Thursday, February 25, 2010

Going to class when you don't want to...

I really didn't want to go to class tonight because I was just way too tired. However, having a crazy, wound-up, 125 pound dog was motivation enough to go anyway (with an extra nudge from a friend). I really was glad I went. Jim always sets up really awesome courses that go beyond challenging us. Sometimes the courses are more difficult to walk than they are to run our dogs, and other times they are just plain difficult and we end up feeling like bumbling idiots. However, we always accomplish the goal of pushing ourselves farther and learning how better to handle our dogs. Thursday nights are truly an opportunity to train beyond our actual skill level and I love knowing that at times we actually run clean.

As per usual, we had three nested courses set up tonight. Things started out a bit rough. Vegas was really wound up and blew through some things and right past me like I wasn't even on the course with her. That was frustrating. Then when I tried to reign her in and work on the course, she would act like I wasn't even there. She did her little trick of looking at anything but me, sniffing, nose to the ground, looking at the wall like there was something incredibly fascinating, and generally giving me the royal canine flip-off. ANNOYING!

But, after our first debacle of a run, we had our second shot at running course number one and it was much better! I guess she just needed to blow off some steam. The next course she worked really well with me. She was really going slow tonight on the dog walk though and I'm not sure why. She also was popping out of weaves at pole 10 but I didn't let it go and put her back through all the way. I think Vegas just needed a cheerleader tonight because I sure had to clap and whoohoo and talk her way through the weaves and over the dog walk.

The second course went really well and by the third course is when Vegas really started ignoring me again. She ignored me enough so that I decided not to let up and really pushed her to finish things I was asking of her. It resulted in us finishing the course with a couple of repeated areas and certainly not clean, and then me taking her though again but skipping things like the tunnels and just getting her to open up and have fun. She finished like the champ she is and was overjoyed to come home to dinner and her nice, warm, king-size bed.

Hind End Awareness

Vegas hasn't a clue she has a behind. It's been very rainy many of the evenings this week plus I've been gone a lot so haven't had a lot of time to work with her outside. So, Monday night after I got home from a PDX Danes board meeting, my son was working with our new dog, Leo, downstairs so I headed upstairs to work with Vegas.

Some time back we worked with Bobbie Lyons on core strengthening and learned about an easy way to make a piece of equipment at home to use. I've inserted a picture below. The item is a phone book covered securely in duct tape. Very simple! The purpose of the duct tape is to make it durable and prevent it from slipping and sliding when your dog stands on it. Essentially it solidifies the phone book. Hopefully I can get a video of this soon and post as an addendum for this topic. It's actually been quite a while since I worked with Vegas using the phone book and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly she took to it and knew what to do. All I did was to use our handy tube of peanut butter and she was more than willing.
What I did was to have her place her front feet on the phone book. Then, standing next to her at the shoulder, I used the peanut butter tube to motivate her and had her use her hind feet to move around the phone book in a circle, keeping her front feet on the book at all times. For starters, it requires concentration and your dog understanding what you want him or her to do. For Vegas, I do this to encourage her to use her back feet for more than a support system for her long body. Doing this exercise, it requires her to think about the placement of her feet. For instance, she is essentially side stepping in a circle. She could easily step on her own foot. She doesn't want to do that or it will throw her off balance. She is getitng so she can do it rather quickly now and with very few stops and starts.

We spent about 15 minutes working on this exercise alone, taking turns going in both directions. Each rotation takes just a couple of seconds and we did approximately 10 rotations at a time.

I had intentions to work on the ball with Vegas, too, but it needs a tad more air to make that possible. In addition to the phone book work, I also worked on stretching Vegas some.

