work when I look over and see this:

    Yeah - gravity is a bitch!


    And then, just for fun, I rotated the image 180 degrees:


    Alien Woo!

    And this is how dogs are fundamentally different from children...I also posted this goofy picture on facebook without fear that someday the capturing and posting of this image would ever come back to bite me in psychotherapy years from now...Dogs are much harder to screw up :-)

    Friday, August 21, 2009

    GMGRC and NOMAD

    Wow, I got behind again. Let's blame the weather. Why the weather? Because it actually got nice out after a really wet, cold and miserable May, June and July. Now we're into really hot temperatures for Vermont and high humidity.

    So where did I leave off - Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club AKC agility trial:
    Another home show for us - love the home shows. I dropped Murphy back to Novice Preferred to see if he liked the easier game (lower jumps and less complex) and I think he absolutely liked the easier game. I did see some stress on Saturday JWW when he missed a weave entry and wasn't sure he wanted to continue playing the game. He got it together but spent WAY too much time goofing around and NQ'ed. In standard - which has always been Murphy's challenge because he has to slow down and think - Murph went 3 for 3 and finished his NAP title with three first placements. Murph also got a NAJ leg with a 1st place.

    Teller is now in Excellent Jumpers and Open Standard. For the first time ever Woo was Q-less all weekend. We had some SUPER jumpers runs but one mistake took us out each day: The first day he popped out of the weaves at pole 10, the second he missed his entry when I got in his way and the third I got in his way (theme here) on a front cross and cost a refusal (not his fault). I got some great distance work in jumpers and he didn't make any mistakes that MACH dogs didn't make - so we were in good company.

    Teller's Open Standard runs had brilliant moments and some not so brilliant moments - mostly just some teamwork stuff - calling him sooner and a couple of off-courses that I just never thought of when I walked the course..

    Here's the video:


    Then we took a couple of weekends off and did a lot of this:




    It was nice to enjoy the summer and enjoy the pool - it's been a little weird existing as a homebody for so many weekends (if you count the on-call weeks and also teaching Saturday mornings and training on Sunday as being a "homebody"). I wish I had gotten a little more done around the house - but no one ever looks back at their life and regrets not spending more quality time with the Dyson.

    Then last weekend we went down to the NADAC trial in Stowe (NOMAD) -We generally don't play in the NADAC venue but it's really hard to pass up a local trial - 40 minutes away from home and a chance to get a bunch of inexpensive runs in each day. The trial is in Stowe, VT in a beautiful meadow along the famous Stowe bike path - a babbling stream just on the edge of the field for some canine play and cooling-off. It's a small trial, nice folks and did I mention a GORGEOUS site?

    Last weekend's weather was 85-90 degrees for both days - with a relatively high humidity. Tough conditions for Vermont dogs!!! Both dogs stayed cool with the help of shade cloths, cool coats, fans and LOTS of water. Teller gave me nice efforts in all of his runs - holding up unbelievably well in the heat. We finished with a bunch of first placements (7) and some legs (6) towards various NADAC titles. It's hard to believe that this trial is where he made his debut last summer before coming out this spring to trial for real. I think we've both made a lot of progress as a team - I know now that I can trust Teller to do what I ask him to do - he's going to stay in the game and he'll keep working for the whole run - but I've got to hold up my end of the bargain!!!


    Another AKC trial for us in Mass and then I think we'll "call it" for the season and get ready for next spring.




    Saturday, July 18, 2009

    Mayflower Corgi and The Vermont Scenic Cluster

    Wow, I'm already two trials behind in the blogging (and the website). Where shall we start...Over the 4th of July weekend we went down to the Mayflower Corgi Agility trial in Amherst, NH - great venue - has a similar feel to waggles - similar footing and similar construction - a bit brighter and newer and expensive :-)

    Saturday started with jumpers (Open JWW). The open course was the excellent course with the substitution of a tunnel for a jump - it was actually tunnel to tunnel to tunnel to weaves - WHEEEEE! Teller had a great run and pulled off a clean run, good enough for a 1st and Q and his second OAJ leg. Standard was a train wreck - and I know that's all relative when considering the dog. Teller was really sticky at one point and I'm not sure if that was something I did or if it was just all of the heelwork I'd been doing with him. No matter - two refusals on a single jump, a mis-communication after the table and a botched weave entry was more than enough to NQ that run - BUT the good news is that Open STD course was pretty much the Excellent STD course with a different tunnel entrance and the "hard" parts we got! That's always a good thing isn't it?

    Sunday started with Open STD - again a nice run - he hit all of the tricky parts from the excellent course (again basically the same course) and popped out of the weaves after getting the entry then popped out again at pole 10 the second attempt (refusal). Everything else was good and I was pleased - particularly a tunnel/dogwalk discrimination that got a lot of WAY more experienced dogs and handlers. Sunday afternoon was Open JWW and Teller NAILED the course - another clean run, another 1st and Q and Teller's OAJ title!




    Last weekend was Open Obedience at the scenic cluster - right around the corner from our house. Teller pulled off a second and Q for his first CDX leg on Friday and then blew his heeling on both Saturday (visiting the judge) and Sunday (visiting the figure 8 post) - the little bugger came back and did everything else beautifully and competently. I need to get him over threshold in training - get him so amp'ed and excited and work through the excitement. I just can't fault him for having fun though!!!



    Next weekend is another home show - Green Mountain Golden Retriever Club's agility trial. Teller is now Excellent A JWW and we'll hunt for an Open Standard while we're there. Murph is also entered now back in Novice preferred jumping 20 inches. This is really a test for him - does he like playing a less complicated (and easier) game or would he rather let the suck-up do all of the real work while he hangs out with adoring fans and free cookies?

