Friday, December 19, 2008

Lucy and Walter 2008

Our second annual compilation video:

I had a lot of fun making the video as a little souvenir of our year.

Hmmmm, Lucy seems to have gotten the short end of the stick on this one. Well, at least she has the dignity of not appearing in the bloopers section!

Sunday, October 5, 2008


A great, fun practice with Lucy. Just short jump/tunnel sequences with lots of reinforcement. Was great to see her so happy and into the game again. I'm glad she's not entered in any more trials this year and am in no rush to get back to trials. Maybe next fall but we'll see, no deadlines, no expectations, just want to see the super-happy and confident agility Lucy again.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

All Dogs trial

Three runs today:

Advanced Team: Signed her up for this back when I was feeling more optimistic :-D Fortunately, our draw partner who has a nice little Pyr Shep was totally easygoing and both our dogs totally screwed up so no one let anyone down. They took the first part which meant that Lucy didn't have to do the frame and that I wouldn't have to deal with getting a hold of her in the box. Well, Lucy had her sights set on the nearby offcourse dogwalk on the opening line. We must have had a few other goofs but I didn't write it down and now the day's details are a fuzzy blur. Oh but I do remember that she held 2o2o on both dogwalks (the offcouse and the legit one) but she was sniffing the ground both times while in 2o2o. Good news is that she happily waited for me before exiting the ring.

Advanced Snooker: Just what I was hoping for: There was no frame on the course, yay! Our opening was the #7 teeter twice and the #2 tunnel. Lucy was slow and unpeppy but somehow we made it through to the end of the closing even though she *walked* through the weaves. So a Q for Lucy but not exactly our best ever performance.

Advanced Jumpers: This was at the end of a long day. If only my dogs would be able to sleep in their crates/xpens during their downtime. Anyway, let's just say man did my pom-poms get a workout. Halfway through the course, however, she went to the fence and started sniffing at the grass. Clearly she was not into this run so I put an end to the torture for all involved and signalled to the judge that we were done. Lucy's fence-sniffing was strange behaviour as usually when she's stressed or just not into a run she heads straight for the exit gate, but the fence she went to sniff at was at the opposite end of the ring and even when we went running to the exit I had to really cheerlead her to get her to break into a canter.

Later at home I looked at her feet out of curiosity and noticed a cut on her left rear pad which was definitely sensitive to the touch. No idea when or how she got it as it wasn't there a few days ago when I trimmed her nails, and she hadn't been limping. Surely to goodness this injury played a role in today's performance, my poor Lucy. She has gotten strange cuts like this before including once shortly before a trial from which I therefore scratched her, $45 down the drain but obviously the right thing to do. So, I vow from here on to inspect her feet before every single run to make sure there are no cuts.

As usual, she was a joy to hang out with, and she even got some compliments on her sweetie-pie good looks from a very nice woman who was taken with her. Lucy loves everyone so she was glad to soak up the lovin' and it was nice that for once it was her instead of Mr. Fancypants Walter who got the attention of a stranger. :-)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Practice - Discovery!

If I haven't been blogging much about Lucy's agility practices this year it's because, well, we haven't been doing very much of it. I've been really focusing on developing a number of skills with Walter this year so as usual Lucy's agility training has taken a back seat. Taking both dogs to practice at the same time involves digging out the heavy crate from the bottom of the trunk and setting it up and I've just been too lazy this summer. So I take her out with Walter from time to time when it's cool enough and shady enough that the dogs can wait in the car while it's the other dog's turn. We've done simple little sequences but that's about it, haven't worked on skills development at all. Sad but true. (But, she is my main focus in flyball, and I would love to get into rally with her at some point... so hopefully it all evens out in the end?)

Anyway, today I decided to see what would happen if at one of our usual practice fields (BF) I treated it like a trial run: We did our typical warmup exercises and I left our treat bag outside the ring, no treats inside the ring. Then we ran a simple standard course. Well, lo and behold, we had the same issues we have at trials! Where she seemingly tunes out now and then, running around aimlessly for a bit; where she sometimes locks onto obsacles in front of her instead of turning with me; where she runs toward the exit gate.

So, could it be that the issues we've been having simply come down to a lack of practice? Geez when I think about it she gets a heck of a lot more flyball practice time and flyball is the same darn thing again and again and again, none of the complexity and variety that's found in agility.

Looking at it that way, it all makes sense. Too bad it took me to the end of the season to figure it out. Oh and there is still the frame retraining issue which will need to be addressed.

Hopefully next year I'll get back on track with her as Walter has made good progress on his skills development this year (weaves aside, ahem!!) so he can take more of a backseat next green fee season.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Guides Canins trial

Our first time at the gorgeous Guides Canins facility in Saint Lazare. Lucy was entered in only two runs, one Saturday morning and one Sunday morning. No expectations, just wanted to give her some ring time and see how she'd do at a different venue.

Saturday morning: Advanced Jumpers

The opening straight line went well but after that we fell to pieces, both of us completely discombobulated. I got lost on course for the first time ever but didn't realize it until we were on the closing line when I thought hey, how come we never got to the chute? and the bunch of jumps before and after the chute? woops :-) From watching the video it looks like Lucy had a combination of excitement and stress, but at least she wasn't stressed to the point where the exit gate became an irresistable magnet. Oh and she had a strange stumble on the turn after one of the jumps towards the end. Here's the video:

Sunday morning: Advanced Gamblers

Wanted to enter her in just one run early in the morning. Since Jumpers wasn't until late in the day, our choice was between Snooker and Gamblers. While we would have stood a better chance at Qing in Snooker (since we never practice distance), I figured Gamblers would be the better choice for us as the Mean Yelling Snooker Handler in me would not get the chance to take over. Some good news is she did the 12-weaves, yay! However, I made the mistake of putting her over the frame since it provided a way of continuing a nice line. The frame faced the exit gate so then off she went to the exit... then she came back in the ring, and soon after the buzzer went, at which point she ran right back to the exit and visited the scribe and timer, BUT the good news is she eventually did come back so we tried the gamble. She took the wrong end of the tunnel (no surprise there) and then made no attempt whatsoever at 2o2o on the dogwalk (actually she jumped clear over the yellow) and left the ring. We would have had nowhere near enough opening points to Q even if she had done the gamble. This run didn't get caught on video so we are all spared from having to watch it again.

