Sunday, February 27, 2011

Training Leash Runners ...

Our godson Jacob is developing an early affection for leash running. He lives in Newfoundland and boy do I miss him in between visits.
You might ask why I have so many leashes? Considering that none of the ones draping him are used regularly I must say I'm wondering too!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Our Favourite Dog Park

Have had a couple of nice Saturday walks at our favourite dog park the last two weekends. Thought to bring the camera today. Dogs had a blast, so did we.
Coming off the pond.

Brody isn't thrilled with the ice balls but he'd rather be with us than at home.

So many yummy smells.

What? You called?

Have you been into the woods today?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

on drive ... and confidence .. and lack there of

maybe a video of Sally - I didn't know it was being taped  - and I'm grateful to the taper both for taping it and for sharing it with me .. it's from the standard run at house league (the last three quarters of the course)

My lack of drive is so apparent in this bit of tape - I just kind of puttered around the ring - but I am leery of losing any semblance of control if I really run with Sally. I better get a handle on this huh? I suspect I walk course with Brody too - though I certainly can't take the same short cuts on a course as I do with Sally. He wants to be delivered directly to tunnel enterances for example.

The table was frustrating for Sally - until I watched the video I hadn't realized how very badly throughly  I had blocked the judge from seeing Sally. DOH. Sally did her count more than once and you can see me get frustrated with, not her  the whole situation. Then I gave her some more room and she very graciously repeated the table. Now, she should repeat the table and hold it for WAY longer than the 5 count. We work TABLE, table, table TABLE all over the place any time I see a chance I grab it. Rocks, ottomans, park benches, mats, you name it - if it gives Sally a chance to lie on it she does "table" for me. And, usually, she does it well. 

The little flippy thing with my inside hand after the teeter annoys me too. What was I doing? Who knows. Gah - why do I play this sport? Classic Shame About the Handler video ...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

I snapped a picture of a jump standard tonight. Not just any jump standard but THE jump standard from last week. Then I realized you might not know how tall the average jump was so  I asked Sally to sit beside "her" standard for the photo op. Kind of like a celebrity.
Sally was good tonight. We had an interesting experience entering weave poles. There was a tight tunnel in front of them which made a left to right lead change needed to enter at speed. The other dogs trotted in - a good choice for them but it took a little thinking to get Sally to flip leads. Turned out I could use the "right" command and she'd switch - how terribly educated of her eh? I was shocked - had never thought of using the turn command on the flat really. Handy!

Brody was excellent  - speedy to the point of missing a down contact on a frame - but it was a full size frame so I wasn't too stressed  - the angle is much harder for him that way! His weaves were speedy - and he had fun.

A good night all round.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy Family Day

brought to you by the sistas ... courtsey of fabulous photography by JA

Sunday, February 20, 2011

regionals ...

aren't I a wimp?

I cannot decide what to do with specific reference to regionals. Held every spring I have only made it to one. It was fun. It was great actually and I'd like to do them again someday but I'm not convinced this is the spring to do them again.
Brody could do them and probably he would do me proud (if 20 point gamble classes could be considered proud making!) . If he didn't thrill me he owes me nothing anyhow. He runs agility for me not him though and I'm not sure regionals are a place I want to push him that much.
Sally could manage I suspect - but I am really hesitant to put her on aframes at the moment. I suspect bad habits learned now could last a life time.
Thea will stay home. She has spent too much time living with her sister this winter and too little time doing agility. I will play with her in the spring and trial her in the summer. Hopefully CPE but if not I will do jumpers classes and snookers and maybe even gamblers classes until we have weaves, teeters and dogwalks sorted out.
So I'm torn ... I would like to go on the one hand (and you can be sure all my agility buddies will hoot and holler and say go go go if I ask them) but on the other I'd like to garden, train, and be sure when I do go I'm going for the right reasons. I'd love input .. there really aren't too many folks around me who can even understand why I'm not sure ;)

Sad Sack Sampson

The pad is healing but slowly.
Pad injuries are gross - it is still splitting open a little and the tissue kind of oozes out ... YECK but it is minor injury still that hasn't really even slowed Sammo down. When it needs a bandage and boot he is quite miserable though!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

On Leadership and Personality ...

