Monday, February 28, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, Sweet Leo!

My little boy turned two today! I can't believe he's already two and that he's been with us for a year. Wow has a lot changed, has he grown, has he become ever more handsome, and wow am I excited for what the next year will bring. My little man has learned so much and brought so much joy to so many around him it just astounds me. To commemorate the occasion he had a little bit of tuna fish for dinner then went with me to teach class tonight and showed off his amazing teeter skills to a round of applause. And then we came home and did a little photo shoot for his birthday. I think the following says it all.

Just a quick update... (Late as I see this didn't post when it should have on 2/7)

Leo had his fifth week of agility class tonight and the teeter was introduced again. He was acting really quirky all night and pulling away from me and definitely not focusing. I wasn't real confident about the teeter and the rest of the class knew that was why we were going through the class again. He was not a happy camper if I tried to go anywhere near it so I figured when it was our turn I would just wait and see. Autumn had both ends of the teeter propped up on the tables to minimize motion and avoid the teeter being on the ground which lends more likelihood to the dog's coming off it. All said and done we probably only had 1.5" of motion or so. The first time was somewhat of a bust. I had to put him on it and even tug a few times before he moved across it. The second time though was vastly improved. I had just said the most important aspect for me was for him to walk onto the board himself. And he did!!! I couldn't have been more proud but the little stinker did it again on our third try at the teeter and even managed to avoid flinching when it "bumped" against the table after he stepped off. That little man is giving me serious hope. It's so exciting!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

A lazy weekend

This wraps up one of, if the the, laziest weekends I've ever spent. I'm working on getting over cold #2 of the season and this one has struck my lungs and caused a horrendous cough that's making life no fun. Like usual, the dogs wouldn't let me get away with sleeping in without getting up to put them out around their normal time so both days saw me up and letting them out and serving breakfast around 7 am. From there it was back to bed and restless dogs that clearly needed to get out and do something. I'd had hopes to try to get out yesterday as today was supposed to bring rain and, while very cold, yesterday was to be dry. I just couldn't do it. By today, not doing something wasn't an option. The natives were restless. 

We made it to the big park in town around 10:30. This time I wore shoes that were waterproof so I wouldn't feel miserable and be forced to cut our outing short. I decided the dogs and I would get some tracking practice in first. We had originally planned on going out with our friends, Beth and Orra, again but I hadn't felt up to the drive and the extra hour early - and honestly hadn't planned to leave the house at all today. As we all know, plans they do change. The first track I laid was for Leo. We're still working on 5-10-15s in a straight line. I got him out and started to work. He was having a really hard time. He charged to the first article and then just went veering off in a long arc between 5 and 10. I'm still speculating how much of that was goofiness and how much of it was my fault. I remember reading that you should track into the wind. We finished our first track with more than a little help from me, and I laid another track for Vegas. This time I tried to lay it into the wind. She seemed rather clueless and I, more than once, considered letting the dogs romp first and track second. They were both excited and distracted - mostly because we haven't been out of the house as much as they are used to and we hadn't been to the park in quite some time. She, too, required a bit of paw holding for our first track but we got through it. 

I put her back in the truck and got Leo out. I had him work her track, all freshly double-laid again. Wouldn't you know it, the little stinker sighted in on every article and basically sight-tracked the thing. Obviously a much quicker method but not our ultimate goal. 

Leo put away and third track laid. This time I changed direction again - because the wind did! Boy was this getting complicated. I swapped Leo for Vegas and got to work. She was a bit difficult again and I despaired of her "getting" it. And then she did what I so thoroughly enjoy watching her do in nose work class - she put her nose down, her tail up, and she got to work. For the third stretch from 10-15, she worked beautifully. Yay Vegas!

