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Posts Tagged ‘Agility’

Crack Balls

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

A couple of weeks ago at agility class, Micah had to run over and “snark” at another dog. He does this occasionally. Not a lot, but occasionally. Especially if there is someone new in class that he’s not familiar with. After working with him for. . . what . . . 4+ years now? I started thinking that I might be trying to force a square peg into a round hole. Even though he is physically Perfect for agility (lean and leggy), his inability to focus is getting me down. I started to entertain the idea that we may never be able to really excel at this sport, and I might have to look for something else to do with him.

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Tonight at agility class at Dog City Training Center, Micah discovered the “crack balls”. (We just call them that because it seems that ALL dogs LOVE them). He has a special toy at home that he’s totally nuts about, but I think the new crack ball will give it a run for it’s money. He was absolutely spastic as I placed the ball on top of a shelf while it was our turn to run; jumping and {{{quivering}}} and yipping for the ball. Please momma, please momma, PLEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEASE!!!!

I tried to get him to come but he was having none of it. So my instructor suggested that I put the ball in my pocket and throw it for him as a reward at the end. It was a good idea – at least in theory. He had a lot of trouble completing his sequences because he kept pulling off to come (try to) get the ball. However – his level of excitement was unbelievable, and he was TOTALLY focused on ME. As she pointed out, he didn’t so much as LOOK at another dog during the entire hour we were there. And that’s saying a LOT for Micah.

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Since this was our first attempt at training with a toy instead of food, I do realize that this was the roughest night. I’m sure that as he gets accustomed to using the ball, he will be able to focus a bit more, just knowing that the ball is coming. I’m very excited about this new possibility.

Maybe there’s hope for us yet. Fingers crossed!

Stay tuned.

Fell Off the Face of the Earth?

Monday, November 16th, 2009

All two of you that had been reading my Blog must have thought I had been blown away by a random sniper, or thrown in jail, or incapacitated by a horrible car wreck. Actually, no.

I’ve recently become involved with a new business venture called Dog City Training Center. It was opened by a couple of friends of mine, and I’ve been quite “involved”. (For any of you in the area, it’s in Carrollton, TX). You can check out the website at: dogcitytrainingcenter.com

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Dog City is the first (that I know of) totally positive training center in my area, and I am absolutely thrilled with it. We are cutting edge dog training, and are teaching our students the value of creating a “thinking” dog. Some of you might think that is a bad thing, but I assure you, it’s not. :-) We have agility, manners classes, flyball, levels obedience and much more.

I went to a Rally-O trial today (a combination of agility and obedience) and was once again reminded of why I do what I do – train positively. I saw quite a few dogs in the ring walking around with their heads and tails down, pensively prodding along, obviously not enjoying themselves. Obviously afraid of making a mistake. Once again - a wonderful reminder that with positive training, the dog doesn’t have to be afraid of making a mistake. They are not punished, they just aren’t rewarded.

Dog City Training Center in many ways, is a dream come true for me, even if I’m not the owner. It stands for everything I believe in (as far as dog training goes). I hope that any of you in the area have a chance to check it out. It’s training at it’s best!!! And I am SO grateful for that!!

Happy Training!!!

Great News!

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

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The American Kennel Club (AKC) has always been a promoter of purebred dogs. That’s what they’re all about. All of the events that they hold (and there are MANY) are for purebred dogs only. They hold more agility, and obedience trials than any other dog organization that I’m aware of.

For those of us with mixed breed dogs, there are not that many options for performance sports. I’m pretty sure that USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) would be the largest organization offering agility to ALL dogs, regardless of breed status, but I think AKC far outnumbers them in trials. As far as obedience goes, UKC (United Kennel Club) does allow mixed breeds, but they have very few trials (at least in my area).

I participated in a survey a couple of years ago, asking what exhibitors thought about letting mixed breed dogs compete in performance sports (obedience, agility and rally). I thought it was a dead issue by now, but then I was informed by a friend that they have indeed decided to allow them to compete in AKC events. Wow – that is HUGE! I’m pretty sure they’re doing it for the extra money they will make from the mixed breed exhibitors (and not out of any good will), but hey – I’ll take it.

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They made the decision in April and the mixed breed competition will commence on October 1, 2010. They will compete in a “separate but equal” class, but again, I’ll take it. It DOES make me curious though, why they can’t just compete with the rest of the dogs. Are they worried that the “mixes” might show up the “pures”? I’m not prejudiced – most of my dogs ARE purebreds. I just find it odd that they will compete separately and their titles will be slightly different. But again, really, who cares?

So the quest to seriously start working Micah in obedience has begun. I’m really looking forward to being able to be in a trial setting with him (on leash) so that he can get used to that. If he can get used to working in that atmosphere ON leash, we might eventually have a chance of making it OFF leash to do agility.

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Chalk up one big “atta-boy” for the good old boys of AKC. You Rock!


I’ve Gone VIDEO!!

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

I told you that my computer guru was going to give me a video lesson. Well he did, and I’m learning! YEA!!! Just baby steps for now.

