Saturday, May 29, 2010

Friday & Saturday Results

Vegas is now KKZ's Apache Vegas Rose CL1, CL2, CL3-R, CL3-F, NA, NF, AXJ !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AND, the other great news is that I thought we didn't have an open standard leg yet but we did and now we have TWO!!!! Just one more and then we're in Excellent A for standard. My girl rocked all weekend so far. Yesterday was handler error totally on both the JWW and Standard courses - minor, surprisingly - but enough to NQ us. Today was an incredible day. Fast was a super tough course and so easy-come, easy-go. The others - she rocked! More details to come when I have more time (and don't need sleep) so I can show the course maps and show the trouble points for handling with such a large dog - what areas I was concerned about, handling maneuvers, etc. But, without further ado, here are the vids (sorry for the first one being off the screen - gotta figure that one out too!).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

23rd Annual Doggie Dash

I forgot to mention that Vegas, Leo, and I walked in the 23rd Annual Oregon Humane Society Doggie Dash last weekend. We had a blast and finally got to meet our friends from Spot Magazine, Jennifer, Angie, and the gang. I was looking for the website where the photographer from the event posts pictures and ended up finding this video - guess whose in it? Yes, yours truly - Miss Vegas Rose. :)

Our Great Dane group ended up raising $505 for the OHS and the gross for the event as indicated on their site right now is more than $283K. Way to go Portland!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Not a lot going on....

It's been a crazy couple of weeks and we haven't had a lot of practice time in since our last trial. Mostly we have taken advantage of having the weaves and some jumps set up in the yard when the weather has been nice. It's been my routine to put a good size handful of Yummy Chummy treats in my treat pouch and head out to the yard with Vegas for a few minutes of training when we can fit it in. I mention the treats because they are a really great training choice. They are soft so you can break them into small pieces, healthy because they are made with salmon, and fragrant so they are super appealing to the dogs. Both Vegas and Leo got a little nutso when I bring them out so I'm pretty much making them designated training treats. Another good thing is I can buy them at Costco now in a huge bag and they're pretty darn cheap ($13.99).

Okay, so we've been using our own yard off and on since our last trial which was heartbreaking and disappointing. The results have been great. Since we're limited on equipment and on space, I've mostly just been working on sending and recalling through the weaves. While I know we probably won't ever have to perform in a situation where I need a recall on the weaves, and Craig would probably say, "Why train what you won't do?" I have been doing it to gain independence on the weaves for Vegas. I want and need her to know she can do them on her own so I'm not always right there if I have to be somewhere else. I also just want her to have the confidence to find her entry and complete all 12 poles. She's been doing great and our goal is to get through whatever treats I brought out and call it a night. Most of the time that means she has weaved around 25 times. That sounds like a lot but I'm sending, recalling, and she is going over jumps, sometimes playing fetch with a ball after a run, and we're having fun! All of this is accomplished in about 10 minutes of focused training time and that's it - lots of treats, lots of praise, lots of positive reinforcement even when we have to "do over."

Thursday night we went to our practice session for the first time in a few weeks. Three great courses were set up, two of which were pretty much jumpers courses, and one that was a standard. The first jumpers course was around 12 obstacles but only occupied around 1/3 of the ring. This meant a lot of tight handling and me being on my toes for directional queues. It went quite well! In fact, everything we did that night Vegas did like a complete rock star. She was so happy to get out and practice and her strides were long and her speed amazing. I would love to get that kind of energy from her in a trial and maybe I just need to think of it like practice and I will.

Then Friday night we went to the practice barn for open barn night. The weather was atrocious so we had the barn to ourselves. We have not been there in a couple of months and I was really anxious to see how she would do in yet another environment after our last trial. I keep saying this because I did not know if my angst and frustration and despair had set her off in any way. The true test will be next weekend's trial, but I am encouraged so far. She did great! It's always amazing to me how quickly I can tire her when we are practicing by ourselves. We spent about 40 minutes and I need to make a mental note to keep it to about 25-30 max next time as I think she was done before we really left and I had continued to push a bit more so that we ended on doing something well for a positive finish.

Here are some pictures of the barn layout - I rarely go in and change anything because I can almost always find sequences to work on that help us.
If you can tell from any of the pictures, one of the sequences we found worked for starters was the tire to the a-frame then the jump to the dog walk. This also gave me a chance to try to work with her on obstacle discrimination (tunnel versus dog walk). We definitely need to work more on that and I'll have to use my body to be in front of something like the dog walk for now if we encounter it as she'll choose the walk over the tunnel. However when it comes to a-frame, she chooses the tunnel. Interesting...I'll have to ask some questions about that of some more experienced people. I find it a bit strange especially since Vegas has taken quite a few falls from the dog walk and none from the a-frame.

