Friday, June 29, 2012

Friday 6/29: Shots from the pool

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Kipling learns to weave - Day Eight

Here we are on day eight of project weave.

We took yesterday off from weave training as other projects (and the real gig) took precedence over playing with dogs. I generally don't work my dogs more than twice a week - weaves are the exception there. Short sessions, success and lots of play in between. Kippie had nine successes in nine tries and then he and Teller got to hit the pool for an hour-long swim session; poor Murph seems to have a bit of dry skin right now, he's feeling better after the addition of coconut oil to his rations but I don't want to take the chance of further drying out of his skin and coat.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Kipling and the weaves - Day Seven (and then there were twelve)

And then there were twelve. Here we are at day seven and it's time to introduce another set of six poles. Six 24" poles, 4' of space followed by another set of six 24" poles. My intention was to give him a cookie between sets - but Kipling had other plans (as in let's finish the rest of the poles ma!). Based on his success with the two sets of six I pushed the sets together for a straight twelve. No big deal says Kippie!

Guest appearance at the end by Teller who absolutely HAD to work this evening.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Kipling and the weaves - Day Six

Short session with Kipling tonight. He's not a dog that likes to drill. Shorter sessions from here out as the difficulty of his work has increased...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Kipling and the weaves - Day Five

I used two four-section pieces
of ex-pen for tonight's session
setup as above.
I think I've mentioned that my weave method is a bit different than the strict 2x2 (either Susan Garrett's or MaryEllen Barry's) - I like shaping the entries, but I also want to see footwork early on to start building muscle memory. In my intro classes I usually alternate 'ex-pen' sessions with 2x2 sessions. For my own dogs or for private lessons I usually introduce the ex-pens once the dogs are weaving six poles.

The expens allow me to push the entry without adding ME into the mix. I'll get ahead and I know the dogs will get the entry, then have an opportunity to get two 'macaroni's' without any possibility for error (well technically they COULD turn around in the middle or something, but after the first rep, they never do.

The ex-pens will come off again for the next few sessions while I continue to work forward and independence.

Also note that the looking at me behavior is already resolving as he understands the trick.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Kipling and the Weaves - Day Four

Day four of weave pole lessons for Kipling...Moving right along!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Kipling and the Weaves - Day Three

I skipped Kipling's weave work on Wednesday and Thursday due to the 'extreme' heat here in the Northeast. Ultimately not so much about the actual heat as it is about the humidity and "feels like' temperatures. Everyone was just as happy to spend the evening in the pool instead of training. So here is Kipling picking up weave training after two days 'on' and two days 'off'. 

When I start weaves with dogs (mine or students' dogs) I really like to log short (5-10 minute) daily sessions for the first 5-7 days. Weaving is so much about muscle memory and while 12 poles is a very physical endeavor - the beginning steps of 2x2s (or my bastardized method) is pretty easy on the body in the beginning stages. I want to get a lot of positive reinforcement for "macaroni's" as early in the process as possible. The boys got their physical workout in the pool, everyone slept well and no one had to work in the sweltering heat.

Kipling pretty much picked up where he left off on Tuesday:

This doesn't happen a lot, but we had one of those sessions this afternoon (evening) where I knew we were on the edge of some really good work, but I didn't have the focus from Kipling that I wanted to have to progress or keep working. My first session went a little longer than I'd planned but I wanted to work through some more repetitions. So I put Kipling back in the house, he had a drink and took a bit of a cool-down nap while Teller supervised my pool chores. An hour later we went back out for this session:

Sure, I could have pushed through the first session - but remember two things - this is a fun game - agility should be an intrinsic good. Secondly, if you push too hard in a session you will see a factor of diminishing return. Your tired dog is not likely to have a breakthrough and when learning a behavior as complicated as weave poles you're going to get a higher rate of errors and frustration (dog and trainer). Step back, put it away and come back to it later.

In both of these videos you probably noticed a couple of things - he's got too much focus on ME. That's OK. That's been Kipling's learning style since puppyhood. He is a methodical learner, but once he figures out the game he's all business. I'll reinforce looking away, but I also expect my position to fade as he gets more and more confident on the weaves.

