Thursday, March 31, 2011

'tis the night before Webb...

and all through the house
Andrea is scurrying like a wee mouse

where are the treats?
the touch plates, the shoes?

the towels and coats?
what can I lose?

It'll be a whole weekend of MAD agility - hopefully lots of thinking - and pushing myself to meet my mission .. and I'm pretty excited I'm planning to play with Thea a little bit too .. .she pretty much only runs agility at trials and a little on the lawn - she doesn't get to do lessons ever ...

Sally and Brody were wonderful on Tuesday night - Brody ran in the first class - did some nice discrimination work and some great weaves .. ran a PERFECT course. Sally was a little high but ran and worked beautifully too. Her weaves were a bit frightening - she was pushing the poles out of her way with her head. Her course was right on too. She has some real jumping/maneuvering talent.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Sally speaks

Brody is ready for spring ...

Brody got TERRIBLY matted last week running through puddles. I may have mentioned (once or twice) that Brody is not easy to groom. Usually I have to hack away at his coat bit by bit. Yesterday I had a dear friend volunteer to man the clippers if I held the wild man. He grumbled, he flinched, he whimpered, he thrashed, he moaned, he snapped, he panted, he complained but for the first time EVER he got done in one shot. The prediction was he'd forgive me in days - sweet Brody only took minutes. He looks great - though the sub zero weather and ankle deep snow isn't exactly perfectly timed :(

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

another tuesday night

And I made it to two sessions - I may get caught up on my back lessons quickly if I can do that a couple of times.
Ran Brody in the first class  - bing bang boom. He was a good path setter - lovely weaves, tight 180, he was awesome.
Sally was great in the second class too - one line of jumps irritated me a bit  - it was a tiny bit too long for a bounce and too short for two of her strides .. she did figure it out but it wasn't a line I would set for her... striding, horses, good jumping ... I've ranted about this before I'm sure ... sweet freaking contacts all night - frame was set LOW though which made it easier ... her weaves were INCREDIBLE

Sunday, March 20, 2011

another holiday done ...

Laura at TeamSmallDog I'm not.
Sally and I wanted to recreate her beautiful stump shots but the camera ran out of batteries, then the sun was in my eyes. Then Sampson decided to drag Sally off the stump and Big T got impatient and went off to explore a new path. And we gave up and went along with him. But we had fun trying. Even if Sally looks like a wild stump monster with a growth out of her forhead.

Took the three jumps and turned them into a serp line. Dogs were simply amazing. I don't think I've done a true serp since Nov with Sally and Brody. I'm not sure Thea has ever done them. I had to think about handling as they were reading me so carefully I could threadle or push out easily. So we did every variation I could think of. All ran well. Really well. Trials should be 6 jumps long on my front yard more often!
We had a fabulous break.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

last full holiday day ..

Did some agility  this am. Practised rear crosses with Sally (for me not her). Did some cross rail work with Thea to help her clue into jumping the middle of a fence. Played with start lines with Sally and Brody. Dad and Jean came for lunch. Lovely chat, quick meal relatively which was perfect as we immediately headed out into our newly found back fields.

another new to us view of the school house

Brody still has lots of energy - he ranged a little further away from me then usual but raced back to me every time I looked at him! I was pleased to see him booting it around as he's had five days of long walks and action.

On the way home Sampson decided (perhaps because his ball stayed home this walk?) that he should collect the tree to bring home. He was adamant and quite ferocious, and very very funny! Tom broke off a five foot section for him which Sampson proudly dragged/carried all the way home.

Thea fell into a puddle and got soaked - luckily we were nearly home.

Another lovely walk, on another lovely day. Given the choice of a week a year in Hawaii or the holidays we get at the school house I would pick the schoolhouse every time.

Friday, March 18, 2011

walking and watching

bright green tennis ball got to go for a walk too!
We went back beyond today - another walk to places never explored by our feet before .. Sampson felt a need to bring his ball. Quite adorable! Thea ran and leaped puddles then ran some more. Brody got ahead of us a couple of times. Sally ran like the wind. A light, sensitive wind as she'd spin way up a trail then rocket back to make sure we were going her predicted way.
Got into the garden a fair bit (new bed turned over carrots and radishes planted) and also did some jump work with Sally. Blew her mind by leaving her favourite Flying Squirrel out in plain view. Must practise self control more. (That could be our motto really when you think about it).

our schoolhouse is a dot three fields away
I'm frustrated with dial up this week. Lots of things I want to comment on on lots of blogs but I seem to time out before I can get the comment page up more often than not. (for Sam - I bought a horse mag this week - my head is in the same place as yours I think ;))

Back at our private dog park and beyond

Another lovely, long walk. Checked out where we can plant clover for the rabbits; went down the hydro line off the property to the south of us then back down alongside our fence line. Found a trail that was pretty dry - we had Thea with us and only had to hike her up to puddle jump a few times (normally we wouldn't but there is still a chill in the air and I didn't want her getting soaked.). Watching the dogs run really is watching poetry in motion. (Yes, Brody was with us too but after playing mountain goat at the beach walk yesterday he just tegged along at my heels making snapping a picture of him very difficult!)