We worked the teeter a bit on good solid contacts. I know I can mostly count on Vegas to touch her contact but I am trying to get her to hold it instead of run through. The only one I had taught a running contact on was the a-frame and now I regret that because I ultimately support her all the way down or that is the one piece of equipment she will leap on and blow her contact. That said, it never hurts to keep reinforcing so I'm really trying to so we don't make mistakes in trial such as missing a contact.

And of course, the lovely table is always something we have to focus on. Vegas as even good enough to pose for a couple of pictures.

Monday, May 17, 2010

A Weekend in Review

Wow, this weekend flew by fast! Saturday started out a bit early for a couple of reasons. It was the Oregon Humane Society's Doggie Dash and we were registered to walk with PDX Danes. But first I had to run to Fed Ex Kinko's to pick up the brochure I had made for people expressing an interest in owning a Dane. With Marmaduke coming out soon, all of us who love Danes are a bit on edge as to what this means for rescues, shelters, and the damage to the breed from overpopulation by BYBers and the like. We arrived downtown right around 8am and then had to park. Leo and Vegas and I got all loaded up, hooked up, and were quickly on our way. We walked about two blocks to get to Naito Parkway, crossed the street, and headed straight for the registration tables. Once we were checked in and got our t-shirt we headed over to meet the group. Several were already there and more were showing up. In the end, PDX Danes helped to make a $505 donation to the Oregon Humane Society by their participation. It was really great to see everyone come together for a great cause - helping the animals.

There are several dash "options" available to participants. I was on a bit of a schedule so we did the shorter walk so that I could go meet up with my peeps at Spot Magazine and do some socializing, schmoozing, and networking.
The "kids" did great although I have got to figure out how to make them both walk in the same position consistently. Vegas, of course, is more experienced than Leo but boy that kid goes back and forth and around and around. To his credit, nothing concerned him much except the metal grates and plates that we encountered every once in a while along the river wall. Silly boy would not walk on them and continually had to go around. Other than that, we just spent our walk being vigilant for the poops that inevitably didn't get picked up and chatted with fellow PDX Daners as we went.

From the Dash, the dogs and I headed back toward home. I had to make a stop at the garbage dump to get rid of some things since they were having a cleanup day where disposal was free (Yay!). Once that chore was done, we went home. After a quick bite to eat, Leo stayed home happily munching on a Greenie while Vegas and I went shopping. I was super naughty and went to the Woodburn Outlets to spoil myself a little. I bought a gorgeous new Coach purse for spring and I was super excited to find out they didn't bat an eye at my bringing Vegas in with me. In fact, the store personnel practically fell over themselves to say hello to Vegas and I handed out several PDX Danes business cards. It was really nice at how casual they were and it makes me want to go back all the more. After we were done at Coach, as I had promised Vegas, we headed over to the pet store.

I used to be a diehard believer in the Gentle Leader head collar, but now I'm not so sure. Vegas is the first dog that doesn't mind pulling through it. And mind you, she doesn't pull hard and it's not like she doesn't respond or come back when you tell her. But I want a dog that really minds well and walks on a loose leash close to me. Heal position doesn't have to be perfect (although I would love her to know it and do it in command), but the pulling out in front is not practical for most situations with a 100+ pound dog. At trials, dog shows, and other public places, she could very easily get in the wrong person or dog's face and it could be bad news. So, in my quest for the right way to manage her, we have used the Gentle Leader head collar, martingale collars, a harness, a pinch collar, and what I bought on Saturday was the Easy Walk Harness. I have seen a lot of Dane owners use the Easy Walk harnesses (or variations thereof) where the point is having your leash connected in the center of the chest. I talked with the store employee and she helped me fit it to Vegas. We left the store using it and, I must say, the remainder of our walk around the shopping center was quite pleasant except for the fact that Vegas kept walking into me which was rather strange. Her leash was loose but I felt like I had to keep pushing her to my left so she didn't run me into things or people.