    Friday, July 03, 2009

    Journeys...

    Sometimes its a nice thing to go back and stroll through one's memories - sometimes those memories are thrust upon you without warning and without provocation. Today was one of those days. On my way to a show I stopped by my old "hometown" - and by hometown - the place where I was born and we moved away from when I was 7. I visit a few times a year to see extended family, in all honesty it's a mere 90 minutes away whilst nearly obeying the speed limit - but it's still such a childhood flash. People have changed but the places haven't. This route through these places was a 60 mile detour on the way to my ultimate destination, but when I rolled into town without calling and announcing my arrival I found that the family I intended to visit were not home. I did drop off a baby gift and then with the help of Gretta Garmin I headed back to my original route.

    The route took me through places I haven't been to in years - but were so strangely familiar...the shopping center in the next town where I was occasionally taken to see a movie - with my imaginary friends Potato Chip, Tick-Tock and Doc (don't ask I don't know), the A&W drive-in that still has waitstaff on rollerskates (OK rollerblades), Lake Sunapee and the old creemee stand (that is no longer a creemee stand) - they used to have the most wonderful soft serve with "jimmies" (chocolate sprinkles). Were they really all that tasty? Or in any way different than the jimmies anywhere else in the universe? I can't answer that - time has eroded the taste but has left the memory.

    Life was so much simpler as a child - it was an easy and carefree time. There was no need to worry about putting gas in the fuel tank, paying the mortgage, the unemployment rate or putting kibble in the dog bowls. The rest of the world was everyone else's problem. The innocence of youth is, I think, spoiled on the young. I'd give anything for one more swim at Lake Sunapee - with the long dock into the warm shallow waters with the sandy bottom. Sure, I could have parked the car and jumped in this afternoon with the reckless abandon of youth - but it wouldn't be the same. I'm not the same - and I can't ever go back.

    Its not that I spend a lot of time dwelling in the past or wishing for do-overs. I'm not that kind of person, but sometimes nostalgia gets the best of me.

    Pretty deep for this blog - I suppose that is part of the aging process too - crying at the Dateline lead story and remembering 25 year old ice cream...Sappy huh?

    So maybe some other stuff for today's post...I took a couple of Fourth of July portraits of the dogs...








    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Catching up, some new pics, obedience work, June Musings....

    I can't believe that it's already mid-June. It seems like winter is this great dark expanse and summer just flies by - gosh - seems like only a few blinks ago it was the first weekend in May. It hasn't helped that the weather this year has been downright dismal - even on "warm" days we've been lucky to see 70 degrees. I'm not complaining really - just feeling like we should have had a lot more shorts and sun this far into the summer season in Vermont.

    A better shade of green
    June 12th, 2009
    So between the weather and me being so flipping busy this spring that I didn't get the pool opened until last week - which is insane - as it's usually open as soon as the ice goes out in April. So instead I had this incredibly green cesspool that wasn't a simple undertaking to open. The term opening is a relative one as I neither cover or chemically winterize the pool. I basically just unhook the pump (cover with a tarp) and then let the water above the skimmer and return drain. Well, the implications of waiting until JUNE to open the pool is that the remaining water water is green - and by green I mean pea soup - with a degree of viscosity that surprised even me and I gave up any intention of manually skimming during the opening process. The good news is that algae is easy to kill off - we went from pea soup to milk in the course of 12 hours, but for the last week I've been fighting with cloudy water - as in can't see the second pool step cloudy water. Aggravating. I'm pleased to report that as of 15 minutes ago I can see the pool steps, shadows of the debris on the bottom and if I look directly down over the side I can see the liner pattern! That's progress! Still no swimmies for the boys though - they aren't particularly happy with me, but the chemicals need to settle out for them to swim safely.

    My garden has had an equally rough start to the season. The frost on June 2nd took out a few cucumbers and a couple of yellow squash plants - This past weekend I replanted the cukes but the garden store was out of squash seedlings - so I need to decide if I go back tomorrow (before the weekend rush) or wait and see if the remaining 4 plants will be able to produce...For whatever reason my tomatoes (which I don't eat and grow only to gift and feed to the boys) and peppers are going like gangbusters. Some mini tomatoes are starting (no not cherry/grape - literally mini tomatoes - growing to be big tomatoes) and I noticed my pepper plants are thinking about fruiting. Perhaps they are doing well BECAUSE they've had a chance to acclimate without getting burned in what amounts to be 15 hours of sun in my plot.


    One of the boys after their bath and groomings. Teller (left) and Murphy (right)
    June 14th, 2009
    This week has also been a killer on-call. I'm averaging about 2-3 hours of sleep a night and I've reached the point where I am just exhausted. The mind-numbing, head-spinning, can't see straight, purple swirlies, lacking physical coordination kind of exhausted. I'll be very pleased when 8am tomorrow rolls around and someone else gets to get woken up several times a night.

    Since the boys couldn't swim this weekend I took advantage of some marginally warm temperatures to bath and really brush them out - Murph has been hanging onto some serious clumps of winter undercoat - he probably feels much better now that it's combed out - even if it did mean having an outdoor bath.


    Balance
    June 17th, 2009

    Despite the photographic evidence to the contrary...Teller contemplates the balance in his life...the need to keep his nice and the naughty in perfect balance - ying and yang. Absence of naughty leads to unrealistic expectations. Absence of nice leads to an absence of cheese. It's very existential.

