Saturday, December 31, 2011

A Trial Reminder

Today was a great day More to come when the weekend is over...but I took a cue from the Obay Shelties blog and wrote a little reminder on my hand.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Intro trial

This weekend we're going to St. Louis for a big trial (it's about 6 hours from here).  I thought it would be a good opportunity to see a city we've never seen before, and get some trialing in!

So today our club put on an intro trial so they can get sanctioned to host regular USDAA trials in the future.  I wasn't sure if we'd be able to make it, but I ended up leaving work early so we could go to get in a "practice" run before this weekend.

Since the club hadn't put on a USDAA trial before, Jonathan and I were helping out a lot.  It was also snowing out, and we crated out of the car.  I say all of that to say that the dogs got almost no attention until it was their turn to run.  There was nowhere to exercise the dogs (it was snowing and VERY muddy, also dark outside) and I guess that was just too much for Lexi.  She got out and was just crazy!  I tried getting her to focus before we went into the ring, but it was very busy (since the building was small) and she was just all over the place.

Well, I should have seen the writing on the wall.  We got into the ring and it was a mess.  Now I know I've been hard on her before, so let me say that I was NOT mad at her.  It was totally my fault for not getting her some exercise before going into the ring.  It was a little embarrassing since everyone likes to talk about how great she is and then she blew it-oh well.

She bounced off the table, then did her "teeter monster" thing (that's what I call it when she refuses the teeter a couple times because she has that weird issue).  After the third attempt, she got on.  She also missed the weave entry because it was coming right out of curved, short tunnel and she didn't slow down enough to get in.  But, on the bright side, when she did get on the teeter, it was lovely.  And her a-frames were both nice.  She also had a nice forward send where she didn't go too wide.

Bentley, on the other hand, ran clean.  Woohoo!  Since he's already titled in USDAA he didn't technically Q (it's just for FEO for any dog with a previous USDAA title), but I was still proud.  He got his 2o2o on the a-frame the first go around, and at least briefly considered it the second time (there were 2 a-frames and no dogwalk).

I'm just hoping that Lexi got her craziness out of the way--we'll be sure to exercise her well before the trial this weekend! :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Skipped clicker training

I never really clicker trained my dogs.  They both know what the clicker is (mostly to mark a correct behavior),  but I never spent a lot of time using it.  Now that I know what I know, I wish I had.

When we first got Bentley he was 7 months old.  I don't think he first saw the clicker until he was over 1.  At that time, he was already a slower thinker, and I remember sitting and waiting him out to try to get him to just move his leg one little muscle (we were trying to teach a high five using the clicker).  It took so long!  He would literally just sit there and not move for minutes on end.  Then, once he (sort of) understood offering behaviors, he would offer stays.  So he would try a couple things, then lay down and not move a muscle.  Hard to mark something when he thinks he's in a stay!  At the time I thought "he doesn't get it, this isn't for him", and we sort of gave up.  Little did I know that I think it would have really helped him if I had continued to wait it out.

Lexi, on the other hand, used to offer me behaviors constantly.  If we were at the agility field waiting our turn and I even so much as made eye contact, she would sit, down, spin, etc...waiting for her cookie.  I was scared of asking and rewarding her for offering behaviors since it was already becoming a nuisance.

I do still use the clicker occasionally, but my dogs' thinking isn't the same.  Bentley still isn't very creative, and usually tries a couple things before he gets frustrated (looks at me, lays down and whines).  And Lexi is so busy throwing herself every which way that it becomes hard for me to mark the "right" thing--and I'm sure just as hard for her to understand which of her offerings was marked.

I just clicker trained them to offer getting into a box.  I started with a big shoe box--not too bad.  Then I changed it to their smaller toy box--not too bad (though much slower than your typical clicker trained dog).  And I just changed it to a tupperware bowl to see if I could get them to even put 2 feet in.  It was hard work!  I quit our short session this morning with Lexi putting 1 foot in (I was quite busy chasing the bowl around as she kept pawing at it), and Bentley touching it with his foot.

So because of my lack of clicker training, my dogs know very few tricks.  I don't feel guilty, per se, but do wish I had done more when they were puppies.

Clicker training is hard.  I give up.  Zzzzz...

Friday, December 16, 2011


Our friend Sharon sent us a present in the mail yesterday. So exciting! (Don't we look thrilled?)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

We Love Christmas!

Last night we started wrapping Christmas presents for friends and family, and Lexi thought it was a very fun game!  She kept climbing on top of all the presents as we were wrapping them.  Not sure if she wanted attention, or thought it was a shaping game or like her balance ball training.  It was too cute!

Here's a quick video of her enjoying herself (and I had to ask for a down to see if she would fit, ha!)

I also grabbed a couple quick photos, I think the one of both dogs will make the Christmas card this year!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Videos from Tuesday's class

I remembered that I took a couple short videos of Lexi from our last class.  (The reason I'm never in any videos is because I'm the only one who ever remembers to videotape!)

Here's one of Jonathan running half of the course with her.  You can see him getting frustrated.  Being there I felt Jonathan's frustration, but in watching the video, Lexi really had some nice moments!  I will say that the beginning was much cleaner the first time he ran.  This time, he pushed her out way too far and RFPd to the weaves, when he really shouldn't have had he cued a turn from the beginning.