See the premier video below. Certainly nothing fancy, just me, showing Micah’s first agility practice after being off for 4 months due to my foot surgery. It’s backyard stuff, but we had fun seeing what he could remember - and I think he did greatl!! You go, terrier #2!!

Back To Agility

2 X 2 Weave Poles

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009

If you’re not an agility person, you probably don’t know what weave poles are. If you ARE an agility person, you know that it’s one of the toughest obstacles on the agility course. Weave poles come in sets of 6 (usually only at the novice level) or more commonly, a set of 12 that the dogs must weave in and out of as quickly as possible. They must enter from right to left, and do them consecutively, without skipping any.

Weave poles pose lots of challenges for dogs: some dogs are going so fast when they enter the poles, they neglect to collect themselves (slow down) in order to hit their entry, and they miss the 1st pole completely. Some dogs seem to pop out before they get to the end of the weaves. Some pop out in the middle. Some large dogs have a particularly difficult time twisting and turning their bodies in order to make it through the challenge. Tessa was one of those dogs.

One of my very favorite trainers, Susan Garrett, has just released a DVD on her new method of weave pole training, called the 2×2 method. It’s very cool! Brilliant in fact!!! It’s creating quite a stir in the agility world.
2×2 Weave Training DVD Set

Instead of teaching dogs to go through a set of 6 poles, she uses poles that come in sets of 2 (hence the name). It is a completely different method, and one of the advantages is that it teaches the dog the correct entry into the weaves up front - before you worry about doing a whole set of poles. You can then reward (for the correct performance) or Not reward, without having the dog continuing on with the weaves. You work the dog from LOTS of different angles and relationships to the poles. It focuses on ENTRY! Did I mention, it’s brilliant?

Micah and I started re-training our weave poles on Friday, after watching the DVD on Thursday night. We are starting over from scratch, and are VERY excited that this new method will work for us.

We were doing great while we could work on the patio, and I could use food as a reward. But when we started to need more space (to work having him go into the poles from many different entry positions) we needed to move it to the grass, and that meant that I could no longer use food. (Food is WAY too hard to find in the grass!!) So I needed to use a toy as a reward, and he needed to be able to run and get it and bring it back to me for a quick game of tug. Hence, the problem. Micah LOVES to tug, but bringing the toy back is not his best thing. So we needed to take time out from our 2×2 training to work on retrieving. AUGGGGHHH! Bad trainer mom… he probably should have known this already. But whatever, I digress. He’s not doing too badly, but it did put us a bit behind schedule.

We’re still working on the perfect retrieve, but in the mean time I started using a stuffed toy that has Velcro on the belly, so you can put treats in it. So now I throw the toy on the “reward line” and then we both run to it, and I open it and give him his treat. I think that’s still acceptable for rewarding him.

We’ll be here - working on our 2 x 2 method, along with about a million other things. If you’re into agility at all, you may want to check out Susan Garrett’s new DVD, or even scope out her blog. She has lots of great agility video on it.

Back to Agility

Thursday, January 8th, 2009

I can’t believe that it’s been 8 days since my last blog post. I vowed to do better this year, and I have already failed you. Another New Year’s Resolution shot to hell. Sorry dudes and dudettes. All three of you that are out there. I’ll explain more in a subsequent blog, but for now, a bit of fun news (at least for me).

Tonight was the first night of agility class for us since my foot surgery last September. I was pretty excited and a little nervous thinking about how we would do. We hadn’t done ANY agility at all (other than weave pole training) during that time, so this afternoon I decided it would probably be a good idea to take at least a couple of jumps before we showed up for class. :-)

I was pleasantly surprised by my scruffy black boy. He remembered even more than I hoped. He ran, and jumped, and stayed with me like a real pro, all with lightning speed.

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And when he ran across the dogwalk he stopped in perfect 2-on-2-off position without me even asking for it. (That’s when the dog puts his front 2 feet on the ground, and his back two feet on the contact obstacle, and waits to be released).

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I think he only made one small mistake in class, and that was just overshooting a jump, which I am totally cool with. The most important thing when we are working together is that he listens to me. If he makes a mistake or two along the way - no sweat!! But if he decides that he wants to run off and do his own thing - that is the cardinal sin - the worst thing he can do (as far as I’m concerned).

The other thing that I was a bit concerned about is that Micah is somewhat reactive. I think I’ve mentioned that before. He IS a terrier, and it doesn’t take much to set him off, barking and growling. He hasn’t spent much time in the last couple of months around many other dogs (other than his immediate family).

Well I’m happy to report that he and I were “in the zone” on our first night back. He was a good boy, and paid attention to mommy. Granted, we weren’t doing full courses, just short little drills, but still, after having been away, I was VERY happy with that.

Next week we will attend our 1st of 7 classes based on the book Control Unleashed, by Leslie McDevitt.

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It’s an awesome book, based on desensitization and counter-conditioning for dogs like Micah (and worse) that react too much, to too many things, unnecessarily. I’m very excited about being able to participate in that.

It gives me great hope that someday Micah will have all of his fabulous energy under control, and that we will actually be able to compete in the addiction that we enjoy so much! Agility!!