    In other news I entered three days of obedience at the Scenic Cluster so that gives us four weeks now to be ready for open obedience - not a lot of time for a green dog who's been more or less just playing agility all spring. Fast and distance is pretty much the anti-heeling isn't it :-) So I happened to run into Amanda at Waggles who was kind enough to tape a quick training session for me this week - We've got some more work to do - I'd like to see better halt/sits in the heelwork - he's forging into them and offering me some crooked sites. My footwork is a mess - I'm going to have to suck it up and go practice footwork in the street without my dog. Its somewhat humbling to do so - and my neighbors look at me like I have two heads...It's for the greater good though - I don't want to cost us points in the ring. Over all the forging that plagued us in the fall (in Novice) has improved, his attention has improved as has his animation. I love the fronts he's consistantly giving me now - he's RIGHT there. Too bad his handler hasn't improved!


    So what's next? Well two agility trials in July in addition to the obedience weekend. Two of those three weekends are within 5 miles from home so we'll be able to keep things pretty low key I think...Then I'm going to enter a local NADAC trial - the same one where Teller debuted last year - It's a nice chance to get six runs in a day - get some contact work - work some distance and weave entries and then come home, swim in our own pool and sleep in our own beds...

    Thursday, June 11, 2009

    One year ago...

    One year ago tomorrow (June 12th) Teller finished his Canadian Championship for his first title at just under 18 months. In the short year since then he's finished his CD and RN (both in three trials) and in the last three months alone he's finished his NA, NAP, NAJ and NJP...Time flies when you're having fun!! What's next? Well some open obedience in July - a bit more agility - though we're really aiming for some time off this summer to enjoy the pool and stay fresh and sharp...

    Southern Berkshire Golden Retriever Club Agility Trial

    Pardon the lateness of this post - I feel like I'm constantly in catch-up mode lately.

    So we're back from another weekend in Westfield - For once in the four years I've gone to this show the weather actually cooperated - no torrential rains, no snow (I think that was 2006) and temperatures under 90 - which helps as there is NO shade at the fairgrounds. We've got some more things to work on (always right?) and we left with a couple of legs and Teller's NA title.

    Monday, June 01, 2009

    Coming soon to a theatre near you.....

    Indiana Bones and the Raiders of the Lost Bark


    Brought to you with the help of an extremely patient and photogenic dog, some new fonts and a bit of photoshop wizardry :-)

    Wednesday, May 27, 2009

    LEAP May 23-25th, 2009 and catching up...

    To say that I've been feeling a little flat out is an understatement. I feel like I'm zooming from one thing to another - with only the occasional opportunity to blink. Both boys are doing well - Murphy is enjoying his semi-retirement and Teller is coming along nicely.

    This past weekend we found ourselves at the LEAP trial in Massachusetts. You may remember that Teller finished his NAP and NJP back in April and then I moved him up to 24" at the TMAC trial the first weekend of May (also our first outdoor trial of the season). The leap trial is at a different venue, same general area - and was a good opportunity to see what we've accomplished in the three weeks between TMAC and LEAP with limited training time.

    Saturday:
    We started the day with Novice STD - first class of the day - some assorted rushing to get there and settle in (me not him). It was an interesting course opening - chute to the weaves - we bongled the weave entry twice, got back on course then I overshot the table - but it was good enough for 2nd and a Q - surprisingly well under time.
    Jumpers was a rush - He broke his startline before I was ready for him - forcing me to rear cross when I hadn't planned to rear cross - which put him wide around the first left-hand turn - which Teller SAVED for me by slicing a jump with an gazelle like leap! The rest of the run was so smooth - good enough for another 2nd and Q.


    Sunday:
    Holy cow I screwed up our standard run. We had a great sit-contact on the dog walk but from the teeter to the tunnel I didn't effectively communicate which end he should go into (wrong course), then coming around the back side I didn't support the broad jump and he jumped THROUGH the side (refusal). I did get a rear-cross on the weaves until I called him out prematurely (bad handler), then I failed to support the last jump (refusal) and he backjumped (wrong course) to get back to me....even with all of that he finished under time and did not seem to mind that his handler stunk up the course :-)
    Jumpers on Sunday was HOT and Muggy - he ran just before a T-Storm rumbled though - it was a nice clean run for his NAJ title, but also a 1st and Q!


    Monday:

    JWW was first on Monday - I had planned to run the first line one way - and ended up running it differently - I expected to be further ahead of him after the tunnel and I wasn't - this cost us a refusal, but the rest of the run was GORGEOUS - 2nd and Q!
    We somehow ended up being the last dog of the trial to run on Monday...I miscued the tunnel (refusal - but not a wrong course). I was more or less pleased with everything else - given the distraction of the packing up, the heat and humidity and of course my mis-cues at the weaves...1st and Q!


    We're going to work weave entries this week and startlines :-)

    Sunday, May 03, 2009

    TMAC 2009

    We're home! It was an exhausting weekend - not a lot of sleep (for a variety of reasons) and a lot of running around. One of these trials I'm going to strap on a pedometer and see how much walking I do on an average trial weekend...Teller's first outdoor trial of the season, our first weekend at 24" - lots of new things for my baby dog. I made a couple of mistakes and I'm still feeling out what I need to do in a trial situation to handle his work ethic.

    The good points:
  • He held his startlines for all four runs - waited when I asked him to and went when I asked him to - LOVE that.
  • No sniffies, no rolls, no socializing with ring crew and no checking out
  • Woo had a blast with all four runs - LOVE that enthusiasm.
  • 24" proved to be much more my issue than his issue.
  • Speed is still not our problem - well it's not HIS problem it's MY problem. He really "dug in" to the turf - he likes the turf and he handled even wet grass well.