Secondly that I'm throwing food, not throwing a toy. I was blurring my retrieve with my reinforcement and what I was getting was a retrieved toy dropped a foot from my hand. I would prefer to throw a toy and trade said toy for cookie, but I really don't want to work retrieves to hand at the same time as weaves AND I don't want to reinforce partial retrieves. The partial retrieves are a new behavior for Kipling and we need to fix that separately from learning to weave. I think the broken retrieves is anticipation - which is actually a good thing - but....

Thursday, June 21, 2012


It's too darn hot (93) and humid to work weaves tonight so we hit the pool again. Kipling (as usual) provides the entertainment:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Canine Swamp Cooler

With the first real heat gripping the Northeast this week, it's time to share my plans for a canine swamp cooler. With shade cloths and tarps (and a bit of tree-provided shade) it's relatively easy to keep dogs comfortable in a (completely open) van at 80 degrees - when it gets above that you have to make the decision that a) it's too hot to work dogs today or b) take some extra steps to keep your dogs cool while they're waiting to play.

For the past few years I've ginned up a swamp cooler of sorts - it works! Here's how I set it up:

I freeze (or if I'm traveling I pack frozen) water jugs - the 3 liter bottles from poland spring are the perfect size to stay frozen in my large 5-day cooler and then thaw slowly over a few hours out of the cooler. Yes, they take 2-3 days to freeze completely in my large dog food freezer, but its long been my habit to fill any empty freezer space with water bottles so I have plenty ready for the purpose.

In front of each dog (Murphy and Teller anyway) I put down a layer of paper towels to catch the condensation from the bottle, place the bottle on the paper towels, then wrap a ball bungee around the water bottle. I run the bungee under the crate door and secure it to the outside of the crate with a caribeaner. This keeps the ice in place.

Next, I position a fan* to blow over the ice bottle (I use a crate bowl holder for this purpose). Ideally, I want the center of the fan to be about 3" above the top of the bottle.

Are you comfy Woo?
I've found that after an agility run (warm-up, run, cool-down), Teller will go from panting to completely comfortable after about 10 minutes of fan time. He'll come out for his second run fresh and rested.

*I love these fans! They were actually a Walmart special - they run on AC or DC power (so I can plug them into my car outlet) and they have internal rechargeable batteries that charge on AC or DC. They also can run on 4 DD batteries when you're off-grid and the internal batteries run down.

NOTE: Kipling is 'special' and will drape himself over the frozen bottle - happy as a lark like a mother hen with her eggs. I have not found the need to put a fan over his bottle. much as he likes cold (or dislikes heat) he will go out of his way to put distance between himself and a frozen bottle so the 'swamp cooler' is perfect for him..

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Starting Kipling on weaves.

Now 14+ month old Kipling is ready for some more challenging work. I decided to start him on weaves. I'll use my modified 2x2 method for his education and will post progress as we move from two to four to six to twelve weaves. Here are the clips from Day One (Monday) and Day Two (Tuesday):

Splash - Part Two

Summer fun is a pretty big deal around here:

Monday, June 18, 2012

Southern Adirondack Agility Club - June 16-18th, 2012

Ahhhh, Saratoga. My old stomping grounds, I'll spare the alma mater song - but it's always fun to go back to my college town and exist in it as an adult. A few of my favorite places are still there and I always love to hit up Roma's Importing for a sandwich (though these days it's a breadless sandwich - chef's salad really).
Kipling got his own tailgating chair...Thank you Kinney Drugs
for having such a pretty 'boy dog' chair on sale this week.

Teller LOVES High Goal Farm - even without air conditioning, he really loves the footing there and consistently has good runs at this venue. I think he still prefers dirt over rubber and turf, but he seems to like the crown matting over the synthetic turf. I speculate it's because he can hear his feet - but who know's what he's really thinking inside that enormous head of his!!!

Saturday we were all out of bed by 3:15am and on the road by 4am. Yeah, we're a little nuts us agility folk. That's how we roll. Teller and I started the weekend with a knocked bar in JWW - and by knocked - he crashed it, never getting lift. Not his usual careful jumping style, but it wasn't a fall and he carried on merrily. He came back strongly with a standard Q.

