Friday, April 30, 2010

Rally Class - May 1st, 2010

Posting tomorrow's course ahead of time...Here's the Advanced/Excellent course for May 1st...

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Four

After nearly a foot of new April snow on the ground when we woke up yesterday morning, it was a welcome surprise to leave the office tonight and walk out into sunshine and 55 degrees! Its still really windy - but I'll take the sun any time I can get it! Vermont is such a funny place to live sometimes - you learn to never, EVER take spring for granted.

Anyhow, after the storm the dogs (both of them) were ready to get out and DO something. I had initially planned to set up the sequences below but instead we got side tracked with retrieving, tugging, heelwork and playing in the sunshine!! Even Murphy was hell-bent for leather this afternoon! But, instead of saving these sequences for another day I decided to go ahead and post them anyway - so enjoy them! Here's three more "Four-Jump" sequences to try out.
This sequence is inspired by the courses from BOTC this past weekend. Try a front cross after #2, then handling 4-5-6 on your left.

Then run the sequence again - this time try sending ahead over #2 and front crossing behind #3.
Start this sequence with the dog on your right. Front-cross after #2, pull to #4 and send to #5.

Next try this sequence starting with the dog on your left - without a lead-out. Can you get around #2 to support #3?


Start this sequence with the dog on your right, front cross after #2 and again after #3 and at #5.

Next start with the dog on your left, front-cross after #2 and try sending over #3 (staying behind #4), pulling over #4 and then again a front cross after #5

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Springtime in Vermont....

We're nearing the end of April - and as such some spring days in Vermont look like this:



April 26th, 2010 - Teller showing off his new RingZee from "A Cheerful Pet". Sunny, 67 degrees - this was taken after our afternoon run.

And then......Oh the difference a day makes!



April 27th, 2010 - Teller models off our freshly fallen 3" of snow (and it's still snowing). Silly Woo actually likes the spring snowfall!


Murphy however, does not seem to appreciate the white precipitation..This is Murphy asking if I am done torturing him outside and can he please go inside for his "Honest Kitchen"...

Monday, April 26, 2010

Wool Tuggies from A Cheerful Pet

I noticed these toys on the Clean Run website a few weeks ago and wanted to get my hands on some to see what they felt like and if
Teller liked them. Designed and manufactured under the company name "A Cheerful Pet" these toys are made from boiled and felted New Zealand wool and are designed in the US. The toys are handmade by (and provide income to) previously unemployed women in Nepal. The toys are fair trade and sustainable. It's an interesting model of a global product - without losing the details of where and from whom the product actually comes from. I don't think anyone really feels warm and fuzzy about giving their dogs cheap toys from China and Malaysia - that's not to say that there aren't some good alternatives - but they're usually not easy to find or gentle on the wallet.

The lovely ladies from Sirius in Vermont had a large display of them at the trial this weekend so I was able to get my hands (and Teller's teeth) on them to see if we liked them. I was drawn to the creative designs and the pretty colors. Full disclosure: I've been known to buy dog toys because I like them - hence the number of toys at home that I either won't let them play with (like the muppet and rat toys) or toys that neither dog really likes to play with (the infamous mailorder EGG falls into this category). Yes, I tell my students to take their dogs shopping and not to buy toys if the dog doesn't want to play with them and I still wholeheartedly believe that - but I'm still a sucker for squeaky toys sometimes too. In the case of the woolies though, I'm pleased to report that Teller approves of his new woolies - even Murphy played a bit of woolie tug with me last night (and then woolie tug with Teller).

These toys are gorgeous! The sea critters line is almost too pretty to be a dog toy - the turtles are amazingly detailed - like little felted sculptures. The manta ray seems to be aerodynamic enough to be thrown as a frisbee and then tugged with by it's tail - but again that's if you can see past how pretty they are and actually let your dog slime and play with them. The quality and workmanship in these cute toys seems to be really high - and the prices are really reasonable! In my household, the "expensive" dog toys usually don't get played with a lot because I don't want to lose them on the road or at trials - even if my dogs LOVE them.


I ended up with a ringzee (left) and one of their two headed tuggies with fringe (above). Remember that post last week about dogs being the ones to choose what is and isn't reinforcing to them? All the more reason to take your dog shopping - and if you see these toys on the shelf give them a try (or a tug).
 



Sunday, April 25, 2010

BOTC Agility Weekend

Home show this weekend at a gorgeous indoor soccer facility - great footing, good lighting, beautiful weather, really nice Excellent courses - but Teller and I just never really came together on course. There wasn't any one thing other that we just never connected. I felt like I was a better handler most of the weekend and when we connected I think that our runs were pretty - when we didn't...well...we didn't. His weaves were not particularly good this weekend and I don't know why - he wasn't accelerating through the weaves and he wasn't particularly committed to staying in them once he was in. He got his A-Frame both days (yay) - but not his dogwalk today - and then I don't know what he was thinking on today's table - he's never been interested in the table numbers - I wonder if he went into a bit of avoidance mode after he missed the contact...He clearly thought about picking up the number - thankfully he didn't - and was clingy on the table - something he just never does...