I learned at our last trial a couple of weeks ago that she has two vertebrae in the shoulder area that are slightly twisted and causing some discomfort in Vegas' back. My friend, Beth, is a canine massage therapist and is who noticed this with Vegas. She suggested some stretches to help her limber up in that area to relieve the pressure from the vertebrae. If you can imagine it, I stand next to Vegas with her side up against me, one leg up against her hip and I use the other leg to flex her ribcage a bit. Basically it's just a slight pressure to help her regain some movement horizontally in her spine in the upper back area. I repeated this several times on each side.

The next stretch I worked with her on is one we can do fairly easily and comes naturally to Vegas. All I have to do is to have a tasty treat in hand and show it to her then bring my hand back toward her hip. She follows me with her head and I keep her there a couple of seconds, enticed by the treat, and then release. We repeated that on both sides several times, too.

Last, I repeated the same steps in the second stretching exercise but didn't bring her head clear to her hip. Instead I had her just bring her head toward her shoulder. Again, we repeated this several times. I'm already able to tell a difference in the flexion in her back and don't detect the touchiness and discomfort anymore. I don't think this will be a debilitating thing for her but just something I should always be aware of. To prevent it being a problem I will continually do these stretches with her to keep that area of her spine loose and flexible.

Here is a goofy picture I'm including because she was clearly telling me she wasn't done and was offering random behaviors to try to get more treats. I love that silly girl....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Thank you Blog Friends!

I'm a little slow in posting this, but I just want to say thank you to both Lindsay and Jenn for the award you've given us. I was very excited to see it and then forgot to do anything about it, so my bad!
The rules of the Sweet Friends Award:

1. Copy the image and paste it to your blog.
2. List 10 things that make you happy, do one of them today.
3. Select 10 bloggers who brighten your day.

So without further ado, here goes!
(listed in no particular order)
1. Hiking
2. Going to the beach
3. Reading books
4. CPE Agility
5. Traveling
6. Sewing
7. AKC Agility
8. Writing
9. Hanging out with the V girl
10. Biking with Vegas

(listed in no particular order)
1. Jenn & Luke:
2. MT & Dante:
3. Cassius:
4. Coullee & Lacey:
5. Sasha:
6. Leigh, Lavi, & Gandolf:
7. Olive:
8. Jessica & Wonder:
9. Kim:
10. Lindsay, Heffner, & Bess:

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Trial Weekend Recap

This wrap up is mostly going to be a summary in pictures because it's late, I'm tired, I have to work tomorrow, and because pictures and video are effective. The best thing I can say is that this weekend was a blast. I got to hang out with some of the coolest dog people I know, learned a ton, got to see our friends, Shana and Pixie, run in their very first trial ever and see them Q in Snooker, and hung out with the most awesome black and white Great Dane on earth.

Each day we were entered in all five runs. The days break down as follows:

Saturday (Tall > Small):
  • Jackpot
  • Standard
  • Wildcard
  • Colors
  • Snooker
Sunday (Small > Tall):
  • Full House
  • Standard
  • Colors
  • Snooker
  • Jumpers
Going into this trial, Vegas was entered in level 3 for all events except Snooker and Jackpot. We needed one leg of each to complete our level 2 title. I'm happy to say my "little" rockstar did just that on Saturday. She also broke a personal record with a 100% Q rate on Saturday. Needless to say, it was a very exciting day. Without further ado, here are the courses and videos from day 1.

Today (Sunday), we were very tired - or at least I was. Full House was our first class today and we had a decent plan mapped out but I wasted too much time on the weaves so that cost us time for enough points to qualify. Nonetheless, I can't be sorry. Vegas needs to learn to be consistent in weaving in trials. This weekend she really showed promise and growth. I only had to restart her twice and the rest of the time she nailed her entry and stuck them like the great girl I know her to be.