Teller's 42nd QQ.
Sunday we started with standard and despite one hairy moment when Woo read a push as a flip (from dogwalk to the weaves of all things) we had a nice Q with a 3rd placement. In JWW that afternoon however, Teller popped out of the weaves at pole 10. Not really sure why, I think I stayed on my line, but it doesn't matter. In general, I don't often repeat weaves - he knows his job and I know that after a mistake like that he will come back the next day and pay attention to not making a mistake in the weaves. It's who he is. But, it's also who he is that he gets a little silly after a mistake and silly Woo does make an appearance ;-)

Monday all of our stars aligned for a JWW Q in the morning and both a standard Q and a T2B leg in the afternoon. In all we left Greenwich with three standard Q's, one JWW Q, one T2B Q and 78 MACH points - a pretty good weekend for a Woo :-)



Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Kipling is learning to dock-dive:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

SoBerk Golden Retriever Club - June 8-10th, 2012

Woo shares his MACH cheezeburger with friends.
What a weekend for Teller! I didn't count all the points yet - more on that in a moment -  but it was in the neighborhood of 70 MACH points over the three days, three JWW legs, two Standard legs - running 5 for 6 this weekend. Two double-Q's....

Sports fans out there might guess that we were getting pretty damn close to MACH2. Teller went 11 months from his first QQ to his first MACH, this time around we were a bit over 6 months from QQ #21 to MACH2. My consistent honest boy! We got that MACH2 on Saturday in grand style with a tippie-toe in the dogwalk contact. It was so close I look to the crowd for Q confirmation! 

Teller fresh out of the car this evening
after a 4 hour drive home.
The great folks at Southern Berkshire Golden Retriever Club had phenomenal ribbons and the Canine Health Events group (co-sponsoring the trial) had MACH ribbons as well - We got two ribbons for MACH2!!! I promised Ann that I'd put together a cheesy remix MACH video - there will be one, when I've caught up on sleep!

Sunday's QQ put us on our path to MACH3!

I didn't get today's standard run on video and our Friday Standard run was classic "Teller goes into overachiever mode mania" - but I am so so pleased with my boy who tries so hard every time I put his leash on :-)




Friday, June 08, 2012

Kipling's first B-Match - June 8th, 2012

Southern Berkshire Golden Retriever Club and Canine Health events offered a B-Match on Friday night, I went back and forth about whether or not to enter Kipling. It's WAY out of his league really - trial site, lots of people, lots of distractions - HUGE ring, timers, buzzers, whistles, etc. Heck he's seen the chute four times and I haven't even started his weaves yet. But - there's that other side - there's a trial site (which is not a new environment for him), there's lots of people, there's lots of distractions and I can have a toy in my pocket. What better time to see what we have so far?

I expected a couple of things - I didn't really think he'd leave me to go visit ring crew or the judge. I didn't think he'd leave the ring, I hoped to get a few contacts and reward those contacts, play a bit and really see what I had from him. 

The great news is that I got exactly what I asked for - a mini-startline, stopped contacts, focus, attention, careful (thinking) feet over the bars. In all I got some really really really good stuff. One baby brain moment when I pushed a line coming out of a tunnel (which is GOOD! I know he hasn't got that ingrained see the line skill). 

We've got a lot more to work on, but I know we're on the right track!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Golden Temperament..

While we were in Saratoga this weekend, Teller was recruited to do some puppy socialization for a friend's 9 week old puppy. Teller takes puppy raising duties very seriously.
Teller - always dependable with all creatures - but he does love puppies.

Dazzle says "no mummy, I do not want to lay down"

C'mon Teller, my mommy has cookies! Let's go!
Teller teaching Dazzle to half-pass.

Teller looking fantastic!
Kippie - CUTE, but not ready for prime-time.

Monday, June 04, 2012

NSDTRC (USA) - June 1-4th, 2012

Four days in the Saratoga region of New York? Oh yes please!

Great judges and a fun club - loved the courses by Michele Fletcher and Karen Wlodarski.

Teller's stats for the weekend: 6 Q's in eight runs. TWO back to back double Q's and then single Q's on Sunday and Monday. We went into the weekend needing three QQ's for his MACH2 and I was hoping to get two and we did it! Teller ran so nicely and consistently all weekend, He's just so smooth to run right now and it's a blast to play the game with him.

Our mistakes on Sunday and Monday (in both our morning runs - thankfully no nineteen and a half NQ's) were somewhat random - Sunday morning Teller came off the chute. It's not clear if he saw the chute but he certainly thought he was turning to the dogwalk off the a-frame. This morning in JWW, he had an itch behind his ear which bothered him enough to miss a jump. It's all good! We finished strongly with a fantastic standard run!

The videos: