Monday, January 31, 2011

He's got Eukanuba Eyes...

His hair is yellow-gold, 
His eyes a red surprise, 
His lids are gunky brown 
He's got Eukanuba Eyes 
He's got Eukanuba Eyes

/End butchering of Kim Carne's hit song.

I came across a new picture of a stud dog (golden retriever - it doesn't really matter) - I took one look at his weepy, red-rimmed, goupie, gunky and sleep-seeded eyes, then his immaculately trimmed paws stained red between every toe and thought to myself  "wow, that's a Eukanuba dog". For fear of being judgmental - after all, lots of goldens have pretty significant seasonal allergies (whether or not the two phrases 'significant seasonal allergies' and 'stud dog' should be used in the same sentence I'll hold my tongue - for now), I  asked the breeder what they fed this extremely overweight 'stud dog'. The response confirmed my suspicions: "OH, we ONLY feed Eukanuba - isn't is coat to DIE for?"

I didn't reply...I wouldn't have said anything nice. How anyone - even factoring in kennel blindness - could look at that dog with his red stained and obviously irritated paws and his red tear-stained face and say that he looked good and even further boast at the quality of his coat? They're out of their mind - totally delusional. Yes, he's dripping in coat, but it's not a correct coat - I'll wager it takes an hour of blow-drying to get him dry to the skin. Nope, no thank you - I'll take my wash and wear, towel dry coats thank you very much.

Garbage in - Garbage out...and I feel sorry for the dog who really must feel awful - he certainly looks awful. But sure, keep thinking that Eukanuba is this super-awesome high quality dog food....{GROSS}

Eukanuba Adult Dry Dog Food Ingredients:
Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal (Natural source of Chondroitin Sulfate and Glucosamine), Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Flavor, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Egg Product, Potassium Chloride, Fish Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Salt, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Flax Meal, Calcium Carbonate, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), DL-Methionine, Choline Chloride, Vitamins (Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Inositol, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), Vitamin E Supplement, Brewers Dried Yeast, Beta-Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday Birding...

Another weekend "home" - it really does feel strange...Today's surprise was a flock of robins (and their friends) in my crabapple tree munching on partially frozen crab-apples (not the birdseed) - easily 50 robins and 20 other birds - haven't seen anything like in the 11 years I've lived here....

January 30th, 2011: Cedar Waxwing?

January 30th, 2011: Lots of activity in the front yard today

January 30th, 2011: Downy woodpecker and Robin

January 30th, 2011: Robin

January 30th, 2011: I think this is a male waxwing.

January 30th, 2011: Robin

January 30th, 2011: Starling?

January 30th, 2011: The big bad blue jay that made all of the other birds go away....

January 30th, 2011: Q was fascinated.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Training at the barn - January 29th, 2011

I had originally planned to drive to NH for run-throughs yesterday - but after a week on-call and general logistics failures I ended up taking the boys out to the school for a romp and retrieve session rather than spending 4 hours in the van (and over the mountains in the dark) for run-throughs. It helped that unlike last weekend (minus twenty-something). I knew weather was going to be reasonably nice today for travel and warm enough to go work in the unheated indoor arena. And it was a lovely day with temperatures a very nearly tropical thirty-five degrees (yeah, I know - but this IS January in Vermont after all). Turnout was four border collies and Woo the golden - certainly one of those "which one of these things isn't like the others" moment - We had four dogs working at a time in various groupings - the VIBE in the arena was so high - it was really a blast to have that many dogs working and so focused at their tasks.

Teller had one of those sessions where I worked everything I wanted to work (I'm always telling folks to go into every session with a plan - I do the same), I just LOVED the way he worked today - he worked absolutely everything beautifully. Contacts, weaves, handling - all the right buttons were there today. 

Here's what we worked today
This one was super fun - Teller was amazing from #3 to #4 - the tough
part was definitely #7-8. Teller REALLY wanted the #2 tunnel!

YAY for contact reps!!! Once I'd gotten a few jump-aframe and jump-teeter reps, I threw in theses sequences on the fly.

Not so much a sequence - but a set of dog-walk reps. Note that Woo was NOT permitted to take the obstacle directly following the dogwalk? Nemesis, Nemesis, Nemesis....

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I'm not above bribing birds...

FREE PEANUTS: You KNOW you want some.
The birds in my neighborhood are officially over-fed. Way too many feeders for the current bird population - which I think is probably a bit larger than the area would usually support. Even the neighborhood squirrels are plump and happy - so busy cleaning up spillage that they don't even have to try to get the bird feeders. I've even had mild threats from neighbors for moving in on "their birds".

As a result my feeders (and theirs) are way under-utilized, I'm throwing out suet cakes after three weeks and they're still 90% of their original volume...I'm not taking it personally - I AM however, upping the ante with those birds DAMMIT! This week's feed selection includes the top-shelf cardinal mix as well as copious amounts of shelled peanuts - in the feeder and on the feeder tray. Easy-access - no waiting....

January 24th, 2011 - Minus 22 at 8am. Puffy Birds.  

January 24th, 2011...
Peanuts IN the tube....

January 27th, 2011 - Lots of peanuts no waiting.

January 27th, 2011: Ya know you want some...