After we left the mall we headed to Wilco Farm Stores. I have a huge yard and if I ventured a guess I imagine it's about 1/4 acre to mow. I only have a push mower and the lawn left much to be desired when I moved in and hasn't improved much. The moles are abundant and that doesn't help either. I made the decision recently to fence off a portion of the yard for the dogs and kill the rest. I can't keep up with it all summer and I end up having to pay for an extra yard debris bin just to handle about 1/4 of the excess grass. The rest gets piled around the yard in hopes that some day I can dispose of it. Quite frankly, it stresses me out and is ridiculous. So, at Wilco we picked up some U-posts for the corners, some fiberglass posts to stabilize every 10 feet or so, and some lovely orange plastic fencing material. They, too, allow dogs in the store which was another reason to make all these stops in one so Vegas could go along and we could have a girls day. Since we were keeping in theme of having fun together, one of Vegas' favorite treats is vanilla ice cream. I started the tradition with trialing last year and had dropped it for a while due to a study I read that indicated dairy and the enzymes might be a trigger for cancer. But, since she gets it so rarely, I'm letting her enjoy her ice cream again. So off to Dairy Queen we went for a cup of vanilla. Being as I wanted to get on toward home, I flipped the console down in the truck. Needless to say, she enjoyed it immensely and I didn't have to tell her twice that the treat was hers.
Once we got home, we all crashed for a little bit. The dogs all sprawled on the floor and me sort of just vegging in the living room. It was a full day and I didn't feel much like doing anything at that point. I will say that at this point I had taken Vegas' new harness off. I was shocked and annoyed to find it had rubbed her hair off in two places - one on each shoulder. Each rubbed spot was about the size of an egg. Very frustrating!

A little while later I decided to walk down the street to the grocery store and rent a movie from Redbox. Of course I took the dogs with. This time I decided to fit the harness upside down as I had seen others do with their Danes before. Surprisingly, with little modification, the harness fit better. The chest strap rode really low when it was on "correctly" but when flipped over, the chest strap was more across her chest instead of the front of her legs. Well, the fit was all fine and dandy - but it didn't work as well! At this point I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I'll probably give it a try again tomorrow at my son's baseball game and see if it helps at all. Otherwise its' back to the drawing board with what to do to make walking more manageable.

Today was a lot less eventful. I wasn't feeling well when I woke up so the poor dogs only got a potty break then back to bed. I was really sore in the upper back, neck, and shoulders - more so than usual - so took Advil and didn't get up until noon. At that point I fed the dogs and decided to go out and mow the lawn while I could still expect sunshine. As things have been going lately, I've only been able to mow every other weekend or so and the grass is easily 12" by then. Of course the dogs hung out in the yard with me, following me around, bouncing around playing occasionally (Leo more so than Vegas), and Vegas tried to roll in something stinky at one point - ugg! After mowing I had to get ready quick and go to a meeting then pick up the kids. Shortly after we got home though, she and I went out into the yard to work on weaves and some jumping maneuvers again as I have been trying to do every day or every other day. At this point my focus is just on the repetition, working on sending and recalling her through the weaves, changing sides on her, moving ahead while she's in the weaves as well as working with her, speeding her up, and making it all about fun - which translates to lots of treats, pets, and atta girls. So far so good. She's ready to run every time I ask her to. I had hoped to make it to the practice barn over the weekend just to get a chance to work her. Hopefully Friday night I can in addition to our regular Thursday night session to make sure we can still work together and not have her shut down.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Remainder of Trial Recap

The rest of the trial was a trial - for me. I failed miserably at many things, the most important one is maintaining fun for my girl. I let her down and for that I hope I have not done permanent damage. I set a goal and got too focused on the goal and even when things were happening and I was getting down, although I tried to be "up" for Vegas - or at least go out and just focus on doing well but having fun and cheering her on, she must have known the tension I didn't know I felt. Our Standard runs continued to be a disaster. Both Saturday and Sunday I walked out of the ring with Vegas. Sunday I did so in a torrent of tears and had a complete and total breakdown by her crate. I was at a complete loss and felt like giving it all up. I felt like a failure and, at the time, could not recognize what was going wrong.

Today is a different story - to an extent. I am blessed with some wonderful people in my life who are either understanding or empathetic and full of wisdom (Thank you, Tiffany!). I don't have any answers yet, but I know I have some work to do with my girl for her to love doing what we do and to trust me to make it about fun above and beyond work.

