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!