Life is strange - sometimes things come together in the most peculiar ways.
I am a trained Personality Dimensions facilitator. Personality Dimensions is a way at looking at people and personality. A little like the Myer Briggs personality inventory (which I have also done lots of work with). It's the Canadian version of "True Colors". People are all plaid but have predominant colour associations. This profile also looks at introversion and extroversion as traits.

It turns out I'm very consistently strongest in Authentic Blue and an introvert. I am not shocked by either of these findings. I'm a very well socialized introvert, I like people, but I get my energy from within myself. As much as I enjoy people they take energy from me rather than giving it to me. As I have gotten back in a competitive milieu my Resourceful Orange is getting stronger. This also isn't shocking. I am actually a fairly well balanced plaid when I need to be- pulling out the traits I need when I need them.

As a leader that means I tend to lead pretty discreetly. I was surprised when my boss recognized how much leadership I have contributed to a particular project. There are other folks responsible for the project but there were a couple of organizational aspects that needed intervention and got them from me. A conversation with him got me thinking about leadership generally yesterday.

Today I tripped across a book about the O'Connors. They are an eventing couple from the US who I have long admired. I clearly recall David O'Connor riding at a Canadian event and being quite star struck many years ago. The book was fascinating to me (I evented when I rode so many years ago) bits and pieces struck me because of their application to my current sport. One sidebar piece asked if readers knew if their horse was a leader or a follower. That concept stopped me in my tracks. I identified the horses I knew best and worked through deciding if they were leaders or followers. Then I took it a step further and applied my thinking to the dogs I live with. I didn't think about the old school "dominant" and "submissive" but truly about the personality of the dogs - and their leadership styles. When I considered the dominant and submissive terms I was surprised to realize the pairings were not what I expected.

Brody is most certainly an introvert - although in the last two years he's gotten much less aloof and is now happy to meet and greet people. He is not a real follower, he won't blindly follow, but he is quite happy to accept what is to his mind sane leadership. He rarely won't do something if asked nicely. In old school dog terms I would think many people would say he was a dominant dog (he grumbles about things sometimes) - but he isn't.

Thea is an extrovert especially with people. She is charming, funny, brave, bold and you can see her pulling energy from her fans. She is most certainly a follower. She works, and likes it but likes being told what to do and how to do it.

Sally is as extroverted as a living being can be. She loves meeting new _____ (people, dogs, cats, rabbits - fill the blank in as you wish). She, in traditional terms, is quite submissive or soft I suspect but she is a real leader. If she were a horse she would end up being that lovely school horse most riders can identify with - the one who does exactly what you want if you ask right but just stops and stares around the ring if the aids are not correct (by her definition). She is quite opinionated and not afraid to share her point of view. She is happy to work as part of a team (thank heavens or I'd be suicidal by now) but if the team isn't playing the game she will carry on and make up something entertaining.

The O'Connors suggest being very honest with yourself about your own personality to find a compatible match. I suspect my plaid personality is part of why I can enjoy working with such very different dogs. I'm not particularly anthropomorphic in nature but I do find this concept interesting to mull over.

Some other good agility take-aways from this book about horses and horse people:

remembering a course:
  • break the course into segments
  • use visualization
  • never think about where you've been
  • focus forward
  • think in slow motion

all horses think the same way take what you know about one horse and apply it to the next recognizing they are all individuals; learn from all sports to take what is useful to your sport - this just makes too much sense when applied to agility .. and dogs ..

there is a good section on handling death too but that might need to be it's whole own post!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

what a pair ...

Can you picture a jump standard in your mind? I'll try to find a picture of one somewhere. My WLD jumped one last night. In the spirit of true confessions I must admit that I suspect I asked her to jump the standard. Who knew she'd be so literal? Not me. Though you think I would have known this by now.

This? This is Sampson's foot. He ran across a shovel today and sliced his pad. It's not deep but pads bleed profusely and tend to open up chronically. I hope the prompt bandaging and attention save us a long term problem. The last time I dealt with a pad issue was back in July of 2008 when Sally sliced herself open - there was a much deeper cut that required multiple staples and it healed fine so I'm hoping this one does the same thing.