January 27th, 2011

January 27th, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Advanced Agility - January 27th, 2011

It's been a while since we've done a jumpers course. Bring your running shoes kiddos!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Four Jumps - Backyard sequences Part Eighteen

As I am fully aware that most people don't live in the arctic tundra (it was minus twenty six here yesterday morning) with about 18" of snow on the ground. Too deep for significant romps in the snow and woods let alone room for any sequencing at the park or school-yard. Spring was in the air today with a balmy high of 22 - tomorrow should get into the low 30's....finally warm enough to thaw some tripe in the garage! I'm sure you all are as thrilled about tripe as I am!
Nevertheless, how's about another four-jump series? Four sequences tonight...Enjoy!

Wisdom in brief...

I'm on-call this week, which among other things generally means that I'm awake more of the dark hours than I am asleep. Some of it is the actual pager - but a lot of it is that I'm just not falling back asleep all that doesn't help when I don't really have time to go back to sleep (beep-beep 12am, beep-beep 1:05am, beep-beep 2am, beep-beep 3:15am, beep-beep get the idea). Just as I'm finally starting to drift off to sleep again after one page the pager goes off again.

Anyhow - and sometimes this is an unwanted side-effect - is that I have a lot of time to let my mind run, to plan sequences for my training or upcoming classes, to worry about all of the balls that I have up in the air at any given moment, to fantasize about winning the lottery and building an agility mecca in Vermont and {grin} lots of opportunity to think about future blog posts.

When Teller made his agility trial debut in novice not so long ago, I went in with all the advantages of a "B" handler. As a B handler I was actually cognizant enough to listen to the novice class judges' briefing, that is of course when I made it to the ring in time for the briefing. Anyhow, sometimes in briefings judges present unique perspectives of wisdom that are too good not to retain and share - truly important lessons from their years of experience in the sport. There are a few that stick out in my mind - and I'll leave the remarks as anonymous for now.

"Each level of agility serves a purpose. In Novice you need to demonstrate that you've taught your dog to do all of the equipment and to do so safely. In Open, the courses ask you to demonstrate that you and your dog can work as a team. In Excellent, you demonstrate that you can put 'it all' together with speed and precision".
It's true isn't it? As the level of course complexity increases so does the need for dog and handler to work as a team to get around the course. You cannot qualify in excellent if your dog does not turn when you ask him to turn and to focus on finishing the weaves not on the ring crew person sitting next to pole seven. If you can combine obstacle skills and teamwork at the novice level you're going to have a much easier time when you get into open. This is one of the reasons that I don't train for novice - train for excellent - that's where you're headed.

"You wrote the check for the entry fees this weekend - you're here because you've put in time and expense to train him for today - but he's here mostly because you put him in the car this morning."
Dogs have bad days, we have bad days. Dogs make mistakes - we make mistakes (Doh!) - but keep it in perspective. We're going to have amazing trial weekends where we're on FIRE and we're also going to have weekends where we can't Q to save our skin. Perspective is so important. Plus (and yes it's cheesy) it wouldn't be so much fun if we could beat every single course right? It's about the challenge of solving a new puzzle.

"Make each run count - you never, ever, ever know when that last run is going to come and there will be no more opportunities for a do-over"  
This one broke my heart. The judge who was briefing (I think it was an Excellent JWW class) had just lost a dog - suddenly and tragically - a couple of days before the trial. Her perspective was raw - she wasn't going to get another run with her dog. The same dog that had just finished another MACH a few weeks before. You never ever know what is to come. Our dogs live in the now, we should spend more time savoring NOW and less time hoping for LATER.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Corn Rules!

I was at Shaw's the other day to pick up a few things - well more than a few as I was going on 5 weeks since my last trip to the grocery store - an interesting side effect of being home for a few weekends is that I actually have food in the fridge and pantry - most of the time my refrigerator contains dog food, dog treats, yogurt and if I'm very lucky (and I've planned for the week) I've got milk for my cheerios and perhaps a crock of chili to work through for the week - Martha Stewart I am not.
Corn Rules - at Shaws Market

So as I'm shopping, there at the end of a spice isle is a sale display of Frito-Lay products (Fritos, Doritos, etc) with the slogan "Corn Rules" - which got me thinking? Really? Corn rules you say? Hummmm.

I don't eat a lot of corn (though I DO love a good ear of buttered sweet corn in the late summer) and I do not (never have, never will) feed my dogs any "dog food" that contains corn or corn by-product. Yes, dogs are by nature omnivores - but have you ever heard about the pack of wild dogs that got into the neighbor's corn field and ate the crop? Have you ever seen a mighty wolf take down a cornstalk in the prime of the growing season?

On the scale of digestibility corn is about as digestible for dogs as it is for humans. Cows and horses have a very different digestive system than we do - they can make much better use of grains. Our dogs are not livestock - why do so many companies INSIST on feeding them as such?

Sure if I'm a buyer for Iams*, Kibbles and Bits**, Purina***, Beneful^, Pedigree^^  I probably do think that "corn rules". Corn is easily accessible and available in most corners of this country. Corn is (relatively) cheap to purchase in bulk - particularly if one is purchasing corn as livestock feed (vs for human consumption). As a result, corn is a great filler for dog food. Why use more expensive ingredients like chicken by-product or rendered animal fat when plain old corn will do? Why use real ingredients when slick marketing and store promotion sells the product? Consumers aren't reading the package labels, they're buying food because in the commercial the dog looks really happy and seems to like the dog food - or they don't know any better.

Consumers need to do better by their dogs, they NEED to read labels and think about their choices. I'll even go a step further and declare that if you've seen a commercial on TV for the dog food that you are currently feeding, go directly to your local pet supply store and find a better food (do not pass go, do not collect $200). I'll wager that you can find a much better product that ends up being less expensive than the crap advertised in Super Bowl commercials.