In today's JWW I ran into a standard - it was silly and it put us both off our game. My intention was to stay behind the #6 jump - but I went too deep into #5 and just didn't have a good sense of where I was relative to the course. Teller gave me a great effort though, jumping over the bar as I'm bringing them down - I can't be disappointed in the NQ's this weekend because the good parts WAY outweighed the bobbles and mistakes.



On a side note, we had a houseguest up for the trial this weekend and her three dogs - it's always a pleasure to see a pack of dogs just blend together. Everyone got along, all five dogs had some nice romps in the backyard, played some ball - it was just so pleasant to not have to manage anyone (including the cat) this weekend - My guys spoil me sometimes and this was clearly one of those times! Though I'm pretty sure Teller thinks that he needs a border collie now and no, he can't have one :-) Murphy fell in love with a sheltie who is WAY out of his league - but there's always a chance Murph!

Spring flowers, Spring showers and....lawn clippings.

If you ask Teller, I'm sure he'd tell you that the best part of spring is rolling in the freshly mowed grass from the first mow of the season. There's something delectable about those long fresh shoots of perennial ryegrass - first to roll in and then to snack on... Here's Teller hanging out at Waggles last week after enjoying a long roll in the fresh grass clippings from the yard outside... He's one happy dog with a green head!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday night: Agility skills class: April 22nd, 2010

I had Lori's Thursday night classes this week. I setup the following sequence for them to bite into. As you can see it's actually based on the same setup from the Wednesday night open gym.



Book Review: Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian

After thoroughly enjoying Chris Bohjalian's Secrets of Eden a few audiobooks ago I thought I'd circle back and listen to another of his novels. I chose "Double Bind" for no other reason as it appeared at the top of the search results for "Chris Bohjalian" on audible.com.

This was another Vermont book - set in Chittenden County. Burlington and Underhill are heavily featured as is an organization called "BEDS" based loosely on the local not for profit "COTS" - The Committee on Temporary Shelter.

The character of "Bobby Crocker" was inspired by real-life Bob "Soupy" Campbell who until his death was a homeless man in Burlington. Soupy died without family, after his death COTS found hundreds of amazing photographs. Soupy had been a talented photographer - but no one knew until after he had passed - and in this bleeding heart liberal kinda town (Burlington, VT) it was ironic that Soupy's work was finally published after his lonely death.

Mr. Bohjalian is quick to point out that while the photographs in the book (I had to track down a paper copy to see them) are Soupy's work - the character of Bobby Crocker is fictional. Soupy is not Bobby Crocker.

The main character is Lauren, the likable daughter of a generous Rotarian and a graduate of UVM who fell into social work quite accidentally, after she was attacked and nearly murdered on a back country road while mountain biking (many years prior). After the attack Lauren gives up biking and rediscovers swimming, in the process she meets fellow UVM graduate and BEDS founder Catherine. Naturally (though a bit of a cliche), Lauren enters social work and ultimately serves the clients of BEDS. It is at BEDS where Lauren meets Bobby Crocker, and after Bobby's death the staff  discovers his collection of photographs. Catherine asks Lauren to take charge of the photographs and negatives with the thought of putting together a benefit exhibition. Lauren traces Bobby's life - desperate to put answers to her own role in the homeless man's life and how he (and his camera) came to be on the very road on the very day that she was attacked years ago.

The backup characters are equally charming and the story is smooth and enjoyable. In what I'm now expecting from Chris Bohjalian, the plot is so expertly weaved together that as a reader I expected the end of the novel to resolve in one direction - yet the ending is a complete surprise. I generally feel like I can figure out where an author is going before they get there themselves - but twice now Mr. Bohjalian has caught me by surprise-  but all is revealed in the end. The end is as satisfying - perhaps more so - than how I expected the plot to resolve.

As an interesting point, Mr. Bohjalian resurrects the fictional character "The Great Gatsby" as a real-life character in the story. A fictional character sampled in another fictional character  - clever. And when you get to that final twist and plot resolution - it's brilliant!

Chris Bohjalian's "Double Bind" is published by Books on Tape and narrated by Susan Denacker. "Double Bind" was released on January 18, 2007 and is available in both unabridged and abridged formats. The abridged format runs 6 hours 27 minutes and the unabridged version (reviewed here) runs 11 hours and 27 minutes. Double Bind is available from Amazon and Audible.com. There were a few moments where I felt like the plot was running a little long - but my perception changed after listening to the end - and I'd be concerned that removing 5 hours of the plot (the abridged version) just won't have the same magic. I suggest listening to or reading the unabridged version of "Double Bind".

