Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Mixed Bag

Today was the day! (Wednesday, 12/30 - to be exact) My On the Ball DVDs were to show up - and they did! First though, I grabbed the kids and we went to the bank to open an account for my oldest and deposit for both of them. Then we went to Outback Steakhouse for dinner because I had a gift card. Silly me...I paid the bill instead of using my gift card. Yes, it's been one of those days.

Then we hustled up the freeway to Barnes & Noble so the kids could use their gift cards. An hour and a half and two magazines that I hope are as good as they look later, we headed home. I had already planned to jump right into watching the sections of the first DVD I was most interested in and then get some ball work in for Vegas. She's really been neglected lately as far as exercise. For a while we had lessons on Tuesdays and agility league on Thursdays plus trials thrown in every couple of weeks. Now she's been pretty much inactive since the trial 12/5-6. We've done some biking, sure, and gone to the practice barn, but she's not had a serious regimen of consistent exercise.

BUT, darnit, our meat order we picked up on Monday had already thawed! I, for the life of me, cannot understand how the meat thawed when we got snow yesterday, temperatures were hovering around freezing, and it's just plain cold. But defrost they did and so my son and I spent the last couple of hours packing meat. Not my idea of a good time, but we had plenty of laughs. First of all, I have to share about Vegas. She's not always been a raw fed dog. We only switched to raw at the end of July this year. She took to it like a fish to water though, and is a bit more than obsessed by food. Every time I package meat it's a couple hours of laughs and annoyances as she bounces up and down on her toes on the other side of the counter from the kitchen, yips, whines, barks, howls, and makes any other sort of canine noise you can imagine, and swats at the patio door asking to go out because she believes when she comes back in her bowl will have magically been filled. She was a regular pill tonight and even scaled one of the baby gates we have in an effort to get to us. When I finally shared a snack she was even worse. At one point she launched herself into the kitchen and literally came screeching/sliding to a halt in front of me and the box of chicken feet I was bagging. Which brings me to my next thought/comment/point. Chicken feet are really gross. Like seriously, although we had some major laughs with the usual, "Why did the chicken cross the road?" jokes and the like. For your viewing pleasure, I've included an image that will probably imprint itself on your brain - or it has mine. That said, I'm glad I bought them and I know what I have (40#) will last Vegas a while, and I'll buy them again for the benefit they offer (natural glucosamine).

Vegas had never even tried them before but boy did she just gobble them up. She didn't bat an eye one second at what she was being given. Maybe it was the couple hours of antics before and smelling what we were doing that had her keyed up enough not to care?

So with New Year's Eve being tomorrow, we plan on going to a local barn for a little snack/potluck and some practice over courses. Add to the weekend some ball time when I finally get to watch my new DVDs, and we should be back on track. I hate to see all the work Vegas and I have put in go to waste. With our biking and regular agility, she had really built up some great muscle tone and was becoming quite the powerhouse. Hopefully we'll see nothing but more of that in the new year and I can continue to build her stamina with longer bike rides and maybe work her into accepting bikejoring.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Conditioning, Core Strengthening, & Rear-"Wheel" Speed

I am so excited for Wednesday, December 30! I ordered a little Christmas present for Vegas and I and it is supposed to arrive via UPS from Clean Run. It's the Get on the Ball 2 DVD set. It's been quite some time since we've taken an on the ball seminar and my memory fails me on what all we can do. Plus, Vegas is so confident with what we know that it's time to move on and really start to take advantage of her confidence - especially when it's dark when I leave and dark when I come home from work each day and colder than cold to boot!