Some days, some dogs, oh my.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Whole lot of love

Someone commented yesterday that they couldn't live with Sally. Because "she's a whole lotta dog" (WLD).
In this house we don't really pick dogs, dogs pick us. Just the way it's happened over the years and to be honest, so far it's worked out pretty well. If I had been in a place to pick a dog Sally's sister Sophie would have joined us before Sally even came to us. Timing is everything though and my little pick of puppy from that litter is off living with another sports, training oriented person. Sophie is a WLD too. Her human likes a WLD. She lives with an aussie too. Anybody who lives with an aussie by choice has my undying respect! (I'm quite ok with Sophie living elsewhere as otherwise Sally wouldn't be in our life and I really cannot imagine life without Sally now).

A whole lotta dog comes with a whole lot of work. There is piece of wisdom out there that you are always training a dog even if you don't realize it. WLDs are probably how this wisdom came into being. Doing something once with Brody means he will start thinking about it and repeat it if given a chance. Doing something once with Sally means it's in her repotoire (no matter if it's good or bad). Brody and Sally are both super smart dogs. Both are joyful to live with but not always easy to live with. For example; Brody does not believe in sleeping in. EVER. Sally is intense enough that unless she is asleep she is watching me. With
those eyes. even if she is playing with Sampson I can interupt her game simply by looking at her or moving in my chair. She does sleep though. Honestly. She curls up into a cute little ball and crashes. She doesn't bark at home nearly as much as at agility. (Though last night when we were watching TV she did feel obligated to tell off the fox that was being profiled. Sally often watches TV with us).

A WLD comes with a whole lot of love too. Sally does literal somersaults if she gets focused attention including body rubs. Sally loves sharing the couch or lying along side a person in bed. She thrives on contact and work and attention.

We live in a house full of love though. Brody is thrilled when either of us gets home from work or when are about to work. Sampson values any kind of attention as does Thea when she's spending time with us. Cats, rabbits, parrots - all thrive on interactions; both with us and with each other. We are very very lucky. Happy Valentine's Day to all - may your day and year be filled with a WLL :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

house league # 4 ...


(I still have good, no, great dogs but geesh it was entertaining)

First class was "Queen of Hearts" - a much mixed up version of CPE Fullhouse. It was a point accumulation game with a gamble mixed in. Dogs ran well, people laughed - it was a most excellent warm up - Brody and Sally tied each other at 49 points each - only one dog beat them and that was a fabulous fellow named Deefer ... he earned 51 points. ... Brody just motored his way around the course - did the weaves twice and a bunch of other 5 point. Both of them had no issue at all with the Queen Challenge either.

Second class was a traditional aac gamblers course. Again Sally blew me away getting the mini gamble both times .. what a good girl. Brody worked his way methodically around the course for a total of 33 points in the opening. We used double up rules and doubled the score for people who got the gamble so Sally wound up with 84 points and Brody had 66. Two dogs managed a 92 somehow. Amazing.

There was a standard class last and again I have amazing dogs. I sent Brody into a tunnel that wasn't actually on the course so he earned 5 faults with my stupid handling otherwise he was his perfect self. Sally ran a clear lovely fast - the judge didn't think she was in a down position so faulted us after I got fed up and reset her but in reality it was a zero fault run. Contacts were solid - though I powered out a "TOUCH" or two. I felt better about the contacts than I have in months. They aren't finished but even the aframe worked. My own criteria is coming into focus and I think that is helping a lot.

Judging and organizing was fun. We had to be a bit adaptable as one person was a last minute no show but everybody is starting to really work together. Lots of questions, lots of discussion but I think folks are getting what they want from this league. At least, I hope they are.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

my first (and last?) blind cross ...

a happy picture for a sad week - this is Brody at his first CPE trial .. I just love his expression and his speed!

A quick note for any non agility people who might read this - there are a bunch of ways people can get from one side of the dogs path to the other. It's important to be able to do this to help your dog find the most efficient way around the course. I use front crosses mostly I think (you cross in front of the dog doing a pivot like thing that can make you feel like a really bad ballet dancer some days). I also use rear crosses. In this move you send the dog ahead of you over an obstacle then switch sides. I tend to use this move only on tunnels, and contacts as Brody finds them demotivating on jumps.