Here's a video of our trainer using Lexi as an example to show us how to properly cue not only the threadle but the push to a forward send at the end as well.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Good and needs to improve!

We've had so much rain the past week or so that outdoor training has been tough.  So, I'll just give a quick update.

Hopefully my last post wasn't too intense.  I certainly didn't want to convey arrogance or put any pressure on myself or Lexi.  I am just proud of her accomplishments and love for the sport, and want to invest in that!  If she never makes it out of Advanced, so be it, as long as we keep improving and keep enjoying ourselves.

Tonight we ran a tough course.  Jonathan ran Lexi and I ran Bentley.  Poor Jonathan and Lexi had a tough night.  I could see him getting frustrated as he was having to do portions of the course over and over again.  The course was set to practice the different sends and recalls that we've been taught over the past few classes. When we left class, I made us both make a list of 3 things that each dog did well (to remember the good!) and 2 things that they needed improved upon.  Here are the lists we came up with:

1.  Serpentine recall to heel to the weaves.  Didn't over jump either 2 or 3, and nailed the weave entry every time!

2.  Directed jumping was excellent!  She didn't cross behind between 3 and 4 but moved quickly to the next obstacle while we were able to direct her over 3 and then move to 4.
 3.  Weave entries every time, and when cued correctly, understood the behavior at the threadle.

To improve:
1.  Lexi was feeling VERY pushy this evening and broke her 2o2o regularly.  She would get into position, but then break quickly thereafter.
2.  Timing on our end--making sure that we're cuing at the right times to give Lexi the time to react (especially true at the threadle)

1.  Directed jumping (in the second sequence listed above).  The first time he took the back side of 2, but that was entirely my fault as I stood too close to 3 when cuing the directed jumping.

2.  Dogwalk contact.  Though it wasn't always quick, he got into his 2o2o position both times and waited!  He also didn't really creep, just came to the bottom and took a second to get both front feet off.  Thrilled!

3.  Connection.  Bentley and I stayed connected the entire night.  He has had a tendency to lose connection with me and cut behind me, run ahead of me, or go away from me to grab what he thinks is the next obstacle.  Tonight we were connected on the entire course!  For the directed jumping section I made sure to make eye contact and cue him to stay on my right side, and he did.  I was also a bit concerned that he would  skip the 3rd jump in the first sequence, but I said his name and made eye contact and he did really well.

To improve:
1.  270 recall to heel.  I placed Bentley on the table and then lead out to a jump and asked for him to collect over the bar (I was reaching over the bar), however he chose to come around the wrong side of the jump.
2.  A-frame when excited.  He jumped the contact (though still touched the yellow) both times in sequence.  It was good, though, since the course simulated a trial-like environment and I marked the mistake and put him back on (he got into his 2o2o position the second time).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

50mm lens

I got a new lens for Christmas, and finally got to try it out outside today.  Love it!  Sorry to those who want to read about our agility exploits, I want to share pictures instead :)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Putting all our eggs in one basket

I haven't posted in a while for a couple reasons.  Firstly, we've had a lot of rain and it has made training pretty difficult.  Also, it's hard for me to come home and train the dogs at all since it's dark by the time I walk in.

Secondly, I've had a lot of thoughts swirling around in my head and I haven't been sure the best way to share them.

I guess I'll start by saying that we've decided to put all of our eggs in one basket, so to speak.  I've had multiple top-level agility competitors and instructors tell me that Lexi has incredible potential.  By incredible I mean that they've told me that with continued instruction she has a good chance at placing at nationals.  I've always known that my little girl is very special, but hearing it from multiple people whose opinion I respect is incredibly inspiring.

When we went to Louisville to watch USDAA Nationals I was struck by the fact that my girl is faster than most of the dogs out there.  Of course, speed isn't everything, but she has shown such improvement just in the 6 months that we have been in Ohio that I can only hope that she continues to improve thus allowing her to be competitive at the highest level.

My husband and I had previously decided that we would likely get a third dog some time in the next year.  The thought was that agility is just a past time for Bentley, and hopefully a lifestyle for both Lexi and the new puppy.

But I've come to the conclusion (or perhaps I'm just allowing myself to say it out loud) that Lexi is my once in a lifetime dog.  I would hate to look back on our relationship (both on and off course) and think that we hadn't helped Lexi reach her full potential.  So, adding a third dog to our family wouldn't be fair to her (at least not right now).

That may sound like I am putting a lot of pressure on her (and us) to be successful, but I would not be disappointed if we never truly competed at a national level.  I would only be disappointed if I felt like we didn't do all that we could to improve and enjoy ourselves every day as a team.

On the other hand, I think this knowledge is why I often get frustrated with our performance.  I know what kind of performance dog she can be, and I can get frustrated when we don't always do our very best.  I think that comes from me being very competitive (I've always been that way).   So it's something that I need to keep in mind every day, and just enjoy the ride and my amazing little girl that wants to play with me as often as I let her!  My goal is to be more like her.  She is always happy to play with me, and no matter what the outcome she plays her heart out!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tough night

Not a great night in class tonight.  The dogs were off last week since we were out of town, and they haven't done any work this week since it has been raining all week...tonight we had class and I ran Lexi the whole time.  It went poorly.  And it wasn't her fault.

