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.