The website shows the following topics on the 3 DVDs included:


  • Introduction
  • Goals of Ball Work
  • Where Are the Core Muscles?
  • What Dogs Should Get on the Ball?
  • Are There Dogs That Should Not Get on the Ball?
  • When Should I Use the Ball?
  • Ball Basics
  • Puppy Program
  • Beginner Program
  • Intermediate Program
  • Advanced Program
  • Cooling the Dog Down After Ball Work
  • Sample Programs for Dogs with Physical Challenges
  • Accessing the DVD Notes
  • Introduction
  • Getting the Dogs on the Ball
  • Reaching for Treats
  • Standing on the Ball
  • Sit to Stand
  • Stand to Sit to Down & Down to Sit to Stand
  • Leg Lifts
  • About the Ball
  • Strengthening Muscles
  • 180-degree & 360-degree Turns on the Ball
  • Down to Sit to Stand & Stand to Sit to Down
  • When Things Go Wrong
  • Review with Students
  • Cool Down & Conclusion

For reference, the author and originator of On the Ball work is Debbie Gross Saunders ( I've highlighted the areas I am particularly interested in for Vegas. I really hope that working these types of exercises continues to tighten her core and abdomen, strengthens her hind-end, brings her increasing awareness of her hind-end, and ultimately offers speed improvement over the narrower obstacles such as the dog walk and teeter. There are some other exercises I will be throwing in, too, such as walking backwards, walking backwards up the stairs, and stretching movements with her hind legs. Fortunately I have such a willing, cooperative partner who trusts her mama implicitly.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

It's been a while... so catching up.

Several times I have come to my blog to write and realized I didn't have anything to write about. We aren't taking any classes right now and haven't even been getting out and doing much of anything with the impending holiday. We did meet Shana and Pixie at the practice barn last Friday and enjoyed about 45 minutes of practice. Instead of working a course or more than short sequences, I did a few specific exercises with Vegas.

In trying to continue working her from a distance, I tried something very simple. Shana and I had set up 4 jumps evenly spaced down the center of the barn. For Pixie, she needs to work on her jumping, and jumping higher. For Vegas, I wanted to send her over the jumps. She did really good getting right about to jump 3 then she started looking for me. I tried continuing to call out to her, giving her the 'go jump' command but she just hasn't progressed to a place where she trusts to go that far. However, there are times she surprises me like random sends in trials. However, the 'go jump' exercise we'll have to keep working on.

Dog Walk
Vegas is not afraid of the dog walk but I still want to continually push for speed. The last couple of times at the practice barn we've just pushed for speed running over it and, at the same time, I ask for end behavior as reinforcement. She tends to forget end behavior in trials and I am trying to get that back so that we don't start missing contacts, too.

Weaving & Correct Entry
The last thing I really worked on with Vegas was weaves. She doesn't mind doing them in practice but tends to act like she's never seen them before in a trial. I need her to correct that quickly as we have a full trial schedule the next couple of months. The barn happened to be set up with two sets of 6 about 8 feet apart. I was having her do both sets which gave me two opportunities back to back to have her take the correct entry. Low and behold, she was doing a great job and only messed up a couple of times. And little to no pop-outs - yeah!

Vegas had allergy testing yesterday which was interesting, enlightening, and a relief. She's been itchy for about a year and a half and I've been doing food elimination diets for her to try to determine if it was food related. I finally gave up on that theory recently based upon our lack of success with any commercial diets and even switching to raw and trying single proteins.

Last week she got worse than she's been in a long time with raw spots up and down the back of her legs, scabby spots on her poor nipples and lower belly, red, inflamed armpits, and scabs behind her ears from scratching. That's not even to go so far as to talk about how annoying/gross/distracting/disgusting it is to hear her lick/gnaw/chew/scratch all day and night. My poor baby. So I had made her an appointment with the regular veterinarian to at least get a steroid shot to make her feel better temporarily but canceled it when I thought it through because I didn't want another band aid for her. Instead, I called Animal Allergy and Ear Clinic and got her in to see Dr. Randall. There were a couple of things that made this visit fantastic (and it wasn't the small fortune I left behind...!). One, Vegas was comfortable in the exam room. It was set up with 3 wooden chairs and a rug in the middle of the floor. When Dr. Randall came in, Vegas was sprawled out on the floor and she got right down there with us. Second, Dr. Randall heard me out about all the food trialing I had done and agreed that her problems were most likely environmental. After going over what she would be doing, they presented me with an estimate and I left Vegas for the majority of the day.

When I came back, I heard all about what a drama queen I have. She gave them an earful about how she is assuredly NOT a dog and that being in a kennel was quite an insult. Regardless, she was happy to see me. They did a couple of things with her while I was away. The took scrapings of some of the sores on her tummy to make sure they weren't infectious or bacterial. Fortunately they didn't have much bacteria so they did not feel antibiotics would be necessary at this point. The next thing they did was to shave a 3x4 square on her side behind her left shoulder. Here they injected 66 antigens into her to test for allergies to dust mites, insects, weeds, grasses, and trees. She showed a reaction to 37 of the 66 antigens. Each reaction was scored between nothing and 4, 4 being the most reactive. A picture of her test site and the test results are shown below.

Lastly, they drew blood and sent it off to the lab. The results of the bloodwork will take 2-3 weeks and they hope to see the bloodwork come back and support the findings of the skin testing with double positives. At that time, they will develop a serum specifically suited to Vegas' allergies and we'll begin treating her. I'll post on the specifics about that when the time comes around. In the meantime, she has been given Temaril-P to control the itching.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Can She Crawl?

Last weekend at the agility trial in Turner, Vegas and I "roomed" in a stall with a friend who just took her veterinary boards at Oregon State University. She mentioned she had taken a sports medicine class and the instructor mentioned the most common injury to agility dogs is caused by their constant stops, starts, and abrupt movements. Not being a veterinary student, I'll explain as best as I can.

Rachel said there is a tendon on the back of the back legs called the gastoc tendon. In this class, she learned that the activity in agility causes small tears in this tendon that end up with fibrous build-up. Over time, the injury is a torn gastoc tendon caused by weakening from the small tears and subsequent build-up. The best solution, as advised by the doctor teaching the class, is to teach your dog to crawl. By crawling, it helps to break up any fibrous tissue which allows the tendon to function as normal as opposed to being compromised.

So, this weekend, I am going to begin trying to teach Vegas to crawl. My plan is to put her in a down and use some really tasty treats and my clicker. I'm going to try to get her to creep forward without lifting her body. The first time she seems to put forth any forward movement, I will click and treat her, then work from there. I'll try to post video if I can get it as we begin this training journey.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Paw It Forward

So we recently got to take part in a fun activity called Paw It Forward. Being the doggie freak that I am, I leaped before I even knew what it was - thank goodness it was a good thing! I signed up on my friend Lindsay's blog and we got our Paw It Forward package today. Sooooo exciting! I debated on not opening it tonight because I was tired but my two-leggers really wanted to see what was inside. So here goes:

Vegas loved her piggy bottle toy - she snagged it right away and took off - tags and all!

Super yummy peach flavored bubbles that the kids were more than happy to catch and feed her.

Silly picture I couldn't resist including. Her boy was holding the squeaky ball up in the air so she couldn't get it. Nice curled tongue!

Thank you Lindsay, Heffner, and Bess!!!!! Lots of new goodies to play with. We're a very happy girl!!!

Now, to Paw It Forward, I need three volunteers. I'll be posting this here and on my Facebook page since my blog is still in its infant stages. When I hear from the first three people, I'll email you the details

Fleet Feet December 5 & 6, 2009 CPE Trial, Turner, OR

At long last....I'm posting my videos from this last weekend's trial. My son, Zach, came along both days and was a sweetheart to video our runs. I do have to give him huge kudos for coming, too, as the temperatures hovered just about freezing or below even inside the barn. He spent quite a bit of time curled up on Vegas' bed with her in front of our portable propane heater in between runs and working.

Okay, so the only run he missed filming was the very first one of the weekend. I came out of the ring and he said, "Mom, I got the whole thing! Except I forgot to push the record button!" Only out of the mouth of a 10 year old....
Standard Level 3 - Round 1 - Saturday, December 5, 2009

Standard Round 2 - Level 3 - Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snooker - Level 2 - Saturday, December 5, 2009

Snooker used to be our nemesis. It took us a lot more tries in Level 1 than I want to admit to successfully run and qualify in Snooker, but I believe I can now categorize Snooker as "just a game" as we ran for the first time in Level 2 and passed it right away. It's one of those classes for large dogs such as Vegas that can be extremely difficult because their stride is so long and you feel like you're quickly pulling them over and off other obstacles. There rarely is a flowing pattern you can establish to successfully complete the requirements of the class. However, fits and starts and all, we flew through this one with ease. Great job, Vegas!

Jumpers- Level 2 - Saturday, December 5, 2009

Originally I walked the Level 3 jumpers course and wasn't as happy because it had an extra tunnel and I knew as the last run of the day that would be more difficult on Vegas, especially in below freezing temperatures. However, having walked the wrong course, I got lucky when I walked the correct one (Level 1 and 2 combined) and had one less tunnel. I even told the judge that it seemed like the course was designed for us with it's long flowing run of jumps prior to two back-to-back tunnels and then the finish line. Vegas handled the course like the pro she's becoming finishing it in under 26 seconds.

Jackpot- Level 2 - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Games courses first thing in the morning can be a good thing or a bad thing. Sunday, it was a good thing. Even though Vegas took some obstacles on her own that I didn't direct her, this is usually okay as she accumulated points anyway. You'll notice her take the big double and that wasn't something I told her to do, but it was okay as it was worth 5 points. In addition, she took the tunnel when I wanted her to take the a-frame, but the tunnel was worth 3 points and we still got to do the a-frame.

Standard Round 1 - Level 3 - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Standard Round 2 - Level 3 - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wildcard - Level 3 - Sunday, December 6, 2009

If you listen very closely, you might hear me yell "dammit!" Yeah, this was a frustrating run. The judge likes discriminations, which is fine, except when you have a giant dog whose body is tired of tunnels and you put a dog walk or other contact obstacle next to it. She planted her feet on the dog walk twice giving us two off course faults. Please note my exasperation pointing to the tunnels.... In hindsight, I learned something. I will pay attention in such cold weather for Vegas' responses again and may not compete during such frigid months when the venue will be so cold. It might just be asking too much on a dog with no protection against the elements and such a strain on her body as the tunnels.
Colors - Level 2 - Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our last course of the weekend and I was able to choose a course with just two tunnels. Vegas handled herself like a pro and finished very quickly again, moving up into Level 3 for Colors.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Day 1 - Fleet Feet Agility CPE Trial, Turner, OR

Tonight will be brief; I still haven't even debriefed on Thursday night's agility league and I need to get some rest for day 2 of the trial. However, I just want to say what an awesome girl I have. I was so proud of her today. It started out as an early morning and 28 degrees. The ground didn't start to defrost until about 1pm and within 2 hours the sun started to go down and the slight increase we had experienced in temperature was already dissipating. That said, no matter what, Vegas is a total superstar and I couldn't be prouder.

Our running order today was small to tall, beginning with Full House, Standard round 1, Standard round 2, Snooker, then Jumpers. She Qd in all except round 2 of Standard. The problem with that course is it started with a jump set up in the center of the ring and the second obstacle was a set of 12 weaves 90 degrees to the right. A teeter, set broad-side to us, was directly in front of the jump. Yeah, not good. So I went into it planning on "walking" her from the jump to the weaves. I wasn't obvious enough in my queues so she touched her feet on the teeter. An automatic 10 point fault. Then she did the weaves after just one false entry - YEAH! Our second mistake of the course and what cost us it was when we had an obstacle discrimination between a tunnel and the a-frame. I said, "Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel!" and she heard a-frame. Oops.

All others were Qs and it was a great day despite our constant battle to try to stay warm. For the big, black girl, this meant lots and lots and lots of leg rubs and wearing her super cute Hello Kitty ensem` the whole day (except runs). She was quite the spectacle - in a good way. More later, and videos to come.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Agility Venues & Oregon's Civil War Game 2009

In tonight's post I wanted to talk a bit about the different agility venues. There are quite a few common ones in the area: Canine Performance Events (CPE), United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA), Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA), Australian Shepherd Club of American (ASCA), American Kennel Club (AKC), and North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC). I'll begin by talking a bit about each venue.

CPE: The following is the CPE philosophy: "For the dog and handler to have fun while successfully competing for performance titles as a cohesive unit, achieved through positive training and teamwork." Participants can run at one of four levels: Regular, Veteran, Enthusiast, or Specialist. Regular is as it states - regular. Veteran entrants run at 4" less than their measured "P" card height and usually are given extra time. Enthusiasts run at 4" less than their "P" card height, too; and Specialists run at 8" less. CPE also has a junior handler program for handlers under 18. There are 6 levels in CPE - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and C. The championship awarded is called a C-ATCH. No training is allowed in the ring in CPE trials.

The following types of events are included in CPE: Standard, Colors, Wildcard, Jackpot, Snooker, Fullhouse, and Jumpers.
  • Standard includes all obstacles, except weaves in level 1. 
  • Colors is a game course whereby two nested, or overlapping, courses are set up in the same ring. The handler chooses the color s/he wants to run and is not required to inform the judge. An off course and automatic NQ is taking any obstacle not of the color selected. 
  • Wildcard is a game course also, but pattered after a standard course. There are three sets of obstacles designated as wildcards, though. The handler must complete a certain number of wildcards of varying point schemes based upon competition level. For instance, a single jump and a tire might be set up. The single would be worth one point and the tire worth two. Other included wildcards could be the a-frame and a tunnel, and the weaves or a jump. At the lower levels, handlers must successfully complete two one-point wildcards and one two-point wildcard. 
  • Jackpot is run as a two-part course. The first part consists of the handler and dog working the course, attempting to accumulate at least the minimum required points for their level, in the stated amount of time. The end of the accumulation time is signified by the timekeeper’s whistle. (See course variations at end of Jackpot rules for different types of gambles) In a traditional Jackpot, the handler and dog then proceed to work through a series of gamble obstacles within a time set by the judge. The handler must stay out of a designated area, while the dog works within this area, with commands from the handler. The obstacles must be executed in the correct order, without faults, and cross the finish line (may be table), to earn the gamble points. The required points (including gamble points) must be within the total game time, in order to qualify.
  • Snooker is an interesting game whereby the handler must complete 3 out of the included 4 "red" obstacles on the course (always jumps), each followed by a "color" obstacle. Sometimes two or even three sequential obstacles count as a color. So, a successfully completed Snooker is red, color, red, color, red, color. That completes the opening sequence. Then, the handler must be in a position to begin the numeric course with #2 and complete as much as possible up to #7. If s/he accumulated enough points, this constitutes a qualifying run. 
  • Jumpers is pretty much as the name implies. It is a course almost completely jumps, usually with either a couple of tunnels or a set of weave poles thrown in. 
In level one, a handler must qualify in two standard runs and one of each of the games courses. Doing so accomplishes the Level 1 title, known as CL1. With each level, the number of qualifying standard runs is double the level (E.g. 2 = 4, 3 = 6, and so on), while qualifying in each of the games courses the same number as the level.

Also to note, the highest jump height in CPE is 24".

USDAA: The United States Dog Agility Association (USDAA) is "the world's largest independent authority for the sport of dog agility, with more than 25,000 registered competitors and more than 200 different breeds of dogs, including mix breeds. USDAA represents more than 100 affiliated groups conducting more than 400 days of events each year throughout the continental United States, Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and Japan.

Organized in 1986 to introduce and "Promote International Standards for Dog AgilitySM" patterned after the British standards for the sport, USDAA has evolved into an international organization with the most comprehensive and diverse certification program for dog agility anywhere in the world" ( 

Participants can run in USDAA sanctioned trials in the following classifications: Championship ("for those interested in competition under standards congruent with international rules for competition in dog agility"), Performance ("for those interested in competition without the more rigorous physical demands of the sport"), or as a Junior Handler ("for school-age children and their pets, with emphasis on team camaraderie and learning the basics in responsible pet ownership"). In the Performance classification, jump heights are reduced by 4" for each dog. Therefore, as a Great Dane, Vegas would have jumped 26" in USDAA, but under Performance classification, she would just 22". In addition, the height, and thus the steep incline, of the a-frame is reduced by 9" (to 5'6" from 6'3"); no spread or hurdle jumps are used; and timing is extended by 3 seconds. I won't get into additional details of the Junior Handler program, but they are available on the USDAA website at:

USDAA has standard classes as well as the following games: Gamblers, Jumpers, Snooker, and Relay. 
  • Standard classes include all obstacles including 3 contact obstacles (teeter, a-frame, dog walk) and two types of tunnels (open or chute). Scoring methods may vary and are detailed on the organization's website. 
  • Gamblers is a games course similar to CPE's Jackpot, with the goal of accumulating as many points as possible. The Gamble is typically a short sequence set up behind a line the handler cannot cross. There are slight variations for non-traditional Gamble courses, but this is the most common and the judge may also set aside a set period of time to complete a challenge, too. 
  • Jumpers in USDAA is a course comprised primarily of jumps but will include tunnels and, at times, weave poles. Scoring criteria may be based upon standard course time (SCT) or time-plus-faults and is at the discretion of the judge. 
  • Snooker is a bit different with USDAA than in CPE. he snooker class consists of an opening sequence immediately followed by a closing sequence, both of which must be performed in the overall performance time allotted by the judge. "The opening sequence is "Red-Color-Red-Color-Red-Color, and so on until all "Red" obstacles and their following "Color" obstacle have been performed; however, if a "Red" is faulted while performing the sequence, the "Color" opportunity immediately following that "Red" is lost. It is frequently said that you must perform a "Red" successfully to earn the right to perform a "Color" for additional points. No points are earned for faulted obstacles. Once all "Reds" have been performed (including the "Color" of handler's choice following each "Red" that is successfully performed, the "Closing Sequence" begins. The closing sequence is "Yellow-Green-Brown-Blue-Pink-Black (i.e., the "Colors other than Red" in increasing point value as defined). The round is over when the course time allotment expires, when a fault occurs in the closing sequence, an improper sequence of obstacles is performed, or the course has been completed. A competitor's score is the number of points earned during their round."
  • Relay is a team class whereby dog/handler teams complete all or part of a course and pass a baton between them. USDAA says 12" and 16" dogs should work together as a team and 22" and 26". Most of the time, the purpose is speed; therefore, most times time-plus-faults is the method for scoring. 
In USDAA, there are two primary types of titles - one for the games courses and one for standard. They are called Versatility and Standard. For standard, at each level, a handler/dog team must achieve three qualifying runs for Starters and Advanced and 5 for Master. To earn the Versatility title, you must have the Standard title from the corresponding level plus 1 qualifying score in each game for Starters and Advanced. For the Masters Versatility title, handlers must have 3 qualifying scores from standard (not the 5 it takes to achieve the standard title), and 1 qualifying score for each game. In addition, Versatility titles require scores under three different judges; standard under two. 

(More To Be Continued....)

2009 Civil War Game - Oregon State University (OSU) v. University of Oregon (U of O) - 12/3/2009

This is one of those occasions I was glad I had agility league. My boys were at home watching the game on with a couple of friends and probably doing more yelling than anything else. They tend to get more amped up than the crazy Shelties seen on course in agility when it comes to football. To say they're fanatics is putting it mildly. So off to agility league I go. Surprisingly, I didn't hear much from the boys. I finally checked in around 8:30 or so and got a text back telling me the score (which I don't recall now). A little later I checked my phone again and I had missed a call from them. I attempted to call back and ended up accepting their incoming call. I do not remember exactly what Kane said, but this is a Civil War game that I will never forget. The gist of his problem was this: the computer kicked them offline with a minute-twenty to go, the Ducks had the ball, and were at some down or another. Oh my goodness, a crisis!! Laughing my butt off, telling those around me what was going on as they knew I was calling home and could get the score/status of the game, I looked up and gave him the password to log the computer back in. In all of the hubbub of our daily lives trying to get homework and dinner done plus getting ready for agility and getting them set up to watch the game, I had forgotten all about the internet protective program I have installed - K9 Protection (Go figure!). Yeah, so I have it set up to not allow internet between 9pm and 7am. So 9 o'clock rolled around and despite the intense urgency of the game, K9 sent the game packing. Fortunately they were back online in moments, but the strain probably aged their poor little souls. =) And it was a Civil War game I'll never forget.