I know that the sequences are meant to be challenging, but I can't help but feel like I am failing in my training.  Lexi made multiple mistakes on every sequence, and they were all my fault.

I felt like no matter what I did, I couldn't get her to get it right until the 3rd try.  I would accelerate to push her to a jump (that was out at an angle), and then from that jump to another with a forward send, but she wouldn't read it because of all the acceleration from the earlier push.  But if I didn't accelerate, I'd miss the push to the first jump!

Or I'd have to accelerate to get ahead of her so she could read my deceleration, but then she would decelerate before the obstacle and miss it altogether.  Everyone says that when running a fast dog, timing is critical, but I'm starting to feel like timing is impossible.

I'm feeling like I'll never get it right!  I've been wanting a third dog, but really, I can't even handle the ones I have!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Homecoming! LCDA Trial--Lexi

Lexi had a great weekend.  She seemed happy to be outside with her friends and doing her favorite thing!

Lexi Advanced Jumpers--Q!

Jumpers has been fairly difficult for Lexi, but we've seen great improvement in her attention to us over the past few months.  We were anxious to see whether or not it would pay off, and I think that it has!  Although her turns were wide, she was very aware of where I was, and what I was asking her to do.  She did skip the tunnel at the end because it was "too hard" something that Stuart clued us in to months ago.  The tunnel entrance was at an angle (hard to tell in the video) and making it in would have required Lexi to slow down, and she preferred to keep going fast and go around.

Lexi Advanced Pairs--Q!

Another really nice run for Lex.  I thought her push from the weaves to the tunnel was excellent.  What a good girl!  Note here that her teeter is fine...more on that later.

Lexi Advanced Gamblers--Q!

I changed my plan at the last minute (bad handler!) and because of it my cues through the middle of the field were muddled, but other than that, she did excellent.  No problems on the gamble, my little gamblers girl!  (Again, no problem with the teeter)

Lexi Advanced Standard

Well, here the wheels sort of fell off.  My biggest concern is what happened on the teeter.  We've had a lot of issues with Lexi on the teeter where she'll have some incident (or not even have one) and decide that she doesn't like the teeter anymore.  I was so worried that this was another one of those.  She obviously just got really worried (this teeter tipped a lot slower than the one she's been practicing on) and just made it worse for herself.

After the trial we tried to put Lexi back on the teeter and she wouldn't get on.  She refused it, and wouldn't even bang it.  I was so upset.  We worked so hard to get her back to where she is totally confident on the teeter now.  Well, we went back the next day and I lowered the teeter really far down.  I was afraid we'd have to start all over again (we lower it and let her find the tipping point at a height/bang sound where she is comfortable).  She got on it immediately!  I raised it inch by inch and she was perfectly fine.  Let's hope that holds true from here on out!

Homecoming! LCDA Trial--Bentley

Had a great weekend this past weekend.  We were in Charleston for a long weekend as Jonathan had an interview (yes, we could be moving back) there.  Of course, we had to cram in at least one day of agility while there, and it proved to be very much worth it.

I'll start with Bentley's weekend.  To sum it up...he was very happy to be out there!  He was excited, and had a blast.  He did his thing where he totally ignored me to grab off courses, though, so now that he's healthy we're going to have to work on it.  Not sure what he's thinking!  Also, our teamwork was a bit off, but I think it's just because we're rusty.

Bentley Masters Jumpers

I debated the whole time if I should lead out push or keep him on my left and RC, but I was afraid that he might take the tunnel.  Clearly my choice was not a good one!  Then he read my moving FC as a go, and took the double off course--what a weirdo!  The end was nice.

Bentley Masters Pairs

Bummed because with Bentley's one mistake, we ended up over course time.  Weirdly enough, we were right at SCT (not including the mistake).  I didn't think either dog was that slow, so I guess the SCTs were tight.  Bentley's weave entries were off all weekend--just needs a bit more practice since he's had so much time off.  I should also point out that Bentley slowed down on the DW, but then jumped when I encouraged him to come down into his 2o2o.  Naughty!  But, I expected some of that.

Bentley Masters Gamblers

Not a great run...again, we haven't really been in sync with Bentley since he has had so much time off.  Gamblers is just not his thing...but that's something to work on for another day.

Bentley Masters Standard

Wait for it...wait for it...HE GOT HIS DOGWALK!  2o2o!  I could have cried!  He jumped his teeter contact, but the teeter was very different from the ones we've been working on.  It tips a lot slower.  He stopped where the teeter started to move, so he just hopped right off.  Usually he is in the yellow when he stops.  Definitely his best run of the weekend.  Oh, and he did miss his a-frame (judge didn't call it), but I definitely expected that.  We need to do a LOT more work on that.

