Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Beginning Tracking Seminar

Sunday Leo and I headed south to Salem's Chemeketa Community College campus for a tracking seminar with Jill Jones. I chose to bring Leo as he's a little easier to focus on doing something without a completely obvious objective but with a food reward. Quite simply, when we were learning tracking a while back and practicing, he showed more of an interest and drive for it.

The session was organized by Chris Robinette - what a lovely lady! She's so fun and enthusiastic and did a great job putting this together. We enjoyed the morning in a classroom setting with delicious snacks and drinks plus a catered lunch before heading out to try our hand at "day one" of tracking training. On top of all that, Chris had a bunch of goodies we could buy to be "track ready" right away. I picked up a couple of things - a leather glove with a tag that tells passersby to leave it be, Enthusiastic Tracking by Sil Sanders, and a Rite in the Rain notebook (I had never heard of such a thing!). I was telling Chris I'd like to find something to do with the dogs during the umpteen months we deal with rain in the NW. Tracking was fun, thus far, in my experience and I would like to grow those experiences from here.

Jill did a great job of peppering her talk with stories of her dogs, stories of those she has worked with or judged, and kept the humor up. She also brought a lot of the tracking "tools" you need with her so we could see some options and hear about the pros and cons depending on the dog we planned on using them for. One thing that quickly got added to my list to pick up was

After lunch we went outside to the beautiful fields of Chemeketa. Jill had asked us to pair off and she wanted to see each dog work their first practice leg before allowing us to move on and continue the repetitions.

The plan is fairly straight-forward for the first week. She gave us handouts that map it all out and show how quickly you can really get a dog trained in tracking. Our "day 1" exercise was to place a marker in the ground, walk out five paces, place another marker, and to get our partner's dog's attention with the food or toy, place the glove with the treat, and then retrace our steps (thus double-laying the track). Then the dog would "track" to the glove. The tracklayer would follow the dog up to the second marker, pick up the glove, and walk out 10 paces. We repeated the process then walked out about 20 paces. This entire process was repeated three times.

The nice thing was, as simple as this exercise is, we had a slight breeze kick up partway through and got to see the dogs track to the side a bit as they followed the smell, and yet they still found their article.

I need to try to sit down at the trial this weekend and map out a real training plan - for all our activities - to put this in motion as I really think Leo enjoys it.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Clackamas Kennel Club Match

We got up this morning and headed to the Clackamas County Fairgrounds for a sanctioned obedience match hosted by the Clackamas Kennel Club. They were offering Beginner Novice classes and I knew it would be good to get another practice run under our belt before Thursday.
The heeling patter was very simple. We started from a sit, heeled to the corner, made a left turn, moved into a change of pace - slow, about turn, change of pace - fast, right turn, then halt. Leo was lagging. And afraid in the corner by the left turn. And he wasn't heeling close to me; he was easily two feet out. And he was slow. Definitely not "with" me. Of course the last of the conformation people were banging and clanging x-pens around as they packed up their crap. So frustrating!

His halts were slow, requiring multiple commands. His figure 8 was decent, but his halts were still only so so. He held his sit while I walked around the ring like a pro, though, when a rat terrier got loose from its owner and  ran through the ring. He didn't bat an eye - thank God. His recall was at a decent speed but I think that's cause something startled him. Then he didn't want to sit without being told multiple times. His sit for exam was solid. Ugg! After the previous two weekends being decent, this was pretty frustrating! He's capable of more.

And still we would have qualified according to the score-person/judge. Fourth out of four ("qualifers") in the class. Wow.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Another Novice Match

Saturday Leo and I went to our obedience club again for a Novice only match. This time there was a "formal" Beginner Novice entry so we got to do the full event just like a trial - rally signs, sit for exam, walk around the ring, and recall. Leo did quite well and I was pleased. He was struggling some with fear of the signs, but since we were on our "home turf" he did okay. We also jumped in with the Novice folks on one of their sits/downs and he did okay at that, too, only getting up from his sit once.

Friday, October 14, 2011

WTH! Training

Last night we had our usual obedience class. We showed up pretty early, chilled in the car for a bit, then went in and started warming up outside then inside the ring. I told our instructor, Laurie, about the match last weekend, and that while I was proud of Leo holding his sit, he had trouble with the rally signs. She was kind enough to set a few out in the middle of the ring and we focused our warm up on being able to serpentine in and out of them, alternating with Leo or I closest to the signs, halts at the signs, etc. His attention was good and he barely gave them a glance. Apparently in our "normal" setting the signs are a non-issue.

When the rest of the class started to show up, Laurie got us going by heeling around the ring. Almost immediately I started having problems with Leo. He was planting his feet and refusing to move. Tightening the leash did nothing but make him more resistant. I stopped and had to let other class members heel by us multiple times and, essentially, we didn't heel at all for the distance we were able to make it around the ring. After several attempts to correct this and him planting his feet and me starting to sweat and struggling to figure out what was going on, we moved on to other things. Laurie called out to "down our dogs." Leo wouldn't down. Highly unusual. The crazy thing here is that during our warm-up time before class officially started, he displayed none of these behaviors. He was working hard, smiling, and acting like my partner.