Of course her time out was over too quick and I put her away to lay Leo's third track. I'm excited to say that he, too, "got" it this time on the third leg. I have to tell a secret though.... I got a little craftier this time around. Last week when picking up the kids from their dad I was wandering Fred Meyer and noticed they had gloves and other winter wear on clearance plus 70% off. I snagged four pair of stretchy knit gloves in forest green and brown. Can you get where I'm going with this one...? You got it. Less ability to site in on the article. Aha! Foiled that little Leo for sure. :) I'd be wearing a pair of green ones with the intention of using them but hoped to get my scent on them first. After his little sighting game of tracking I decided I needed to switch gears. I had been using a white sock and a pair of black and orange leather gloves but they are readily visible on the grass. The green gloves - not so much. His third track was much better!!!

I know by the time I laid Vegas' third track I had spent a lot more time laying track than I had working the dogs but I guess that's just how tracking goes. It was very exciting to see her work it more the third time. We struggled greatly with the wind today, but we had some positive results and I'm learning. That is the exciting part - seeing success and not having my dogs shut down like they lack interest. Leo is sometimes a little too fun-loving and enthusiastic but I won't dampen that. His love of life and his happy spirit are what makes me enjoy and adore him so much. Vegas even when she wasn't working was looking to me for direction. She wasn't shutting down; she just doesn't get it yet. This tells me we need to continue to take it slow but they will find success and ultimately, they will enjoy the work, I believe. Another really cool thing is they're both working out on the line when we get going, too. I just have to remember to hang back and let them work at a distance - something we're so not accustomed to yet. 

After we were done with our tracks and everything was picked up, the dogs' harnesses removed, and the truck locked up, we headed over to the dog park for a few. There was only one dog in the large off leash area and two Dobermans in the smaller fenced area. Not sure why they couldn't be out with the rest but it made for pretty boring times and we started to head to the top of the park to instead venture into the woods. A lady came in with her Golden Retriever and Vegas and he took to each other for a few, romping and running. It did my heart good to see her play like that; it's such a rare thing. She really enjoyed playing chase with him and then the cat and mouse of pouncing at each other and whatnot. Shortly thereafter we did head into the woods, an adventure the dogs both adore, and here's a pictorial of our time there. 
I'm not sure what this is all about. The last time we wandered the woods it wasn't there. I'm quite certain its man-made...

 Looking out at the Willamette. 
The city parks department has been at work. This is new, too. 

Leo really wanted a drink of water...
Drinking from the frozen puddle.

Standing up at the bench I was sitting at and looking over his shoulder.
The Leo sized stick Vegas retrieved and ran around with for a while. 
We were home by noon and spent the rest of the day blissfully lazing about, alternating between snoozing and reading a book. The fresh air and romping did the dogs good. And that's that. A weekend under wraps already and heading into a Monday at the start of a very busy week. I'm trying to make up week 6 of the foundation agility class I am teaching by teaching tomorrow night since Leo's session is over and the barn is free. Then Wednesday would be a triple header if I could be in three places at once. Instead of going to the Willamette Valley Great Dane Club meeting or the Sherwood Dog Training Club meeting, we'll be at Vegas' fourth week of nose work class. I can't believe how quickly the time has flown by. Tuesday evening I'm going to try to get some tracking practice in unless it's too darn wet and maybe, too, work on some nose work and ball exercises with the dogs. With such a long stretch between agility trials I feel like I need to get "on the ball" to keep Vegas limber and moving. Hope y'all have a great week!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Leo learns to track & graduates from foundation agility

A busy few days! Last night was Leo's last night of his second round of foundation agility. I am so, so, SO excited to say he's overcome most of his teeter fear and was taking the teeter willingly. In fact, he was straining at his harness to get to the teeter. His teacher, Autumn, kept Solid Gold dog food on her for treats this session and he was all about that! In fact, he sweet talked his way out of more than one extra treat most rounds at the obstacle we worked on; the little charmer. I was very proud of him and what better way to celebrate his GOTCHA DAY! That's right; Leo's first annual Gotcha Day. Yesterday signified one year he's been in our family. What a year it's been and he has come such a long way. Here are a few pictures to summarize the year:
In the soft crate on the ride home

