Friday, August 27, 2010

4th Annual Great Danes of Summer

I'm taking a slight detour from my typically training and handling oriented posts to share about what we have going on tomorrow. Vegas and I belong to a local club, the Portland Great Dane Community, AKA PDX Danes. We go on periodic events with the group such as downtown Portland walk abouts, forays to the Expo for the NW Pet and Companion Fair, and seasonal events like snowshoeing. The group is highly social with an underlying purpose of providing information both to members and non-members. We've been planning and working on this event for the last four or five months. It's a significant amount of work to market, promote, and coordinate. In the end, it's all worth it. In the past three years we've consistently had between 60 and 75 Danes in attendance with their humans.

We have a lot of new members this year and quite a few young pups. In addition, I have really focused on us promoting the event to the greater public, dog lovers in general. We're close to the off leash dog park, set up in a shelter on the edge of the woods, in my beautiful home park which easily provides enough space and enjoyment for an entire day outing that will undoubtedly result in a ton of tired Danes by sundown. Here is what's on the agenda for the day:

I will tie this back into training just slightly. Vegas will be attending with me, of course, but since I'm a board member and will be heavily involved in running the event, it will require a great deal of cooperation, patience, and restrained behavior for her. Hopefully she'd get to have some fun as well assuming the board can coordinate alternating times at the off-leash area or a bit of romping/playing with our own Danes. I'm really looking forward to the canine cancer talk as this organization is involved in funding research to learn as much as we can about the genetics of cancer in dogs. Hopefully she'll be able to talk to us specifically about what is know regarding the two most prevalent cancers in Danes: osteosarcoma and lymphoma.

One of the people that contacted me about being at the event and helping to support our mission was Jim Stulting of Jim Stulting Photography. I look forward to getting some professional photos taken of both Leo and Vegas and can hopefully share them later in the weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

CPE Trial Recap

Last weekend was a blast! Often the only Dane at a trial, sometimes one of two when our friends Shana and Pixie are there, this time we were one of three!!! Lindsay and Bess were there along with Shana and Pixie. Plus, we had tons of other people to hang out with that we enjoy trialing with like Mojo and his mom and dad, Sandra and Mark; Jen and Delilah; Pam, Steve, Blossom, Sketti, and Jewel; and so many more. The weather was perfect for a trial, too. Last August this trial was held outdoors at Wilsonville's Memorial Park, certainly a huge convenience to me, but the yellow jackets were awful and sunburn was almost a certainty. We were somewhere in the low 70s most of the day once it warmed up and inside at the Clark County Fairgrounds. So, without further ado, here is how the weekend panned out.

The first run of the day is always a game, usually Full House or Jackpot. Ideally it's a game that is good for a dog that gets a little crazy to start out with, lots of energy and may not be as controlled. In most cases, the dog will take something as it's running amok and at least earn some points. Saturday's star attraction was Jackpot. I must say that out of all the games, this one is proving to be a challenge for us on time. This is the second trial in a row that we had enough points but couldn't finish in time - and there is no point deduction for over time with an allowance to still qualify. You must make it in time. Here is the course map:
I should mention, too, that we need two more Jackpot legs to finish our Level 3 title, so pretty frustrating that the silly thing is so elusive! But, I can say Vegas did not let me down on this. She did all she could do and all I asked her to do and it just wasn't ours for the taking. In fact, I can say that about the entire weekend. She did not get loopy once. She did everything I asked her to do and did so with energy and enthusiasm and her usual spunk. 

In trying to make sure we had enough points on this one, I worked in her taking the a-frame twice as well as the five-point combo jumps twice. This was a non-traditional jackpot which meant we had two jackpot choices and we could actually do both for points, plus you could do the jackpot at any point in time - you didn't have to wait for the buzzer. I know my mistake was in waiting to take the jackpot until when we did because then when every second counted, Vegas balked a bit at the tunnel. It can be a tough one from a distance without exactly the right angle of approach and some speed behind it. Oh well. better luck next time and we'll get that Q. 