Later on when I was discussing Lucy's issues with someone, she suggested that Gamblers is not necessarily a good event for a dog with stress issues because often the obstacles are not laid out in a way that you can design a nice, flowing course. I hadn't thought about it that way but totally see her point.

Lucy had a nice massage by the on-site dog masseuse afterwards which she quite enjoyed.

I have to say, while I'm not sure what the future holds for Lucy's agility "career", she is such a wonderful dog to just hang around the show site with. Easygoing, quiet, and knows how to kick back and relax in the sun. The only thing I need to keep an eye on her about is to make sure she hasn't, isn't, or isn't about to stick her snout in someone's unmonitored treat pouch or lunch bag :-D

Sunday, August 17, 2008

August K9 Kup

Mixed results on this one. Standard wasn't too bad; I think her lapses were more excited in nature rather than stress because she was quick to come back to me; however, her fabulous go line (which I didn't ask for) at the end seemed stressy and she ran out of the ring by herself. Snooker was going well until she took back to back reds, but she seemed happy enough so I don't mind. Gamblers was ok, except I accidentally put her through Walter's opening instead of hers which called for the teeter instead of the frame. She didn't seem happy on the frame and paused at the top. Again, a stressy line at the end where she ran out of the ring by herself, missing the last jump of the gamble, too bad!

In retrospect, it actually looks better (i.e. Lucy looks happier) on the video than it felt while we were running.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A-frame box practice

Re-read the first steps of the Clean Run article and realized I've been missing the step of throwing the treat into the box before throwing a treat outside of the box. So we gave that a try at the field today (box on ground, now with additional sponge at corners for slightly better visibility in grass). She was having fun, but when I back up from the box she tends to come to me, then upon getting no reinforcement she turns around and goes into the box but it's from the side rather than the "top". Hmmm. Might just be worthwhile to buy the DVD they're putting together on this training method.

Monday, August 11, 2008

A-frame box update

We gave it another go with the pvc box on the ground at the agility field today. The problem last time we tried this was that the box disappeared in the grass. So, I attached a little sponge at each corner thinking that would help raise it and make it more visible. Well, while the piddly little sponges make it perfectly visible on the living room carpet, they do next to nothing in the grass. So, back to the drawing board; I'll have to put a few sponges on each corner I guess. Oh and the other problem that we don't have at home on the living room carpet is I can't throw our usual treats in the grass because they disappear and it takes Lucy forever to find them. Ok, so our action plan is to (1) find a way to raise the frame a bit higher off the ground so it doesn't get swallowed up in the grass, and (2) find some large, light-coloured treats for throwing.

As the days get shorter and the end of green fee season starts to approach, I concede that Lucy's frame retraining will not be finished this year. Heck we've barely started it! So, my plan is to really get the groundwork part of it down pat over the fall and winter and next spring be ready to put it to the equipment. Trialing-wise, I'm encouraged by following the current thread on the Clean Run mailing list about Rachel Sanders' pvc box method: it's ok to keep trialing as long as you're still on the groundwork part of it. It's once you start putting the box on the frame that it's a good idea to take some time out from doing frames in trials.

Check out Emily Snider's You Tube videos for some neat footage of her border collie's progress with the pvc box method. Here's her most recent frame training video:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Dogz Advanced trial... in which Lucy has a 100% Q rate!

Ok, so she was entered in only one class. ;-P She ran the Advanced Jumpers course. Didn't put her in the other games because of the frame retraining and not wanting to overdo it with her at trials.

She ran very attentively and stayed with me the whole time, yay! But, her happiness level wasn't at full-on 100% Happy Girl. I'd give her a 3.5 or 4 out of 5 on the Happy scale.

Couple of things I noticed from the video... I rely way too much on the off arm, such as to bring her in after a turn to avoid her running past the next jump... and, holy moly I can't cue a tight turn to save my life. Actually that kind of thing (efficient turns) is the last thing on my mind both when walking a course and running it. But jeez maybe it's time to start eh!

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Quick practice to work on rear crosses in anticipation of possibly wanting to use one or two at tomorrow's Jumpers run. She doesn't really "get" rear crosses because, well, I haven't worked on them much with her. Poor Lucy, always the neglected one. She spun at first but after a bit of work she was picking it up better.

Also, put her through the 12-weaves at the field with the good weaves and she was looking great: excited and happy!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Krazy Kanines fun match

Today was the Krazy Kanines (our agility club)'s first ever fun match. Lucy ran a starters and advanced standard and the starters gamble. I ran her at 16" instead of 22" because, well, just because. It was fun and the bonus is that some photographers took a bunch of photos of everyone and their photos are free to use as we please. So, here are a bunch of Lucy.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Club practice

Tonight for the first time I asked someone to run Lucy for a bit, just to see how she'd do with that. Sure enough, all it took was a bit of pre-run bonding involving a cheese string or two, and she subsequently followed her new handler around like magic. It was neat to have an observer`s perspective on her for a change. She's such a funny dog, so bouncy and happy when she's having fun.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

K9 Kup!