USDAA Regionals

Saturday, September 6th, 2008

This weekend was the USDAA (United States Dog Agility Association) Regionals held at Will Rogers in Fort Worth. It’s a great arena to watch dog agility. Nice stadium seating, and plenty of cool air (burrrrr).

We went to watch for a little while this weekend, along with many others. I’ve never done USDAA agility, and I must admit, I’m a little intimidated by it. It’s the venue I know the least about, and I’ve heard that it’s pretty much the hard core venue of agility, but I think that may be prejudiced. I do believe though, that their jump heights are a bit higher than the others.
IF Micah and I ever get to the point where we can actually enter agility trials, we will certainly be doing USDAA - they accept mutts you know.

I thought you might like to see a few random pics from the trial today. Enjoy!

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The Joy and Frustration of Owning a Terrier

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

My little terrier mix Micah is one of the greatest joys of my life. If I just pick up my clicker he starts spinning, and tap dancing all over the place to see what we might be working on today. He is a training lovin’ machine! He will work his little heart out for his daily kibble - forget chicken or steak. He is the most “ready to go” dog I can imagine. His curiosity and ability to figure things out makes him one of the most fun dogs I’ve ever had.

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Micah came by agility naturally. I didn’t have to work at hyping him up. He came pre-wired for it. He absolutely goes crazy to run and jump. Even when he was little, he showed an affinity for it.

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When he can focus - he’s great!!! When he can focus.

On hot (Texas) nights at agility class when most of the other dogs are worn out and ready for bed, he is raring to go, and would easily do another 2 hours.

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However, on the flip side: when confronted with a new dog or person (or sometimes even someone he sees every week) he frequently will bark and lunge first and ask questions later. That is our plight. It’s just who he is. You see, he’s a terrier. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!!) :-)

So it’s what we have to work on - every day. Trying to make him smile at strangers. Trying to make him a golden retriever in a terrier body. It’s a long road, and we may never get there, but I am hopeful that we will - someday!

He’s got a lot of heart that little guy, and I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He does have his special challenges, but then, don’t we all? Hopefully, success will be all the sweeter when we get where we need to go.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed everyone. You see, he’s a terrier!

picture by 2MC Design

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The Rescue Wagon Train - Part I

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

I have come to realize that rescues come in not only all ages, shapes and sizes, but varying states of mental stability, intelligence, drive, and just plain smoochie-ness.

Ruby is one of those extra-smoochie dogs. Just a little peanut of a thing, sweet as can be, she was a Rat Terrier trying to have puppies. She had been in labor for more than 24 hours, but to no avail. It just wasn’t working. She was pale and exhausted, and either needed a C-Section NOW, or needed to go see Jesus. We opted for the C-Section.

It was too late for her 3 pups - labor was much too long. However, SHE came through with flying colors; sore and worn out, but otherwise OK. She came to my house to recover, and never left. We found out later that she also had heartworms. This girl had been through it.

As she dropped some of her pregnancy weight, I was hopeful that she might become my next agility dog. However, as time went on I learned that she had a bad back, so agility was out for her. But that was OK - she would just have to be the house princess, and she IS, usually occupying one of the coveted spots on the bed. She has never met a person she didn’t love, and she steals the hearts of everyone she meets.

Although Ruby and Tessa (the Great Dane) get along well, Ruby is not really a dog’s dog. She prefers people. Doggie daycare doesn’t interest her. Just give her a lap of someone friendly, and she’ll be a happy camper.

We don’t require much of the Rubinator. Since she doesn’t get around quite as well as she used to, we have settled on a dual role for her: 1) to bring sweetness and light to all who enter, and 2) to serve as the “play police” for the other dogs; tattling whenever they get wound-up and out of control. She does both jobs quite nicely!

Yes, she absolutely is the house Princess, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Is There Anything More Fun?

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2008

Agility is ABSOLUTELY the most fun you can have with your clothes on. That is, when it goes right. When you and your dog are in “the zone”, moving as a well-oiled machine.

My Great Dane Tessa is my first agility dog. I had never even heard of agility until we went to a “clicker training” class, and there was agility equipment in the room. We started very late in the agility training game. I think she was 4 years old - not exactly young for a Dane, but she liked it, so we continued.

No, we have not earned any of the BIG agility titles (MACH, ATCH, etc) but that was never my goal. I just wanted something fun that she and I could enjoy together. And agility certainly has been that!!

Tessa is one of those dogs that truly wants to give me whatever I want. She aims to please. She doesn’t get the “zoomies” and run circles in the ring. She doesn’t decide to take the A-frame when I’ve told her to take the tunnel. She is THERE, in the moment, working with ME! Always striving to do her best for me. She really loves it, and it shows!

She is getting older now, and slowing down significantly. Tunnels are pretty hard for her, and wrapping her large body around and through the weave poles is just too much. But she still LOVES jumping, and continues to compete in the Jumpers class.

What she lacks in speed, she certainly makes up for with enthusiasm and heart. You go my good girlie!!

(My upcoming agility dog will be a whole other story! Stay tuned!)

photo by Lunendogs Photography
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