So after a bunch of other stuff and me finally sitting on the ground trying to get him to even down, Laurie's instructor who was observing our class came over to me. She reminded me that if I give him a command, I apply pressure with the leash, and then I "let it go" (Translation: Don't make him do what I asked.), the next time he's resist more. So then I tried to put him into a down and he squealed! Of course you think people figure you're abusing your dog when you're not. Anyway, we weren't having success so I left the ring.

I got our dumbell and we sat outside the ring and worked on "take it" and "hold it." That was going well enough although Leo seemed distracted and still had stubborn moments. Then we got up and moved on to heeling up and down the front of the ring, casual "fronts" and just being happy working. It took about 25 minutes but we finally got to go back in the ring and join our class for recalls and the rest of class. He wasn't as close and precises in heeling as he can be, but he wasn't terrible and he held his stays remarkably well the rest of class.

Boy, made me work for it though. I went home tired.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Obedience Match - My Dog's Gym

Sunday Leo was feeling back to normal so I decided to go ahead and take him to Salem to the drop-in obedience match planned at My Dog's Gym. We headed down before 8 am as they said sign ups were prior to 9, even knowing we wouldn't get a shot at our class level until nearly noon. I was exhausted and when I arrived there learned the people running the show had been locked out of the building accidentally. They couldn't reach the building owner and had called a locksmith. Oh, and I had forgotten my crate and a chair. I was feeling all sorts of like maybe staying in bed would have been the better choice. The good thing about having a well behaved small dog is that the truck or the building were options. Leo is both and we settled in to watch, learn, and wait. He was very well behaved like always and about every hour we got up and practiced some short exercises outside the ring. It was good for him to work in such a distracting environment and in a new place.

It was finally time for those of us interested in running Beginner Novice around 12:30. The rally portion of the course was as follows:
I had entered Leo for two runs. Our first run I practically had to drag him through the ring entrance. Not sure what it is but the little stinker acts like the ring gates are going to get him. He was very nervous and it took multiple attempts to get him to even come close enough to resemble a halt. Once we got going his heel was definitely lacking. He was moving out sideways from me. It didn't get better after we made the first left turn and it came to a screeching halt in the back corner for the second left turn. He hated that corner and had planted his feet. Just lovely. At first I attempted to just keep moving figuring he'd give in and work. He didn't. I had to stop, pick him up, and focus and reward at the corner and the sign. Then we got moving and he did better for 5-9. From there we moved into the figure 8. He was lagging a bit, but certainly showing that he knows what we're doing better than the rally section. His halts were nice. The sit for exam was easy - he gave Chris (the pseudo judge) a lick on the hand. We then moved over near the center of the ring, somewhere between 8 and 9 signs for the sit and walk around. He held that like a champ, sitting and not sliding into a down, and waiting until my return and release. His head pivoted but he didn't move. Go Leo! Then we worked the recall. I knew from past experience his recall can be lackluster. He just doesn't seem confident in his return to me? So I pulled out the big guns - cooked chicken heart. I made sure he knew I had it then when I gave him the recall command, I changed my stance slightly to give him the sign that coming was a good thing to be excited about. His movement was much quicker and I didn't even try for a front, just rewarded and praised. 

After decompressing and talking to and cuddling Leo for a few minutes while another dog was in the ring, it was our turn again. I'm glad to say Leo was much more relaxed this time around. He wasn't as afraid of the corner, his heeling was closer (not great, but not horrendous either), his movements were more precise. All in all, the improvement was worth the second run. He still appeared fearful of the signs so I've decided we'll live with our rally signs hanging out around the house for a while until the Specialty. Everything else went splendidly. His figure 8 was much tighter, very little lag, his halt close and prompt, no kiss on the sit for exam, but still calm. His recall was good, about three inches shifted to my right and an inch or so off my toes,  but a decent pace and closer than sometimes. All in all, a very good opportunity and I'm glad we went. 

We have another match at our obedience club this coming Saturday and will again run twice for Beginner Novice. We'll also head to Canby the following Saturday for the Clackamas County Kennel Club match. And then we'll have our chance to see if we can pull it off! 

Today Leo seemed 100% like his normal self. I hadn't given him a Pepsid AC pill since Saturday evening and he's been fine, no vomiting. Well, tonight after work and my having run an errand, I came back out to the truck and he promptly vomited. He seems to feel completely fine still and ate dinner, although I did give him a dose of Pepsid. I sure hope this isn't ongoing and I just need to keep him on the Pepsid for a few days to let his gut heal. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Little Piggy

Being a little piggy makes for a really bad night and day. The kids left access to the bathroom yesterday and Vegas knocked over and spilled the cat food. So when I got home Leo disappeared - the spilled cat food must have called to him like a beacon. Of course I'm making dinner and not keeping track of the dogs. When I wondered....well, it was too late. I have no idea how much he consumed but based upon the after-effects (I made him vomit with hydrogen peroxide.), I would guess around a cup to a cup-and-a-half. Yikes! Too much for a little dog. Still not feeling well today...

