Saturday, March 19, 2016

Rally Match!

Today was Miley's first rally match!  And I'm happy to say that I'm pretty proud of that little turd!  I intentionally picked a training facility that we've never been to before because I wanted to see how she did in a totally new environment.  I also chose to do only two runs.  At this point, more than that is going to overload her.  I also wanted to see what kind of an acclimation period she was going to need.  I already know from our weekly attention practices out at various stores that she doesn't need more than 5-10 min. in non pet stores before she's focusing on me and wanting to work.  Pet stores are an entirely different beast and I have an entirely different set of goals for them with their cascade of ultimate distractions.  True to form, Miley was ready to start focusing and working within just a couple minutes of getting brought out of her crate.  And I even managed to video our warm up!

The blue square that you see on the floor is just a taped off section.  Since I did so much front feet targeting with her on various objects as she's been growing up, she naturally sees this outline of a square as something that she should target.  I'm totally okay with that. :) It's our warm up and I want to see how she processes and reacts to this brand new environment.  And check out that rear end movement!!  Girlfriend has some skills!  It actually didn't take much to get her to start pivoting into heel position.  I got so excited and was really jackpotting for it when she started doing it, that you can also see that she's started getting a little over zealous with it and has started wrapping around behind me.  She only recently started doing that and it doesn't take much from me to get her back into position, so I'm not going to worry too much right now.  We're gradually working on the whole sitting in heel position.  When she's had a really good warm up, it comes faster.  It's just not automatic right now.

Part of what I was shooting for with today's match was maintaining focus as we entered the ring and went up to the start sign.  If I lose Miley as we're entering the ring, or even before, I'm setting us up for a struggle.  She's a little sensitive to proximity of objects around her.  So going through a ring entrance is a type of pressure that she's not comfortable with without some help still.  This also carries over onto the rally course a little bit.  There is proximity of signs and obstacles that create spacial pressure on her that she isn't entirely comfortable with without support from me.  This is something I'm confident she'll get more and more comfortable around with time and more maturity.  Right now I'm pretty pleased with how she's doing.  She is definitely the most attentive dog that I have had to date.  Now I need to not ruin that!!  I did take video of both of our runs, but I will admit that the vast majority of that is going to be interesting only to me.  I did pull out a clip of us working on ring entrances, with a little bit of the course afterward.

I can't help it, I'm proud of her!  Her very first match, in a brand new building!  Her focus just makes me want to squeal at times!  I love it!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Thanks in large part to the tricks class that we're taking, I'm getting better about recording our various training sessions and I wanted to share some of coordination/balance work that we're doing.  There are posts littered throughout the blog where I talk about the various pieces of stability equipment that I work the dogs on and the various exercises that we do with them.  Today, I'm sharing some clips of the dogs working with our two FitBones in a few different configurations.

Things are still a work in progress for both dogs, just for different reasons.  Miley is periodically fearful of the equipment and this has led to her being generally more hesitant.  She has days where she does just fine and her movements are sharper and she has more enthusiasm.  Then something will happen, and she loses everything that she gained.  It can be something as simple as literally a plastic sandwich bag shifting on the dining room table.  This slight movement, combined with a slight noise, is apparently enough to send her into a bout of fear.  I just can't control for all these random things.  So we keep plugging away and I hope that she'll either work through it, or that this is just a hormonal issue and once she's eventually spayed, this will stop.

Dominic is definitely not fearful.  He's quite enthusiastic and really seems to enjoy trying to figure out what he's supposed to do and tackling new challenges.  His only difficulty really is that he's a puppy and he's still learning about coordination.  Not a small task given how much his body continues to grow.  Regardless, he's a champ and a ton of fun to work with!