This was Lucy's first K9 Kup of the year, having missed the June one due to an ear infection. K9 Kup consists of a series of unsanctioned agility matches held over the summer, with a team-based approach, geared towards novices with all courses at the Starters level. We have a great bunch of teammates so it's really fun :-)

I've been looking forward to running her in K9 Kup because it's a lot easier to not stress myself out too much since each run costs about $3 in contrast to $15+ at a sanctioned trial. So it's easier to really just think of it as a fun outing as opposed to a Q being at stake. So yeah of all of this to say I was hoping that Lucy would appreciate the less stress-inducing vibes from me :-)

First was Jumpers, in the wall-less ring. I led out one obstacle to help with a tricky opening, and she did only a wee bit of sniffing the ground around her while waiting to be released. Then off we went, and she was feeling great! She was with me the whole time and didn't get that stressy look I've come to know, yay! She even came to me as we exited the ring, like she did last summer before the stressiness started, rather than running out by herself (as she did in the following run, Gamblers). I was thrilled that her happy agility face came out for this run. Oh and I really must practice that lead-out thingy, not sure what it's called (not a lead-out pivot... you can see it better on Walter's video...); I was in the wrong place and super late on it with both Lucy and Walter. Hey here`s a brag: Lucy`s time was bested by only a handful of bcs. But the fact that she was running happy is far more important to me :D

Next was Gamblers. My plan kind of went to pieces and I made the mistake of not going with her flow so she started to get that stressy look and our connection kind of went out the window, but at least she didn't go running around aimlessly too much or head for the exit before we were done. She did however run out of the ring by herself at the end, something she typically does when she's had a stressful run. Man it's tough being a dog eh. Especially the dog of a handler who doesn't know what they're doing.

Last was Standard. Another really good run with none of her stress symptoms (other than mild startline stuff), yay! At one point a third of the way through the course had us heading towards the exit gate, and I think I saw her briefly consider exiting as an option, but she chose instead to take the tunnel and keep playing with me, yay!

Sorry for all the yay!s but I am very happy that Lucy was happy in the ring today, back to her old self.

Note, her happy runs (Jumpers and Standard) were the ones that she ran clean in and her not-so-happy run was the one where she deviated from my plan even though it really wouldn't have mattered (Gamblers). I really must learn to go with the flow with her because when she knows she made a mistake is, it seems, when she starts to get stressy.

Frame-wise: I know we probably shouldn't be doing the frame while it's being retrained, so we didn't do it in Gamblers but I let her do it in the Standard. Bad me.

Videos of our runs:

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A-frame box update

We've done several sessions in the living room over the last few weeks. The first part went fairly well with C&Ting for going fully in the box, then throwing the treat outside the box. Found it a bit cramped when moving to the part where I stand several feet away from the box in various positions, so we brought it outside. Outside it didn't go so well; after being released from her sitstay she would come to me instead of going to the box. I wonder if part of the problem is that my box doesn't have the riser corners so it kind of disappears in the grass. To fix that I have bought some sponges to put at the corners so it sits a bit higher up. Haven't had a chance to try it out yet.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Running a-frame, take two!

If I haven't been blogging about Lucy's running frame lately, it's because we haven't been working on it (last running frame practice was mid-May). About the same time as I started with the pool noodle hoop frame back in May, there was a discussion about running contacts on one of the agility lists I'm subscribed to. The age-old debate about the physical effects of running contacts vs 2o2o contacts (on the frame specifically) came to the fore. Someone suggested that perhaps the act of 2o2o was more physically stressful than the act of a running contact, BUT if in the process of obtaining a reliable running contact the dog has to do hundreds if not thousands of repetitions to get the muscle memory thing happening, then in the end which one has more of a potential impact on the dog's wellbeing?

That question got me rethinking Lucy's frame re-training plan, hence our timeout. The hoop thing seems to me to be very much a muscle memory thing, where the dog gets used to lowering their head as they run under the hoop. Not much learning/understanding going on as it relates to the performance of the actual obstacle. I still like the idea of a running frame, but perhaps a different approach should be considered.

Enter the May 2008 edition of Clean Run in my mailbox, featuring a detailed article by Rachel Sanders about her running frame training method. (Click here for an overview of her method.) The more I thought about it, the more I could see the merits of her box method compared to the hoop method. To me the big benefit is it seems to be a concept that the dog can really understand, since unlike the hoop method they're not *forced* by the prop to perform the criteria; rather, either they hit all fours inside the box and get a reward, or they don't hit all fours inside the box and consequently don't get a reward. Also, in her article Rachel recommends doing only four to eight frames per training session and only three to four sessions per week, raising the importance of quality over quantity.

So I finally dragged my butt out to the store this week and bought the pvc to make our a-frame box. Couldn't find the 3-way corners her article mentions , but hopefully that won't make too much difference. Here it is being tested on the frame before gluing it together:

It's great that the article comes with step by step instructions, and I especially love that we can do the first few steps in our living room, especially given all the rainy weather we've been having lately. Looking forward to getting started with it; the glue is drying as I type. :-)

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Dogz fun match

Lucy ran the starters standard and starters gamblers course once each.

Standard: I'm trying a different way of starting the course. Instead of having any kind of start line sit, which is where her stressing out begins, we sort of walk around for a few seconds and then just go. Did an easygoing run with lots of praise and treats. She had a couple of sniffy moments but overall seemed fairly content.

Gamblers: Decent run actually, but she's still not back at her excited-and-having-lots-of-fun level of engagement.

In summary, a step in the right direction...

Camping at Sandbanks Provincial Park

Photos of Lucy on her first camping adventure are over on Walter's blog.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

All Dogs trial; Lucy destined to stay in Starters forever?