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Waggles Open Gym

Tonight's classes were postponed a week and with the local trial coming up this weekend we decided to try something we've talked about for a while. Tonight was Waggles' very first "Open Gym". Contact equipment was setup, some jumps, the weaves and a couple of tunnels. I didn't set a numbered course though - people were encouraged to come out with their goals and training needs in mind and hopefully get all of those things accomplished. I sent out the layout ahead of time to give people a chance to think about what they wanted to work on and I took advantage of the layout to design my own sequences.

Here's the basic layout:
And here are the two sequences that I ran with Teller:


The plan for tonight was discrimination work with the dogwalk and tunnel - and weaves. I loved how this sequence ran - and how I ran this sequence. Teller gave me speed and super accuracy - I didn't babysit discriminations and he nailed both of them.









Here I had a pull through from 2-3 (and a discrimination). Front-cross after the dogwalk, discrimination again at #8 and at #14. Again I had "Rockstar" Teller-Woo! LOVE it!







In general I think "Open Gym" was pretty successful - I think everyone got what they came in for and handlers were challenged in coming up with their own plan. In every case people came up with lovely sequences and the dogs were all successful in their work. The best metric of success is that EVERYONE left looking forward to the trial this weekend...

Monday, April 19, 2010

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Three

After rain (and 40 degrees) all weekend it was fantastic to get the dogs outside again. I've been working really hard on conditioning work for Teller this winter and spring and while two or three days really doesn't make a difference an entire week of slippery mud and damp drizzle does not make it easy to get them out working. Today's forecast was not predicted to be 60+ degrees and sunny - but it was so we took advantage of the weather related gift.

These are pretty basic four-jump sequences and I'm sure that the general concepts could be found in dozens of sequence books, magazines and blogs - but they are skills we needed to work on.


This was just a warm-up sequence - in part to pattern Teller on serpentines in preparation for Sequence #3. In lieu of a front cross, try a blind cross after #4 .









Some directional work. I wanted to work some driving rear crosses. Starting relatively far back from (but straight onto) #1 with Teller on my left, send him ahead and rear cross to A. Then the same setup and a rear-cross behind B. Finally a send ahead and pull to C. The I worked the same A, B and C with Teller on my right.


THREADLE!!! Not my favorite skill. Teller is (rightfully so) very patterned to the serpentine. I'm comfortable handling serpentine sequences, I'm probably pretty fluid in my motions to get that movement. I LOVE finding courses that have big wide open serpentines...But - we need some threadle skills too. If you build this remember to work both sides. I didn't throw in the mirror image, but what you work on one side you should _______ on the ________. (GIGGLE).



So there you have it, another four-jump series. Four jumps, One layout, Ten short sequences to work on - about FIFTEEN minutes to work them (including time to play, tug, thump and reinforce). I timed my session today. I arrived at the school at 5:05, unpacked the jumps and setup on the field which took me 5 minutes. Changed my shoes and stretched, warmed up and stretched Teller - 10 minutes. Worked the sequences stopping to tug between each successful sequence - 15 minutes. Cool-out for Teller - 10 minutes. Pack everything up (done mostly during Teller's coolout) - 5 minutes and then take a 20 minute off-leash walk around the playground with both dogs. All told 45 minutes and I got everything accomplished I had intended to accomplish for the afternoon. 

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Rally Class - April 17th, 2010

OK gang, here's the course from today's class! Missed you guys today Catherine!! Remember, no class next weekend - see you on May 1st for week three (and intro to agility week two).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Choosing reinforcement

The wikipedia entry for reinforcement is as follows:

Reinforcement is a term in operant conditioning and behavior analysis for the delivery of a stimulus, (immediately or shortly) after a response, that results in an increase in the future rate or probability of that response. The response strength is assessed by measuring frequency, duration, latency, accuracy, and/or persistence of the response after reinforcement stops. Experimental behavior analysts measured the of rate of behaviors as a primary demonstration of learning and performance with non-humans.
A reinforcer is the stimulus, event, or situation whose presentation is dependent upon a response.

I think I spent more than my share of undergraduate efforts studying and writing about reinforcement - interestingly enough this was during my dressage queen days and before my dog trainer days. Oh how things change but stay the same huh? I'm not going to get into BF Skinner's positive and negative reinforcement cues - not in this post anyway - stand by for something like that in a future post.

The topic of reinforcement is a timely one that we should all consider. It's really tempting for handlers and trainers to place value in objects that we provide to our dogs. The temptation to find a really super powerful treat to bring to shows, the toy that we see on a shelf or in a catalog that we just have to have - only to proudly present it to our dogs as reinforcement and have them give us that look as if to say "yeah, that's oh-kay...but what else ya got?". I've fallen "victim" to this thinking as well - there was a time when on the eve of every show I'd go to Papa Franks (in Winooski, VT) to pickup a to-go order of their AMAZING meatballs. Not for myself - but for Murphy. I love Papa Franks meatballs - Murphy likes them - so ergo they must be the highest value reinforcement possible for Murphy...right? Well maybe...maybe not.