The next day I dropped by the field, and Bentley nailed his 2o2o on the dogwalk and the a-frame each time.  So clearly now we need to work on his position when he's excited.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Bentley's dogwalk progress

Just a quick update on Bentley's dogwalk.  He's doing really well.  It's clear that he is cuing off of our forward motion to get into position, but right now, it's still huge progress.  We need to continue to use target plates to keep him driving regardless of our position, but my first priority is to wean him off of target plates all the time.  In other words, I want him to be successful at a trial, even if that means he doesn't immediately get into position.  I am also comforted by the fact that he does eventually get into position.

Get on the Ball--the end (for now)

This weekend we are traveling to Charleston and will be returning our friend's "Get on the Ball" products.  I've really enjoyed using them with the dogs, and once we're making a bit more money will definitely be looking into purchasing at least one balance ball (my favorite was the balance disc--the one in the video-- because it's not too huge, and easier to use) for the dogs.

I think they really helped Bentley regain his strength, and REALLY improved Lexi's rear end strength.

Of interest to me, as usual, was the difference in how my dogs approached the balls.  You can even see in the video how hesitant Bentley is.  Even after using the ball for a few months (and yes, I admit we were not as diligent as we should have been) he is hesitant to jump on, and still isn't comfortable getting into a sitting position.

Lexi, on the other hand, would just throw herself on and hang on for dear life.  Most of the time she managed to hang on (giving herself a great work out in the mean time!) but she kept the disc rocking quite a bit.  Despite the motion, you could tell that she was very much aware and in control of her weight distribution and easily progressed to being able to do "dog pushups" on the ball.  If I had it for longer, I would eventually get her to sit up as well, but that would take a bit more work.  Even though she is moving the ball more as she is on there, her legs rarely shake (as opposed to Bentley's), and every time we take the disc out she jumps right on it!  I was also able to get her to rotate around on the ball without too much trouble.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Monday morning happy

Anyone else feeling bummed about going to work this morning?  I am!

Here's something that will make you smile:

This is Lexi and her absolute favorite toy, BRB (Big Red Ball)!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Indoor BRAG trial

We competed in our first indoor trial on Saturday.  Honestly, it wasn't as bad as I expected.  It was certainly the best Lexi has looked indoors.

If I remember I'll try to post the course map for Steeplechase (there were none for Adv. Standard...which is sort of annoying since they didn't have any at the last trial either) if I remember.

It was also a tough trial because we only had the dogs entered in a couple things, but we didn't want to get their too late.  There was no masters (due to the rule regarding size of ring, they can't hold it indoors at this venue) but there was only one ring so it went really slowly.  

First up was Lexi and Advanced Standard.  I'm one that loves to agonize over the course maps, so I felt a little off when I just had to walk the course to see the numbers.  It was probably the toughest Adv. Standard course I've seen.  That is not an excuse--they are definitely skills Lexi should have!  She just doesn't :) At one point there was a 3-way discrimination between an a-frame, a jump, and the teeter.  I made eye contact, but dropped too soon and she took the a-frame.  The second time we came around she didn't take the teeter.  But other than that, I saw some really nice stuff!  No insanely wide turns, and she was one of the few dogs that got into the correct end of the yellow tunnel.  Oh, and how about that weave entry?!?!  We've been working on them, and I was so proud!  (I should note that no dogs Qd on this course).

Next up was Jonathan running Lexi in Steeplechase.  Again, I feel like steeplechase courses are getting more technical, but Lexi was up to the challenge!  Just one mistake at the end (darn those tunnels!)  I think that if she had been on grass she wouldn't have gone out so wide coming over the jump at the end and would have made the turn.  The same I think is true for the weave entry.  I saw a lot of dogs miss that entry or not be able to hold onto it coming around that turn.

And lastly was Bentley's steeplechase run.  I wasn't sure what to expect since he hasn't run in over 3 months!  But, he ran pretty well.  I was a little disappointed that I didn't get at least one 2o2o, but his contacts were much better.  The second time he even slowed down coming down, just couldn't quite figure out the correct position.  Definitely more work to do, but at least he is aware that there is something he should be doing there! :)  And he took that off course because I accelerated over the broad.  He has a tendency to nick the broad (or tumble over it!) so I wanted to push him over, and I pushed him too far.  Darn!  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Lexi's worrying patterns; flyball version

We've had a tough couple weeks the last two times we went to flyball.

Basically Lexi's turns at home are great.  I took her to class and even without the ball, and without the trigger, she just doesn't want to put 4 feet on the box.  I'd get 2, or 3 (with the third way down at the bottom).  I don't think she put 4 on a SINGLE time.  I had her out there with treats and she just wasn't doing it.  She was revved up and excited, I tried running with her, sending her, etc...nothing doing.

So, I decided to work on something else.  I started with triggering the box myself and throwing treats out.  Lexi did not appear worried about the noise at all, and was very excited about the sound since it would immediately lead to treats.  So, I started having her trigger the box and I would throw a ball--awesome, no trouble (she was just pushing with two feet, but I figured that was okay since I was just working the noise/feel).  Then I had her actually triggering the box to get the ball.  She did it about 3-5 times, was excited, up, happy, etc...and then all of a sudden, she wanted nothing to do with it.  She went from triggering the box and fetching the ball to refusing to put any feet on the box at all.