Wednesday, March 16, 2011


3 jumps,  about 30 seconds, repeat three times daily and you get a happy Sally! Sally liked this work so much she actually stood on the lawn gently wagging her tail and refusing to come in until she got a 30 second work out - what a nut bar!

The same three jump set up  [like a "Y" (except with the arms about 5 feet apart)] gave us lots to do on this blowy, wet day. She circled, threadled and figure eighted* around the jumps. I practised post turns, sends, come to mes and some front crosses. We had a blast although maybe not quite as much fun as our long walk at Point Petre yesterday.

*yes I made up the word "eighted" but you know what I mean - I mean we worked in a figure eight pattern!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

review that ... book, training tool, dvd, toy

These are in no particular order - as I don`t know how I`d order them.
I'd love to hear your feedback on any of these things too (or any of your real favourites)!

My touch plates .. made by my dad, these Plexiglas touch plates are the best ever - I leave the protective screen on them at first so they are easy to see then peel it off - he makes three sizes - and the littlest is TINY which makes it very easy to fade out. All the agility dogs know the touch plates and get pretty happy when they see them come out!

Manners Minder - I like it - but I don't think I've quite gotten the hang of it. I am quite sure I could use it better. One place I found it VERY helpful was teaching Sally that she COULD stay in a crate (as she can get out of any crate I've ever put her in) while I worked other dogs. I'd like to use it for distance - and I did a little last summer for Sally's distance weaves but somehow my timing seemed off to me.

Clean Run - forum - interesting thoughts that I don't always agree with about a wide range of topics.

Clean Run magazine - depends a bit on the issue but usually a fair bit I find interesting if not actively helpful. I tend to read, read  and read them again and again. There is a pile of them beside the bed usually and getting one in my mailbox makes me very happy!

Peak Performance (by M. Christine Zink) this book provided me with a major A-HA moment. It really allowed me to see how I could use my years of work with horses to make my dogs (and myself) better at agility. It also gave me permission to go off the local beaten path in my training choices. I think the single biggest thing I do differently than most of the people I work with is develop a very concrete plan for the dogs that goes beyond today we will do 10 contacts but includes things like fitness, play, TTOUCH and so on. I haven't read this book in ages so when I browsed the contents I was pleased to see sections that I am sure I will refer to again (particularly when issues arise).
Control Unleashed (by Leslie Mcdevitt) Another book that has a place close by. Again some epiphanies while reading. For me, not so much for the agility dogs but great ideas for all dogs and a wonderful walk through some excellent tools to use for reactive or fearful dogs. (In rescue land I see a fair few of both types). One thing I like is it made me do mat work fairly aggressively with both Brody (in a crate) and Sally. I love the way Brody (the once uncrateable dog)  now RACES to his crate when he is pleased with a run.

Shaping Success (by Susan Garrett) the timing of my reading this book was quite fateful. Sally was in our life and while her health issues were not entirely resolved it was pretty obvious that the healthier she got the more full our hands were going to be. This firecracker of a deathly ill puppy had an intensity that was, quite honestly, a little frightening. She was impossible to crate unless she wanted to be crated. She would stare at a shelf a favourite toy was on until she collapsed. She got stuck on a touch plate one day. I laughed and empathized with the tale of Buzz all the way through the book. It also gave me specific techniques to try with Sally (some of which worked beautifully). Most importantly it gave me hope. My copy of the book completely fell apart last year. I have every intention of replacing it!

Crate Games Dvd - need to watch it again but it was super super helpful making a crate a fun place for our foster aussie Asparagus - now known by the much more feminine Cassie - it helped me get my timing better for shaping as well.

Developing Jumping Skills (by Linda Mecklenburg) another useful read .. I have extended some of what I think are critical concepts in the book a fair bit but for someone not familiar with principles of jumping and the skills required to jump well I'd think this book would be FABULOUS!

Clean Run's Course Designer - got it quite recently but LOVE it. It lets me see how things can be laid out and moved around. I could not have done the layered courses for House League without it and it's making planning the agility field way more fun .. I can lay out different ring sizes and see what can be done with them ..