Murphy is all about the food. It doesn't matter what that food is or the power of that food. By power I'm describing value. If I were a normal dog I would expect a hot dog to be more powerful (valuable/tempting) than an oyster cracker or a carrot. Murphy is one of those dogs who would rather have five pieces of carrot rather than one piece of hot dog. Teller on the other hand, appreciates food and certainly doesn't turn food treats down - but in the grand scheme of things he tends to work for the sake of work. Hot dogs are fine with him - but all things being equal he likes pocket lint too. He's similar with toys - he likes to tug - would prefer to retrieve but his favorite reinforcement is physical attention, thumping** and verbal praise.

This comes to mind because I recently found a sheepskin tug that Teller had received as a puppy gift. It was (is) gorgeous - but Teller was too tiny for this massive tuggie when we received it as an 9 week old puppy, Murphy doesn't particularly like to tug so the tuggie was tucked away in a box until I found it a few weeks ago. When I rediscovered the fleece tuggie I was excited for a new toy - a new reinforcement. Teller has a couple of sheepskin tuggies from clean run (just like the one at the left) that he loves - so surely he'll like the really thick sheepskin braid right? I brought it to the school while I was training and he was clearly interested in the toy as I tucked it under my arm for later use. After breaking off a particularly fantastic effort on a short sequence I shook the fleece and invited Teller to tug with me. He came at it with gusto, but the verdict was clearly "well, I guess..if you really want me to - but I don't like this as well as I like my frisbee". Clearly he didn't enjoy the tuggie as much as I did. The bottom-line is that we don't get to choose what our dogs find reinforcing.

This is all the more challenging when we have goals of competing with our dogs - those food and toy oriented dogs need to "get off the monkey" so to speak and we've got to work all that much harder to make the work of the sport and playing that sport with us reinforcing enough for the 25-60 seconds (agility) or the 5-10 minutes (for obedience) that we're in the ring competeing. Of course reinforcement (or lack of) does not equal proofing and lack of reinforcement with a correct performance does not necessarily mean that a dog truly understands his job in those circumstances - all great topics for a future blog posts.


** Before anyone calls animal control on me (again), Thumping is relatively solid pats about the dog's neck, shoulder and ribcage. Pat, pat, pat, butt scritch, pat, pat, praise, pat, pat, praise. It's that deep pat that tends to echo a bit - for whatever reason that's Teller's absolute favorite thing - and I like that I can bring that "thumping" into the ring with me.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Dogs can't see yellow bars....

An interesting thing happened at a trial recently. I won't say where or when - but I volunteered to course build the excellent courses. I was on the list for another job - which I had finished earlier in the day - but when it came time to build the course there weren't many volunteers or workers out there moving around equipment. In an effort to speed up the process as the trial day was taking way longer than it should, I stepped over the ring gating, grabbed an armload of bars and began setting wings, standards and bars in approximate locations around the course so that the folks with the wheel would be able to set the bar and have the correct standard already there. As I pulled another bar from the barrel of jump bars a nasty condescending voice came from behind me "Don't use the yellow striped bars - don't you know that the dogs can't see them? Sheesh!". It was as if I was a 3 year old child who had just tried to put the square peg in a round hole.
I was shocked - for a couple of reasons. First - if you're a course-builder and you don't play well with others people aren't going to sign up to help you build courses. Course changes can go quickly - exhibitors like it when courses building goes quickly, judges like efficient change-overs - no one wants to start the day at a trial at 7:30am and finish the day still at the trial at 8pm - long days aren't in anyone's best interest. Poor treatment of volunteers is increasingly becoming an issue - not just at one trial in particular- but at every trial. I don't think workers (volunteers) really care about the regifts in a worker raffle - but they do care about being treated as a valuable part of the trial - yelling at workers who are doing their job doesn't benefit anyone.
There are a lot of one-ring trials now that are guaranteed to fill 330 runs with opening day mail with long waiting lists. As a result there's a lot of "if you don't like it don't come to my trial" vibes - I know several exhibitors who have been told that if they don't like something (as simple as a request for their Q ribbon from the day before - after the trial finished at 8pm the last ribbons were never put out) that they ought not to come back to the next trial. Clubs used to routinely offer title ribbons and toys for placements - The toys aren't important to me, but I know how important title ribbons are to novice, open and even excellent exhibitors. Some of these trials are "sponsored" by national parent clubs as fundraisers for other endeavors. Is this is how you want your breed club portrayed?
Second (and now we're back to the yellow bars) what does it matter of dogs can see yellow tape or not? Surely the bright white jump bar should be a clue to the dog that there's a bar there. If my dog is relying on blue (or orange, red, green, black, purple, etc) tape to judge where the jump starts and finishes I haven't done my job teaching him what the rules of the game are - and more importantly what his job is relative to my expectations of him in the sport of agility.
To be honest I don't use tape on my bars. Plain white PVC pipe - no tape, no colors, no contrast. The bars at waggles are similarly untaped. I have never - ever - seen a dog fail to recognize that a jump bar is part of the obstacle in indoor lighting or even in direct sunlight. Tape or no tape - a bar should be a bar.
Our dogs are smart - why don't we give them credit for their intelligence? Why must we make excuses for things that just aren't a big deal? Train your dog for things that aren't within your control - and yes - I believe that the color of jump bars falls into that category. I will also think twice about volunteering to course build under chief course builders that just aren't pleasant to work with - after all trial workers are volunteers and we pay to play this game...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Two