So Frito-Lay, I'm afraid corn doesn't rule - but I will agree that the box looks really pretty - festive even!

* Iams "ProActive Health" Ingredients: Chicken, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Beet Pulp, Chicken Flavor, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Potassium Chloride, Dried Egg Product, Brewers Dried Yeast, Salt, Caramel, Calcium Carbonate, Flax Meal, Choline Chloride, Fructooligosaccharides, Minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Manganese Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Potassium Iodide, Cobalt Carbonate), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Ascorbic Acid, Vitamin A Acetate, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Thiamine Mononitrate (source of vitamin B1), Vitamin B12 Supplement, Niacin, Riboflavin Supplement (source of vitamin B2), Inositol, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (source of vitamin B6), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid), L-Lysine Monohydrochloride, DL-Methionine, Rosemary Extract.

**Kibbles and Bits Ingredients: corn, soybean meal, beef and bone meal, ground wheat flour, animal fat (bha used as preservative), corn syrup, wheat middlings, water sufficient for processing, animal digest (source of chicken flavor), propylene glycol, salt, hydrochloric acid, potassium chloride, caramel color, sorbic acid (used as a preservative), sodium carbonate, minerals (ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), choline chloride, vitamins (vitamin E supplement, vitamin A supplement, niacin supplement, D-calcium pantothenate, riboflavin supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine mononitrate, vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), calcium sulfate, titanium dioxide, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40, BHA (used as a preservative), dl methionine.

***Purina Pro Plan Chicken and Rice: CChicken, brewers rice, whole grain corn, corn germ meal, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), wheat flour, whole grain wheat, corn gluten meal, soy flakes, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), soybean meal, fish meal (natural source of glucosamine), animal digest, glycerin, wheat bran, calcium carbonate, salt, zinc proteinate, Vitamin E supplement, calcium phosphate, choline chloride, potassium chloride, manganese proteinate, ferrous sulfate, sulfur, L-ascorbyl-2-polyphosphate (source of Vitamin C), niacin, copper proteinate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, garlic oil, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite. B-4487

^ Beneful Ingredients: Ground yellow corn, chicken by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), rice flour, beef, soy flour, sugar, propylene glycol, meat and bone meal, tricalcium phosphate, phosphoric acid, salt, water, animal digest, sorbic acid (a preservative), potassium chloride, dried carrots, dried peas, calcium propionate (a preservative), L-Lysine monohydrochloride, choline chloride, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 2), DL-Methionine, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, niacin, Vitamin A supplement, calcium carbonate, copper sulfate, Vitamin B-12 supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, garlic oil, pyridoxine hydrochloride, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin D-3 supplement, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, folic acid, biotin, sodium selenite.

^^ Pedigree Adult Complete Nutrition: Ground Whole Corn, Meat And Bone Meal, Ground Whole Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved With BHA and Citric Acid), Wheat Mill Run, Chicken By-product Meal, Natural Flavor, Salt, Rice, Potassium Chloride, Vegetable Oil (source of Linoleic Acid), Vitamins (Dl-alpha Tocopherol Acetate [source of Vitamin E], Choline Chloride, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate [source of Vitamin C*], Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Biotin, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Supplement [Vitamin B2], Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement), Dried Vegetables (Peas, Carrots), Minerals (Zinc Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Potassium Iodide), Added FD&C Colors (Red 40, Blue 2, Yellow 6, Yellow 5).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back to work..

After such a fantastic weekend at High Goal Farm last weekend and no trials scheduled for a few weeks anyway, I thought it was important to give Teller a week off. Technically it ended up being five days off, but the boredom factor around here was pretty high - even Murphy was indicating that he'd really like something to do (pretty please). My plan was to work Teller (and by proxy Murphy because he "helps") on some contact reps and weaves. The contacts are just reinforcing the "yellow" behavior, in the weaves I'd like to get more history of getting ahead of Teller, letting him find his weave entry with me ahead and then racing him to the end.

I was pleased to find everything setup when I arrived at Waggles (yay) and the building super toasty with left-over heat from class and run-throughs this morning (super-yay).

After some contact reps on the dogwalk and teeter I worked the blue sequence - starting with T on my right and rear-crossing numbers 3, 4 and 5 - not the cleanest line but it served my purpose to work weave and contact independence.

I used this sequence to 'serp' the line from 3-4-5. With a stopped contact at #9, I pushed out to #10 and took off meeting Teller at the end of the weaves with his cookie.

Short, simple and successful we were done in 15 minutes and three sticks of cheese. Murph worked tunnels, weaves (but apparently only 10) and mostly chilled on an 8" table watching us work (and waiting somewhat patiently for his wait reinforcement).

Saturday, January 22, 2011

COLD...and it's only going to get worse...

It was minus one this morning when I let the dogs out...About 18 inches of snow in the ground - 5" or so new in the last 24 hours or so....Teller bounded out, did his business and bounded back expecting breakfast to be waiting for him. Now I'm waiting by the door watching Murphy about 50' away from the door standing in one place lifting one foot and then the other. My feet are cold...can't function. Dear god Murphy - you're 50' from breakfast - SURELY you can make it back to the door even if your feet are cold. I open the door and call - two more steps and sore footie and we're stalled again. Crap! OK, time to break out a bribe - I grab the cookie jar, hang it out the door and shake it. COOKIE Murph! C'mon you can do it!