So, without any further commentary, here are the courses I have not included thus far and what video I have.
On this course Vegas did well until after #7. She then launched herself toward the table. I'm not sure if that was in hopes that we were done (CPE rules) or just habit or from our previous training focus on downs and sits on the table and being treated regularly. Nonetheless, that was an off course. Then we made it through the teeter and struggled with the weaves which was when I chose to give up the course. I am just mentally really struggling with getting through an AKC standard course right now as Vegas is continually having the same issue (although she's never done the off-course stuff like she did this weekend - nor the judge greeting) with weaves and I don't understand which makes it all the more agonizing. However, Craig says it may just be a lack of confidence and that is something I can work on.
Here is the Jumpers course from Sunday. All in all, there were 18 obstacles we did well and 2 we did not. I know I pushed her out too far at the #4 jump so I have to take responsibility for that. Not sure but as I've learned, it doesn't take much and I just have to learn how far makes a difference to Miss Vegas so I don't push or pull too far or too close. At that point we were faulted for going past the obstacle plus an off-course for going over the jump the wrong direction. We got back on track and did well until our usual nemesis though, the weaves. Still unsure there other than her lack of confidence being the culprit. Oh well, next time?
Again, I'm not sure why my son didn't have the video on for the first couple of obstacles but this one starts where she went around #4 and we had to come back to do it correctly.

Unfortunately Sunday's open standard video didn't start at the beginning so you're unable to see what Vegas did prior to when I left the course - she started the first two jumps beautifully then bee-lined for the judge. It took longer than would have been nice to get her back and from there my mental state just deteriorated.

On a more positive note, tonight we went for a bike ride to the dog park and spent some time together. Vegas had a lot of fun doing that and really enjoys getting out and running. I think we'll focus on that as much as the weather and time permits - hopefully a couple times a week - and that will help give us some time to hang out and have fun without any competition. I plan on taking her to the barn to practice when I can and using the weaves in the yard. In addition, I have some videos I want to watch (Control Unleashed) that I hope will give me some pointers, tips, and added knowledge. Our next trial isn't until the last weekend of the month so we have some time to just have fun together and for me to work on her focus through games and other, non-agility activities.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Day 2 - Sno King AKC Trial at Argus Ranch

Day 2.....too early and we were all tired. Zach and I worked for a couple of hours in the Excellent Standard ring for 26, 24, and most of 20" dogs. Then it was our turn to run our third Excellent JWW course in hopes of getting our AXJ and also starting to earn MACH points tomorrow. It was not to be which was a huge letdown. Although now that I've calmed down, had my disappointment cry, I know Vegas ran well. We just have to keep working on it and the next couple of weeks will be dedicated to that. So without further ado and since I'm short on time, I'll post that course and the video. We would have been fine had we not had to restart the weaves. The rest of the course was fast and flawless. I'm not going to bother with standard as I pulled her out at the weaves when she acted up again. Better luck tomorrow....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sno King 15th Anniversary Trial at Argus Ranch

Wow, is it warm out! The Pacific Northwest still surprises me and I'm a native! We went from 'holy nasty' (sideways blowing rain, several inches sometimes in a day, hail, dark clouds, cold, blowing wind) to 'hip hip hooray for spring' in the blink of an eye. Most people were running around in t-shirts today and I even saw some shorts and capris. What a great way to spend the weekend!

We got to Argus this morning about 10:25 with the expectation that first dog would be on the line at 11:30 am. Today they were running excellent classes only and no Fast all weekend. My youngest son is with me this weekend and has been a great helper. All the video I get from our runs is compliments of his willingness to be his mom's helper. So after we got all set up and the dogs walked & pottied, it was mostly a lot of hurry up and wait. They ran the standard course first and then the JWW after (only one judge today). Fortunately they have two rings so the JWW course was set up already and we had time to walk it (and walk it and walk it). I was able to watch Craig run a couple of his Dobermans too, and otherwise worked in one ring, walked Vegas, warmed her up, and walked my course over and over analyzing it from every angle and trying to think out and be prepared for any eventuality. There were a couple of areas that gave me concern just because of my ability to maintain momentum while still getting Vegas where I needed her to take the jump. Here is the course:
For starters, just getting from 1 to 2 without overshooting I was slightly concerned about, mostly since I can't really lead out on Vegas. But, as you'll see from the video, she handled it wonderfully and was responding well to my 'Craig Move' (the opposite arm thrown up in the air). However, I did not account for her wanting so desperately to take that inviting red tunnel. LOL. We'll need to work on that the rest of the weekend...namely me giving her queues earlier.