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

First AKC Agility Trial

Last weekend Leo got to run in his very first AKC agility trial. We were running at a new site and I had entered him in Standard and JWW Saturday and JWW Sunday. While I'm always hopeful for a positive outcome, my original pretense of entering him was to gain ring experience. Based upon our experience in August at the CPE trial we competed in (I haven't gotten that post on here yet.), I felt he needed that. He was too distracted and concerned versus focusing on me and his job in the ring. So I didn't go into this past weekend expecting to do more than work him.

The trial was in Prineville, Oregon and hosted by the Mt. Bachelor Kennel Club at the Crook County Fairgrounds. I was dropping the kids off with their dad on Friday night so got a late start even though I met him early. I was able to make it to Beaverton about 6 pm and headed east. The highways were pretty clear but the route through Portland and out of town going east on Highway 26 through Gresham was a nightmare. I easily spent an hour just trying to get out of Gresham and on toward Mt. Hood. It was 9:30 when I arrived at our hotel. Rachel and I were bunking together for the weekend with our gaggle of dogs so getting everything unloaded and everyone settled in was a bit of a challenge but we managed.

Saturday dawned a wee bit early but we headed off for the fairgrounds (a mere mile away) with the goal of being there about 6:45 am. I wish now I had stopped and taken a picture as I drove in. The one below doesn't do the sight justice - the sky was pink and blue mixed with streaky white clouds in the rising sun, and all this was right behind the arched entrance sign. It was stunning!
Crating was less than ideal but at least how it all worked out didn't involve a ton of traffic constantly going by our crates. We got all set up and then Leo got to wait and wait and wait. Classes were small to tall but organized in such a way that novice dogs wouldn't run until the latest point in the day, partially because there was only one judge (although two rings) and partially because they were running Fast and Time-to-Beat. I was able to get him measured by two VMOs so now a permanent height card can be issued. That was a relief. Leo measured a brief 8.5" at the withers.

When the time for us to run was nearing (close to 5 or 5:30 pm), I got Leo out and warmed him up over the practice jump. Oh boy was he hyped up! It was like he could just tell he got to play and was super excited about the prospect.

We were set to run JWW first followed by Standard. Our judge was Pamela Sturtz, a judge I hadn't run Vegas under before either. The course was nice and fair for baby dogs although I admit I did miss having a tunnel in there for him. You'll notice there was not a tunnel in JWW Sunday, either. Something I don't like to have for Vegas, but know is fun for Leo.
As I had said, my main goal was ring experience and I knew we were just "getting" weaves so I didn't have a ton of hope for a good run. If I'd had more time lately to keep up the blog about Leo's training it might make more sense to say where that came from and also where he's been lately. I ought naught have worried.  He got out there and acted like a pro. He didn't hesitate and no noise that may have occurred outside the ring seemed to register. He simply followed directions and ran. I was so pleased with him and having fun! I really am still learning how to handle him as my moves are so different than what I use for Vegas. The only issue we had were the weaves. We didn't quite get them and ran through our "three chances" and had to move on. All said and done, it was a great way to get started. Leo didn't hesitate, falter, or act afraid/concerned/fearful.
After the big dogs ran we moved straight over to the standard ring. I knew, knew the teeter would be an issue. Leo is afraid of it. I had hope to coax him over it but figured it would eat up a lot of time. Well, he had other ideas. Aside from the teeter, it was a nice run. He was moving and responsive from the start. He had a wide swing past the a-frame but I think that was from the burst of excitement when he dismounted the teeter and got to continue without me putting him back on. I guess that's where baby dog stuff comes into play...he doesn't know the difference between competition and practice yet. We nailed our weaves this time so that was definitely still a bonus. I was pleased.

So we ended our day without any Qs, but a lot of successes. Leo ran confidently, happily, responsively, and we had fairly clean runs aside from the missed weaves and teeter - the two things I knew we weren't really ready for. And, we improved on the weaves from the first to the second run, a matter of 35 or 45 minutes apart with out practice. That's notable, too, for a "baby" dog.

Leo's runs Sunday were a bit earlier, but not by a whole lot. We ran JWW only and did so right about 3 pm.  It was somewhat debatable that we'd be able to stick around for his run Sunday based upon the time it took to drive home and when we were done Saturday. It worked out and I'm glad it did.
And he qualified in this run with first place in the 8" jump class!!! I was so pleased with him. The SCT was 46 and his time was 36 and change. He even nailed the weaves the first time!

Little Things

At the Portland Agility Club trial the weekend before last, there was a vendor selling handmade dog ornaments. I couldn't resist.