Without further ado, here's the video of several clips with both dogs working with the FitBones:

Sunday, March 13, 2016


Miley is going through some fearfulness right now.  It's fairly generalized and therefore has moments in everything that we do.  She had started to become a hesitant jumper.  Which progressed to a point where she avoids jumping if at all possible.  Or at least, all jumping that isn't hopping up onto my bed.  You might be more understanding of this if you thought I was jumping her at a normal (for her height) 24" and maybe she just wasn't ready to be jumping full height.  That would totally make sense.  Except that I'm talking 4" and sometimes the occasional 8" jump.  Heights that she can easily clear by walking normally over.  But she got to a point where she was afraid of even that height.  And this fear of jumping wasn't limited to agility and obedience.  This would happen when we were out hiking as well.  Due to a fair bit of rain and wind the past few months, it's not uncommon for us to come across a downed tree on some of our trails.  She doesn't even like jumping those.  And I will fully admit that I don't get it.

I will also fully admit that I was getting frustrated with her because of it.  Agility is primarily a jumping sport.  You have your contact equipment and your tunnels, but the one object that you will see the most frequently are jumps in their various forms.  Miley is still leery of the tunnel and therefore chute, which I'm okay with.  That will come with time and slowly working with her.  She will do the dog walk at a lowered height, but she's not super comfortable with it.  The table, for whatever reason, also weirds her out.  The A-frame she actually likes, though she's only done it at a lowered height.  Once she started avoiding jumping, agility class started feeling pretty futile.  I'm not going to make her miserable and increase her fear by trying to force her.  And my instructor wouldn't be okay with me doing that regardless.  So I decided to pull Miley from agility class indefinitely.

Last year I pulled Miley from obedience lessons for a few months and she came back better than before.  I'm hoping that this time off from agility will have the same effect.  Who knows.  Not every dog has to do every sport.  Agility may end up just not being her thing.  That's totally fine.  Admittedly I can say that because obedience is my favorite sport, so I'm less heart broken.  And I have a second dog who shows promise. ;)

Oddly enough, during our most recent obedience lesson, my instructor set up the jumps for directed jumping.  I was skeptical because agility class had been so disheartening.  In the process of explaining what was going on with Miley, for whatever reason, I demonstrated how she would only go over the jump when I had her heel over it with me.  So Jill, always changing things up for us, decided that if Miley was only wanting to do things in heel position, lets set up a rally course and give it a go!  I was slightly skeptical.  Admittedly (I use this word frequently...admittedly...), I kind of burnt myself out on rally getting Bess' RAE and I was thrilled to be done with rally for an indeterminate period of time.  My original plan was to start playing around with rally after Miley was already competing in obedience, to sort of spice things up and because I felt like we should do rally.  Low and behold, Miley freaking floored me and had a rally practice better than I have had with either Heffner or Bess.  And I'm counting rally practices where I was still using food rewards.  Her freaking left turns had me in heaven.  Her eyes lit up and she was so happy to go along with me and do all of the signs.  I was ecstatic!!  I LOVE heeling and therefore I reinforce it a fair bit and enjoy working on the little pieces of it at home.  Therefore Miley has learned that heeling is the bee's knees.  We're still not to the mental picture of have of where I'd like to be while we're competing, but we are definitely getting there and I'm super happy about it!

This potentially frustrating development has actually had some pretty positive outcomes.  First of all, it sort of cornered me into giving rally a try with Miley.  Which yielded a really positive experience that I hadn't anticipated.  And secondly, after some discussion with our agility instructor, I decided to plunk Dominic into Miley's spot, just working at a puppy foundation level.  He has really taken to it and has already done the lowered dog walk, some teeter banging, the tunnel and chute.  We've also started working on the ground work needed for jumping.  I'm really impressed with how he's taking to it.  He'll be getting a longer period of time developing foundation skills than any of my dogs previously have.  He gets to reap the benefits of the three danes that have gone before him. ;)

I still don't know what has caused Miley to be so reluctant to jump.  She hasn't had any traumatic experiences with jumps that I'm aware of.  And she's otherwise physically fit and able.  Maybe it's just one of those things that she has to work through.  Maybe she's just going to be a late bloomer.  Maybe there's a horrible boogey monster that reaches up and scares the bajesus out of her each time she goes over a jump and my poor human eye sight is unable to detect him.  Maybe I should just not obsess over this for the time being....