  • What I learned (broad terms):

  • I need to get him some off-leash running while we're at trials - I am so paranoid about ticks at this particular venue that I don't really take them off the field - but he definitely needs to get out and do some running - it's as much as a release for him as it is exercise. I saw that in today's runs - he really wanted to open up on the straight aways and that was just needing to move. I forget that on a typical day he'll spend 20 minutes or so really romping hard around the yard...we miss that in confinement - Murphy never needed that - Teller really does.
  • I need to trust him more - recurring theme here?
  • We need to work lines of jumps, sending him ahead of me .


    Run by run decompression:
    Saturday Standard:

    Sort of a fluke thing on the teeter I didn't give him a good approach to the obstacle and when he reached the pivot he only had three legs on the teeter, so when it moved he bailed. He had a good a-frame contact and I LOVED his dogwalk contact. The sit work I've done in the last two-three weeks has paid off. We had an off-course tunnel and a run-by the weaves - happy feet! The last two obstacles were a tunnel to a wing and I didn't support the last jump - yeah, recurring theme here and he ran around it - totally my fault.

    Saturday Jumpers:
    Fun fast run - nice startline (though I didn't get the first two jumps on film). The last 5 obstacles was a rounded turn to three jumps that were basically a straight line but offset. He didn't see the line and I failed to judge his point of commitment so we had a refusal - Again - totally my fault (isn't it always)- he came right back though, finished the course well under course time for his first NAJ leg.

    Sunday Standard:
    I got frazzled at the beginning of the run. When I pitched his leash he went to retrieve it - I don't even know if I told him to wait when I threw it - but he came right back and setup nicely - but it blew my cool - and it shouldn't have. (umm, trust your dog Erica). When I left him at the startline while my back was turned and I was walking away I heard a very excited woman outside the ring say "He's on the move!" - thinking she was "helping me" (warning me that he had broken) I turned quickly and released him - he was waiting where I left him but I totally released him before I was ready, before I had situated myself or was prepared to have him off to the races. Because I wasn't ready I was way further back than I wanted to be for the dogwalk contact and never told him to get the contact. It was badly handled on my part - I shouldn't psych myself out like that. I bobbled jump #3 to the tunnel, he was wide on the broad then committed to the chute blasting past the weaves. He came back - had nice weaves, got the chute (apparently his new favorite thing)and around to the teeter - which he stuck, saw the tire to tunnel to A-frame - but didn't see the line to the last jump (the double) - bounced out of the ring then bounced back...this is where a run/retrieve/blow off steam session would have helped him. We're still feeling this out - learning what he needs to be successful :-)

    Sunday Jumpers:
    Jumpers was in the pouring rain - not my favorite thing - apparently Teller doesn't care - pretty typical Teller. Due to some difficulties we didn't get the opening part on film - he was happy, confident on the footing, got his weave entry, held his startline - seemed to see the lines better - or I handled him better - or both, there was one spot I was concerned about on a turn where the straight line was really tight - he landed to deep and took the bar down - it was unfortunate but it happens and that was the only bar to come down all weekend - I'm not worried about it - but I will setup some striding sequences.


  • In all I'm pleased with the weekend - and happy with our progress. When I got home I had to setup my tent to dry it out - it was so wet that I had to call a neighbor to help put it up because the weight of the fabric just wasn't lending itself to a solo setup. It's supposed to be clear tonight and it's probably already dry but I'd rather not go play with the tent in the dark. Living on sandy soil I really had to get a little crazy with the stakes and tethers and I'm sure my neighbors think that I've completely lost my mind camping in my front yard. :-)

    Oh and another net positive - I won a new pair of turf shoes in the worker raffle - identical to the pair I bought last fall - which I just LOVE - just enough of a short rubber cleat to give me some nice traction - but not so much to get me "stuck" and risk knee torsion (which would be bad). Retail on those shoes is about $175 (my current pair was overstock purchased at a deep discount) and I've been so protective of my pair never wearing them outside, neurotically changing socks repeatedly, taking them off between even indoor runs - The weird things we do for the sake of agility!

    Considering my lack of productive sleep this weekend I'm up way past my bedtime..I'll try to post the videos tomorrow when I've had more sleep :-)

    Saturday, April 25, 2009

    It might be spring!

    A busy Saturday around here - out to Waggles to setup for agility run-throughs - run-throughs from 10:30 through 12:30. Then I had a rally class from 12:45 through 1:45 (that always goes until 2 at least). I expected certain people in the class and set up one thing and ended up seeing different dogs instead - which is fine - just not what I planned today.

    After class I ran up to Ruth's to help setup the agility equipment that's been in storage all winter. By the time I got there things were basically done and setup but Ruth had setup supplies for root better and orange floats - who knew how good orange soda was with vanilla ice cream? It's like a big creamsicle hug!!! Totally hit the spot considering the rush of my morning when I had a piece of cheese in the car on my way to Waggles and hadn't had time yet for lunch!

    Tom set up a course from last weekend's trial - the excellent standard course - which I'd really wanted to walk/run but didn't have an Ex STD dog :-) It was 89 degrees here today - a shock to all of our systems - heat is tough on my dogs - they spend too much time sheltered inside out of the elements. Anyway...Teller is so new to this that I don't really know what I'm going to get when I expose him to something new (like in this case OUTSIDE). I need to trust him more - if there's a theme here its that he is what I've put into him - no more no less. He's incredibly honest - he does what he knows. So I bring him up to the line and he's sniffy but gosh as soon as I put him on the line and took the leash off he's ALL BUSINESS. He was fast and he was clean - a clean run on an excellent course on his first time working outdoors in 7 months! He is so much fun to run - grab my butt and RUN!!!