In the wildcard course I ended up using a blind cross to keep Brody out of the back end of what on the map above is marked the 3 tunnel down at the bottom of the page. The wildcard course had you come through the weaves over what on this map is the R at the bottom then do the 2 jump. The tunnel was a VERY loud beacon to the dogs - I watched at least 5 dogs at senior levels happily BLAST through the tunnel and another 3 suffer a VERY HARD call off it. I don't like yelling at my dogs and Brody HATES a harsh call off. That meant between the weaves (which you may know Brody needs ridiculous amounts of support for) and the jump I had to get to the far side of the jump. I thought I could fit in a front cross but I wasn't in the right spot. Rather than risk an off course (which to be quite honest I would have allowed) I tried a blind cross. I can't recommend trying a move for the first time on a course at a trial. But. For us it worked. It actually felt strange, and I wasn't sure if Brody would be weirded out by it but he just soldiered on. He obviously pays less attention to the ballet moves than I do.

I didn't love it. I don't like not seeing my dog. I won't be practising it. I can see it becoming a very quick way to move around a course and if I practised them it wold feel more natural and perhaps become more tempting to use. I suppose I can imagine a course that I may choose to use one.

It was noteworthy for being new.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a fork in the road ...

Ever stood at a cross roads and wondered which way to go?

I really don't wonder about much often - I careen along and what happens happens. Good, bad, dreadful and wonderful. It's all kind of karmic in my brain. What is meant to be is .. and what isn't meant to be doesn't happen. There are times that theory falls completely and utterly apart though. Last Sunday was one of those days. I had a fabulous day. Dogs ran BRILLIANTLY. I was having fun and pleased with the dogs when I got an earth shattering call. Big T had just gotten a call from the sister of a VERY good (completely mutual) friend of ours. Max had died the day before. Tragically, inexplicably and totally unexpectedly. (If there is a 'take away' from this it's to go to the doctor and get lingering coughs/colds looked at and taken care of). She had been our friend over 20 years, in fact we had lived together, and side by side, in university over the span of 5 years. We all settled into the same city and continued to stay close.

Sometimes life just makes no sense.

On Sunday I was faced with quite the fork in the road. Drop everything to run back home and weep or stick out the trial and see what happened? I talked to Big T and he was OK with me staying at the trial. We had no other mutual friends locally that we felt obliged to drop everything to be with. I warned the chief course builder that I might be a little unfocused and need some direction but I sucked it and carried on. To be totally frank Max would have wanted me to stay - if I could stay functional. I reached deep and found a focus that will serve me in the future. Yes, my eyes filled a couple of times. Yes, I blinked lots. Yes, I kept my blackberry close at hand (usually it's in the car and only gets checked a couple of times). But we, as a team, had some of our nicest runs since the come back tour started - and we've had nice runs all along. The very very last run (Sally's snooker) was just amazing. I was emotionally spent - with grief, with appreciation, just raw - but I was so pleased I had stayed.

I stood at a fork in the road. And I, well we, took the one less travelled. We are strong, and we are experienced in grief.

Max's funeral was today. Lovely service and really very touching to see friends we hadn't seen in many years. She will be sadly, deeply, missed forever.

the old picture is of Brody and I, waiting our turn for the jumpers class at CPE Nationals a couple of years back - another crossroads for me

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sally is bored already - you think she'd be tired for a minute eh? Not our Sally. No way. No how. Brody has a hot spot in his back - first time I've seen that so I'll have to up his fitness work again.

This is the Fullhouse course. With both dogs I started with the 5 point joker in the middle - with Brody I headed right for the outside of the line and worked my way around to the tunnel - got there faster than expected so added the tunnel and one of the joker jumps on my way to the table. Sally ended up doing every tunnel once and the opening joker twice. She flew the course.

Sally's snookers course. She was fabulous. FOOT perfect fabulous. Not a bubble, bobble or other glitch had me doubt for one second that if I steered right she'd be exactly where I needed her to be doing what I asked. Amazing girl. (Need to get my confidence back on start lines - she was good but I didn't lead out nearly as far as I used to - not sure why)

Brody squeaked this course - he needs 32 points now and we got them - barely. He trotted the first half then really started to fly once we hit the closing. He ran really well yesterday. I was very happy as I have this sense (not for any particular reason) that his retirement isn't that far away.

Sunday, February 06, 2011


in the interests of saving you some reading 9/9 baby - oh yah.