Ok, I know I said Lucy would be taking a time out from trial events involving frames. I actually had emailed the trial secretary shortly after making that decision, to cancel her entry. Well, all of a sudden two weeks ago I received an email confirming her entry in the trial. It would seem that my email to them got trapped in a spam filter or something. So, rather than complicate things for them I just let it go with the hopes that maybe, just maybe, it was a sign that she should be in the trial and would maybe, just maybe, end her ever-lengthening non-Q streak and get her Starters Standard title.

Well. In fact, perhaps I should have paid more attention to another sign, a potentially ominous sign indicating that maybe, just maybe, Lucy is destined to stay in Starters Standard forever.

What, you ask, is that ominous sign? This is what the entry confirmation said:

Trial Date: May 8, 2029

# Event Name Event # Judge

1 Starters Standard 1 1 John Willis

2 Starters Standard 2 2 John Willis

Yup, apparently Lucy will still be trying for her third and final Starters Standard Q in 2029. Simple computer program glitch, or sign of things to come? Time will tell! But hey, if she's still doing agility in 2029, Starters or not, I'll be thrilled. ;-D

Down to business. In Standard #1, she had actually a pretty good run. However, I was in spectator mode watching Lucy hit the yellow on the #4 frame (using the highly trained, highly respected method commonly known as Point and Pray) and my delay in directing her to the next jump caused me to lose her to several seconds of sightseeing, refusal-incurring, and backjumping.

In Standard #2, I lost her after the second jump. I think I have figured out that one of our problems is that if my handling isn't at least close to being spot on or if I'm late in cueing the next obstacle unless it's right in front of her, I lose her. She goes off on a little stress sightseeing (not groundsniffing, and not really zooming, just loping around in a most unfocused way, looking at everything except me). So back to Standard #2, there was a front cross after the second jump which I must have bungled, because off she went. She regrouped fairly well for the second half of the course.

Also, I noticed that at the end of both runs, she was quick to leave the ring. Last year, she used to check in with me at the end of the runs and we'd leave together.

So, darn darn darn. I was hoping that our stroke of bad runs at Dreamfields and Morningstar was due perhaps to those facilities being indoors which maybe she didn't like too much. Blame it on the roof, yeah, yeah... Blame it on the walls... that shut her in... Whatever you do... don't put the blame on you... There's your Milli Vanilli fix of the day. Anyway, nope it's not the roof because I don't think I've ever seen her as zoned out and unresponsive as in her little "zoomy" in the second run today.

I really really hope we can get back to the place we were last summer when she was awesome and really having fun out there playing agility with me.

As a pick-me-up to remind myself of Lucy's enthusiastic agility year last year, here's a repost of Lucy's 2007 agility compilation video. See, there are benefits to doing such little projects. :-)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Running frame resources

FYI, here, in no particular order, are a few online running contact resources/blogs (using a variety of training methods).

Sylvia Trkman's running contacts FAQ and videos

CFlyRun blog: running contacts diary (includes videos)

TajMuttHall blog entries on a running frame technique: Part 1 and Part 2

Elite Forces of Fuzzy Destruction blog post, "Thoughts on Running Contacts" (lots of thoughts to think about there)

Agility Nerd: Stride Regulators (includes videos) (he uses two on two off, but the stride regulator aspect is very interesting)

Agilty Nerd: Contact Hoop and Contact Wicket

Days of Speed and Slowtime Mondays blog (overall a very neat agility blog and she is switching to running contacts which you can read about in some of the posts) training notes

Running frame training session #1

Lucy's first time at the new practice field. Brought along our pool noodle and started our running frame training. Caution: I am very much a novice trainer and recognize that by doing this training I could be totally messing up my dog and/or spending a lot of time on something while not accomplishing anything, so it is not recommended that you try this at home!

- The frame was set as low as I could set it without squishing myself.
- The first few times I carried the food tube in my hand and threw it after she passed under the hoop. After that I put it on the ground several metres ahead and she seemed to drive ahead better. Next time I'll put the food on a target so she can eat it right away and not have to wait for me to give it to her.
- Didn't want to do too many reps since I couldn't tell what her frames were looking like; thank goodness for tripods, cheap digital cameras, and slow-mo on the computer replay!

Here are the results from running frame session #1:

Geez, seeing the shoulder impact in slow mo when she hits the frame I wonder if I should't put a hoop on the upside too? Also of note is that on her 4th try she jumps the apex, which is great, but it looks like she doesn't actually hit the yellow.

After a few more sessions like this and more close video review (she won't do a frame without it being caught on film for the foreseeable future) I'll try to decide if stride regulators will come into play as well.

At this point I don't plan to do any of this with Walter's frame because his stride seems to naturally carry him into the yellow, and if I'm messing up Lucy with this training (although I'm not sure how much more messed up her frame can get than it already is) there's no point in messing up both dogs at the same time. :-D

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Dream Fields trial (in which I traumatize Lucy but she forgives me)

First class of the day was Advanced Team. This was Lucy's second ever try at a Team event, the first being Starters Team back in September. Given all the issues she's had over the fall and winter (teeter fear, dogwalk fear, lack of focus, etc) I didn't dare put her in team again until now. She took the first half of the course, which went well except for me wayyyy overmanaging the weave entry. Oh, and she totally did NOT stick her teeter 2o2o but instead went diving into the tunnel right after it. Then, it was time to get her under control in her box, then give the a-ok to our partner. Note, this was the first time she's run first in team so it was all new to both of us. Well, poor Lucy: I was too hasty and rough in trying to get a hold of her and she yelped. Lucy is a drama queen who screamed bloody murder the first many times I approached her with nail trimmers (maybe she had a bad nail trimming experience in her previous home?), and yelps in terror if the vet so much as looks at her (well ok, slight exageration, but you get the picture), so I really should have been aware of that fact and taken my time to calmly and gently collect her in our box. So, we got eliminated, a rule I totally understand and agree with. Lesson learned! A Big Huge Sorry to my very understanding and forgiving partner (and to Lucy!).