Next up was two rounds of Standard. Here are the courses:

Both had their little traps. The first course had slightly off angles in the first long stretch there but that was all fine. Six through nine were fine and with jump #10 you just had to make sure to call and turn so #18 wasn't appealing. Twelve to 13 could have been a hitch with the jump ahead and the tunnel being a left turn, but Vegas handled it fine. She did knock the #17 bar though which I was baffled by and uncertain of whether it would be an automatic NQ. Vegas long ago would knock bars quite often. Then I worked her on higher jumps and she has since, with experience, time, and precision stopped doing that. In fact, it's an extremely rare thing for her to knock a bar. My friend thought that someone was resetting another jump behind her during our run so you can bet I was getting fumed at that. CPE is a venue where no bars are reset during your run so that kind of disruption should not occur. When I reviewed the video several times, I was not able to see that was the case. I looked up the rules and learned we could knock a bar and still qualify, but I still didn't have an answer as to why it happened; I just assumed I must have queued her in some way that her body shifted. Fortunately my friend, Jami, has a keen eye for this type of thing. She watched the video Saturday evening and said that Vegas dropped a shoulder slightly and that, in turn, caused her to drop her foot and knock the bar. 

Oftentimes in CPE the second round of Standard is almost opposite of the first round. They will switch the teeter and maybe shift some jumps around but mostly renumber the course. That was not the case so much this weekend. The course was quite a bit different for round two. I will note, if you count how many times the tunnels on course are used for these two runs, it was already getting a bit excessive for the big dogs. Seven tunnels between two runs. In this course, we were doing fine up until the 12-13 transition. The course map makes it look like it wouldn't be possible to take the #12 tunnel then head for the a-frame and miss #13. In fact, the jump was a bit more offset to the left than it appears and I almost forgot to queue Vegas to go over it. It was an awkward moment but we got through it. #17 looks like it could have been tricky for us as an obstacle discrimination point. Most people, if they had trouble with their dog in this setup, would struggle keeping their dog out of the tunnel. For me, I struggle to send Vegas into a tunnel when she's presented with a contact obstacle. She is smart enough to know the lesser of two evils. However, in this case the tunnel was set forward and offset enough that I could push out and get Vegas right into the tunnel. Such a great girl; she qualified in both of those runs earning a couple more legs toward our Level 4 standard requirements.

After our Standard runs we had Wildcard then Colors. We needed one more Colors leg to finish the Handler title for Level 3; Wildcard was in Level 4. The nice thing about both of these courses is that they are usually quite a bit shorter than your typical Standard course. After those tunnels I know Vegas deserved it. It turns out the judge accidentally made a mistake on her Wildcard course, too, and since it was already approved by CPE and the maps printed, the course built, etc, there was nothing she could do about it. In Wildcard, you choose an A or B obstacle at three different points. At our level it meant we needed two Bs and one A. Usually the Bs should be the more difficult of the two obstacles. Her mistake was to have two tunnel options back to back in such a fashion that it made the choice relatively easy for most of the competitors at this level. Of course for us, it didn't matter. I wouldn't choose tunnels unnecessarily for Vegas if I had other feasible options. 
For Vegas' sake on this course, I choose the following 2b, 6a, and 7b. It meant the course took us slightly longer as weaving is not as quick as a tunnel. However, it meant a better run for Vegas' well-being and that's what matters. You'll notice our little fumble in the series of three jumps following the teeter. That was completely my fault. I should have moved ahead between the first and second jump to better queue her through the rest and didn't so I wasn't in a good spot to help her understand what I wanted. 

Colors is another run where I try to figure out if I can make choices to reduce the number of tunnels Vegas has to take. Most cases, unfortunately, there are the same number in both. So, in this instance, I chose the course that gave us the best approaches so her entry wasn't slow and more difficult. She ran the squares course. She qualified and finished that part of our Level 3 title. What a girl!

So ending our day we were 4/5. We stuck around and videoed and watched our friends finish their runs. When I went home and got the dogs fed, I barely heard a peep out of them the rest of the night. They crashed hard, only getting up to potty and go to bed again. Here's Vegas before we left the fairgrounds, though. 