The funny story of the day and for what I do not have video for is regarding our colors run. I had selected the color I would run, walked it about four times, then changed my mind. I walked that course a couple of times but then had to wait for what was probably an hour to run. I went in the ring, took Vegas over the first two jumps then gave her the signal for a hard right and sent her over another jump. I realized as I did it that I was in the wrong spot - I think that's one of those learned/muscle memory things - and stopped, looked around, and said, "I think I just went off course." Vegas, fortunately, was just standing there wondering what I was doing. When I finally figured out what I should have done, I knew I'd blown the course and was so flustered with myself all I could do is laugh and say, "I guess we're done!" We headed out of the ring, laughing all the way (Ha, ha, ha). It was one of those moments that probably all agility handlers have at one time or another and I am so grateful I could laugh about it instead of beat myself up or stress over it. It was mostly just funny as the epiphany I had after jump three was so readily apparent and my mouth just spoke what my brain was realizing.

The rest of the day was a blast. We were all tired and itching to get home and crash, yet we are diehards. We stuck it to the end. And here are the courses and videos from today.


And the last piece of agility news to share is that we got our AKC NAJ title certificate in yesterday's mail. That was super exciting and we now know we'll be getting another one soon, too, for Vegas' NA. Such a proud mama that girl makes me. She is such an agility phenom and virtually everyone that meets her loves her. She's irresistable to people and so soft and sweet in her personality.

Here is a video I took of Vegas running back to me. In between runs yesterday and today we practiced sit/stays, stand/stays, and unfocused stay commands. As is obvious in the video, the girl can really move! She has to be motivated and quite often that means getting back to the mom!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Thursday Night Practice

Somehow my game plan went out the window when the rain started falling again yesterday. Thankfully we had Thursday night practice to make up for it although I almost didn't go because I'm so tired and have so much to get done with the trial coming up this weekend. However, when your 125 pound dog is spinning out in your living room, romping through and leaping over laundry baskets, you simply must get her exercise!

For our Thursday night sessions, it varies how many people show up. Each night we have three nested courses set up and each of us runs them twice as well as working out problem areas within each course. Tonight was a doozy! I've included some pictures below although it will be difficult to tell what each course is without a map. Let's just say they involved some advanced and complicated maneuvers at times that were challenging and exhilarating at the same time. I'm proud of my girl because she works with me almost always. Tonight I pushed her pretty hard and she didn't let me down, although she made it abundantly clear when she was too tired and that meant skipping some tunnels. Her weave poles were done very well and she nailed her weave entrance almost every time. Tonight's practice makes me excited for this weekend. I should have a lot of video as I'll have a couple of friends there to trade videographer services with.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Game Plan

Vegas is entered in a lot of trials coming up. In fact, it's become downright difficult to manage my schedule and know what is when. But I wouldn't give it up for the world! On the agenda this weekend is a CPE trial at the Barb White Arena in Turner, OR. If all goes well this weekend, we could completely finish our level 2 title. We need just one qualifying run in Jackpot and one in Snooker at level 2.

My plan this week is not overly complicated. I don't want to push Vegas too hard as we're trialing a lot and I would rather save her up for those weekends. I am loving the sunshine though that we're getting right now during the day and the added daylight that comes with it when I get off work. Today when I got home I didn't even go in the house first. I just let Vegas out in the yard with me and we worked on her weaves. Albeit she was a little nutsoid and just wanted to launch herself at full speed from one end of the yard to the other. I wish I had my video camera at the time because she was doing this full tilt run thing complete with zooming around the filbert tree and then down the stretch of side yard and over the jump set up there. At times she was looping around behind a bush and coming back over the jump again on her race to the front yard. She's such a funny girl and most people don't get to enjoy this side of her because she really only lets loose like this at home. I'm no dog psychologist, but my best theory is that it has to do with comfort level. Home is home and it's where she knows she can be what she wants to be so she is a crazy wild child who tears around like a BC on crack be it in the house or outside in her yard.