We took a long break, then I went back just a few more times and had her trigger the box for a cookie, and we called it a night.

This reminds me of what she did with the teeter.  No issues that we could see, but one day she would just refuse it.  We must have retrained it 3 times.  Looks like a similar pattern with the box.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Lexi's flyballs turns

Have been working Lexi's turns this week.  They aren't half bad!  I hope she's able to make them translate to the box with a ball.

The hardest part for her I think is going to be the noise of the box.  She tried it last week, took the ball off three times when it triggered, and the third time she decided it was scary and didn't even want to put one foot on it.  So I put her back on it without triggering it until she was jumping on it again, and then just triggered it and threw food at Lexi so she wouldn't be worried about it.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Rubber matting

I think I've talked before about how poorly our dogs perform on rubber matting.  I created a little video of Lexi slipping on the rubber matting at our Stuart seminar.

I guess I should point out that my handling stinks (I was being lazy, and was upset after a pretty frustrating day) so that accounts for a good portion of her wide turns...but she goes wide, slips, and goes out even wider.  It's like she tries to control herself, finds it too difficult, and floats out as she slips.

We are trialing indoors at the end of  the month, but the dogs are only entered in Steeplechase, and Lexi is in Standard, too, and just on one day.  I was thinking of trying some of the spray or wax to help with slipping, but I may just not worry about it.

I was feeling really frustrated in the video because of Lexi's performance...she has gotten SO much better in terms of turns and collection, and we've gotten better in terms of cuing her, but we were just terrible at the seminar.   I'm a bit emotional in general, but at the end of the day I thought I was going to cry because it seemed like we hadn't made any progress at all.

My thought is that we've worked so hard to get tighter turns and collection on grass (we're getting there...sort of), and then we go on rubber and it's a whole different beast...I almost want to say why bother?  And just not trial indoors.  I know we're limiting ourselves, but we're just a bad team indoors and it's demoralizing.

Also keep in mind that during this run I was told to run the perfect dog, so I wasn't supposed to go back and get her, or correct her, just keep going.  I was also being given some instructions as I ran.  Basically, don't get hung up on the handling, it sucks.  Just check out Lexi's slipping.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Awesome night!

I am going to preface this by saying that I had just typed up an entire post and it got deleted.

But anyways, we had an awesome night last night.  Bentley got his contacts.  I couldn't believe it!  This was his first time on the equipment since his surgery, and he was awesome!  I know they aren't perfect, and we have a long way to go, but I am so proud.  We've been waiting on this moment for two years!

And secondly, Lexi was invited to play at flyball with some other club members last night.  We had a blast!

I warmed her up by just practicing turns (no ball).  They were okay.  I think we got two feet about 75% of the time, and some ugly variation of four feet the other 25%.  At least she didn't seem scared, she didn't hesitate, and hit the box confidently in some fashion every time.

Then the three other people there lined up and worked in one lane, and we worked Lexi in the lane next to them to see how she would do.  We started just by doing restrained recalls.  I thought she would be worried, but she ran back and forth to my husband and me with no issues at all.  I eventually started sending her to get the ball and she only got worried when one dog came into her lane.

Lastly, we put her into the end of the "rotation" (after the other three dogs).  She didn't do any passes, and she didn't trigger the box (we just set the ball on it).  But she did great!  The first time she had to check out the box loaded (though the box loader did admit to saying her name, so maybe that distracted her?), the second time she dropped the ball, but the third time she was awesome!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The way dogs learn (2o2o)

I've posted before about how interesting I find it that dogs learn differently.

 My two, for example, are night and day when it comes to training and learning.

 I remembered a perfect example yesterday.

 Lexi misses contacts for one reason, and one alone. She's excited and going too fast and either doesn't slow down, or doesn't slow down in time. When she misses in training, she gets a marker "what happened?" and she does the obstacle again. If she does it correctly, she gets a more positive marker "that's it!" but no treat. She does it a third time, and receives a reward if she does it correctly, and at this point, she always does. 

[Background: This entire blog was started to track Bentley's contact progress. I don't have the time (or the patience!) to list the things that we tried and the mistakes that we made, but we have finally settled on re-teaching the 2o2o and were in the early stages when Bentley had his surgery. We are just now getting back into training, and we have him on the down side of a dogwalk plank, and a low a-frame. He's still using targets for some of the time, but we're working on fading them.]

 That being said, yesterday we took Bentley out to work on the a-frame. He did well, and we put him back inside to work Lexi. We brought him back out and immediately put him on the a-frame with NO target. You can see in the video what happens, but I knew that as soon as my husband started to do it that it was a bad idea...Bentley missed his contact, though you can see that he stops himself and tries to figure out what he is supposed to be doing (he lays down!). My husband makes him do it again, and Bentley gets his 2o2o. I would have rewarded that, but my husband used Lexi's method, and just gave him a verbal marker, and then asked for it the 3rd time. The 3rd time Bentley jumped. As if he was saying "well, I didn't get it the first 2 times, I should try something else". So, lesson learned. At least until he is more comfortable with the position, he should get rewarded for the correct position, no matter how many attempts.