This evening we went to the park and Leo got to start learning to track. The details are all on Vegas' page. Afterward the two got to romp about in the park and had a ball. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Teeter Will Not Get Us Down

We had an awesome agility class tonight. Leo was so good. At first I had my doubts - he was dragging his feet from the truck to the barn? But once we got in there, I got him warmed up by running the length of the barn four or five times. That got him revved up and happy. We started by doing our one minute stays with distraction. That accomplished, we introduced the weaves. Wow was that fun! Last time we took this class and introduced the weaves, Leo was nervous about the gates set up around the poles. This time around he was gung-ho and excited. He took to the poles right away! So did the rest of our class so Autumn, our instructor, was quick to give us multiple opportunities to practice them. Albeit the poles were offset and the gates set up as guides, but the dogs were really getting it and having fun!

From there we moved on to a sequence comprised of a jump, 90-degree turn to the dog walk, the table, and then a u-shaped tunnel wrapped under the a-frame. Leo thought that was tons of fun of course and we got to run that two or three times. Then it was time to review the teeter again. This week we didn't have it up on tables so there was a greater likelihood of the dogs stepping off. Surprise of all surprises, after a little sweet-talking, Leo stepped right on the board and went right across, feeling out the tip and then moving on. Granted, we only had a two or three inch range of motion at that point, but the progress was huge! Last class at this juncture he wouldn't even look at the teeter let alone choose to step onto it. This was a huge step! We repeated several times then it was time to start wrapping up class. We got to choose what we wanted to do so I alternately worked the a-frame and contact, the weaves (off lead and entries - wow was he awesome at finding the entry!), and the teeter at an increased height. The little stinker was really doing it and willingly. In fact, I no longer existed at the end of the board with Autumn there and offering Dog Lover's Gold kibble as a reward. It was truly a rewarding, golden moment in dog training. My little man has come so, so, so far and I couldn't be more proud.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our First Try at Rally Advanced

Leo is a willing partner and good little worker. That said, our heeling needs work and my only true goal for today's show was that he not be afraid. Afraid of the orange cones. Afraid of the white picketed gates around the ring. I figured if he was happy in the ring then I would have a chance to learn what we needed to work on the most. At this point, I figured it might be regaining our heel after the jump, better pivots, heeling period.
We arrived nice and early although the estimated ring time for Advanced A was 11:40. Leo and I loaded up our stuff and headed in. We found the obedience area right off the bat and lucked out on a spot for his crate. I got it all set up, offloaded his water bottle, bowl, and buckle collar for later, and we headed to the conformation building. On the way there we ran into our friend Shana, her husband, and their Tibetan Mastiff, Wally. After helping them find the grooming area, I then made my way to the conformation building.

We got in while they were just finishing up the Bullmastiff class and things were already heated up in the building and there were a lot of people there. We stood and watched the Bullmastiffs for a few minutes as I didn't know if our friend Andrea was showing her bitch, Tonka. We then moved on and did a bit of browsing. Dog shows can be dangerous for me because of all the vendors but I had a goal of finding just one thing this weekend and that was training dumb bells for both dogs. I found them but decided I would wait to purchase until I was ready to leave. We wandered some more, chatted with the amazing number of agility competitors we know that were there, and then ended up being able to watch Shana and Wally in the ring. After Wally's class we went back to the obedience barn to check in and pick up our map.