Tug Toys - Sally and Sampson both love my home made braided fleece tug toys. But the flying Squirrel is HIGH on Sally`s FAVOURITE list. Much as Kongs are for Sampson.

The only huge toy FAIL we`ve had is this tug food dispenser. The velcro got stuck on Brody`s fur. It took him forever  a long time to try tugging again. Luckily for me I am not from the ``tug or die school`` of training so it wasn`t the end of the earth but consider yourself warned if your dog has a fuzzy unkempt face! Brody`s favourite toy are the furry mice for cats - the bigger the better. They have to be white to catch his attention which I find bizarre but very Brody!

I use treat sticks and a weird little Kong ball quite often to entertain the troops.
I also have a new dispenser I can`t find a picture of. It`s strictly for Sally for trials and she thinks it`s fabulous.
101 One Things to Do with Contact Obstacles - a great little card set I'm looking forward to working through once I have the contact obstacles ready to use!

Do it Yourself Agility Equipment - I'm not handy so this book is above my head. I can't weld and power tools are not my strength. Sadly neither my dad nor Big T have been inspired to build much - tho Big T is helpful when I put the jumps together.

In Focus - this little book has lots to think about - no matter if you need more or less focus. It's interesting for me as it has helpful hints for both Brody and Sally. ( I also watched the video In Focus Need for Speed - it was long and I got distracted a few times but it reinforced some important messages for getting Brody happy in agility)

Milk Inflation Tubes - Sally`s current favourite toy. I am lucky enough to have many dairy farms around me so have a supply of used ones (even better than new ones to Sally`s mind).

Feeding my maniacs is always interesting. I use a variety of food dispensers to slow them down and provide a more entertaining meal for them. This red dog pyramid was a FAIL for us. It broke after 2 days of use.

On the other hand Brody is always very happy to see the little blue ball come out. He carries it around slowly squishing one bit of kibble out at a time.

Sally and Sampson both enjoy eating out of the foot. It slows them both down a lot and has stood up well to hard use. Whoever doesn`t get the foot gets the tornado and a treat stick or an orange treat ball. (Brody eats his main meal out of a wooden version of this.) Both of these are easy to clean.

Monday, March 14, 2011


We did a tiny tiny bit of Snowgility over the winter - mainly popping Sally over one 16 inch jump that was buried in snow. We'd hop it twice at the most then motor indoors to warm up.

It's WET here. Really wet. The front lawn is mostly a pond. I did manage to find one 15 foot strip gently sloping downhill that I could set up a 3 jump grid on. Three 10 inch jumps 5 feet apart from each other. All four of the dogs (yup Sampson got into it too) were going mad trying to jump the grid at the same time. It was hilarious. Thea usually opts out of 10 inch jumps (she's not quite 9 inches high) but she was unleashing her inner boarder collie barking and charging. Sampson couldn't figure out the striding so he'd bounce the first jump then turn the last 2 into an oxer (wide double). He has lots of scope. Brody and Sally both settled into a nice rhythm working the grid.
I then found a tiny bit of room to set up a 3 jump pinwheel. Set it at 22 inches and Sally happily worked around and through all the permutations (theadles etc) I could think of.

Five minute agility is back.
I am thrilled. Apparently, so are the dogs.

Also had a chance to do some framing. Michael's had a sale on frames - 25% off and these frames are nine bucks not on sale. Got a bunch of certificates in frames and some agility pictures framed too. It's lovely to have some time to get some projects that have been on the to do list a LONG time done.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Brody Chronicles ...

Our dear heart Laurice
Brody was a working dog from the month he joined our family. Laurice - our lovely golden rotti mix was working hard doing humane education gigs with schools, classes and various boy and girl scout troops (not to mention shelter tours and trade shows). Tempermentally she LOVED the work. At the end of a small group tour I'd ask the kids to crowd around her and put one hand on her then pat her as thanks for her work. She was in absolute bliss for this activity. She had terrible hip dysplasia though and I really felt strongly the humane educators (rabbit Pongo, cockatiel Saffron, cat Sweet William) needed a little more support. Brody was CUTE as stink from the get go and really didn't like people so he minded his own business while I talked. It didn't take too long for him to learn a couple of cute tricks to show off so the children had another way to appreciate animals. (They didn't get invited to mob him that's for sure).