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Barnhunt Practice

Today I took both dogs out to Newberg for a Barnhunt practice!  I wanted to see if Miley had more interest in the activity and I wanted to see what Dominic thought of it.  Miley still will not do the tunnel, but that's something across the board that we're working on.  I feel like she'll get there, she's just going to be a late bloomer.  Maybe even a really late bloomer.

Both Miley and Dominic had two correct indications.  Or more accurately, I correctly recognized their indications two times each.  Handler error on calling it was more on Miley's run.  And Dominic was more distracted by my hands on his third try, so I incorrectly called the tube.  Probably because he was showing more interest in where my hands happened to be at that moment, but the third time.  He DEFINITELY shows an interest in the tube containing the rat.  Unlike what Miley got at the workshop we went to last month, Dominic didn't get an introduction to the rat ahead of time or get to work through various containers before going to the competition tubes.  We decided to go for it with him and see if he would be interested in the tube out of the three that was different.  And he did!

Dominic was also a little super star at going through the tunnel.  It took a little food reward to really encourage him to go through initially, but by the end, he was popping through the tunnel while the instructor and I were chatting.  Good puppy!

We'll continue doing periodic practices for a little bit before I enter Dominic in an instinct test.  He has to be at least six months old to compete regardless, so he's got a couple months before he hits that mark.  I'm giving Miley time to show more interest before I do anything more with her.  I don't want to force her into doing something that she isn't really all that into.  Luckily enough with this sport, they're either into it or they aren't.  It's not something that I have to worry about allotting regular training time for.  Which makes me very happy. :)

I did make sure to record their sessions in the ring and I've cut the video down to give some highlights.  It was pouring while we were practicing, so the background noise is a little loud.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Puppy Training!

Dominic is one smart little cookie and I am having a blast working with him.  I am constantly blown away by his focus and attention span!  So much so that I periodically have to remind myself that he's not even quite four months old yet and I need to make sure that I don't burn out the puppy!

A couple days ago, because why not.  I decided to pull out the metal obedience article and see what he would do with it.  I've had him take the plastic dumbbell a couple of times a few weeks back, but I didn't really want to do a ton with any of the dumbbells until his adult teeth are in.  But I decided just to see what he thought of the metal article.  I wish that I had recorded the whole session, but when it became evident that he was going to do SOMETHING with it, I turned on the camera.  And wouldn't you know it, the little stinker was retrieving it and actually picked it up properly a few different times! :)

So. Stinkin. Cute!  The metal article video naturally got me wanting to capture more of the things that we've been working on.  Next up was Dominic's progress with the 2 on 2 off position.  This is something that I was aiming to shape, since I've got the time.  Of course, it only took him about three sessions to get a pretty solid seeming understanding of what I was asking for.  Here's the very first shaping session with him at 10 weeks old:

I had a bit of a brain fart at the beginning of the video.  I hadn't thought about what I was wanting to start rewarding him for before plunking myself down.  So I had to take a moment before realizing that I should be rewarding him for the fact that he offering interaction with the FitBone.  Novel concept. ;) From there we picked up more steam and I was really happy with how he did.  Not only that, but I he showed really good focus with a bunch of his toys strewn about the carpet.  Good puppy!  Yesterday I decided to do a third session of this, but using the aerobic step this time.

He's such a good puppy!  Now I'll start slowly adding in bits of difficulty.  Probably starting with me increasing my distance from the aerobic step.  I'll probably also bring out the dog ramp that I have and practise a little with him on that.  He's just so much fun!!