 Sorry about the bad camera work...I was holding Lexi and she was not happy!

 Here is a video where in the beginning Lexi comes off her contact. You can see how Jonathan marks it, she does it again, he marks it more positively, and then she does it a 3rd time for a treat.

 (Warning: turn your volume down...lots of barking in this one!) In this video I am holding Bentley and he is barking and growling, and an ice cream truck is parked right outside our house playing kids' songs and Christmas Carols!


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Backyard handling

I wanted to work on some handling with both dogs.  Lexi always needs work, especially on the  more technical stuff, and Bentley is rusty so I wanted to see where we stood.

Both dogs did well..though Bentley was a bit rusty (both his fault and ours!) as expected.

We set up this short sequence based on a steeplechase course that we ran back in August.

Here's the video of both dogs, alternating dogs and trying different handling.

Lexi is a few seconds (2-3) faster than Bentley.  But the interesting thing was that her run with the FC is much faster (2-3 seconds) than her run with the RC.  Definitely a reminder to keep moving.  Lateral motion really helps her get her job done.

Also, you can see our outtakes where we just couldn't figure out the timing for Bentley to commit to the jump with a RC.  Always a weakness of his, it's gotten worse since we've spent all this time running Lexi.

The other night Lexi got to work on gambles.  We rarely work that with her because her default is to work away and grab whatever...but it was her birthday so we let her choose ;)

Here she is doing a masters gamble from a course map that I had.  I thought it would be easy, but she really wanted to come out and take that jump across from the tunnel (jump 1) rather than make that turn.  We had to work on it!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Flyball introduction to the moving box

Tonight was another good night.  I made sure to warm Lexi up first by just doing some up close stuff.  We moved back slowly.  She did great!

All night she never dropped the ball once.  The only issue she had was that if I didn't put the ball she had just brought back into the bucket or in my pocket, she wanted to go get that one rather than the one on the box.

I also made sure to not run with her, but to rev her up (she already knows the get excited command since I use the same one at gets her spinning and crazy...I say "reeeeeeeeeeeeady!?!?!") and send her.

We did introduce her to a real box.  That was interesting.  She didn't really like it much even though we didn't actually load the ball (just set it on there).  She didn't seem to worry about it or anything, just only wanted to put 2 feet on instead of the 4.  So, I put the ball away and just worked with shaping a turn (just like I did at the beginning with cookies).   If she put 2 on and turned, small cookie, then I upped the criteria and after just a few tries she was putting 4 feet on again.  The turns weren't beautiful, but I was glad she figured it out so quickly, but they were fast and hard (not hesitant or worried) and we ended on that note.

Oh, and tomorrow Lexi turns 2 so we brought cookies to agility class.  Our instructor said, "I keep forgetting how young she is.  She's still a baby!  You guys have tons of time to keep working with her.  She's doing great for a 2 year old."  I'm reminded how young she is all the time...but it's easy to forget because of how often we work with her.

Bentley's back! Earns a blue ribbon, and DH joins the dark side!

Here's an update on Lexi's rear end awareness/using her back legs to rotate around a target trick.  She's quite good at going this way (not so much the other way!)

And because I can't leave him out anymore, Bentley is back!  We have been doing a lot of the ball work, and walking, and slowly allowing him to do longer and longer sequences.  It has now been 2 months since his surgery and he's doing great!  He does seem to get tired a bit faster, but it's an endurance thing that we are building on.  Here's a video of the most he's done in awhile, and he was so happy about it!

I should also add a few other notes here.  This past weekend there was a local pet expo where some of our friends were doing a demonstration.  We went for fun (it was a lovely fall day) and the dogs really enjoyed it (though they were bummed that they couldn't participate in the agility demo!!)

Jonathan was asked to run our instructor's dog since she was injured, and here he is "joining the dark side"!!

Also, our babies were so well behaved!  Bentley won the "Simon Says" contest.  Really, it was just a competition of what dogs could do what tricks.  Lexi was eliminated because we never taught her to shake.  Here are a few pics of Bentley's big win! :)

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Flyball fun

Last night after agility class we had our 15 minute flyball class.  I think we're going to try to work in some private lessons next session since they scheduled the only flyball class at the same time as the agility class both dogs are in. 

We did do our first full run to the box (it's just a hit it board, still no moving/noisy box), but I was still proud. 

We even worked some passing, though in its simplest form.  We started with passing recalls, but no real passing, just recalls in quick succession.  Lexi had no issue with that, but she didn't want to go get the ball with any other dogs around (hence why in the video she gets really distracted.  Prior to the video camera coming out she was the only dog out and was doing great).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Awesome evening!

I feel like I usually blog negative tonight, a positive post!  Lexi had a GREAT night in class!

She nailed every. single. one. of her weave entries (and we did quite a bit of weaving)!  She even hit one at a 90 degree angle, with a RC right on top of the weaves.  It was a thing of beauty.