He joined us in January and in March he was invited to be on stage at the Elgin Theatre in a professional production of Annie. He was required to sit still in a basket and be wheeled out onto the stage. Sit for about 3 minutes then get wheeled off. I was pretty confident that he wouldn't be particularly interested in the people on stage and the stage lights prevented him from being phased by the audience. Brody was excellent. He happily hung out in the green room night after night (10 long nights) meeting the crew members who thought he was adorable and doing his 3 minute stint on stage then going out for the final curtain applause. It was an interesting glimpse into a world I knew so little about. We were both exhausted by the time that gig was over! ( I also did a meet and greet with him in the lobby during intermission).

Brody has always been a great supervisor!
We had gotten that invitation thanks to some tv work Laurice and I were doing at the time. There was a goofy show called the Pet Project that was a collection of feel good animal stories linked together through a host and his dog. Laurice was hired to play the role of Daisy's nemisis; she played a he and a super star that Daisy couldn't quite live up to. She had to learn all kinds of funny things in that role: running down a street dragging something sticks out in my mind as she was a super polite dog who I could easily have walked on a piece of floss - any pressure at all stopped her.  The producer thought of me when asked about Annie. At the time she didn't know I had a smaller dog - I still chuckle to think of someone trying to wheel Laurice out on stage in a bicycle basket!
Shortly after Annie Brody had to spend a day hanging out with the Blue Jay mascot to promote a rescue positive event the Jays were hosting. A large Blue bird in a suit could easily phase most dogs. It took Brody a minute or two but once he showed off his two tricks (his whole collection at the time) he was ok, although a little suspicious. 
He has done oodles of media with me .. often just chilling in my arms while a reporter chats to me.

Brody at the site of our future agility field!

The Pet Project people contacted me shortly after that as they needed a variety of dogs to play different roles as the host segments got more complicated. Brody was often the star of those bits along with whoever we were fostering (Laurice was far to well known by her audience!). he had to run away from people, greet people rudely, dig in a garden, sit and look out a window, flip over a box, sit in a tall studio chair, bark, sneeze and many other little bits. There were times I'd have less than 12 hours to teach him something.  Actually sometimes the producer would ask on the shoot if we could do something else and I'd grab 10 -20 minutes to try to teach him something. (In hindsight no wonder Brody is so handler focussed). 
We did some local dog training classes - and Brody sailed through them. We did our CGN and then when Brody was about 5 said  "why not try agility?" So we did that and had a blast. People would say you should trial him and I'd laugh. We did demos with our group and Brody was amazing. Nothing bothered him. So in March of 2007 we decided to try a trial. He ran well that weekend and earned a starters jumpers q. In August of 2007 he earned all three starters standard qs on the same night . By June of 2008 he was competetive at our regionals - earning a 6th and 10th place in the Vets class (full of VERY experienced, masters level dogs) and qualifying for Nationals. He also attended the CPE Nationals and earned himself the high in trial for his height and level. He is a rock star indeed!

Stats from 2010

I am not mathematical ... nor do I do much with my computer. However I have been inspired to learn to do more with the tools at hand. I made a cute little xtranornmal movie for the students at school then made a silly movie about a conversation I could SO see Tom and Sally having about agility. Tom is wandering around now reminding me "I am not agility". He has also taken to saying, while watching Sally " I run like the wind" or " I am a train" (a couple of the lines given to Sally dog in the clip).
I decided last night to learn how to make charts on the computer so I made a pie graph and a bar chart. Finding stats to use that would hold my interest was easy - I used the gang's trial stats.
I can't quite figure out how to share the charts here yet .. but I can share the info ;)

Sally earned 37% of the q's this season (15: she missed 7 qs including a gamble she got but was under 1 sec OT and 2 maniacal start up classes), Thea 15% (6: she missed only 2 qs as I was very careful about what she entered) and Brody 49% (20: he missed 8 qs including 3 that were me confused on course)

To total things up 41 qs of  58 attempts for a q rate of 70 percent. Brody rocked along at 71 % but we only did gamblers twice. Not too shabby eh? All in all I think I have to declare the come back tour a grand success!

Why end the post with an ice picture you ask? Well that would be because of Sally. Sally ran across the half frozen pond yesterday - she ran so fast (like the wind itself!) that she made it to the shore before the ice gave way and she crashed into the water - she leaped out - shook hard and galloped away. That Whole Lot of Dog is going to be the death of me!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Passing the Torch?