I went looking for some backyard type sequences to setup at the school this afternoon (55 degrees and brilliant sun) and there just aren't a lot of backyard type sequences out there...AgilityNerd has a really cool "boxwork generator" - but it wasn't quite what I was looking for today.

So I'm starting a new blog series called "Four Jumps" with sequences that can be challenging for dogs of all levels but are also easy enough to setup at parks, schools and in backyards. The concept is that you don't need a lot of equipment and that proofing and getting out is as important for most dogs as doing full sequences. I'd imagine that everyone can get their hands on four jumps (make them, these are a piece of cake!) or can find a couple of friends and everyone brings a jump :-)

The "Four Jump" series will go beyond boxwork and pinwheel sequences. Truly, what can you accomplish with only four jumps? The answer is a lot! I might add weaves or tunnels from time to time too. Ready? I am - it's a new challenge!

Note that I consider all of these sequences (for the entire series) to be "one stick" sequences - meaning you get one stick of cheese (one hotdog, etc) and that's it. When the cheese is done, you're done - break off play with your dog - PARTY!! This might mean that you spend 15 minutes setting up and then 5 minutes training - and that is both OK and preferred! I get about 20 pieces of reinforcement with a single stick of cheese. I also tend to use a toy (thrown) ahead and then either tug a bit or trade a food reward for the toy. BUT I have a dog that lives to retrieve and retrieving that toy is BIG fun!


There are a number of ways to handle this sequence. I started with Teller on my right and pulled him around the left side of #2. I found that I didn't quite have the distance I'd expected on the 270 from 3-4, and as a result had to move in past 3 to get #4. He wrapped #3 so tightly that he was able to commit to the wrong side of #4 as soon as he landed.

Teller was funny tonight when I asked him to do it again he BARKed at me!! Clearly having a good time though a little frustrated with me!  What did work better was a send to #3 push out to #4 and rear cross #6. When I (we) got it right he barked again! Teller is not a barker and it totally made me laugh. Two little elementary school kids watching us from the other side of the parking lot and my crazy golden is barking at me!!!


I lead out with Teller on my left here, front crossed #2-#3, kept him om my left for 4-5, front crossed after 5 and picked him up on my right after #6.


 
 I started this one on both my left and my right and felt like I had a better turn off #2 with a front cross and Teller on my right. And again a better (tighter) turn from #3 to #4. I tried both a fake front before 7 and a true front and found that I got the same line from Teller with both maneuvers.

We definitely need more 270 work where the second jump is sort of "out there". Who knows - that might be the next "Four Jumps".

Lastly, you may have noticed that I've started stamping my sequences with "http://blog.magicagoldens.com" - I had resisted doing this for a long time but something happened that is forcing my hand on watermarking my sequences. I love that people are downloading and playing with my sequences. I hope you have as much fun as I've had with them - Please continue to download them, print them, set them up in your backyard and invite your friends over to play on them. Where I draw the line on my intellectual property is when one of my sequences is borrowed and reposted on another blog in its entirety without credit to the original source (me). In this case the borrower actually branded my content with their name - inserting their own watermark. The nature of the Internet is what it is - but try to be considerate of the content that you use and the source that it comes from.

Think Spring (and vote for Teller)

Frank Jansen (of Frank Jansen Photography) has launched a "Capture Spring" contest. I had five free minutes this morning so I decided to try to get a spring picture of Teller...
Step 1: Cut daffodil
Step 2: "Teller, Sit"
Step 3: "Teller, hold"
Step 4: "Teller, Stay"
Step 5: Act like a crazy lady throwing sticks around the frontyard while taking picture.

The result? Not bad if I do say so myself. If you are so inclined please go vote for Teller. The contest runs through May 16th, 2010

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Inspired by AKC nationals - Part 3 (Sunday Run-Throughs)

Part three of a five part series - this is based off the ISC JWW course (Friday March 26th) - this was a great livestream to watch as the two rings on the stream were the 26" and 24" dogs and the 20" dogs - lots of really super handling across all of the rings for this course.