Anyway, I digress. In between crazy yard assaults, I had her run the weaves about a half dozen times pushing her for speed and finding her entry. I only have six poles set up right now as she had been giving me trouble in trials with just six, but now that we've moved on to 12 for both CPE and AKC, I think I will add the remainder back again in a day or so. For tomorrow I plan on pushing the speed and entry thing again when I get home for just a short session and then reward and play. Hopefully this will be enough to mentally start changing her tune regarding the weaves in trials. Thursday I'll go ahead and put the remaining six poles in and repeat just that night. Friday I'll give her off and possibly do some ball work. And Saturday is our trial....results will be posted along with videos, hopefully each evening.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Trial Weekend Update & Recap

 didn't take the time to post yesterday about the trial because I had a collar order to fulfill. However, there is lots to tell so be prepared for this to be a bit lengthy!

Saturday dawned sunny (quite a bit after we left home), too early (what's new?), but somewhat balmy. It was a great day to do agility! Vegas and I headed up to Clark County and I made the heartbreaking decision to forgo coffee. I had all of our agility paraphernalia all over the front seat and my breakfast and inevitably Vegas jumps over the seat and would be all over the place wreaking havoc in her neurotic-ism over "mommy leaving her." A quick drive up the freeway and we arrived bright and early with nary (but a dozen) cars in sight. I dropped our x-pen off by the doors and parked. Vegas trotting along (tangling me up in her leash) beside me, I hefted, heaved, and hauled that heavy sucker in and found us a spot to set up. Four square feet later and 48" tall, that puppy looked like a great place to snooze between runs. Out to the car we went to fetch the rest of our stuff, Vegas helpful as always. After all, who can resist loving on such a sweet face? Nobody apparently because it took 15 minutes from our "spot" to get to the truck. Oh well. =)

After setting up, we picked up course maps for the day. On the agenda was novice FAST, open JWW, and then novice standard last. Then I set Vegas up in her comfortable digs and headed out to visit and wait for briefing to start. Not 10 minutes later, I hear the familiar call, "Loose dog." In my head I was thinking, "Oh, somebody's dog is loose." Never mind the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I think subconsciously I was screaming obscenities while externally I was in denial. That didn't last long because when I finally turned in that direction, who do you suppose I should see but m dear, precious Vegas Rose? Oh, did I mention she loves her mama? She collapsed the x-pen. Don't ask me how she escaped without getting stuck in the middle. I haven't a clue. Off we went to try again. Oh, and one other thing. She was wearing her oh-so-fragrant Calm Me Down collar this whole time. Yeah, it so did not work. There went $35 down the drain. After a couple of tries where I set her up in the x-pen again and tried to step away, tried to sit for a while until she was calm, stood just a few feet away to acclimate her, it was clearly not going to happen. So Vegas spent the rest of the weekend hanging out in the back of the truck. It worked out quite well considering I was able to park close both days.

So moving on.... here is a map of our first course, novice FAST. Our judge was Pam Cumming.
You can see by the purple markings what one of my plans was. I decided not to waste time making the loop with the a-frame and teeter just to get the points. We ended up going straight for the 'send' after the initial jump > a-frame > jump sequence and then headed for the jump in the center above the tire, took the tire, then headed back for the jump to the tunnel in the upper left. I had more than a passing thought during walk-through and running the course to try the weaves since we can't be faulted here but I decided not to. It was probably a mistake simply because Vegas struggles so much with consistency in the weaves at trials, but nonetheless, we ended up over the final jump at the finish before time went off which was great because we didn't lose any points. The allotted time was 32 seconds and we needed 50 points including the 13 points assigned to the 'send' obstacles and the 20-point bonus. So basically we needed 17 points in addition to succeeding on the 'send.' Piece of cake. Our time was 28.85, 61 points in a first place qualifying run. Way to go, Vegas!

Shortly thereafter was our second attempt at open JWW. Here is the course:
This time the purple markings were just me plotting out where I would be and where I would have side changes. The course was fairly nice and Vegas did quite well. We would have most likely qualified but I made a couple of mistakes. I can't remember our weaves from Saturday (early onset Alzheimer's?) so not sure if we struggled on them or if she took them right away. However, I caused us a fault for off-course or refusal, I think, when I tried to fit in a front cross at 16 and instead ended up sending her too far out and around 16. I think we may have knocked a bar too, but I cannot remember for sure. If we did it would have been #16 and due to our maneuvers in trying to complete that obstacle after my handling snafu.