Two more steps and he's three legged again. I call again and I get this look that says:
"CAN'T. WALK. ANY. FURTHER. JUST. CAN'T. GO. ON. SAVE. YOUR. SELF. REMEMBER. ME. FONDLY. {{GASP}} {{CHOKE}} {{TWITCH}}". This as he lays down in the snow. Awww Murphy! Really? You're going to miss breakfast over cold feet?

So I send Teller out to help while I put on my boots to go out and save Murphy, just as I'm headed out the door Murphy returns to the deck - goaded along by Teller. My little golden Saint Bernard...

Subsequent trips outside were made successful by a winter turn-out rug and a full set of purple rubber booties for Murphy (PAWZ).

Temperatures eventually improved considerably as the sun came out and we finished with a high of 19 degrees - downright tropical! I purchased a new package of PAWZ  in the event that we need to replace today's set,  hopefully we can prevent a sequel tomorrow - and {gasp} Sunday night predicted to be minus twenty-two!

I can't tell you how happy I am that we're not trialing this weekend. I entered trials three weekends in January - hoping that weather would permit me to do two weekends - if I was very lucky - this is New England after all! I got really lucky and had three fantastic weather weekends to play agility (it was 50 degrees for New Years in New Hampshire!).

Friday, January 21, 2011

Its more than agility....

Three of my agility "kidz" made their trial debuts a couple of weekends ago - given the timing (January in New Hampshire) it was a trial debut, a hotel debut, a road-trip with dogs debut- many firsts! I've had so much fun these past few months watching their process of figuring out the game - they all worked very hard to prepare for the event and when trial weekend arrived all that preparation showed.

Sure there are the base agility skills (contacts, weaves, the tire, front-cross, etc) - but there's more to it - they learned the rules of the game that they were going to play (in this case AKC agility rules), they familiarized themselves with the trial process, they figured out strategy (and how that related to their dogs) and they were honest with themselves about their goals. - and most importantly honest with themselves about their dogs.

I think the best part - and this comes from the coach's point of view as I transition a bit from teacher/instructor to coach/cheerleader - is how confidently they all handled their first trial. Whether it was because they went into the trial well armed with information or if it was the moral support they had from each other, they all stepped into that first briefing knowing they belonged there. They earned the right to play the game and any Novice A butterflies were kept well under wraps.

All three had some pretty major successes (and a couple of surprises) and I think all three may have been bitten by the trial bug - as if agility hadn't pretty much taken over their lives already :-)

More to come from the "Terrific Three" in the form of guest blogger posts on what it was like to go to that FIRST trial!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Playing my agility videos on my iPhone....

OK, this one is almost completely not dog related (except for the content of the videos I'm trying to play on my phone).

The solution ended up being so bloody simple that I felt compelled to break with the usual content of this blog hoping to help just one person save an afternoon of frustration. The question: "how can I play my videos on my iphone?" was just such a pain to get to the bottom of.... First, I own the content, I've produced an AVI (or mpeg, mov, etc), I've probably even already uploaded it to YouTube. Second I own the device and the diskspace on said device...Common-sense dictates that I ought to be able to put my own content on my own media device, but for the life of me I couldn't get that content into a format that I could store on my iphone via iTunes. BTW - thanks Apple for deciding not to play nicely with anyone else's file formats. I kind of understand the whole Adobe flash thing - but really? Apple devices can't play avi's?

The answer I kept getting (from various sources) was that it would be easiest to view the YouTube  content ON YouTube. So not helpful. More often than not I find myself someplace with really crappy AT&T signal (ever try to YouTube on E??) or low-quality wi-fi (usually some assorted flavor of Fairpoint DSL) and I want to show someone a video and I can't - or it takes FOREVER to download or it bumps and skips - neither is useful.

During this search I was also directed at all sorts of sites with applications that looked only partially legitimate or AppStore apps that were somewhat costly (but with very low reviews) or free apps but didn't work as advertised if they worked at all.

The solution is actually more simple - but I had to separate out the iphone part of the equation to get the right answer. I ended up at CNet downloading "YouTube Downloader". It's Free (yay), but it also worked right after the install. Copy and paste your youtube link, select the output folder and download the video (video is downloaded to mp4 format). After that use iTunes to sync the new movie content and play through the iPod app on your iPhone...Interestingly enough that APPLE mp4 file format plays in Windows Media Player AND on Windows phones so truly the formats are not mutually exclusive...

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Advanced Agility - January 20th, 2010

Here's the plan for tomorrow night:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Southern Adirondack Agility Club - January 15-17, 2011

The boys and I spent the weekend at High Goal Farm in Greenwich, NY for the January edition of Southern Adirondack Agility Club's agility trial. I initially wasn't going to enter this trial - mostly because I'd already planned for two January weekends (Beardie and ACNH) - SAAC was our third weekend in a row, but also because well, what are the odds of three weekends in January when there are no storms and no abysmally cold days and nights? Neither of which fall into my definition of a good agility weekend by the way. Despite this, I looked at the premium, saw who the judge was (Lavonda Herring) and sent in an entry hoping for good weather and fair winds.

Teller had an amazing weekend - I really couldn't be more thrilled with him (well, I guess I could if I could rewind and undo my bonehead move in Sunday JWW - thus obliterating a QQ at jump #19). Teller hit every contact all weekend - he gave me three super-confident teeters too - all that work in December really paid off.
Friday was a QQ for us with a 15 point standard run and a 13 point JWW run. Sunday was another 15 point standard run (and then my bonehead JWW run) and today's JWW run netted another 12 points. Our Standard run today was fantastic until the skid off the table and went a bit downhill from there.