Sunday we ran small to tall. I worked quite a bit and Vegas spent quite a bit of time in her kennel relaxing. She did better than she had on Saturday, in fact, as long as I wasn't standing where she could see me or hear me. The order of our runs Sunday was Full House, Standard Round 1, Standard Round 2, Snooker, and Jumpers. Since we were running in two rings, things got a little interesting. The Standard ring was to take precedence whereas the day prior the games ring was to have taken precedence. Of course when our turn finally got close, it was close in both rings! So, Vegas and I got on the line for Full House, ran our run, came out and had less than two minutes before we ran standard. Yikes! But fun at the same time. I had enough time to make sure Vegas knew I was proud of her for our Full House run and off we went again. That doesn't happen often but when it does it's nice to know that I don't freak out over it anymore.

My original plan on this run was to take the tire to the jump to the first tunnel toward the lower right, then head for the a-frame, loop out to a jump, and take the a-frame again, then hit a jump, go to the double, and head on over to the table. Of course the best laid plans.... I got a little off in what I had planned and it sort of just worked out to push through the tunnels even though I usually try not to. The flow worked well and Vegas did great. 

Vegas ran this course well and qualified for our third standard level 4 leg of the weekend. The course flowed very nicely, didn't have any huge traps but made sure we were on our toes as handlers to avoid moments of letting our dog take what might be the next obstacle but wasn't the one on the map. 
Please note, too, Vegas completed this course in a mere 47.45 seconds. Whoohoo!

This course we had more trouble on. I'm not sure why exactly. The only area I knew would be a struggle is #13 because Vegas would prefer the dog walk and at that close proximity I just couldn't count on being able to push her to the tunnel. All in all for the weekend, she nailed weaves like a rockstar. However, for some reason on this course she popped her weaves at pole 10 and we had to start over. So, no Q, but a nice run otherwise. Just some bobbles and a reminder to work on obstacle discrimination with a contact and a tunnel. Of course there is balance there, too. I don't want to over-practice tunnels as that can be hard on my big girl's body. 
Next up was Snooker. This course was really awesome! It was kind of funny - all of us essentially chose the same exact course to run and were going for three 7-point obstacles, a very rare thing to make it doable for so many. But three 7-point obstacles is what we did for our first level 4 Snooker leg! Go Vegas!

Our last run of the day was Jumpers. By then it was heating up a bit more than they'd said it was going to be and I know Vegas was starting to feel it a bit. Of course she loves agility and pleasing her mom so she didn't act it on the course. I was just hoping the course wasn't tunnel heavy like CPE seems to be leaning toward. She got lucky with just two tunnels and you can betcha I was telling her that. I gave her a good rub down and lots of good treats, plus she got loved on by the judge afterward. Judge Jackie even gave her a good portion of a cheese wheel to which Vegas was over-the-top pleased with. 

This was a fun course, not one that allowed Vegas to fully stretch out between jumps, but one that was looping, flowing, and had the tunnels out of the way relatively early. Plus, the tunnel entrances were decent so Vegas had some momentum going in. Another qualifying run to finish the weekend 8/10 with a tired pair of pooches. 
Here is my sweety girl posing for me before we packed up to head home. 

There were some interesting moments in the weekend what with Bess running with us again. Check out Lindsay's blog for the funny video when she decided to come see me. :) 

Our next trial is Labor Day weekend. We're running three days out of the four at Argus Ranch. This will be an AKC trial hosted by the Evergreen Golden Retriever Club. We've attended one of their trials before and they're very well oPublish Postrganized and put on by a great group of folks. I look forward to seeing some of our AKC friends again and getting back into the swing of things, hopefully to earn our AX title and more MACH points. 