    So we're ready for TMAC next weekend I think - where my only goal is to trust him more - to try to run him in trial like I run him in practice...easier than it sounds :-)

    Monday, April 20, 2009

    Weekend at BOTC Agility

    I love the BOTC agility trial - it's probably my favorite show of the season - so much so that not even the (thankfully relatively few) grumpy, snappy and uptight dog people can get to me. It's like dealing with idiots at Christmas time - they get an extra inch of stupidity :-) It's something about the beginning of the season - the promise of many more fun weekends with friends (not the grumpy, snappy and uptight ones) and playing with my dogs - it helps that as hard as I work at our home shows it's still a sleep in my own bed show - even if I have a 12 hour day on grounds.

    The rundown from the weekend...Murphy was entered in Open Standard and Excellent Jumpers, Teller was in Novice Standard and Novice Jumpers. We had a provisional judge and an AKC rep - the trial ran slowly because of the judge/rep interaction and the new(ish) regulation that leaving the ring without the dog on leash is now a DQ. Now judges have to watch every dog get leashed and leave the ring...well at 20-30 seconds a dog that adds a phenomenal amount of time to the day - and this was especially true on Saturday when runs didn't finish until well after 6pm. Standard course time (SCT) was really tight all weekend. When you see dogs that typically earn 10+ MACH points every run come out with only 1 or 2 points you know that times are tight for those courses.

    Murph had a Murphy day on Saturday - first trial of the year syndrome mostly - he just wasn't so into it on Saturday. Teller came out rockin' on Saturday - we lost some time at the weaves with an offside entry from a tunnel - blowing by and hitting the second pole - but he gamely came back and finished them. Then we had a refusal at the end of the course after the chute - he was so fast coming out of the chute that I didn't cue him in time to turn for the broad jump (90 degree angle after the chute) and he didn't have the ability to stop and pivot. He came back again, got the broad jump and finished the course with a 3rd and Q! That was also Teller's NAP title. Teller's afternoon jumpers run was brillant - just FUN FUN FUN!! To top it off it was a 1st and Q!

    Here's the Saturday Video:



    Sunday was another day and even Murph got into the swing of things. Murph had a nice standard run until I stepped on him - and then (rightfully so) he didn't want to play any more. I can't say I blame him - so we skipped the weaves and galloped out the last 4 obstacles. Murph's excellent jumpers run was within course time (astonishing because of the tight times) but I got in his way in a front cross before the triple and he had no way to get over the triple so we had a refusal. The SUPER thing was that Murphy not only came back and continued to play, he had a gorgeous rest of the run. Lots of MUCH MUCH MUCH (yes x3) better handlers made the same mistake at that part of the course and their dogs also refused or took down the triple - we were in good company! Murph got his extra dose of meatballs and enjoyed left-over filet from my dinner Saturday night at the Longhorn.

    Teller's Standard run on Sunday was all over the place - again we had an entry problem on the weaves - this time after the broad jump - I'm not sure he even saw the entry or knew that was the next obstacle. I've watched the video a few times he just busted out over the broad jump and never collected to the weave entry, then a LATE front cross after the chute (my fault), a GORGEOUS drop on the table, a refusal at the teeter (but no paws) a nice sequence into the tunnel and then he came out of the tunnel and barreled by the dog walk - and I do mean BARRELED! Badass Wooie! He came back and nailed the contact at the end. That was another 1st and Q. Our jumpers run in the afternoon was a thing of beauty. He was fast, nailed his weave entry, I stayed out of his way until the last jump - I told him to "go on" thinking he was committed to that last jump - and he wasn't - he went to the left of it instead of turning. He came around and got it in the end - and it cost us a refusal - but ended up good enough for a 2nd and Q. Teller's tally from the weekend: 4 runs, 4 Q's, 2 first places, 1 second place, 1 third place and 1 new title.


    The video from Sunday:



    Overall I had some interesting observations and I'm so happy to have the runs on video.
  • Murphy likes it when I run him more like Teller - trust him and move. The rub comes when he's being Murphy and standing on my head shrieking in sheltie voice doesn't change that.
  • I still need to work more weave entries with speed. The problem is getting the speed in training that I have in trials and working at that. I have a plan though :-)
  • As a whole - and I didn't make this connection until this evening - I micromanage the weaves with both dogs FAR more than I do in training. In the vids from this weekend I was very close to the dogs in the weaves, in training I am generally 5+ feet away from the weaves - but in a trial situation I revert to babysitting - not hula dancing (I'd get beaten for that one) but way closer than I ever am in training.
  • After Syracuse I decided I wanted a more concrete dog walk contact - so in the course of a week I put a sit on the end of the dog walk - without a dog walk at home to work on :-) I worked the contact on my teeter at home and it totally transitioned to the dogwalk in a show. On Saturday's standard run you can see that I have control over that contact now - whew!!! I still need reps - and I'd like to get the behavior to the point of automatic sit at the end - but that takes more than a week :-)


  • Monday, April 13, 2009

    Last training before BOTC

    Teller and I had our last training session before BOTC this weekend, he'll have the rest of the week off - which is harder for me than it is for him. We just did contact reps tonight with some really short sequences - dogwalk, tunnel dogwalk, A-Frame, tunnel to A-Frame and running to the 16" table. I've almost exclusively worked the 24" table with him - and have a gorgeous 24" table behavior - but haven't worked a lot of the 16" until just before Syracuse. I needed to do some proofing - he just does fold and hit in mid-air the way he does with the 24" table.

    I've switched up Teller's dogwalk performance - I'm now asking him for a sit at the end of the board. I've been training it on the teeter at home (because I don't have a dogwalk) and it seems to have transferred - I was feeling like I needed a "whoa" at the end.