I'm so proud of the Woo! Now we've got to keep ourselves entertained for a few weeks "off", starting with a chiropractic appointment for both boys, a few romps in the snow and maybe some road-trips to do some rentals and run-throughs..

On a humorous note, I don't recall ever running the air conditioning in January before this weekend. Five degrees on Sunday night, my hotel room was 80 degrees - I ran the AC all night.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Product Review: Lysol Hand Soap System

OK, so not exactly dog related - but I'll get there in a second (cause it ALWAYS comes back to the dogs doesn't it)...I'm a confirmed Costco shopper - if Costco doesn't have it - I don't need it. I'm not into massive boxes of cheerios or 50# sacks of flour, but for the non-perishable things like kitty litter, paper towels, laundry and dishwasher detergent, the dogs' string cheese, Cabot three year old cheddar (you get the picture) - there's really no better place to get that stuff. I also pay attention to Costco's coupon books - mostly because unlike other coupon books and flyers - I'm more likely already using and buying the products that are onsale in the Costco coupon offers. So on my last trip to Costco I stocked up in Kraft Polly-O, my (three-year) Cabot cheddar, rawhide chews, lysol wipes, vitamins for the dogs, shampoo and detergents - I decided to take a leap of faith on the coupon book and buy the Costco pack of the Lysol No-Touch Hand Soap System.

It's a soap dispenser with a motion system. The same technology found in every modern public restroom, scaled down (in price and size) for home use. I've seen them in the grocery store and have left them there - sure my soap pumps are germy, but that's why I'm using soap right? What's the big deal if I add germs just prior to washing them off?

Nevertheless, home I came with two dispensers and four refill packs (aka the Costco bundle). I've had the whole thing for a couple of days and ya know? I like it. I actually like it. I have one of the units in my kitchen and I appreciate having the soap right there as I'm chopping up hunks of raw dog food...For once it's not about the germs, it's the convenience factor - which I always appreciate...The sensor works when I want it too and isn't firing on brush-bys or other random movement...

Soap is soap, but I still appreciate things that make my life easier - even a little.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Help! My dog is a kitchen speed-bump!

Well - actually not my dogs - but a desperate question from someone who has taken some private lessons. Knowing it's probably pretty common - and something I'd surely deal with if I a) spent time cooking in my kitchen or b) hadn't established the kitchen "zone" many many moons ago.

The boys have to stay "out"
while I make some dinner.
Situation is as follows:
Owner is an avid cook - takes meal preparation very seriously and to a whole new level of art form...needless to say it's impressive. Owner has a sporting breed mix who is very much "part of the family", Owner loves to share the cooking experience with her two legged family- but Fluffy has gotten WAY TOO involved in the process of meal preparation - underfoot while his people have very sharp knives. Fluffy has gotten more than his fair share of "reinforcement" for being underfoot as bits of food have been dropped (accidently) and Fluffy has been allowed (even encouraged) to clean up the floor. This problem came to a head recently when Fluffy maneuvered in front of  his owner while she was carrying a casserole dish from the oven to the counter. She fell, glass broke, hot food spilled, Fluffy helped broken glass, 350 degree hot food, slippery floor - the situation was just getting out of hand and while they were lucky this time, next time someone is really going to get hurt..

Proposed Solution:
A variation of the place game - rules can be a bit different but it's a trained behavior and has to start while the kitchen is empty. Fluffy will be taught to hang out in the den and dining room while people are cooking in the kitchen. Fluffy's people do not want to install gates and do not want to crate Fluffy (indefinitely) every time they step into the kitchen to work. Certainly (and alternatively), with a crate trained dog this problem could be solved without any training at all by kenneling Fluffy during meal prep for the foreseeable future..

First: While you are training an "out" (yes I think it's OK to use the same word as I use in agility for go "out" and take that jump away from me), you need to stop the behavior from happening in the interim. Break the cycle. In the case of Fluffy, he's going to go into his crate with a kong while his people are cooking. Fluffy has a positive association with his crate - he likes it in there, but he has not been crated in the home in about 6 months.

Second: Clearly understand what behavior you want to have while you are in the kitchen. Is it OK if the dog is up and moving around outside of your defined space? Do you want the dog laying down just across the threshold? Defining where and what is a necessary step in this process.  In Fluffy's case (and in my home too) there is a clear threshold between "kitchen" and "dining room" and "kitchen" and "living room". Fluffy's owner has determined that Fluffy may choose either living room or dining room and fluffy has no relative behavior (Fluffy must remain behind the threshold, but he can stand, sit, down, pace, etc). The soul objective is to remain out of the kitchen on a single command. Fluffy IS allowed to walk through the kitchen when his owners are not cooking - in other words he will be asked to leave the kitchen as circumstances dictate and will be expected to remain outside the kitchen until he's either invited back in, or his owners are finished cooking.

Third: Fluffy's people start with a dixie cup full of Cheerios and a clicker - standing just on the other side of the threshold. Fluffy is interested when he sees Mom pick up the clicker and Fluffy starts offering behaviors...Mom clicks Fluffy whenever he's on the other side of the threshold - tossing the cheerios further into the room. Once Fluffy gets the hang of this at close distance, the next session she moves to the second kitchen threshold and repeats the conditioning. Once Fluffy is happily bouncing out into the dining and living rooms, the owners put a word on the behavior. Fluffy's family decided on "too many cooks" (in the kitchen).