Then it was Advanced Snooker. I used this run to try to get Lucy more comfy as lately she has seemed a bit on the frantic side. Fast I like, but frantic I don't. So we walked out calmly to one of the reds on the far side and played around, taking our time. Made it through the opening and the whistle went just as I was trying to remember where the heck the #2 was.

Next up was Advanced Jumpers. I was really glad about this run as the franticness did not seem to be there. She did have yet another la-la moment facing the in/out gate and incurred a refusal, but overall it was a good run.

Finally it was Starters Standard. She saw me accidentally drop a few treat crumbs in the ingate just as we walked into the ring and as I was setting her up she tried to go back to get those gold nuggets. Once we got going she did fairly well, and this time she totally stuck 2o2o on the dogwalk and teeter, yeah! Another slight la-la moment facing the ingate, but no refusal incurred. Good table. All was looking good until the third last obstacle: the frame, and she gracefully sailed right over the pretty little yellow bit. Totally understandable as anyone who has been following this blog knows that I have been a very bad human and have kept running her in trials knowing full well that she NEEDS time out to retrain her frame since we've abandoned 2o2o. So that darn frame bit me in the butt clear as day today.

So, Lucy's non-Q streak continues to be alive and well. I hereby decide to run her ONLY in Jumpers until her frame has been retrained. I was hoping to get that last Starters Standard for her title before retraining, but clearly it's not meant to be. We have our work cut out for the summer!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Lucy is Jennifer Lopez

Just for fun: Which celebrity is your pet?
Jennifer Lopez
Dressed to Kill

Una bomba inteligente autentica, Lucy is super-fly girl Jennifer Lopez!

Curvaceous and sassy and always more than willing to pawticipate with a few moves on the dance floor, Lucy moves and grooves with the best of them. But that doesn't mean it's all fun and salsa for Lucy-discipline and structure are key ingredients that have helped to put Lucy on a fur-lined fast track. Family is of utmost importance for Lucy , and she takes care of her brothers and sisters with the same dedication that she gives her little 'uns. To see and to be seen are significant parts of Lucy's daily activities, and the real-life Cleopetra makes her rounds with confidence and flair, always preferring to hang with the more bold and beautiful members of the pack.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Dream Fields trial

The real Lucy is back! She was feeling great and ran well at today's trial, although we took no letters home with us today.

Advanced Snooker: The opening was designed for flow and went according to plan, but after #2 of the closing, a jump which faced the out gate, she took the red right after it -- tweet. But, as with Walter's non-Q snooker at the last trial it really was FUN! She was running so fast. What has come over this dog lately?

Advanced Jumpers: A nice run except she ran past one jump and my timing was really messed up at one point.

Starters Standard: Another nice run except after the dogwalk she got distracted by the nearby out gate causing a runby on one jump. She's definitely getting faster. I used to be able to keep up with her on straightaways; not so anymore! She had no dogwalk, teeter, or frame issues, yay! and her table was a happy tail-wagging one.

It was wonderful to see her running fast and a HAPPY fast at that, woo hoo! But, if only she would slow down so that my timing wouldn't be so off. ;-)

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Red Gate fun match

Lucy and Walter shared a spot at today's fun match. Lucy ran the two standards, and Walter took the two gamblers runs. You get two minutes in each run to do whatever the heck you want. I chose the Starters version for both of Lucy's runs.

She seemed a lot happier out there than at her last two trials, now that her ear infection has cleared. We had some difficulty with the weaves today for some reason (tended to miss the entry). Might be because she was distracted by the nearby teeter on which she has been rewarded muchly and deliciously in recent history.

Good news, no problems with any of the contact equipment today.

She got a compliment when someone who hadn't seen her in a while said she looked to be running faster than before. Cool, but now I need to figure out my handling with her because I'm often way late on my cues for her.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It must be summer

What should stare me straight in the face today as I walked into the mega-grocery store but boxes and boxes of pool noodles. Having more or less decided to use a pool noodle hoop (and/or pool noodle stride regulators... not sure yet) in the retraining of the dogs' a-frames, I was happy to pick one up. It fits perfectly onto my weave base: just slip it on and it stays put, at least in my non-windy living room.

Tried it first with Walter (on the flat of course), free shaping and he quickly figured out that running under it gets a click and treat. Then I tried it with Lucy but she kept offering to bite it or paw at it so rather than risk her destroying our brand new $1.99 pool noodle I went to the luring method.

Got some strange looks and a witty remark from the bus operator on the way home. Unfortunately we still have at least two feet of snow on the ground so despite what the mega-grocery store says, it's not quite summer yet.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dream Fields trial

Poor Lucy. She's such a good girl, running for me (or trying to, at least) when she wasn't feeling well...

Advanced Snooker
I picked a relatively flowing course for her and despite my handling goofs we made it through to part of the closing, but I lost her after she came out of the #4 tunnel when she went off on a zoomy tangent to check out the nearby in/out gates and incurred a refusal. However, the great part is that she did two teeters in the opening with no problem, yay!

Advanced Jumpers
I bungled a front cross in front of the double so she knocked it, one of the few bars she's ever knocked in competition. Later on, she ran past a jump but I didn't bother going back to fix it. Then, when she did a nice rear cross into a tunnel I said "yes" or "good girl" or something and the classic tunnel bungle happened: she popped back out the entry end, d'oh! Overall it wasn't a terrible run but certainly not our best.