Miley has a different take on doing 2 on 2 off when we train in the house.  Ideally, I want the dogs to learn to search for this position with their back feet.  Which means trying to shape them to back up into position.  Moving forward into this position is a lot simpler.  But teaching them to FIND this position is the trick.  Miley does not want to back into position regardless of what object I use or how I try to manipulate my position or treat placement to make backing up the quickest and easiest physical movement to do.  She's stuck in a similar pattern of circling (I'm assuming to visually place the object) and then searching for the object with her rear right foot.  I'm not sure if this is something that will get better as we're able to build confidence or if this is just a Miley thing.  I'm working with her on the aerobic step outside of doing the 2 on 2 off position, to build up her confidence on it in general and I'm hoping that will help.  Here's where we're currently at:

Working, working, working.  On the upside, Miley is kicking some ass at left turns and I actually have her heeling sideways with me!  The sideways heeling is still a little sloppy, but I'm really excited at how on it she is with these movements in particular.  When we work on heeling, there's this light in her eyes when she locks on to me that's totally addicting to see!

Monday, March 7, 2016


Yesterday Miley and I had a working spot in Judi Adler's "Working Outside The Box" workshop.  It was so much fun!!  This was absolutely the most perfect type of "obedience" workshop to do with Miley!  Judi is very upbeat and creative in the games that she chooses and she made the whole workshop so much fun!

The basis of the workshop was proofing various behaviors that you need to compete in obedience, but doing it in a way that is fun and really tests your dog's knowledge of the commands that you give.  Sure they know how to take a dumbbell, but will they take a banana if you give them the same command?  Sure your dog knows the jump command, but will they still do it over a string of flags held up by two large stuffed dogs?  The list goes on and on and it made for a really positive experience for Miley and I in particular.

The workshop was also based around accruing points.  There were individual points and team points.  Each team was made up of five dog/handler teams, who were put together in a random assortment of skill level.  I'm always a little leery of team events because you never know what you're in for. But the way this workshop was set up, I felt that you actually got to know a little more about the other people you were in the workshop with.  You got to work together in a way that you don't usually get to do in a workshop setting where you're usually focusing on you and your dog's individual weaknesses.

It was a ton of a fun and it had the benefit of giving me some ideas of different approaches to work on some things that Miley is currently afraid of (more on that in a separate post).  Overall, I was pretty pleased with how the sassy pants did.  Bit by bit we're getting there.

Dominic also got to come along for the ride and practice being a well behaved puppy in the minivan.  Or at least, that was the plan.  He figured out how to unzip the soft crate that I keep in the van for transporting him.  Thankfully he doesn't destroy the zipper in the process.  Yes, a wire crate would be more appropriate for a puppy, but lets be real.  I already have three soft crates and three wire crates and just two dogs.  I need to buy another crate like I need a third vehicle.  For now, he gets to ride in the Heffner "remodeled" soft crate so that he's contained while I'm driving.  But I digress.

While I was inside the building with Miley, he managed to unzip the soft crate, loosen (emphasis on zero destruction) one of the straps securing the blockade between the two front seats, crawl through the gap and consume the large remainder of my morning smoothly that I had so cluelessly left sitting in the front cup holder.  Oh yeah, and there were a few smoothy face smears on the seats that clued me in to what had happened.  I knew something was up when I came walking up to the minivan and saw some tell tale ear taps poking up in the back where they should not have been.  I took him out to pee, and tried putting him back in the soft crate in the hopes that maybe it was just the smell of the smoothy.  Nope.  The boy likes his freedom.  To his credit, no damage was done to the minivan (currently knocking on wood that I didn't just jinx myself by saying that) or anything else.  I snuck up on the van a few more times to see what he was up to and each time he was passed out on the dog beds, looking as innocent as possible.  I'll take it!

I'm very much over due for Dominic pictures and video, but I'll leave you with this shot.  The struggle of cuteness is real people.

Sunday, March 6, 2016


There's just no easy way to say this.  I bought a minivan.  Yes, I've joined the minivan driving, crazy dog lady brigade.  Cause nothin' says single lady on the prowl quite like a minivan.  If this minivan be rockin''s probably because my dogs are inside.  I could continue on with the self deprecating humor, but I think you get the idea. ;)

In my defense, they are incredibly practical when you have dogs and are involved in dog sports.  They are also affordable, both in upfront cost as well as cost of ownership.  Cost and dogs were my two driving forces.