Fourth: Working one threshold at a time, Fluffy's mom gradually increases her distance from the threshold while being consistent about Fluffy's positioning across the threshold and consistently delivering the treats behind Fluffy..After they've increased distance they begin to delay the delivery of the cheerios - increasing the duration that Fluffy is remaining across the threshold. Remember - at this stage of the game (about a week into the behavior training) Fluffy is still chilling in his crate while the family is cooking, preparing food, etc. They are actively PREVENTING inadvertent reinforcement (dropped and scavenged viddles) while they are training the incompatible behavior.

Fifth: Once everyone in the household is able to go into the kitchen, declare "too many cooks" and Fluffy leaves the room they are ready to start working with some higher stakes. I'm still having them fill dixie cups of cheerios. Now that they start preparing food they are to increase the rate of reinforcement. Fluffy ONLY gets cheerios for "too many cooks" - he does not get preparation scraps for his threshold. Fluffy's people want him to have preparation scraps, but I'm able to convince them to save them and deliver them later - in his bowl and outside of the cooking/baking/food prep process. They begin cooking, declaring "too many cooks" and reinforcing the threshold. They are no longer clicking the behavior - remember the click ENDS a behavior. If you click a stay and your dog breaks the stay they are within their contract to do so - so in Fluffy's case a click would be an inadvertent invitation to come into the kitchen. Fluffy's people instead say something like "good too many cooks Fluffy" and toss a small "jackpot" of cheerios across the threshold.

Sixth: Train to maintain. Over time it's important for Fluffy's people to continue to pay attention to Fluffy leaving the kitchen and offering the behavior (with or without the "too many cooks" declaration). Fluffy's folks were encouraged to keep a cup of cheerios around and to randomly reinforce with jackpots for staying out of the kitchen. If they were to stop paying (attention and food rewards) for "too many cooks" the old clean-up and underfoot behavior would return rapidly.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Follow-up on Advanced Agility - January 13th, 2010

The flu (get better H!!) made for a small class tonight! Here's what you missed:
Part One

Part One
Looks deceptively easy doesn't it? I see two distinct options for handling this sequence: Blue and Green - depending on your dog - one is probably easier than the other. For blue, you'll implement a post turn - its possible to do a front-cross after two - but when I saw this sequence in standard on Saturday it was disadvantageous to be on the left side (#4 was a teeter that pointed Northwest, #5 was a jump to the right). The Pink line is a pattern of wrong courses that was pretty common as dogs were SURE that they were supposed to take the WC #1 not go through the center towards the triple. The Green line pulls the dog to the other side - essentially "serp'ing" the line. The red path sort of surprised me - more than a few dogs went #1 to the double...

Part Two

Part Two
Ready for some fun on this one? Here there's tremendous potential for dogs to back jump #4 (the red line), an opportunity to post turn around #4 (Green) - and for the right dog (I'm not sure this would be the right answer for T-Woo) to rear the backside of  #4 and then front-cross after #4 (blue)..

Part Three
Part Three
The end here looks a bit uglier than it actually ran...The blue path is the dog's path - regardless of handling moves. Red and Green are very attractive off-course options. Once again we have some opportunities for post-turns if you are so inclined...

Close-up of a post-turn path....Fluffy in blue and Barbie in green....

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Advanced Agility - January 13th, 2010

I'm so so so proud of all you after this weekend. You went to your first trial, you were incredibly supportive of each other, you went in the ring focused, you were fair to your dogs and all of you came out of the ring having learned from the experience. Each of your runs improved on the previous - you have a lot to be proud of!

OK, back to work. If you saw the excellent courses this weekend - particularly the excellent standard courses - you'd notice that Erin (the excellent judge) had tossed in some things that are not often seen on this coast - there were parts there that definitely had an international flavor (European style). One of the things that we haven't done a lot of (maybe not any at all) are post-turns - so, here's a jumpers course for tomorrow night with some pretty hard bits tossed in. We'll break up the pieces to get through these - make sure to bring those post-trial smiles :-)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Murphy's Honest Kitchen Prize Pack

The folks at The Honest Kitchen had a contest on their facebook fan page two weeks ago asking what our dogs' resolutions were for the new year...As you may remember, my dogs had a few resolutions - Murphy's resolution (which he has already broken) was a BIG hit with the THK fans and Murphy was the prize-pack winner!

Prize Pack!
His loot arrived today - with products that we haven't had the chance to try yet (we love trying new stuff)! I'm particularly interested in trying the Zeal as I've got enough THK points saved up for a couple of 10# boxes of dog food - I was thinking about trying a box of Zeal.

Murphy's prize pack consisted of:
1 - travel size pouch of Keen
2 - sample packs of Zeal 
1 - box of Smooches
1 - box of Pecks
1- bag of Wishes

The boys were ga-ga over the package of wishes - Murphy in particular was head over heels silly for them before I even opened the pouch -  I'm finding myself repeating over and over again: "No cookie is worth a concussion Murphy". Even picky Q enjoyed a piece of wishes. Definitely something we'll look at for future for shelf-stable training treats that can be left in the car and used as needed. Yummm....fishy!