Not surprisingly, the trouble spots (at nationals) were the off-course weaves after #2, the path from #8 to #9 (lots of #8 bars down) and then the threadle from #10 to #11.

The remainder of the original course (#17-20) was left turn to a straight line to the out gate - including a broad jump.  We didn't have enough space to add another line of jumps for this weekends run-throughs. So I added a wrap at 16 to a broken line 17-18 (with a very tempting off-course of the #5 jump).


The 2010 ISC JWW course was designed by Scott Stock. Here's a
link to the original course.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Even more on 24" weave spacing.

I had the opportunity to get some overhead footage of a couple of dogs weaving both 20" and 24" spacing. The first dog is Amanda's Rusty. Five year old Rusty "The Engineer" is 14.5" tall and hasn't started competing yet (his first trial is in May). Everyone reading this blog probably knows Teller, but in any regard Teller is a three year old 23.5" golden retriever who has been competing in agility for about a year now (8 legs towards his MXJ).



Here is my plea to AKC to mandate 24" weave pole spacing (disallowing the 20" and 22" weave spacing) and to make those rule changes effective immediately. It's still the right thing to do for our dogs.

Inspired by AKC nationals - Part 2 (Saturday Run-throughs)

It was my turn to set a course for Saturday run-throughs. This is another one from my series that were inspired by the courses from the AKC National Championships from Tulsa, OK. Obviously the sequences had to be squished down into a Waggles sized area. Waggles is roughly 70x40.





This was my original plan pulled from the ISC standard course - however I needed to fit in the other pieces of contact equipment. So....through the wonders of CRCD wizardry my "inspired by" course became morphed into the setup below.




I had to pull out the teeter. I was concerned that anywhere I put it in the middle there was going to become a handler restriction with the potential for injury - I'd rather someone not run smack into the top of the teeter...






And here's a link to the ISC Standard (March 26th, 2010) course designed by Sheila Kauffman
http://www.akc.org/pdfs/national_agility_championship/2010/courses/FridayISCStandard.pdf

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Thursday Sequencing: Hitting the turf

I had originally planned to go out to waggles to work A-Frames and dogwalks this afternoon, but after a foggy rainy morning turned into a brilliant sunny dry afternoon I decided I HAD to get out and play outside. I've also been dying to see what I'd have once we got out on turf. Tella-Woo in trial and Teller in training - they're two very different dogs - which means my handling isn't what it should be in trial. He's fast and forward in trial, not as fast and not at all forward in training. I think that part of training in smaller spaces (and living in New England we have to train in smaller spaces) is that he just can't extend between obstacles like he can in trial. Our winter training has been in a 70x40 indoor space - it's hard to get obstacles in there and have room for the big dogs to move out. So with the sun shining and temperatures in the mid-fifties, I packed up four jumps and headed to the local school (where we've been going to play ball and do some hill work). I'm pleased to report that I had Turbo-Woo in training today - fast, forward and tuned in. I saw trial speed today and it was really FUN to play with!!! After I decided to go outside to play I came up with these four sequences:

After seeing so many pull-throughs at the AKC nationals I decided I needed to put some more time into building that skill. So in the first sequence (right) I started with #1 on my right, worked #2 and #3 on my right and front crossed before sending to #4. What was brilliant is that I was able to send to #4 and move off a bit towards #5 and #6. Teller respected the bar and did a genius wrap back to #5 and then another tight wrap from #6 to #7.


I started this sequence with Teller on my right, front cross to #2 and a front cross to #3. Send to #4 - front cross after #5 and another front cross before #7.


This was my favorite sequence of the evening. I lead out to #2, released, then front-crossed to #3, sent to #4 and pulled from #6 to #7.  I liked this sequence so much that I flipped it and worked the same thing in reverse! Again, Teller was forward and ON!!!


Another pull-through and a running start. Teller on my left, wrap around to #2, front cross to #3, pull to #4-#5 and pulling off #5 as soon as he was committed to blind after #6.














After those sequences I had both boys out (Murphy on a flexi) for a romp and retrieve in the sloping back field. I can't imagine how the kids play soccer out there, the ground heaves and bumps into a rolling surface - I can't imagine it's much fun to run up and down while trying to control a rolling ball. Works for us though as the undulating surface makes for a good light conditioning opportunity for the boys while we're out there playing and training other things. We're so loving springtime!

EDIT 04/12/2010: This was the beginning of a new series of sequences called "Four-Jump" - I just didn't know it at the time. You can search by blog labels for "Four-Jump" to see the other sequences in the series - ENJOY! The goal here is to give you some ideas of things to do in your own backyard (park, school, etc) with a limited amount of equipment and perhaps limited practice time. I hope this will be a popular feature and help you with some fun short sequences to play with on your own.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Update on the LG DLE1310W dryer...