The more I trial the more I get to know people. And the more I get to know people the more I learn about this sport. In AKC, the jump between novice and open is apparently pretty significant; whereas going from open to excellent is not so large. Part of me struggles against my competitiveness and natural penchant for rocking whatever I choose to do. Another part of me is fighting to be realistic. We're agility toddlers. It takes time to cruise to the top. I have to continually remind myself of that and work one step at a time so our foundation is solid. (Do me a favor someone and remind me of that in a month or so if I'm pulling my hair out.)

So on to run #3 for Saturday...novice standard. A lot was riding on this run in my mind as it was all we needed to finish our novice agility title. Without further ado, here was the course designed by judge Dan Butcher:
Vegas did pretty darn good on this course. It was not extremely difficult, but of course the table was a down and that is our latest nemesis. A table that is hard and cold and has poky stuff on it from the contact-a-coat is not a fun thing for my princess who is accustomed to lounging on two beds on her Kuranda bed or on mama's comfy king with the heat blanket on. She initially ran past it aiming for the super fun teeter, but I was able to call her back just in time before she put any feet on it. Just a table fault there. We probably ended up wasting 20 seconds on the table but from there I believe the rest of the course was a breeze (since I don't remember our problems and don't have video). I left without waiting for scores as I really didn't think we qualified and that was the end of our Saturday.

Today it was really hard to get up. Too many super early days right in a row. I ended up getting up and feeding Vegas, getting laundry out of the dryer, and then snuggling with Vegas for another 5 or 10 minutes until I finally got myself moving. It was definitely a coffee day and since Vegas was riding in the canopy today, I was able to stop! Despite how late I arrived today (7:45 am), we actually got a parking space right by the building which was perfect! Vegas was much better behaved this weekend in the back of the truck and I just might stick with that plan for a while instead of carting so much stuff into the trial site.

For whatever reason, I decided to check the score book shortly after my arrival. I guess I did it because I hadn't stuck around the previous day. Boy did I experience a shock when I found that we had qualified in our last run yesterday! We finished our novice agility title!!!! She is now KKZ's Apache Vegas Rose CL-1, CL2-R, CL2-H, CL2-F, NAJ, NA

I was so proud I could have shouted it from the rooftops. She's such a rockstar; God I love that girl! And here is our new title ribbon. Thanks. MHDPC!

Since we weren't running FAST today, we started with JWW and novice ran first. It was over an hour before we finally got to run and we lucked out with another really nice course, this one designed by Dan Butcher.
I will mention, something I was taught by Craig French was to check the belts on the tunnels to make sure they are fastened across the ribs not between them. The tunnel on this course was really belted poorly and I mentioned it to the judge who fixed it. At the entrance and exit the opening was at full circumference. However, about four inches back, the tunnel was belted so tight initially that it probably lost about 4-6 inches in height! I already run Vegas without a collar in AKC even though they are allowed and one of the reasons is because of the tunnels. There is no sense in having anything excess that could catch on the ribs as she runs through and hinder progress or tug at her. The other reason is so I don't forget to take it off when running in CPE. That all said, this was a really nice course, too, and Vegas even took her weaves the first try. However, she popped out at number 10 and it was probably me pulling off prematurely. I seem to be okay pulling off a bit in practice but she's not confident enough in trials for me to do that. Because of where she popped out and my uncertainty of where to attempt to put her back in, we started them over and she ran them clean and relatively fast then. Yay, good girl Vegas!

I spent some time today working a couple long classes to help out and to earn some "bucks" toward future trial entry fees with this club. The Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscher Club really does a good job with their trial and I love seeing all the Dobies, too.