While new car shopping can be exciting, it's decidedly more enjoyable when you're not up against a deadline and not basically forced into a corner of having to make a decision and make it fast.  Two Sundays ago, while I was on my way north with my truck loaded up with the dogs and the majority of my core strengthening equipment for Dane Outreach's annual Education day (some posts about it from previous years are here and here), the heat to the cab cut out and any time I would go above 60 mph (parts of the highway in Washington have a speed limit of 70 mph, so I wasn't making any friends) the truck's temperature gauge would go to hot.  So I turned around and carefully headed home.  A friend came over to take a look and see if he could give me a rough idea of what was going on.  Long story short, there is a known defect in the Nissan radiators that they put in a few different models over the span of a few years, where a hole develops into the transmission case.  This allows transmission fluid to go into the radiator and coolant to flow into the transmission case.  Not good.  Also, not cheap to fix if you take it to the dealership in the hopes of them covering at least part of this.  And in case you're wondering, Nissan did have a class action law suit filed against them, but I am outside of the pay out period for the repairs.  They did NOT do a recall.  Again, long story short, if you have a Nissan vehicle, just start Googling this and I recommend you file a complaint with the national safety commission.  Again, all of that is a very lengthy story, but that's the gist of it.

In essence, I have a high mileage truck that is going to cost more to repair in the time frame that I needed, than I could afford.  I had four days of dog shows down in Albany, OR as well as a plethora of other things going on that week and I NEEDED to have a vehicle that was capable of holding my dogs and their equipment as well as safe.  Oh yeah, and I needed to be able to afford it.  That affordability part is something that car salesmen don't seem to really care that much about and they will continue to try to sell you a vehicle out of your price range, even when you get bitchy about it.  Thankfully, I had a couple of friends who putting in some serious over time helping me with this.  I was completely clueless going into this whole process.  When I got the truck, I had my then husband doing as much of the work as possible, because I was so opposed to the whole process.  My test driving of the truck involved him driving it to our house.  I drove it around the block.  Gave the thumbs and then just showed up at the dealership when I needed to sign the papers.  Also a lengthy story is the listing of everything that my friends Deedra and Shane helped me with.  They put in a couple hours that Sunday night helping me figure out what I could afford, what I was potentially looking at getting for a trade in on the truck and what all my various options were.  Then they gave up their evenings that Monday and Tuesday night to go around to dealerships with me and have my back so that I didn't get screwed by any car salesmen.  In the end, I had to come to the conclusion that the minivan was the most practical and affordable for my needs.  I had to make a freaking grown up decision.  I really hate it when I have to do that.

On the plus side, I still have my truck.  I really wasn't going to be able to get anything for it on trade in value.  And I have a friend who has generously offered to help me with the labor part of fixing it up and is helping me find the parts that I need at affordable prices.  And finally, having full coverage on the minivan and base coverage on the truck has only increased my total monthly insurance cost by a couple dollars.  Now I can gradually do the repairs that are needed on my truck and buy myself some time to figure out what to do with it once it's repaired.  I don't frequently need a four wheel drive vehicle, but there are times where I absolutely do.  So on the one hand, it's convenient for me to have that four wheel drive vehicle as a back up when I need it.  On the other hand, that is still the maintenance of two vehicles.  And my insurance will go up a jump more once I put the truck on higher coverage.  And now I have a monthly car payment.  I may have more adult decision to make in the near future.  But for right now, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE TO MAKE ANY MORE DECISIONS!!

With all of that being said, I have to begrudingly admit that I do actually really like the minivan.  It actually has a turning radius.  It's a heck of a lot easier to load and unload crap and dogs out of it.  I'm able to climate control the are that the dogs are in.  And it gets a little better gas mileage than the truck does (Frontiers actually get pretty decent gas mileage for a truck).  Which was handy considering that I put over 1,000 miles on the minivan in the first week of ownership.  Yeah.  I think I need a weekend to be a freaking hermit!