About a month ago I posted a ramble about my new LG Dryer and the bad customer service I received on said dryer. That post is here:
http://blog.magicagoldens.com/2010/03/customer-service-rant-lg-dryer.html

My LG DLE1310W dryer rant is one of my most read blog posts (imagine that - a customer service rant on a dog-blog).  With this popularity I thought I'd post an update on my dryer saga. After the initial service call that was never dispatched another call was opened with LG. The same off-shore customer service, thickly accented and difficult to understand - though he clearly sensed my frustration with the dryer and the missed appointment. The local technician was more helpful than the LG customer service. I am not sure where the original call fell through the cracks. Did LG fail to dispatch the call to the provider or did the provider lose the call somewhere down the line. If the call center is able to schedule onsite service calls a week away I'd hope that scheduling process is tied into the providers system. I was told by the servicing technician that I should have called to confirm the appointment - an interesting concept since I was never told the name of his firm - nor was I given a contact phone number - the entire call was through the LG customer service system. However, even if that information had been provided I still don't think it's the customer's responsibility to confirm a service dispatch on behalf of a larger parent company (LG). If I had called the local service firm in the first place I'd bet that my original service appointment would have been kept and I could have saved myself a huge headache. BUT, I know of no way to skip the off-shore call center to open a call directly with the local technician (certainly not anyway that will leverage the LG one year limited warranty).


In the end the moisture sensor was replaced - and for future reference the sensor is two "bars" on the inside bottom lip of the dryer barrel. Apparently these bars should be cleaned (I was instructed to scrape them with a screwdriver) relatively often - but remember, my dryer was brand new - the moisture sensors should not have accumulated anything - even if I had used a thousand dryer sheets - on the 5-10 loads of laundry that I'd attempted to dry up through that point in time.

The technician also mentioned - and I personally don't "buy" this answer - that the sensor dry setting will never completely dry clothes. That the concept of a sensor dry in the LG is based on European design. In Europe laundry is removed from the dryer and ironed and pressed - whereas American't don't iron and press therefore the dryer is designed for Europeans and produces damp clothes. In other words, lazy Americans shouldn't expect the moisture sensor feature to work - unless we planned to iron and press.

I think that's a bunch of horse-hooey myself. A product designed exclusively for the European market would not have a successful client-base in the US. I also don't think that despite the cultural differences between the United States and Europe (I'm hoping the technician knows that Europe is a continent not a country) is as simple as those guys iron all their clothes and us folk don't. However domestic those silly Europeans are I highly doubt that a statistically higher percentage of the population actually wants damp laundry to make ironing easier. Then there's the old Kenmore dryer that served us so well during it's lifetime that it went to dryer nirvana. That old and relatively inexpensive dryer also had a drying sensor - and it worked like a charm - every load of laundry until the belt broke - more on this in a moment.

As for dryer sheets, I don't know anyone who doesn't use them - I've polled hundreds of people since my initial conversation with LG service and every single person (regardless of dryer brand) reported use (and sometimes over-use) of dryer sheets.

Since the sensor was replaced my dryer now actually dries clothes - yes, even on the sensor setting - and no I'm not pressing and ironing my socks, jeans and towels - as I would expect it to. I'm happy with the dryer now - but I'm still not impressed with the poor customer service that the LG call center provided - nor am I particularly happy with the feeble reasons that both the dispatched technician and the LG call center provided to gloss over problems with a flawed product. I still use dryer sheets - and I'll continue to do so. I've since sat down with the entire dryer manual and there's absolutely no mention of dryer sheets or the supposed implications of their use in an LG dryer.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

AEDCA Agility Trial - April 3-4, 2010

Teller, Murphy and I headed down to the AEDCA (American Eskimo Dog Club of America) AKC agility trial this weekend in Amherst, NH. It was a glorious spring weekend in New England - as I was driving down Saturday morning at dawn I was struck by the beauty of this state. The roads were more or less deserted and as we traveled south the orange sky contrasted starkly against the purple mountains. The unusually warm March and April weekends have put the trees ahead of schedule, the buds were just visible against the light from the sunrise, the forsythia bushes in southern NH were on the verge of blooming - already! Vermont can be brutal in the winter - it is so brutally cold and dark in the winter, despite living in the most populous county in the state there are times when it feels like it takes forever to get anywhere - mostly because we just can't get there from here!! But springtime in Vermont (and the rest of New England) is a magical season. Just magical. Sure there's mud - but there's the smell of boiling sap as we drive through the countryside and the revitalizing feeling when the days become longer and the snow melts away. Even 36 hours later I think the grass has greened overnight - our crocus are up and blooming as well, the daffodils not far behind.