Workshop with Julie Daniels

Part three of the weekend wrap-up is actually the Friday piece of the adventure. I enrolled in Julie Daniel's handling workshop Friday afternoon at AK9C. My goal was to get down there and work Teller some - but also get some input on how we're working as a team. I've taken a couple of weekend seminars with Julie in the past and I love that she doesn't force people into a form-factor - if what you're doing works for your dog than that's the best plan for your dog....But if it's not working for your dog or there's a better way to handle an exercise or sequence she's fair to both dog and handler.

In a nutshell, Julie's comments to me was that I run Teller very conservatively - If I ran more aggressively and drove the line - that we'd shave off time. I guess I knew that ran cautiously and somewhat methodically - but I'm not sure I realized how much more I could get from him by "putting on the big girl panties" and taking some risk. I tried to push this weekend - particularly in my Sunday JWW run (which ultimately caused a wrong course and a QQ) - but - that's really not the point is it?

Be brave - take risks. No guts, no glory :-)

Monday, January 10, 2011

Trialing in Winter...

So here's a good does winter trialing differ from summer trialing?

Well for the most part - everything is a little harder in the winter...trudging through snow and ice to potty dogs from a hotel room isn't exactly an ideal situation. Especially if you aren't on the first floor (when the situation allows, I generally let my boys out one at a time on flexis to potty on the grass strip right outside first floor rooms for their last pre-bedtime outing).

What else?
I'm much less likely to drive down the morning of the first day of the trial. Getting somewhere for 7:45am (or earlier) from VT (and over mountains) in the dark and the weather can be daunting if not dangerous. Our road crews do a really good job keeping roads safe - but lets face it - the interstate conditions at 5am on a Saturday isn't the same as pre-commute conditions 7am on a Tuesday. It's much easier for me to arrange an extra day of house-sitter and leave Friday evening after work.

This past weekend I went down to NH on Friday to attend a Julie Daniels workshop at AK9C - weather was clear with a forecast of a Nor'Easter coming up the coast early Saturday morning. The forecast changed to 3-6 inches - starting around 2am. Knowing I had to be at the trial site for 6:45 (to setup a crate and for the 7:15 walk through) I didn't really sleep much at all Friday night - repeatedly getting up at 2am (no snow), 3am (no snow), 3:30am (no snow), check the radar, 4am (no snow), 4:30am (still no snow and at this point I might as well get up and get ready to go...Ultimately we got a few flurries, no accumulation (in Amherst) and some gusty winds.

On the way home however - we left the trial site at 8pm (two judge one ring trial) for a normally 2.75 hour drive home only to hit driving snow, high winds, black ice and partial white-out conditions about 60 miles from home - making that 2.75 hour drive take about 4 hours...the good news is once we got close to home the roads magically cleared.

Getting stuck.
Murphy modeling a 30" snowfall.
I'm sort of a planner. I'm a packer and an over-planner. I can't help it. In the winter I ALWAYS plan to have to spend an extra night at my destination - at least 2 more meals for the boys (and medications) and at least 1 extra change of clothes for me. Sure, I could buy dog food or extra clothes where ever I'm stuck - but if it's bad enough that I don't want to drive home - it's probably bad enough that I don't need to go hunting for bits of ground-up turkey. So far I've never gotten stuck - there was one trial I had an AWFUL drive home (and arrived to 30" of snow in my driveway).

This past weekend I packed four 2lb bricks of Oma's Pride for the weekend (Friday, Saturday, Sunday and that "magic" extra meal in the event that we were still on the road Monday). I thawed two of them (Friday and Saturday) before putting them in the meat cooler with the two completely frozen bricks (2lbs thaws in my fridge in about 8 hours)...As it turns out my thawed bricks actually got partially re-frozen on the journey down to NH - (sigh).

Keeping dogs warm
I think it's a lot easier to keep dogs warm than it is to keep a dog cool. Even on the coldest day of the year, if there's sun vehicles ought to stay in the 30's if they start warm. Two average sized hairy dogs ought to be able to maintain the temperature of the space. I travel with dog jackets to keep muscles warm and I'll add down blankets to their crates. I've never had ice in water bowls during the day. Colder temperatures generally mean that dogs can hang in cars while their people run into dinner too.

Never underestimate the need for boots
I find this especially true because I'm spoiled with a fenced in yard. Both my dogs are phenomenal on the road - super easy to walk and potty, very used to being on the road, unaffected by vast quantities of special treats (Woo's standard Q cheeseburger) - but honestly in the winter I don't spend a lot of time out in the elements. I live in Vermont and I own mittens (but not a hat or a proper winter coat) - I do suck it up and make sure that I have real boots - warm, waterproof and with good tread. Sheerling lined fashion statements will not help you maintain upright posture in an icy parking lot - even if they match your eyes.

Bonus lesson:
I ended up in a room with a roll-in shower this weekend. Unfortunately I learned that this arrangement is wholly inappropriate for golden retrievers who a) LIKE baths, b) have boundary issues and c) want to include me in their wrestling romps....I'll let you folks connect the dots for that tid-bit.

ACNH - January 8-9, 2010

As a matter of reference - I do not ever recall leaving a trial on one day and arriving home on the next...just sayin' :-) It was a weekend of early mornings (4:45am), late nights, late runs (totally worth it though) and a good dose of swirling winds, driving snow, snow drifts, black ice and Van-Essa (my van) and I leading a caravan of cars (initially just four - and then steadily picking up new ones) all the way from Sharon to when the roads finally cleared just north of Richmond...