We had a fun night at the hall last night ...
I used my newly minted course design (HA) skills, judging and scoring skills and had a blast with both the organizational and running elements
The first course was a snakes and ladders run - up and down and up and down .. Sally earned 23 points (I think) and Brody earned 22. Another dog earned 24 points in this game .. and Sally's sister Sophie was right in there too :)
Then we had a snookers course (using tunnels not jumps and dogs got to do the closing no matter if they would have been whistled off course or not). It was mostly contacts - #2 was a jump, 3 the frame, 4 the teeter, 5 the dog walk, 6 a tunnel and 7 the weaves. The tunnels were set in the corners of the hall so there was a LOT of running back and forth. Brody did tunnel, weave, tunnel, weave, tunnel aframe and the closing ... he was excellent - but the long runs aren't his thing and the whistle went as he was in the final weaves leaving him with 32 points. Sally ran the weaves three times (good practise!) and did a nice job in the closing too - she was THAT close to finishing the weaves when the whistle went - so earned a whomping 44 points. My Whole Lotta Dog did a beautiful job last night. She was a little riled - and asked for better handling a few times (LOUDLY  - of course).

Sunday, March 06, 2011

House League Wrap Up ...


Jumpers was hilarious .. we ran the course then ran and ran and ran  the course again as many times as we could in the time allowed ...Brody was one of the top dogs .. scoring 32 points and Sally wasn't far behind with 30 points .. Thea had a FABULOUS run - unfortunately I added 6 extra jumps (a loop on each end) with one major off course .. earning us faults and wasting a TON of time - so she totalled 16 points instead of 30 ... RATS! Team Wild Ones (our team) won that game ...

Steeplechase was a nice flowing course ... Sally seemed great but her time was quite slow for some reason - I'm really not sure what happened - one of the few times I'd really like a video ... or maybe there was a timer malfunction - no big deal! Thea ran her little legs off but had two off course errors (adding 5 seconds per error) so her total time was 80 seconds. Brody ran a glorious glorious round - 55:10 seconds. He was bang on!!

Gamblers was fun too. Brody, without trying any mini gambles, earned a whomping 52  points (and nearly blew the very easy end gamble - OOOPS!). Sally tried a mini gamble - and I'd swear she got it but we didn't get the points ... so she only earned 28 points ... Thea earned 57 points - HOW DID SHE DO THAT??? I have no idea - she didn't do any mini's and could hardly do the aframe ... though she did twice - GOOD GIRL!!

What a fun way to make fun matches meaningful to me. I enjoyed the organization, the thinking and got a handle on enjoying the runs too :) Met the mission too!

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Woman on a mission ...

I was asked ages ago if my agility was a business what would it's mission statement look like.
I puzzled over this for ages and desperately made notes ... I got as far as " in a nutshell my mission is to have fun and be successful running whatever dogs I have the pleasure of working with". That piece of wisdom baloney took close to two months to eke out. I had a long conversation yesterday with a trainer I have a great deal of respect for and he gave me an analogy that resonated with me. A mission leads to building a pyramid. I tried putting Nationals at the top of the pyramid and regionals in an upper middle block and suddenly the vision became real to me.

Here's the current version "My Agility Mission: to run every run with intention, passion and commitment; to hone my handling skills and maximize my dogs' potential for excellence." By every run I mean EVERY run .. on the lawn, at workshops, at trials where ever and whoever I'm running. Putting text into my pyramid blocks was enlightening. Sally needs a whole lot more blocks in her pyramid than Brody does. The blocks made me really think about skill sets for both dogs. If I can figure out how to share the actual pyramids here I will .. as it should help me focus!

Thursday, March 03, 2011


This may look like an elegant dog patiently waiting but let me tell you - this is one peeved pooch. She just heard I can't take a day off work to trial tomorrow. Digusted. As am I. Such is life.
House League Sunday which is fun. Thea is home so she may get to play a little too.
Life is good.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

the things I do for my addiction ...

I am a social studies geek - politics, English, History, Geography  - you get my drift. Being an animal person I was also OK in sciences (Biology being my natural preference). We have books in every room we have and books in our cars and many in boxes in our basement.

Math is not my thing - for a long time I thought I was honestly innumerate. In fact I still can't get past 5x5. I can explain theories and understand the whys of why things work but my functional skills in math are very low. Computers are a tool to me. I don't know much about them and I'm not that interested. I expect them to work when I turn them on and that's as far as I go. All of this is a long winded way to say I explored math and computers extensively today trying to do the scoring for House League.
(The final runs are on Sunday).

Mostly importantly I learned a ton about excel. What a cool program. I also added up high point scores; times and low fault totals. It did not surprise me at all that Brody made the top three in low faults and high points. I was shocked, no SHOCKED,  that he made top three for fastest time. There is something to be said for steady and consistent. Something wonderful. A little more shocking was Sally - she has run the second fastest combined time and she made top 5 for point totals. What a girl! She has scope - and it turns out she has some consistency too!