    Murph had his last practice on Friday and will have a week off before the trial - Murph knows his stuff - it's just a matter of whether or not he comes out ready to work - I'll bring the papa franks' meatballs for the Smurf :-)

    Sunday, April 12, 2009

    Happy Easter Everyone!

    We hope that the Easter Bunny was very good to you this year....


    Cause if he wasn't...

    Saturday, March 28, 2009

    Syracuse Day Three

    Greetings from Syracuse! Another long and successful day - another double Q with two first placements. I spent an obsessively long time last night watching Teller's jumper run - and came to the realization that there was nothing I'd have changed with that run - I've never had that kind of run before - I'm still in awe. It was smooth and fast, my crosses were in the right places, my timing was good - Teller was amazingly in-tune with my cues. It was such a rush.

    I didn't move him up because I wanted to play in my jumpers run today - push some buttons and see what happened. My lesson of the day in both runs was to trust my dog more. In jumpers he made his weave entry and then I called him out thinking he was heading in at the second pole. I didn't trust him and I should have. In standard I went on the left because of the MASSIVE crowd of spectators assembled outside the ring next to the weaves, then rear-crossed the double. I did a lead-out that really killed me - he never saw the poles and went towards (but didn't touch) the table (he's gotten a lot of reinforcement for the table lately because I went back to work the 16" table). If I hadn't been lead-out crazy I would have been able to send him to the poles and I'm almost certain he'd have made the entry. Again - I need to trust him more. Further through the course I was so concerned about the frame contact that I bobbled what should have been a rear cross on the tire - which cost us time. My fault - thankfully he's forgiving and doesn't get bent out of shape over stuff like that.

    When I started Teller in agility he was a committed bar-knocker - a problem I never had with Murphy. Over time I've worked to be very consistent that when bars came down we stopped, reset the exercise and rewarded the bars staying up. This has really paid off for us - and now that the trial is over I'm pleased to report that I didn't even hear a tick all weekend. Not to say that I can stop being consistent when the bars do come down - but I have to listen to Lori and trust my dog more. Do you sense a recurrent theme in these posts?

    I did think that I did a good job of running Teller like he's Teller - not running him like Murphy - it's been hard to run the two dogs and handle them both like they need to be run. I think this is on-going and will continue to be a challenge. I certainly need to get faster - but I am already faster than I was a few months ago and I have some nice lateral distance when I (again) TRUST him to do what I've trained him to do. I've said it before - he's such a bloody honest dog - he does what I've trained him to do - he is as good as the consistency and effort that I've put in. His holes are bits that I either haven't put time into or I haven't rewarded consistently enough. I need to be clear on my criteria because if I'm not he's not going to magically pull the right answer from the hat.

    Tomorrow is an obedience day - just Open A and we'll hit the road. Novice Standard didn't finish until almost 5pm - not fun when I've got a 5 hour drive ahead of me tomorrow afternoon.

    So the agility stats for the Onondaga cluster:
    6 runs
    5 Q's
    2 Double Q's
    1 2nd place
    4 1st places
    1 new title (NJP)

    What would have made this weekend even sweeter is if my agility buddies were out here with me...trialing solo is not as much fun as trialing with friends - though the agility world is a friendly place and I got to catch up with a lot of folks I haven't seen since the GMGRC trial in July.

    Friday, March 27, 2009

    Quick update: Syracuse day two

    I don't have a lot of time to post an update so the video will have to do!



    We're all exhausted!!! Teller was so baby overtired that he wasn't settling - so he's sound asleep in his crate in the hotel room - he may look grown-up but he needs help relaxing sometimes. I just went over to take him out for a potty and he's snoring peacefully - we're up early tomorrow again anyway. Even Murph who is not running and only spending a few hours in the building is sawing logs tonight and did not want his evening potty either :-) So we're going to tuck in early - well - not SO early - I spent too much time putting together the video and then watching that jumpers run over and over again...holy woo batman!!

    Thursday, March 26, 2009

    Syracuse Day One - Agility

    Today's video from Syracuse:



    Over all, I am very pleased. We found some holes - mainly off-side weave entries at speed, me needing to be FASTER and I need to better communicate as a handler...Woo picked up his first double Q (2nd and 1st places) and I'm almost giddy! No, I AM giddy! Onward and upward - more fun tomorrow!

    Saturday, March 14, 2009

    Collie Club Obedience

    Teller, Murph and I went down to the Collie Club All-Breed rally and obedience trial yesterday. Teller's first time in Open A and we also entered Rally Novice. It's a small show so I moved up to Open - with the expectation of going out, having fun and seeing where we were. We had some great moments and some puppy moments...Teller stayed engaged the whole time and I know where our holes are and what we'll keep working on.

    Teller's rally run was very nice - and I felt like we got to regroup. It was a really long day though - We were on-site at 7:30 on Friday morning, ran Open at 10:30 and our rally run was 4:45 - which meant that I hit Manchester at rush hour! Oh well - the DST actually helped as most of my drive was in daylight - a beautiful thing!



    I experimented with the GlycoCharge - Murphy does well with it at agility trials and I thought I'd see what it did for Teller - well - lets just say that he does not need any more incentive to be a wild-child...I think we'll save that for Murphy.

    Sunday, March 08, 2009

    Whew! Busy weekend!

    What a crazy weekend - I felt like I was flat-out all weekend! I had server work on Friday night (technically Saturday AM) which went through 3am. As a general rule I don't go to bed before my midnight work - it's harder for me to get a couple of hours of sleep and then wake up and focus than it is for me to stay up straight through and crash later. For me less sleep is easier for me than more sleep with interrupts. Which is probably why my oncall shifts totally wipe me out - lots of interrupted sleep and when it's not interrupted I'm doing the paranoid waking up every so often to check the pager that's not beeping. Anyhow, my paranoia is not really part of this post {{grin}}.