Starters Standard - Did not run
Lucy had been shaking her head a lot and scratching her left ear and a friend observed she was even holding her head at an off angle while running. Sure enough, she has an ear infection, poor girl. So I scratched her from Standard because she was obviously quite bothered by it and the last thing she needs is a bad experience on the dogwalk due to feeling off balance.

I have a feeling this ear problem may have played a part in Lucy's "scatterbrain" runs last weekend. I can't wait to get her all cleared up and get this girl back on track! She's so much better than her performances this weekend and last. Didn't get a chance today to see how her frame is doing since there was no frame in the Snooker course and she didn't do the Standard.

So no Qs for either of my dogs today, but we Q'd vicariously when one of our flyball teammates, a rescue who is working hard to overcome her issues, got a Q with a great Gamblers run. Woo hoo!

In completely unrelated news, Woo hoo! to Canada's own Jeffrey Buttle for delivering the goods at the World Figure Skating Championships, taking home the gold medal after today's fantastic free skate. I remember seeing him for the first time when I had tickets to the Canadian National Championships here in Ottawa in 1999. He was just a baby-faced teen at the time and even though he finished well out of the medals, everyone could see his promise even then. Talent, charisma, and great sportsmanship all the way to becoming World Champion! Wonderful to see someone who seems like a nice guy (of course, he could be a nasty, snobby creep in real life, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt...) come out on top. You can watch his gold medal winning free skate here.

Ahem... we now take you back to our regularly scheduled dogs-only programming.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Short and sweet practice

Well, as sweet as canned dog food is or isn't. After our flyball team's supplementary practice at K9 Sense this evening, I secretly placed a closed margarine tub full of canned food at the bottom of the specials-height frame where Lucy couldn't see it. Then, ran her through a tunnel and a few jumps before sending her over the frame. She took the frame with no refusal or hesitation, and after she discovered the delicious reward awaiting her she was even happier to do the frame again. Used the canned food to reward the 12-weaves a few times too, which she did with great enthusiasm knowing the sweet reward that was on the line. Next time I'll raise the frame to full height.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Trial; a-frame shame

Lucy ran in five classes at Morning Star today. Walter stayed home because I find it much more relaxing and enjoyable having only one dog to worry about when running in two different rings.

The first event was Advanced Jumpers, held in ring 1 which is very wide open. She ran in this ring once before, back in January and was a total scatterbrain. Well, history repeated itself and we were both total scatterbrains, with no connection whatsoever. I had to keep calling her name to try to keep her with me, and having to worry about trying to keep her with me didn't help me remember where we were going on course. It wasn't much fun for either of us and we sure gave that judge's arm a workout.

The rest of her runs were in ring 2 which has solid walls on three sides unlike the wide-open ring 1, and normally she's done fairly well there.

First up in ring 2 was Starters Standard #1. She did well except she ran past the frame and took a snaked-under tunnel to come back to me, incurring an off-course.

Next up was Standard #2. Again, she ran past the frame but I called her back and she took it without getting an off-course, and since refusals on contacts don't count in Starters she picked up a Q.

Then it was Starters Snooker. I went for a fairly flowing course rather than points, doing the #4 tunnel twice followed by the #7 12-weaves which she really slowed down in, popping at the last pole. (I just popped her back in to finish them off.) In the closing, she ran past the frame but came back and did it, but pausing at the top. We would have made it through to the end of the closing except she kept entering the weaves at the second pole. Anyway we had just enough points for a Q which finishes off her Starters games title.

Finally it was Steeplechase. What a disaster. It started off on the wrong note when two teeny bopper girls volunteering as ring crew right next to the start line were giggling and looking at Lucy just as I was finishing setting her up. So of course when I released her, what did she do, run right over to them with wagging tail to see what all the fun was about. Sigh. Ok, pick her back up and off we go. All was going well until we got to the frame. The frame was in the course twice, and both times she refused it. The first time I had to resort to the "look what I have" method to get her to take it. The second time, as soon as she saw it was the frame she went running off down a line of jumps. Would have been an amazing "go" line for a gamble, wow. When she came back she clearly wasn't interested in the frame so we didn't do it and finished the last two obstacles of the course. Oh yeah, and she wasn't into the weaves in the Steeplechase either.

I've known for a while that Lucy needs to take some time off from trialing soon to retrain her frame since I've abandoned 2o2o but haven't trained anything proper in its place. (That's what I meant by a-frame shame -- bad trainer, bad, bad trainer.) I've been hoping to just sort of wing it until then.

At this point I'm not suspecting her a-frame stress/avoidance is due to injury. In class a week or two ago she was doing just fine on the frame (although it may have been at specials height). She was also doing fine on the 12-weaves in class.

I think what's happening is (a) she's not fond of the regular height frame, especially doing 2o2o on it; and (b) she's not fond of the lack of any kind of performance criteria so the frame is a big cloudy uncomfortable mess in her mind. Throw in the general stress of a trial situation and she's not a happy a-frame camper. Also throw in that five classes in a day is too much for her at this point. (She was sleeping in the car between runs which is great but she didn't seem to fully wake up towards her last runs.)

It's too late to withdraw from her next two trials so we'll give them a go. Before her next trial I'm going to try using her Most Favourite Reward Ever (canned dog food) in conjunction with the frame and see what happens. Canned dog food worked wonders in getting her happy on the teeter and dogwalk (with which she had absolutely no issues today, yay) so we'll see what it does for the frame. Of course, the canned dog food is just a bandaid until the end of this round of trials at which point I promise her she gets a time out to retrain a happy frame (there are some great training ideas here and here).