The other challenge was getting in a front cross after 10 or 11 so that I had better directional control for #13. As you can tell, I didn't queue her quite soon enough and she was tempted by the tunnel again. Fortunately without having taken those obstacles she wasn't off course. I'm excited to say she nailed the weaves again though - and as you can hear in the background, Craig is reminding me to step in on her to make sure she knew what I wanted her to do. :) The rest was pretty smooth sailing and while we didn't score a full 100 as we were slightly over time, it was a clean run otherwise and our second Excellent A JWW leg. (On a note related to the time, Craig said the course was wheeled slightly off and the time should have been a bit while we were technically 1.65 seconds over on the time given, she would have been under if it was measured correctly. Always interesting to know and learn from a former judge....). Without further ado, here is the video and I'm off to bed so we can get up and head out early in the morning for Day 2.

Private agility lesson

Yesterday we went to our first private agility lesson of 2010 with our favorite trainer, Craig French (He has the #2 and #3 Dobermans in the country.). It was gorgeous out...almost too warm. The first 30 minutes or so Craig worked with me on my groundwork and better analyzing the course and how to send Vegas where I need her to go. As always, I end up feeling like a complete novice and a bumbling idiot. NOT by anything he does. He's just so good at what he does. His ability to see a course, know where the dog needs to be, how and where to send them, what signals they need, how not to push too's just overwhelming. My ears were probably steaming by the time I brought Vegas out. And I realize more and more (and more) how much I need to work on discipline with her and focus. She loves and adores me, sure, but she doesn't always respect me and feel I'm the center of her world on the course. Sometimes she'd like to look around and lollygag and push boundaries. So, those are some of my goals in addition to what I have to work on for handling.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Weave Pole Practice

Tuesday we were supposed to have a private agility lesson with our favorite agility guru, but our disfunctional (read > multiple personality) weather caused a change of plans. Interestingly enough, although the weather called for one thing which led us to cancel, it held enough that we would have been fine. Go figure. So, when I got home, I had my son help me put our weaves back up in the yard and I hauled out a couple of jumps. With so much riding on our performance over the next two months, I really wanted to get Vegas focusing on the weaves with speed and thinking they were a lot of fun. Having them available at home and taking advantage of it is a start. Last night's practice, and tonight's, showed me we have room for improvement as far as two areas: speed and angled entries. Vegas does quite well, but you can never practice entries too much. So, we'll be getting the 2x2 weaves DVD soon and hopefully have some things to work on. In the meantime, we had fun in the yard. Vegas' incentive was a new treat I picked up at Costco yesterday and she was totally motivated to work for it, too - always a good thing. Today we did a bit more of the same and I also got her playing fetch and running in the yard with her giant tennis ball which is another at-home fav. Here is some of our practice from yesterday.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

UK Agility International

Today was an agility day, but not an agility day like we usually have. Recently a group of us that had practiced together formed an official club/business. We were putting on demos already but wanted to do more. One thing that caught our attention was a new venue to agility in the US - UKI. Fun matches are being put on here and there around the country to introduce this venue to the agility community so we decided to give it a try. As a fun match, people were allowed to use their time in the ring to do what they wanted - training, working specific obstacles, to use toys, treats, their leash, touch the dog, whatever. The location we had available to us was a park. In the Pacific NW, you just never know what you're going to get - no matter what time of the year. Kind of like we figured, we ended up taking a ton of day-of entries because the weather was decent. It made for a hectic morning of paperwork to get everyone entered, answer questions, update the running order, and then get started. Being a new venue, there were many more questions than normal. Plus, being a fun match, it brought out lots of people who had not run in a trial previously. This is all good news! It is always encouraging and fun to see and meet newcomers to agility. It shows what a popular and growing sport it is - and is encouraging to see how many people value the bond between their dog and themselves and work to build that through a team sport.

I originally entered all five classes at the senior championship level. After having run a sample course the other day for snakes and ladders, I opted out of it today. I was a bit too mentally tired to want to bother with this game as it can be much more mentally intensive. However, instead, I opted to run the novice/beginning jumpers course. Plus, I ran the novice/beginners gamblers course earlier because a dear friend of mine stopped by after church and wanted to see us run.

All in all it was an enjoyable day. I'm sunburned in a ring around the collar. My lips are overly dry. I am physically and mentally tired. But I have a snoring dog behind me...who had a great time meeting lots of new friends including a blue Dane named Cooper, building her fan club, and a satisfactory vanilla ice cream treat after her good day today.