There were only three dogs entered in Advanced A and we were to be the first. I wasn't thinking about the walk through plan and was pleasantly surprised they grouped A and B together so that I could watch and learn from the Advanced B competitors regarding some of the signs I was less familiar with. After we walked I got Leo out and was playing with him and warming him up just a bit. He was doing well and was very happy which was nice. I wanted him comfortable and having spent the hour or so prior to our run in the obedience area, he was not acting concerned about anything. I should probably mention, it's not like Leo has a temperament that I have to worry about or that he's a fraidy cat or anything. But the dog show world is all new to him, being indoors is a little unnerving from time to time with all the unknown sounds that are so big up above and around him. And yet, being in the conformation building was more comfortable because there are no crazy, scary, unidentifiable noises....
The first exercise I knew we would try but didn't expect us to get it. I've never taught a stand command and am not really sure how with Leo now based upon the other commands he knows that mean other things (touch, high five, gimme ten). No big surprise. He didn't get it. He sat, he stood and sat again. He was supposed to stand for the walk around and since I couldn't get it, I walked around with him in a sit. No biggie. Moving on.... We were doing okay. He was lagging some but keeping with me better than I expected. We got through the third obstacle and were facing number four when it happened. The wall we were facing was actually the back side of stock animal stalls being used for grooming.
At this point I have to express my frustration. The green box above represents 3/4 of the Cascade Livestock Pavillion. Yep, the livestock building. That green box is where all of the grooming space was. The blue spaces are two other, concrete-floored buildings where all the vendors and conformation events were held. The pink box? That little, itty, bitty pink box is where the 202 (Saturday's entries) obedience-related entries were to be held. Did I mention it was their livestock pavilion? Did I also mention half the obedience rings shared a "wall" with the stalls filled with people with extremely noisy pet dryers?

Did I mention Leo and I have bad luck in the rally ring? And that the most important thing to me for my little guy today was that the experience be positive? Of course that couldn't happen then! Somebody, of course, kicked on the loudest dryer I have ever heard right during our movement toward the fourth station. Yep, right on the other side of the wall came a great and ferocious sound that Leo couldn't identify. Of course it couldn't just turn off. It had to keep going. And what did I want him to do but to go toward it. At this point it was just me and him. The judge wasn't in our world. The spectators and other competitors weren't in our world. It was just Leo and I against the beast.

I managed to get him somewhat close to station four and went with it. His sits were lagging by then and extremely hesitant requiring me to tell him at least twice. We moved toward the '360 left' and he was even more concerned. What? You mean I'm supposed to turn sideways to something scary that I can't see? After standing at the station sign and calling him to me over and over, I decided to step out sideways to him and attempt to complete the exercise. That as successful as possible we moved on the '270 right.' Partially successful, we continued on. We got through the 'straight figure 8' and went toward the jump. I knew this could be a problem, dryer aside. And it was. I couldn't get Leo to take it. I repeated the exercise but I think his concern was over the panel design. He'd never seen one before and on top of the anxiety it was just too much. I thanked the judge, picked up Leo, and left. The judge was kind enough to smile and say, "Another time, another day," to which my response was pretty much, probably not, but not loud enough for her to hear. Mostly I was saying it to myself. At least not any time soon.

So in retrospect, that part of our day was completely poopy. Yes, I know I'll need to work on the obedience ring jumping with Leo. I'll definitely be introducing him to all the types of jumps very soon. And yes, our heeling will continue to be a focus as is learning to stand on command. I can work on focus, I can work on desensitization, but dammit, is it too much to ask to pay good money to be treated equally amongst participants? Ten hours later and I am still so frustrated. My little boy deserved better than that and now I get to work double hard to combat something that is almost impossible to train against.

So no score. No positives. And not a good feeling either for someone new to the sport of obedience and who was hesitant going in but gaining a respect for the work it takes to do what these dogs and handlers do.

After we loaded the crate in the truck we did head back to the conformation building to try to catch the Danes and the Pomeranians. Unfortunately the Danes were not ready yet and I was starting to feel crunched on time. We went to the smaller conformation building which was much quieter and found Leo's breeder. She hadn't seen him since he came home with me almost a year ago and I wanted to be sure to make that happen. As it happens, I was able to get some pictures of the Poms in the ring shortly thereafter.