Since I didn't know yesterday that we finished our novice standard leg, we weren't able to move up to open today. It was just as well as Vegas was a bit of a pill on the weaves again. Other than a couple awkward moments on my behalf, she did well otherwise and qualified again, this time with a time of 66.07 (allowed was 64) and 88 points. I'm not sure what our faults were. I have video this time from the lovely Havenese breeder I met. I'll hopefully learn her name next time. =)

We headed out shortly thereafter as we were done for the day, the last dogs to run, and equipment nearly picked up. Since Vegas wasn't nearly spent enough, we headed for our home dog park where we have not been in several months. I had hoped she'd run a bit but not much luck. A  few brief skirmishes some dogs where she initiated her chase/herding game and then right on back to mama. Below is a video I took of her running back to me after I put her in a sit/stay and walked out a ways. As you can tell, Vegas was overjoyed to come running back to "the mom."

Friday, February 5, 2010

Agility at Clark County, Here We Come!

Seriously, it's only been 12 days since we finished our last trial but we are so psyched to do it again. This weekend is another AKC agility trial hosted by the Mt. Hood Doberman Pinscer Club. Lots of Dobermans (love them!), lots of friends, and lots of good times with my girl. I'm really excited to see how she does in a more "normal" agility ring again, especially one where she's competed quite a few times. Ah, good old horsey dirt! LOL

Should be good times and the weather is supposed to be gorgeous so I think we'll plan on spending time between runs walking outside and soaking up some vitamin D. Saturday we are entered in novice FAST, open JWW, and novice Standard. Sunday will be another JWW and standard run, our level for standard depending upon whether we qualify tomorrow.

Hopefully I'll have video to share tomorrow night!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Taking It Easy

This week we're taking it easy again. I took Vegas to the barn for practice yesterday (Sunday) and 7 minutes into a really good session where we got to play on the new dog walk (aluminum with contact-a-coat!), Vegas refused the tire several times in a row. That is not like her as it's not an obstacle she's had issue with since we first started and she was learning all the obstacles.

I let the tire issue go and ran her over a sequence of jumps and then realized the root of our problem - she was limping again, quite prominently. That quickly ended our playtime for the day. I took her outside and walked for a few minutes. It seemed like she was limping less but we still headed home. By the time we got home she wasn't limping at all and doesn't seem to be at this point either, a little over a day later. However, we are back on restricted movement in hopes of still being ready for our trial this weekend. So no more agility or biking for us this week. I'm bummed about that but we do have a really cool event to go to Thursday evening.

In other news, tomorrow is our allergy veterinary appointment so we can go over the injection protocol and start the allergy serum - yeah! I can't wait to make sure this works and have an itch-free dog.

All of this experience has really got me thinking. I picked up a brochure at the Rose City Classic from a vendor, Darwin's Natural Pet Products, for The Holistic Pet Vet Clinic near my home. After we get past this allergy stuff, I'm going to investigate some alternatives for Vegas including titers instead of vaccinations, having a full blood panel done to make sure her raw diet is balanced and doing what it needs to for her internally, and non-toxic solutions for flea control. I have really seen the difference in her with raw feeding, something three years ago I never would have considered. In addition to her raw diet, she gets an egg a day, occasional raw honey, ground flax seed, alfalfa powder, and kelp powder. The focus of my blog is not nutrition as much as training and working with a non-traditional breed in agility; however, the whole health of the dog goes into continuing successfully. I really want to continue to do the best by Vegas and I hate the allergies that have affected her so much. Therefore, I will continue to pursue these alternatives in hopes of removing any unnecessary chemicals and unnatural elements from her lifestyle as possible.

I purchased the alfalfa and kelp from Leerburg Kennels, which can be found on the web at: To find out more about the health benefits of these types of supplements, I would suggest referring back to my friend, Lindsay's blog, as she really goes over this type of thing in depth.