    I was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday for week six of my CGC class - then I had to drive an hour south for a GMGRC meeting south of Middlebury - then we trained down at Peg's for a couple of hours. Another hour plus to get back home again. The whole way down I was fascinated with barns - old barns. It's a rural part of Vermont and while I've always admired old barns and have always been annoyed at property owners who let these great old barns just fall apart under the weight of snow and age, I'm more sensitive to it. I think the burning of the old Hardscrabble barn really hit me...not just from a sentimental standpoint - just a twinge of how easy it is to lose things that can never be rebuilt. Corny? Yes a little.

    When I got home I finished prepping for my judge's assignment at the match - couldn't find my timer so I had to run to radio shack for a new one...I just love the radio shack stop watches BTW - they're easy to use and have nice features...

    The spring ahead into DST really threw me for a loop this morning when I had to get up at 5:30 (which was really 4:30) and drive up to Hyde Park - in fog so thick it took me well over an hour to get there - though it did get considerably lighter as we went onward. I hit a dead skunk on a blind corner on my way up this morning. My truck STILL smells like skunk. I was too tired to get it washed on the way home from the match so I'll have to do it tomorrow - when we're supposed to get more snow. I was really enjoying the 50 degree days this weekend - most of the snow is gone now and I was able to break out some jumps and do a little bit in the front yard this evening. Imagine that! Maybe spring is here after all!

    My first sanctioned match judging assignment went well. I had awesome stewards which helped - and there weren't a lot of entries - I think there was a total of 3 hours of judging with lots of time for people to walk. I also setup courses that were pretty challenging and for the most part took over 2 minutes to run through. I was surprised at how many handlers cost themselves 10 points in one exercise or another. Lots and lots of footwork mistakes - particularly on the forward 1-2-3 and the call front back 1-2-3. I drill people in my rally classes about their footwork - there's just no good reason to lose 10 points like that. I also saw a lot of tight leashes in novice - way more than in the past - or I was more sensitive to it - either is possible.

    Teller's open run was after I finished in the rally ring. I wasn't sure that was going to be possible, but low and behold my rally ring finished in plenty of time for me to get Teller out to potty and have a drink and then watch the heeling pattern. The building was really hot and stuffy - which makes it hard for dogs to really focus. You've got to love commercial/industrial buildings in Vermont...they're on programmable thermostats that can't be modified by room occupants. Then they don't change their settings based on outside temperature - so 50sunny degrees outside meant 80 degrees in the building...all the folks with big hairy working breeds (newfs and leos) were clustered outside keeping their dogs cool.

    Woo's heeling was fine - actually not forging - which is nice. His figure eight was a little sloppy the first time through and improved considerably the second time through. His drop was fine, his retrieve on the flat was fine, he goofed on his retrieve over high - partly because of my throw - so we've got to work on that this week a little. He's not one to go around the high jump - so I've got to figure out what I did - I think I may have set him up too close? I don't know. Some experimentation is in order between now and next week. Teller's broad jump was fine - even though the dog in the next ring was having massive diarrhea just on the other side of the gate. Teller jumped then as he was coming around to front sort of spun and looked at his bum like "is that me?". Dogs are weird.

    Murphy got to come in and have my hot dog. The he spent some time sitting in the bleachers with me (yes, Murph and I were sitting on the top row of bleachers) and had a little girl come over and cuddle with him. Murphy thought this was way more fun than showing ever was. Murph too was really hot in there.

    So all in all it was a really good weekend - and I am thoroughly tuckered out. Even the boys are sacked out - Teller is resisting Q's attempts to get him into trouble. That's always a sign of exhaustion. An early night for me - though it's still going to feel an hour early when the alarm goes off tomorrow.

    Friday, March 06, 2009

    Itchy for trial season...

    When I entered the collie club trial and Syracuse it seemed so far away - now we're right upon it and {gasp} how did that happen!

    Teller continues to work well - I'm loving his obedience work right now - even with the forging that continues to plague us (totally my fault of course) - he's just really coming together. He's also so honest - he is what I've taught him - nothing more and nothing less. If I've reinforced him for something that's what he does - I've spent some time on fronts and MAN! Those fronts are gorgeous! Teller still thinks all of this is a game created for him - and I'm working hard to keep it that way.

    Murphy has been dynamite too - It's probably because I sent in a bunch of entries that weren't for him - he's tempting me to put an entry in the mail for TMAC, I entered Teller - I didn't enter Murphy. It's an outdoor trial. Historically he's liked that venue for their May show - but...well, I think I'll let it go. It's my issue not his and I have to keep reminding myself that. He'll be just as happy going for some long walks and eating french fries ring-side while Teller does the work. So if that leaves him just BOTC and GMGRC - I think that's fine for him...

    Saturday, February 28, 2009

    Catching up...

    Well here we are the last day of February (also Lee's Birthday - Happy Birthday Lee!) and I'm significantly behind on my blog. There have been lots of things going on around here - good and bad - we've been really busy!

    First I'm struggling with getting my dogs out and about for just exercise. We've had a number of thaws followed by deep freezes. Leaving the yard either sheets of ice (like today) or crusty sharp snow or really deep snow that I don't want the boys galloping through on a daily basis. I've really been trying to get out for field trips places where the footing is better - but most of our usual places have similar footing problems. So Teller has had some treadmill time on the days when the footing is really bad or it's pouring rain and 33 degrees.