High temperatures were in the 80's both days this weekend - brilliant sunshine and a vibrant blue sky. It was such a rapid and unexpected change that I think all of our systems were in shock - the dogs hung out in the car covered with shade cloths. They were actually quite comfortable until they went for walks and jogs throughout the weekend. These big furry dogs just can't adapt easily to such sudden changes - it takes a bit of time to properly acclimate!

Saturday Excellent Standard - Teller nailed all of his contacts - I was so pleased with both his A-Frame and his dogwalk contacts. We had an off-course tunnel after the dogwalk and a wide turn out of the chute. Since we had already had a wrong course, I pushed the weaves a bit - and it was too much!

Saturday Excellent JWW - When I picked up course maps on Saturday morning I made the comment that the JWW course was designed for Teller - and it was a great course for him. He ran well, I handled him well. It wasn't blazing fast, but it was a nice run and MXJ leg #7.

Sunday Excellent Standard - Another nice course..and overall I am pleased with the run. Teller missed his A-Frame contact today, which put me out of position for a push to the #10 jump - so the fault caused a wrong course.

Sunday Excellent JWW - Another perfect Teller course. There was one bobble after the #11 tunnel - but he read the push from #10 to #11 beautifully and if I hadn't put myself so deep past #12 I could have set a better line from  #13 to #14. Both courses today had straight 3-4 jump lines straight out. I was pleased at how Teller both checked in with me and read the lines.

Things are coming together! Onward! Here's the video from this weekend:

Hoppy Easter!!

A re-post from last year - it's a classic:

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


Cause if he wasn't...this is what's gonna happen. Easter Bunny Justice - WOOIE style!

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Book Review: Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman

I stumbled upon the novel "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" by virtue of the narrator Jenna  Lamia (who so expertly co-narrated "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett). Her sing-songy southern voice was sweet - a vessle that drew me into the story. I had intended to move from "The Help" to Michael Crichton's "Pirate Latitudes", but allowed myself another trip into the South (Savannah, Georgia to be precise).
   
This novel was set during the same time period as "The Help": the early 1960's in Georgia - there is segregation, there is Martin Luther King, there is racism like in "The Help" but absent is the racial drama undercurrent. CeeCee's mother dies in a tragic accident brought on by her schizophrenia and dementia (not a spoiler), then CeeCee's already absent father (driven away by his wife's mental illness) doesn't want her and has already taken up with another woman in another city. Enter Great-Aunt Tootie - whom CeeCee has never met or heard about - a wealthy widow without children of her own; Oletta is the colored hired help who has worked for Miss Tootie and her late husband for decades and Mrs. O'Dell is the elderly next-door neighbor - a lonely widow who has served as CeeCee's rock of stability at home in Ohio - caring for her when CeeCee's mother was unable to.

"Saving CeeCee" is told from the point of view of 12 year old CeeCee Honeycutt. For those of you who have read "The Help", there's a May-Mobbily (Elizabeth's child in The Help) quality to CeeCee - who finds in Oletta her very first friend and the concept of color or societal place (of the period) doesn't even occur to her. In this sense the story is sweet - CeeCee is so hurt from her wretched childhood and so innocent and naive in the ways of the culture she's transported into.

Of course there are plot twists - and some of the realities of racism come to the forefront, CeeCee is forced to confront them, yet maintains a lot of her young innocence even through the twists.

This is not a page turner. I wasn't compelled to sit and listen to large chunks in my car at my destination - nor did I walk around with my GPS (I play audible content on my Nuvi) plugged into headphones like I have with other books. You won't listen intently with tears in your eyes and your heart in your throat. You probably won't become deeply vested in the characters....HOWEVER - the story is a smooth and pleasant listen. The plot while superficial is a very sweet and uplifting story - without becoming needlessly derivative of other novels in this genre. I liked this novel and like some of the others I've listened to recently it was always a pleasure to go back to Savannah for another few minutes or hours of my travel.

Without the racial tension (Oletta is the centerpiece of the cobbled together family), it was easy to transport back to the simpler time - the rich architecture of Savannah and the warmth of characters. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is not dramatic - but the lack of drama does not detract from the storyline and plot points. Jenna Lamia's narration is as sweet as a pitcher of cold southern sweet tea - her characters are rich and distinct without being overdone.

I've read several reviews that compare this novel excessively to "The Help" and that is certainly not my intention here. "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" stands on it's own as a fictional work. Listening to or reading one is not related to the other - and the two books neither compliment nor conflict with each other. The common thread is of course Jenna Lamia and from that perspective its tempting to pull one thread into the other. Ms Lamia has become one of my favorite narrators - I will continue to look out for her future narrations.


Beth Hoffman's "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" is published by Penguin AudioBooks and narrated by Jenna Lamia. "Saving CeeCee Honeycutt" was released on December 24, 2009 and runs 10 hours 4 minutes. Saving CeeCee Honeycutt is available from Amazon and Audible.com