Classes entered: 5 (Advanced Jumpers, Starters Standard 1 and 2, Starters Snooker, Steeplechase)
Qs: 2 (Starters Standard 2 and Snooker)
Bars knocked: 0
YPS: didn't track it
Title earned: Starters Games Dog of Canada (SGDC)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The trial that wasn't (well, for me and Lucy anyway)

While bloggers in gentler parts of the world herald the welcome arrival of spring, Mother Nature dropped over 50 cms of snow on us from Friday afternoon to this morning. On top of that, today there are also strong winds, gusting up to 50 km/h, doing just a dandy job of blowing all the fresh snow all over the highways.

Here's what the highway looks like in town where there's enough traffic to sort of have one decent lane in each direction; I don't want to think about what it looks like in the rural section I would have been driving today. Is that an ambulance driving toward the west side of the photo? The trial Lucy was signed up for is an hour and a half's drive on a good day, probably double that with today's road conditions. Normally I wouldn't be opposed to a drive that long except for the defensive driving stuff drilled into my brain from years back stating that everyone else on the road is an idiot, so drive accordingly. Today, that means don't drive at all. There goes $70 out the window as she would have run in two Starters Standards, her first try at Starters Snooker, and Advanced Jumpers. Sigh.

So instead of posting videos of the amazingly spectacular agility runs it's doubtless she would have put in today, here's a little video of the dogs going out for their morning pee (and since snow is so exciting, zooming back in to play living room zoomies). Somehow it doesn't look like 50 cms of snow -- I thought they would be swimming in it more. Geez, for all the trouble the snow brings, the least it could do is look a little more dramatic.

I supposed the good news is, skijoring season will be extended that much longer; too bad most of my upcoming weekends are already booked with other stuff. Ok I'll stop whining now!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Lucy's last lesson for a while

Lucy was bright-eyed and chipper for her last lesson. Like Walter, she needs a lot of work on collection and turning tightly. I don't know but at this point I just like to get out there and have fun with her and I'm not particularly fussy about the details. Is that typical of people's attitudes with their first agility dogs? Just want to get out there and play and hopefully pick up a few titles along the way?

So yeah, unfortunately no more lessons for us for a long time as there are other spending priorities that need to be addressed.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lesson and Lucy's European heritage

Lucy's start line stay is starting to deteriorate! Oh my she broke a million and one times tonight. That'll teach me for taking it for granted.

In other news, Lucy's true heritage has finally been discovered! I was looking through the hounds on wikipedia and came upon some photos of Polish Hounds, which I had never heard of before. Check out these two photos of Polish Hounds, also known as Ogar Polskis:

And here's Lucy (this photo is kind of washed out):

If the breed wasn't on the rare side, I'd almost think she was of Polish Hound heritage. The markings seem spot on. But, her ears don't have the rounded beagly look, her muzzle is too fine, her tail too fluffy, at 46 pounds she's on the lightly built side for this heavier set breed which is supposed to be 50 pounds and up, and I'm sure a million other differences that my uneducated eyes don't see. Ok, who am I kidding, just about any hound/shepherd mix could pass for the same thing. I guess Lucy's just a mutt after all ;^D

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lesson: Distance Challenge, part 2

Worked on the same DC setup as last week, a few of the same exercises plus some new ones. Never even tried to use the harder green line, and sometimes stayed with the easier blue line and sometimes went past it. Figure 5 (3 to 4 in particular) went much much better this time. Figure 7: 2 to 3 was a bit hard at first, but after some patterning she did pretty good. Figure 8: Ok, but gauging the best amount of "here" to use from 3 to 4 was hard. I think we skipped Figure 9. Figure 10: She was feeling pretty good, getting more comfortable with it all. We stopped there.

Two of the dogs were absent today, so we let Sammy and Lucy play and chase each other a few times during/after the lesson. They had the most fun creating games with the tunnel, sometimes playing King of the Castle, sometimes diving into it in tandem, sometimes running round and round. The instructor pointed out the high drive level she had with the tunnel while playing with Sammy and to work towards having that drive all the time.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stage One Distance Workshop with Jane Newman-Ralph

Jane is a 65 year old woman based out of Kingston, Ontario or thereabouts who runs agility with a very fast border collie and relies extensively on working at a distance. While I like the running part of agility, it never hurts to have some nice distance skills, so I signed up for a working spot with Lucy. I chose Lucy over Walter to accompany me for this workshop because the prerequisite is a dog with a good start-line stay, which Walter most certainly does not have.

I must say, it was an excellent workshop. It was limited to six working spots, and we sure got our money's worth since everyone was working practically the whole time. I really liked how the exercises were broken down into their most basic components, and we had lots of time to work through each one. A really nice feature was that we received an extensive handout including all of the layouts and exercises we had worked on plus more, so no need to try to work your dog and take notes at the same time.

Tried a new toy today: a food tube! Actually it's a Viewtainer, available from your local hardware supply store. It was a great tool, being easy to throw accurately and, being fabric-free, it didn't get all grungy from the dirt floor. The down side is it broke after two hours of Lucy pouncing on it in subzero temperatures, but at $3.67 I think I can afford another.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lesson - Distance Challenge

We worked on the first four exercises of the Distance Challenge in the January 2008 Clean Run, working with the easier blue line. The exercise in Figure 2 didn't pose much problem. In the Figure 3 exercise, I had trouble doing the flip/rear cross between 2 and 3 and in a moment of desperation used both arms to send her out to the tunnel. Heh. For Figure 4, as suspected, Lucy's lateral out is very weak to nonexistant, so we cut the exercise to end at jump 4 with the instructor tossing the treat tug for her. Finally, for Figure 5 I had trouble with the flip/rear cross from 3 to 4.

I'm curious to see how Walter does on the same exercises at Sunday's lesson. He does have, or least I think he has, a basic lateral out thanks to all the playing we do with the soccer goal posts at the dog field.