    When there's not a lot of salt on the roads and sidewalks I try to get them out for a couple of miles on the flexi - I'm thinking about investing in a springer bike attachment (and a bike). There's not a lot I can do on pavement - I worry about them tearing up their feet. The one place I've found that is consistently good footing is the race track at the fairgrounds - but...we can only get in there when there isn't an event over there - which is really hit or miss - mostly miss. The one thing in our favor is that they days are getting longer. I can get them out for something before work and if I can get home by five I can get the dogs out for half an hour of stuff after work. Murphy objects to this routine because it delays his dinner time by another hour...Murphy isn't really the one I'm trying to condition either.

    Training is going well on a number of fronts - and we're retraining a couple of things. I worked a bit to get Teller's heeling more animated - I want the prancing foot flicking - I can't help it - I want FLASHY! In the process of getting animation - and reinforcing for animation I got forging - BAD FORGING! I'm not surprised really - we always lose a little something when we add something else. So I've gone back and balanced the animation with positioning. Things are improving - drastically - and we're back on track. My biggest utility block - and it was totally me - was the directed retrieve exercise - specifically the pivots. I was having trouble visioning the left pivot where I wanted to be in relation to where they had to be, what my criteria was for footwork and my criteria for their body position. Well, I got it - and I'm happy with my left pivots now - but again it created some problems on my finishes - Teller wants to curl around behind me - his front feet and shoulders are square and straight, his spine and rear were crooked. So I had to go back and fix that as well. The rest of his open work is going well - I moved him up to the 24" high jump and it's not an issue for him. He's always seen a 4 board (48") broad jump so that wasn't an issue.

    Our agility is going well too. Teller is seeing some 24" jumps there and he hasn't blinked. Our rate of dropped bars is still down and going down further. When bars come down now they are absolutely my fault - mostly if I stop my motion he'll stop his. The good news is that it's forcing me to be a better handler - and that's good for both of us.

    For a long time I struggled with running Teller like I run Murphy and then running Murphy like I run Teller. I now have to walk courses twice - once for Murphy and once for Teller. I have some really nice lateral distance with Teller - and can get away with a lot of front crosses. I'm still driving with Murphy and tend to have more rear crosses. Though as a whole my experience with Teller has improved my confidence on the front crosses with Murphy too.

    I entered a very limited Obedience and Rally trial in March in NH. It's a one day show put on my the local collie club in conjunction with their specialty. One judge for all obedience entries (36) and rally entries (60). I entered back in October before Teller had earned his second CD leg - so obviously I entered Novice. I've been going back and forth about whether I should keep him in Novice or move him up to Open. I've gone back and forth on it for a while. Ultimately deciding that he's ready to try open...his stays have been solid - the last few times we've worked them he's been next to dogs that have significantly broken their stays, left, visited, went down on the sit, got scolded, etc and he was rock solid. There is peace on my conscience that if he NQ's its unlikely to be on the stays....though never say never.

    I also entered him out in Open a couple of days in Syracuse - though we can always decide to pull if things don't go well in Amherst. There were inexpensive hotel rooms and some good company to visit with while we're out there.

    Murphy is Murphy. We've gotten out to do some therapy work - which he loves. At the Glens Falls shows Murphy got to be a social butterfly - showing off his tricks to the public. He loves showing off his tricks!!

    In real life I've buckled down and started down the Windows 2008 certification path. My goal is to take the 10 exams before trial season begins in April (well March). We're cutting back on trials this year...Probably just the local one in April, a couple of away trials in May, one agility trial in June - not sure yet about July and August - We've got a little time to figure things out. Unfortunately two of our favorite (and usual) trials conflict this year. Our sleep in our own bed conformation/obedience show and the YGRC agility in Derry - we LOVE the Derry site! Then our GMGRC agility trial conflicts with the Hopkinton shows as the Hopkinton people (Lakes Region) decided to break out of the Scenic Cluster (they were Weds/Thurs) and move onto their own weekend. I can't say I blame them - it's far easier for most of us to do shows on weekends than ones solidly in the middle of the week - along with that most of us have very little interest in doing five straight days of shows - especially obedience shows for five days in a row.

    Friday, January 23, 2009

    Blow the girl down...

    Yo Hoe, blow the girl down...Yo Hoe...

    So we drove down to the dog show today - uneventful trip - until we arrived at the facility. We were meeting Emily and Jason so before we unpacked the stuff Jennifer and I made our way into the building. I led the way and walked to the nearest door. Opened the handle and was hit by hurricane force winds - as I was contemplating what to do next (while the skin on my face blew back to my ears) a trash can from inside the building flew over my head (Poopie diaper, banana peels and all) smacking into Jennifer's shin - like a bowling ball throw by an over-compensating homo sapien male. Fortuneatly she withstood the impact - as trash scattered all over the parking lot and the can itself bounced at cars. If not for Jennifer's very excellent linebacker skills the can surely would have smacked into my truck...my insurance company will be thankful. As this was unfolding in slow motion the gale force wind lifted me up and for a moment I was completely airborne - but only for a moment - crashing down on the pavement next to a spectacularly rotten apple core. I tried to get up but the wind kept puhing me down like a feather-weight against Mike Tyson (without the teeth). Fortuneatly some random site guy appeared and forced the door shut...with the brilliant observation that I could have deflated the building...gee thanks!

    p.s. - Jennifer says that she's been through hurricane force winds and they were nothing like that...seriously it was VERY strong winds - no words to describe the force of that escaping air...

    The rest of the afternoon and evening was uneventful. Teller remembered his job in the breed ring when Emily practiced with him - and he's all spiffy groomed up and ready to go for tomorrow...oh and I forgot my laptop - But Jennifer is letting me borrow hers :-)

    Onward and bedtime...