I'm beat, it's nearly 3am here now - I'm really running on vapors and "5-Hour Energy" and approaching 24 hours of waking hours, so I'll be brief and let the video footage speak for itself. We were down in Amherst, NH at the January edition of the Agility Club of New Hampshire's trial schedule. We finished with a Excellent Standard Q and two FAST Q's - Mr. JWW did his best all weekend - I cost us a bar on Saturday and today with a wrong course. Good runs, happy Woo - and perhaps more important brags that will follow shortly (I'll leave you in suspense for this one - but it's WAY cool.)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Something to think about....

A short post tonight - I'm beat - probably less sleep and more "go" than I've had in a long time - more about that to follow...but I didn't want to let too much time pass without sharing a quote from today. The speaker is Jane Savoie, the author of "That Winning Feeling" and "It's not all about the ribbons" - both available from Amazon:

The source of the quote is Jane's facebook status:
             It is what it is, but it will become what you make it.

But isn't that so true? We have within our course of being absolutes that we cannot impact. The boulders in the road, the impossible FAST sends, cars overheating in the middle of January - things we cannot change. It is what it is - they are what they are. So many times I've left a walkthrough thinking - well - it is what it is. That's not a tunnel entry that we're especially good at - by all that is holy do we need another straight off-course option at the bottom of the dogwalk???

What we do have is the power to control our reaction to and our orbit around what is...I have the power to make that dogwalk call off - or proof that tunnel entry. It becomes what we make of it...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Happy Birthday Teller-Woo!

Four years ago today I found myself in my car driving to NH to be there for the cesarean section that brought Teller into the world...My Teller-Woo, Wooie, Scooby-Woo, Tee, Tell - You're a gorgeous, big headed, perfectionist - and happy, exuberant and joyful yellow dog. It's amazing how you've influenced those who orbit around you - and all of those who admire you.
Happy Birthday Woo, we shall celebrate with a trip to get a cheeseburger, some agility and extra belly rubs.
Teller: 12 weeks April 5th, 2007
Teller: 12 weeks April 5th, 2007
Teller and Q - April 5th, 2007
Teller and Murphy - March 5th, 2007
Teller and Murphy - March 5th, 2007
Teller - April 2008, with Emily Burdon
Teller - September 25th 2008 - GRCA Specialty, with Graeme Burdon

Teller - July 2010 - by  Lesley Cole Mattuchio

Alternate GRCA ad by Katie Trachte - February 2010

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Advanced Agility - January 6th, 2010

Here's the sequence for tomorrow night.
~ First run - walk the course, run it as in a trial.
~ Second Run - pick five or six obstacles in sequence - re-walk that sequence, run it reinforcing the pieces.
Hopefully we'll then have a few minutes at the end for you guys to work single obstacles (as in "have fun, don't kill each other").

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Book Review: The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

I'm not sure why, but it feels like it took a really long time to get though my latest listen 'The House at Riverton" - about three weeks to get through nineteen hours of audiobook - definitely off my normal pace of one book a week. A combination of many things - taking a breather after "Distant Hours", having company on road trips to train (and not subjecting them to the middle third of my audiobook) and taking the entire month of December off from agility trials. The long duration listen was not a statement on the quality of the book, or the storyline - rather a statement on the chaos that is December.

The House at Riverton is the middle-child of author Kate Morton. Published after "The Forgotten Garden" and prior to "The Distant Hours". The three novels are not related and can be read in any order (unlike my "Camel Club" debacle of 2009).
The audible "Publishers Summary"  doesn't really do the novel justice  on so many levels - nevertheless it's as follows:

Summer 1924: On the eve of a glittering Society party, by the lake of a grand English country house, a young poet takes his life. The only witnesses, sisters Hannah and Emmeline Hartford, will never speak to each other again.
Winter 1999: Grace Bradley, 98, one-time housemaid of Riverton Manor, is visited by a young director making a film about the poet's suicide. Ghosts awaken, and memories, long consigned to the dark reaches of Grace's mind, begin to sneak back through the cracks. A shocking secret threatens to emerge, something history has forgotten but Grace never could.
Set as the war-shattered Edwardian summer surrenders to the decadent twenties, The House at Riverton is a thrilling mystery and a compelling love story.
Unlike Ms. Morton's other two novels the storyline for Riverton does not leap back and forth between time periods dramatically...As the summary hints - there is one storyteller in "The House at Riverton" - young Grace. I can imagine a dignified young woman - the young Miss Grace (reference there to the brit-com "Are You Being Served"), starting out as a housemaid at the tender age of fourteen - why and for whom becomes clear towards the end of the novel. Grace's life has so much unsaid regret - of opportunities not taken - of things that went unspoken and kept as secrets for too long. Grace's devotion to Hannah, her loyalty to the manor and her own personal sacrifices.

Like "The Distant Hours", the storyline is somewhat slow to ramp, but I found the characters easier to love and empathize with - even early on in the novel - perhaps that was due to Grace. The real meat of the novel is the last 4 hours of the audiobook, when the pieces quickly fall into place...some of those pieces were a complete plot surprise - which I always appreciate - I don't like knowing the answers before the author has worked them out.

Caroline Lee is one of my new favorite'll be weird to start a new book without her...and I haven't yet decided what that next book ought to be.

The House at Riverton was written by Kate Morton and published by Bolinda Publishing. Audible release date was January 12th, 2007. The House at Riverton is narrated by Caroline Lee and has an unabridged running time of 18 hours 52 minutes.