The afternoon started with Jumpers - Brody's level 3 class was first. There were a couple of of course options and a wicked little serpentine but Brody handled them like the pro he is. Bing Bang Boom. Not quick (3.4 yps) but not slow either.

Sally's jumpers run (level 2) was next. Another nice course with less off course options but one long flowing line that sucked a few dogs off course. She flew it. She did pull one rail and I'm quite sure it was the new turf surface. She thought she could dig in coming out a tunnel, tried to and ended up a little flat. No real issue though you could see she wasn't happy with the rail. Fastest time in the class. 5.1 yps. Wowser.

Next was Fullhouse. In this crazy game you have to get 3 1 point obstacles, 2 3 point obstacles and one joker (5 point obstacle). The course was laid out with lots of options. I got a little unfocused with Brody as he was faster then I thought he'd be so we did an extra loop which worked out fine. He won his class with 25 points. Sally won her class with 31 points. Good dogs.

Brody's standard class was next. He nearly came off the side of the teeter - BRAT! I'm sure he cursed me too though as I sent him to the aframe saying "tunnel, no teeter, no tire - what is this thing called?" and he did it fine so I guess it was a little payback! SLOW start then he picked up. Good thing he's a vet!

Wildcard was next. I usually find wildcard boring. NOT these courses no way no how. Off course options. Three jumps with 5 feet between each one. Jumps inside of tunnel curves. Crazy. Fun. Make you work courses. I LOVED them. Sally ran hers in 4.8 yps. She is a GOOD dog. (Won her class and was the fastest on our course so I guess won the whole shebang) Brody won his class too though a little more slowly - once he hit the end of the course he BOOGIED. Trotted the first half though!

Last classes were snookers. I planned a conservative route for Brody being sure not to waste space as best I could. He was not in the mood to start and trotted for the first two reds and the 6 point repeat ... then he picked up. He squeaked by with his 32 points.
Overall he ran well and I was pleased he was having as much fun as he was. He is a very very good dog. Sally's snookers class was smoking. She ran FOOT perfect and fast - she had 10 seconds to spare and earned 46 points ... what an amazing girl she's proving to be.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Thea Wishes You All A Happy New Years

In fact all the sisters do - and so do we - in this - The Year of the Rabbit!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Thinking thinking thinking .. who has a fire extinguisher?

Working on goal setting and not sure which end to start with - little goals first or BIG goals first ... making myself crazy here so time to surf and watch videos I've never seen . (And share them of course)

A really happy puppy playing/learning video - what a neat mix of play and work .. inspirational really. I love the reward behind for a stay - that's something I've said I'd do for ages but have yet to work into a session!

Easy, Snap, Maggie and Rumor doing some LAT, reorienting etc in a big open field. I 'gots me' some work to do ;) I think it's quite cute the way Rumour won't leave Leslie alone! Control Unleashed continues to influence my thinking. While every technique isn't for this group of dogs the overall principles fit nicely with my philosophy. Do I EVER use the relaxing on the mat with Miss Sally pants! Actually that would be a good snow day project. Time for Sampson to learn a go to place behaviour - or at least start it :)

This video truly is my all time favourite inspiration for working with Sally when she's high as a kite .. while I don't label anybody trying to work with their dog a "bad" trainer it does keep me motivated to hold consistent criteria and reward the good work I do get from the wild child. If Sally wasn't in my life my comprehension of this video would be minimal.

Weather Alert

From my work web site "Weather Alert
Due to the snow storm, all Your SB schools and offices are closed to staff and students for Wednesday, February 2. All after-school and evening activities are also cancelled. The safety and welfare of students and staff is a priority during these severe weather conditions. Please visit this site again for the latest information. "

My working life takes place in a large city (the fifth largest in North America) so students can often walk to school. That means, despite living in a snowy part of the world, we rarely get a snow day. So rarely it's only happened once (a December 13) in my MANY years of teaching, like back in 1994!

That year my hubby had an evaluation so we got up extra early and dug him out. He made it to his school just in time to hear that schools were closed. It took him something like 4 hours to get to work and back - it usually would have been about 45 minutes all together.

I went to a local grocery store (walking) and bought baking stuff and made cookies all day. It was a great and memorable way to spend the day. I doubt today will be as memorable but I'm guessing I'll be able to catch up on blogs a bit!! The dogs are already thrilled - I have weekend clothes on!