Then, our instructor for the night (who doesn't know us as well as our usual instructor) said that since Lexi was more "experienced" and "reliable" that we could try to make the entries a bit harder.  I looked at Jonathan like maybe she was talking about a different Lexi!!!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lexi weaving video

Here's a video to prove that she's making progress!  She would never have made some of these weave entries a month ago...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Weaving issues

I'm sure I've mentioned this in many other posts, as it has been an ongoing issue with little miss speed demon...she has had a lot of trouble with weave entries.  But, it's not as if she doesn't know the entry, or misses the entry.  She just blows by them.

My initial thought was that she didn't have enough value for the entrance/poles.  So, we worked 2x2s.  But, as soon as we got back up to speed, we had a similar problem.

So, then I started thinking that it was collection.  She wasn't getting on her rear and collecting to get into the poles.   So, we started working on collection and rear end awareness.  But, then we started our Contacts & Weaves class, and noticed that she DOES collect and get on her rear for her entry.

I pulled our trainer aside to ask why she felt that Lexi was having this problem, because I wasn't sure what else to do.  She suggested that we create a negative consequence for Lexi missing the poles.  And by that she suggested maybe pulling her out and marking it, or putting her in a down stay, or even putting her in the crate for a minute to make her think about her mistakes.  Her thought was that Lexi doesn't care enough about getting it right.  Her reward is agility.  So when she makes a mistake, she just gets to go again, which she loves. So she is essentially rewarded for messing up.  I think that sort of makes sense, because Lexi does love agility. She would do it for no treats...she clearly just loves to run and do the equipment.

I was a little skeptical about the negative consequence because Lexi, at home, can be quite sensitive.  Once my husband yelled at her while they were upstairs, and Lexi went downstairs and refused to come up and just watched him from a distance for the rest of the evening.  But on the other hand, when Lexi does agility, she is a different dog.  She is happy, confident, and crazy!  And clearly, what we're doing is not working.  It's clear that Lexi doesn't care if she does it correctly or not.

Well, we tried it one evening.  We just started marking her misses a bit more negatively (we used to say "what happened?" in a friendly voice, and we started being a bit more negative) and it was a huge failure.  Lexi started to worry.  I saw it right away.  I felt HORRIBLE.  She started to hesitate at the weaves.  She might get in, and then start walking.  Or she might miss, and just stop and stand there.  It was really hard to watch.  I know it's a fine line, but I couldn't watch my happy, confident dog start to worry.  And maybe I've created this happy, fun-loving monster, but I'd rather that than a dog who second guesses herself.  So, we ruled out that approach.

A few weekends ago we drove up to Cleveland for a Stuart Mah seminar.  Stuart knows us (and our dogs!) very well.  I will try to do a write up of the seminar soon, but we mentioned Lexi's issues to Stuart, and I think he pinpointed it right away.  It ties in with everything he has been telling us about her from day 1.  She doesn't care about the details.  It's too hard to slow down and make an entrance, so she doesn't bother.  The harder part is figuring out how to address this.  If we were training with Stuart every day, it would be easy...but we're not (see this post to see his previous comments about Lexi's issue with details).

Basically, we're going to try to reward her for coming in and making turns.  So for example, if she misses a turn to the weaves, we mark it, then try again but have a cookie out and feed her correctly in line with the weaves (but before them).  Easier to see than explain, and also easier to do when Stuart is there!

We'll see how it goes...I think she's doing better already.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

More flyball practice

We went to agility the other night, and followed it up with some flyball.  Lexi did fairly well once she knew what to do.  We weren't getting any turns on the box, really (just jumping up and getting the ball), and she would only do it from about 2 jumps back, but I'm still proud of her.  I think it was difficult for her because she didn't realize that the ball would be there (at home, she sees me put the ball on the box before I send her).

So today we practiced her getting the ball from farther away, and with my husband reloading the box.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011


I like to joke that if we had started as a puppy, Lexi would have been better at flyball.  She has drive, she loves to go fast, and it doesn't require nearly as much focus (or deceleration!)  I'm certainly not saying flyball is easy, but it seems to play more to Lexi's strengths.

Anyways, a friend of ours is a flyball instructor and let us borrow a hit board for fun.  I don't think we'll ever seriously compete or anything, but I think Lexi would enjoy it, and it gives us something to practice in the house when it's raining!

Here's a video of her first couple tries on the hit board.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Contact Proofing (and more ball work)

As usual, I'm behind on my posts.  Did I mention that I just started working again?

Anyways, I did say before that we had started a new class on contacts and weaves.  I was pleased with Lexi's work in class, though she did break a few times (when we ran past her, when we FCd the first time) but she quickly learned the drill and seems to be doing much better.

Here's a quick list of some of the things we did in class to practice proofing:

-Run past, FC, BC, RC, throw a treat on the ground, do jumping jacks, say words that sound like the release word, etc..
-Test the dog's recognition of its release word by not moving your body at all, but saying your cue (no problem for Lexi, "okay!" is her favorite word!)

A couple things I tend to forget:

1.  Remember, no reinforcement (or even a NRM) if the dog misses and has to be placed back on or has to try again.  You can give a marker at that point "Yes, that's it!" but no reward.
2.  Always reward the dog looking ahead with a low topline.  You can work this my having the dog stretch and reach for the treat a bit.  The dog should scoot its front legs to reach.