Saturday, January 26, 2008


The teeter and dogwalk were used in today's sequences, and I was glad to see that Lucy showed no hesitation at all on either. But, she did a terrific job of demonstrating that her dogwalk contact is nowhere close to being anywhere close to being independent.

One of the sequences involved a tunnel which was snaked under the dogwalk, followed by the dogwalk. Thing is, the exit of the tunnel was set back from the dogwalk upramp, so the question was how to give a good line for a safe dogwalk. The following detailed graphic illustrates the setup, where the "o" represents the tunnel exit and the "l"s represent the dogwalk:


The following was suggested as an option for handling this: after exiting the tunnel, the dog circles around behind the handler and is then lined up for a straight approach to the dogwalk. A benefit of this handling is that while under full acceleration after the tunnel, the dog can continue to accelerate while circling around the handler, like a horse doing barrel racing. The instructor had seen several teams handle such a setup this way at a trial and it worked brilliantly for those teams. So, homework is to practice the dog circling around, pretty much like a finish in obedience but driving ahead afterward.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


This week I wanted to see how class would go if she got lots of exercise before class (she had basically zippo exercise before last week's lesson) so this afternoon she ran around offleash at the local dog park and got chased by some dog friends for 20 minutes. Her concentration was much improved over last week so I'll try this strategy again next week.

Worked on some fun sequences using jumps, tunnel, and tire. I have such an untrained agility eye it's not funny. Our classmates would do their sequences and it looked awesome to me, but then the instructor would have all kinds of suggestions on how to make it better. Frankly if a dog does the obstacles in the prescribed order and with some degree of flow, I'm bound to be impressed! I'm not to the point yet where I notice how wide a dog's turn is or isn't. Just not sure if I'll ever be a technician in agility, but that's fine by me.

I was reminded that Lucy needs a lot of work on finding her line when I lead out laterally. She kept coming in to me instead of taking the obstacle in front of her. But, she did some decent turns with me being quiet, so it seems she's getting ahead of Walter in that department (I've started trying to wean myself and the dogs off of verbal cues in cases where it makes sense).

Oh yeah one last note: jumps were at 16" (not 22") this week which I think she appreciated. She has enough to focus on with the handling aspect without having to worry about jumping on top of it all. So to speak.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Back to lessons after a year and a half

How time flies. Just realized Lucy's only ever had one session of agility lessons, and that was back in May 2006. She has really taken a back seat to Walter in the agility department. Poor pup!

At today's lesson we worked on handling a sequence of jumps, tunnels, and weaves. She was a bit scatterbrained at the start but eventually pull herself together. Need to work on her driving ahead more, especially for rear crosses. Oh and we did that thing where the dog is in a stay in front of a jump and you "lead out" parallel and face the way opposite from the jump and the dog takes the jump in front of them. Never tried that before and she didn't understand at first, but a well placed toy helped her catch on.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Morning Star trial

Well, the good news is -- no, the GREAT news is that Lucy had no teeter or dogwalk hesitancy at all. Woo hoo!!! And, she was 100% on all weaves. In fact she loved the weaves so much today that she earned an offcourse in one of her Standard runs by going and doing them instead of the nearby correct tire.

Starters Standard #1: Late cue and/or a momentary distraction resulted in her running past a jump. Also, she scored an offcourse at the weaves.

Starters Standard #2: Got another refusal somewhere but the rest was fine.

Steeplechase: This was her first time ever in the other ring of this venue, so I predicted she might be a bit scatterbrained. Darn, I should have predicted she would be brilliant, because my prediction came true. The first half of the course she kept getting distracted (but not in a sniffy way) and took several offcourses. But she pulled it all together for the second half which she ran clean including a difficult weave entrance.

Regardless of the NQs she reminded me how fun she is to run. Clean or not clean, brilliant or not so brilliant, sometimes she just makes me laugh. :-)

Classes entered: 3 (Starters Standard 1 and 2, Steeplechase)
Qs: 0

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Home practice: Weave entries and "out"

Soft entry
I had started training Lucy on the soft entry earlier in the fall, but after not seeing much success I abandoned it for the easier wrap entry. Now that she seems to have the wrap entry under her belt, I guess I'm forced to go back to the soft entry. :-) So here we go. Today, she did very well with the 2-weaves, but when I introduced a third pole she entered at the second gate. If I stood on the other side opposite the first gate she got it, and I was able to gradually move away from that position. Must remind myself that with all things weave-related, patience is key.

Took advantage of having a couple of jumps in the house this week. Did the same exercise as with Walter but when I added the second jump she wanted to take the closer one. Must remind myself that she's not as advanced at Walter at this and take some things slower with her.

Goals past and present

This time last year I set some agility goals for Lucy. Here they are along with a progress report and followed by some goals for 2008.

Review of goals for 2007

Weave uprights consistently
Yay! Done. As a bonus, she can now do the wrap entry pretty well, at least in the living room weaves. ;-)

Improve and proof 2o2o
Ok on the dogwalk and teeter if I'm babysitting, but haven't done much proofing. Frame is messy right now due to my inconsistent expectations.

Work on distance work
Started on this but lots more to be done. Won't be entering her in Advanced Gamblers until her contacts are totally independent.

Faster down on the table
Once I found out that the table becomes essentially extinct once you reach Masters, I kind of threw this one out the window :-) Her down's not lightening fast, but it's good enough for me.

Participate in more fun matches!

Possibly compete towards the end of the year.

Goals for 2008!

- Regain her worry-free teeter and dogwalk
- Add tunnel/contact discriminations to skill set
- Add "out" to skill set
- Add soft weave entry to skill set
- Take time out at some point to train a running frame
- Achieve fully independent contacts
- It'd be nice to get her up to Masters in some events to reduce ring conflicts with Walter.
- Oh and how can I forget: To keep her agility tail wagging. :^)