Friday, August 20, 2010

K9 Nose Work Class

Tonight was a blast! The class was held at an awesome local pet boutique, Petutopia. The owner, Margie, is wonderful and in conjunction with the store does so much for our area pet needs from rescue to training to nutrition. The class was taught by Joyce who owns a warm-water swim center for dogs (Unsinkable Dogs) and does private training in addition to nose work. There were 7 dogs in the class this evening. Only one dog was allowed in the store at a time. In talking to us at the beginning of class, we learned that the normal process of teaching a dog nose work is 1) Search for food; 2) Search for a novel scent paired with food; and 3) Search for a novel scent and reward with food. As we learn more through my researching and practicing on our own (until we can take a more extensive class) I'll explain more. What makes this a lot of fun is that it works with all dogs' natural instincts. They all sniff out their surroundings. We talked a bit about watching for signals, etc, but that's something mostly you would learn with time.

We had three "Find" opportunities during the 90 minute class. During the first one this nice young man was kind enough to take some photos for us. The third find someone else videoed for us. I apologize that the video doesn't have my usual captions at the beginning and the shakiness cut out. Since the video was taken with my BlackBerry, it's not as good as it would have been otherwise. Plus, when I opened the file in the program I normally use and trimmed it then saved it, it lost the audio. The audio is kind of fun because you can hear the cheering when Vegas finds what she's looking for. This is a very positive motivating environment - the dog needs to be successful no matter what.

And with that, I need to get some rest and will try to update tomorrow night after our agility trial . 

Busy weekend ahead

I mentioned a short while back that Vegas and I would be taking part in an intro to nose work class. The class was actually supposed to have been Tuesday but I had to reschedule. Fortunately the class was popular enough that the instructor scheduled an overflow class for tonight. So off we go in just a few minutes to see what Vegas thinks of putting her nose to good use. I'll update how that goes later.

We also have a CPE agility trial both Saturday and Sunday where we hope to run clean and earn some more Qs toward our C-ATCH. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Versatile Blogger Award - Thanks Urban Canine!

I have a ton of things to catch up on and go over and I will now have a follow-up to this post within the next few days so I can fulfill the requests of this award, but I wanted to take a moment now and thank Urban Canine for honoring us.
There are three requirements as a recipient of this award.
1. Thank the person/dog/blogger who gave it to me.
2. Share seven things about Danes Can Q
3. Pass the honor onto 15 other bloggers.
4. Notify the recipients I have selected.

Thanks again, Urban Canines!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Tonight we had a really great opportunity. I've been curious about herding with Vegas for most of a year or so now. It started when she began getting more active at the dog park on the rare occasion we'd go. But her idea of getting active was to gauge where the dogs were going and then head them off, cut them off, or start chasing and then bend them. I started wondering how much of that was her realizing she couldn't keep up and she was naturally guiding them instead. So began this idea....

I started looking for information on herding including where to go. It's not like you can just pop into your local pet store and take a herding class since they don't have sheep, ducks, or cattle. I can't remember now if someone referred me to Brigand's or I found it, but either way, it is the place to go. After many times of inquiring into lessons/classes and not being able to make what was available, Vegas and I finally headed up there this evening! Nothing was stopping us and I even had my sister come down after work to pick up my son after football practice.

We arrived at about 10 to seven and I headed into the barn to find out what the instructions were. After filling out and signing a waiver and picking up a packet of information, I met Nancy in person. Shortly thereafter she made contact from the others that were supposed to attend only to learn that one could not make it (a firefighter who had to work) and traffic was holding up the others. I had experienced significant delays on my way north, too. It turns out there had been a car fire late this afternoon that caused 25 mile plus slow downs. So, we started very late and, in the meantime, Vegas was super excited by the sounds and smells.
Here are the sheep that were in the upper field right by the barns and where we parked. Can you tell who they're watching?

Here they were less concerned about Vegas because Nancy had taken a bucket of feed or something into their pen for them. However, shortly thereafter they bunched up and headed for the far side of the field. As I read the packet of information, it appears there are many sheep who are sensitive to some color dogs, particularly really dark dogs. Not to mention Vegas is huge tall compared to the majority of what they are used to. In fact, when we got out to the pen we worked in, the sheep Nancy identified as heavy sheep. She said that meant they are the type to go with  the person who does not have a dog. In that case, it was Nancy. Well, when we came into the pen, they went far from Nancy instead of immediately clustering around her. They went to the opposite side of the pen and stared at Vegas like she was their worst enemy. 