An interesting thing that I learned (that makes sense) is that dogs are usually more likely to break a 2o2o when the handler uses a front cross versus using a blind cross.  This is because a FC puts pressure on the dog, but when you release the pressure (complete the cross), the pressure is released and the dog responds to the release of pressure by breaking.  A blind cross never puts pressure on to begin with.  Obviously not advocating one over the other, just something to think about (and train for!)

Here's a video of Lexi at home working on some of the things we practiced:

We also worked weaves in class and Lexi did great.  Of course, we were only doing straight approaches, but that's when our instructor said that Lexi slowed down, collected, and go on her rear (HOORAY!).

A drill that I found particularly helpful was where you put your dog in a stay and lead out farther and farther into the weaves until eventually you can stand at the end of the weaves, then release your dog and they are to find the entrance and weave entirely on their own.  The reason that this is helpful is that it teaches your dog to ignore your motion in the weaves.  The weaves are the only obstacle where we want them to do that.

Here's more of Lexi's ball work:

Sunday, September 11, 2011

College football

I love college football.  I always have!  I grew up an Ohio State fan (my parents both lived in Ohio, my mom was born there), and I went to South Carolina, so I'm also a huge Gamecocks fan.

Anyways, our Saturday game watching has become quite the event.  We're loud, tense, and excited...and so are the dogs!  If we so much as groan, sigh, stand up, move the edge of our seats, the dogs go crazy!  So you can imagine what happens when we actually stand up and cheer and clap and scream.

Here's a video of my husband and the pups cheering after USC beat Georgia yesterday.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Good signs!

I'm a little behind in posting about our daily activities...but having a job is much more tiring than I remembered!

Anyways, just a quick little update.  Hopefully this weekend I'll have more time.

Tuesday we started a new class with Lexi (we didn't enter Bentley this session because he isn't ready yet physically) about contacts and weaves.  She needs a lot of handling work, but we can't afford more than one class, and Jonathan and I have committed to working on all the RTH positions with her during the week on our own.

I will post more about the class another time, but I had to say that our instructor actually used Lexi as an example while we were doing fast, straight weave approaches, and said "see how Lexi rocked back onto her rear and collected into the weaves?"  I thought I would cry.  I couldn't believe it!  I guess our work is paying off!

And then, another moment of Zen on Bentley's part.  As many of you know, we've struggled consistently with his contacts.  As a quick recap, we started with 2o2o but he was unmotivated, lacked confidence, and crept down the down side of the equipment.  It would take him 10 seconds to come down the a-frame some times!  And then, he would creep and jump off and STILL miss the contact.  So, we switched to running.  It did wonders for his confidence, but then he got too confident and starting jumping (which was partially our fault as we started rewarding jumps by accident) off too early.  Now, we're back to 2o2o because it's the only thing holding him back from Standard success!

Anyways, my little boy just doesn't learn quickly or generalize well.  He never seemed to get the position, and often just seemed confused despite our best efforts.  We had recently started retraining just with a target on the flat, or with little incline.  Tonight we took him outside (after over a month off due to his surgery) on the lowered a-frame and he got into position like a champ!  He showed true understanding of his job because when he missed it, he slowed down, but couldn't hold  it, and got back into position moving his back legs.  What a good boy!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lexi gets on the ball

A very good friend of mine was kind enough to send us her dog's "rehab kit" to help when Bentley was ready to start working towards agility again.  As a quick update, he is doing really well!  We are taking him on walks (we started slowly and have increased the duration) and he's doing great!  He has shown zero indication of any kind of fatigue or pain, so I think we're doing the right thing by taking it slow and being careful.

Anyways, the kit included everything one might need to start working on Debbie Gross Saunders' "Get on the Ball" system.  To quote from her website, " Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner who has focused her career on on the recognition and treatment of injuries in dogs. Her experience led to the creation of the original "Get On The Ball" DVD providing instruction to owners for building strength, balance, flexibility, tone, and endurance in their dogs with an easy to use exercise program."  (

The kit included:

--Get on the Ball I and II DVDs
--Egg shaped ball
--2 balance discs (one small one medium)

Bentley was not ready to start working his core when we received the package, so Lexi got to test the equipment out first.  I'm very proud of her as she showed no fear or hesitation about working on the ball.  For her, we'll work her core a bit, but also use a regular sized exercise ball to build her rear end awareness (see my previous post where we decided she needs to build her rear end strength).

Here's a video of the first time Lexi got on the ball.  I was still trying to figure out how to best hold her/support her, so it's a bit shaky!  But, she did fine.  We've been doing this maybe twice a week, and she is jumping on with confidence (anything for a cookie!)

Bentley, on the other hand, is not so sure.  I just started him slowly by putting him on and bouncing him for a few seconds, etc...  Though he has been on a handful of times, he still seems worried and uncomfortable.  In the stretching exercises he has trouble relaxing and allowing me to stretch him out.  But, this is NOT a result of his surgery.  He has always been this way--not flexible.  It just goes to show how much it helps to get your dog on a variety of surfaces (especially moving ones like the boggle board) at a young age.  Lexi definitely benefited from that whereas Bentley is worried and cautious.