Of course when Nancy said to let Vegas go, she might very well have appeared to be! So here's where things get interesting. Nancy went into the pen and when it was our turn, we were to come in. She didn't tell me exactly what to do, or not to do. So, when she said to let Vegas go and she immediately charged the sheep, I did what comes naturally. I corrected her. I can't remember now what I said, if it was "No" or just a sound, but Vegas got the picture. From that step forward, Vegas was back with me more often than not and very uncertain. I feel bad in retrospect and know I have work to do to make her a more independent thinker and less reliant on me. Of course some of that reliance on me telling her what to do is agility training, which we still need. 

Anyway, nothing was overly remarkable about what Vegas did. She wanted to hang back with me instead of work toward the sheep and Nancy, so I ended up trying to track with Nancy amidst the sheep so that when Nancy gave commands to Vegas, Vegas had to try to go with the new "us," en masse. She did fine...occasionally getting distracted with sniffing and probably sheep poo, knowing all of this is new. She did get an opportunity once or twice to really race after a sheep as they broke up and that was fun to see. 

I have more to say on this but I'll do the follow-up in another posting later on as I review the literature I was given and map out a plan for our future herding experiences. 

Monday, August 9, 2010

8th Annual Dog Day Afternoon @ Hazeldale Park

Saturday was another demo for the JAG Agility Group, this time at Hazeldale Dog Park for their 8th Annual Dog Day Afternoon. What a fantastic event! Not only were there tons of vendors (like Solid Gold and Petutopia), but there were representatives on site to do demonstrations for flyball, agility (us!), disc dogs, and canine freestyle! Alison Eberhard of Dog Scout Troop 192 and Everyday Dog Dog Training Center was also there to administer the Canine Good Citizen tests. The only downer on the day was the weather. Boy was it humid! It really seemed to sap the dogs' energy - and ours. However, the show must go on and on we did. Our group arrived bright and early to set up our fencing and ring then the first course. By 10:00 or so we were done and I had also taken Leo to Alison's booth to take the CGC test. Around 10:30 we started our demo....

Vegas was off from the start - just not really into it and I was having to push her for speed from the very beginning which is not like her at all.
By afternoon, she wasn't having it at all. Thank goodness my son, Zach, noticed at least another reason why. Poor thing had torn the entire surface of one toe up and the pad was still hanging there. Obviously very tender she didn't want to put her full weight on it let alone jump and land and use it for leverage. So, she ended the day with a vet-wrapped foot. No harm no foul, but that and the humidity made for a very uninterested Dane. I contribute whatever success we had in the morning to her heart.

Before I knew about her foot, she had also run over at the X-Fido's area in Beat the Best, a 50 yard dash over four flyball jumps. Here are the videos including her fastest time out of the three runs, 2.18 seconds.

When we came home she had dinner and then got a nice bath. That along with a deep Zoom Groom rub down gave her a nice end to the day. Today she's gimping just slightly still on that foot as the pad heals and toughens up. I'm sure by next weekend or the following she'll be fine.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

May I have a drum roll, please....

I had heard through the grapevine....the AKC Agility Invitationals invitations were mailed on Friday, July 30. Of course nothing in the mail Saturday...but stopped to pick up my mail today and what did I find?

Larger than life; I know. Yeah, you could say I was excited. I still find myself holding my breath when I look at it - especially the #3 on the label. Wow. Seriously. Have I mentioned what a lucky Dog Mom I am to have Vegas in my life? We are a team, yes, but she's the one doing what precious few Danes do - and doing it with enthusiasm and vigor.

So I didn't open it for a few hours. Subconscious reverence perhaps? LOL. Nah. Had to feed the dogs, do dinner, and then we went to the park for a while. But alas, upon my return, behold the contents.

So it is now 100% official. We're in. We did it. Now I just need to mail in the entry fee and form and get my ducks in a row between now and December. Still a lot of training I'd like to do between now and then. I'll go over those goals in a few days when I put it down on paper and map out a true plan. I guess they give special ribbons for each clean run at the invitational and I'd love to have at least one clean run.