Saturday, May 28, 2011

Starting Off Right with Carolyn Barney DVD

At last weekend's Columbia Agility Team general meeting, I checked out a few DVDs that I intend to watch both for the benefit of training my own dogs but the teaching I'm doing for foundation agility. One of those videos was a Clean Run Instructor Conference DVD with instructor Carolyn Barney. Her topic was Starting Off Right Foundation: Beginner Agility Classes. My first impression: not very well done. The video had no prelim, no  lead-up, just jump right in. Then the lady was complaining about technical problems and how she had a migraine and, well, for first impressions, not so good.

But then she got into the meat of the matter. She discussed everything from handling maneuvers for teaching ground work on crosses to how she runs a class, what her expectations are for students and dogs going in, and how important the basics really are. This is where the material really started resonating with me. Perhaps it's the result of having obtained my masters degree in education or perhaps the intrigue in and drive to build properly from the ground up has always been there, but one thing I know I have really lacked and seen lacking in this area in training is true foundation. Everyone jumps into equipment. Very few people have dogs that learn to really work complex approaches and problem solve early. Instead we are much more reactionary and trying to solve problems.

All said and done, I watched the video straight through (with a few pauses to catch up on notes) and took about a half dozen pages of notes. I have a lot of ideas buzzing in my head - just little tips and tricks - but mostly, what Carolyn discussed completely reaffirms what I believe about training and wished I could implement. It's what I have tried to implement as much as possible in the foundation classes I have been teaching already within the structure of required curriculum of the club.

This DVD in particular is 95% discussion and lecture with just a couple of brief moments of actual demonstration with a dog. Carolyn is a clicker trainer and uses the clicker for shaping some behaviors. She talks about using the clicker or the clicker word to shape behaviors specifically, too, when dogs exhibit any amount of fear versus using a lure. She says that can foster a lack of trust and cause failure to lure in other instances.

There are at least several other DVDs for the same conference with other speakers. I've got two more of them right now, Shaping for Demand and Training the Extreme Dogs, that I'm looking forward to watching. And on that note, I'm looking forward to really applying the concepts too. An opportunity came up that I am excited to get to participate in. I will be teaching true foundation agility at a dog daycare center not too far from me with a friend who has been running agility for about eight years.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tuesday Training

Tuesday the dogs and I joined Pam and crew plus Nancy and her crew (Dobermans Ean and June) at the barn to get some training in. Pam and I worked on nose work first. We showed up about 6:30 and Vegas got to go first on a vehicle search, something we had never done before. At first I was hesitant and not going to do it but then decided it wouldn't hurt to try. Pam helped us get started by just putting the first hide right on the front bumper with a treat. Basically we took Vegas right up to it. She said we wanted her to recognize the truck as something to search on/in and to treat it like a big box. We repeated this three times and then Pam made the hides. It took a bit of coaxing and reminding Vegas what to do  but she did find them all. I'm sure it's not all the truck being a new area of focus. After all, we were outdoors in a country setting, the breeze was light and spring fresh, and there were sheep not too far down the fence line. Many distractions but I was proud of her for getting into it and finding each hide.

When it was her turn again we searched inside this time. The search included five hides of varying difficulty and the most difficult one she struggled on was on the lid of a box on the floor with the remainder of the box (It was a shoe box.) snugged up against it. Also, I had hidden one on the under side and inner end of the wheel well of the trailer in the barn. Just a couple of feet away was a quad where we had a hide placed previously for one of the other dogs. Apparently it trapped a lot of odor because she kept being drawn back to it even though nothing was there for her. I ended up re-directing her to the trailer and she eventually nailed it. It was really cool to watch her start to detail the wheel well from the outside and then see her head start tilting as she came around to the well itself.

After we were done with nose work she got some fun time on the agility equipment in the barn. Nancy was working obedience and a few obstacles with Ean so we stayed to one end of the barn. I wanted to work weave entrances mostly but we, of course, threw in some other obstacles as well. And Vegas, despite being too big and my usual avoidance in directing her to tunnels, proved that she can fall prey to the tunnel suck, too. Not once. Not twice. Several times. She was clearly having a ball. In one instance we had a setup something like the following:



                                                |    |

                                                ----                    *
                   X                                                           *
The lines at the top represent the broad jump, the box is the table, and then weaves. We started on the left and I sent her over the broad and I pulled way out beyond the table but sent her to the weaves as she was clearing the broad. She did make the mistake of coming to the table a couple of times but she also successfully nailed her weaves several times, too. Not only did she nail the weaves, too, she completed them. She drove through them with complete confidence and no hesitation about finishing. I was super proud of her driving through and not worrying about where I was. If you see above the Xs, those represent different areas I ended up as she was weaving and at times I was even moving my arms around which didn't phase her.

Her weave work was really awesome which was really exciting. We did a few more drills on weaves and she didn't let me down at all. Any failed entry was my handling and slow queuing. I even had her coming down off the a-frame, making sure she really stuck her contact, and turning sharply back off the frame all within about six feet and still asking her to take the weaves. When my queues were timely she made the entrance nicely.

She was being pretty funny, too, showing me she knows what to do on the teeter. On the first weave exercise I mentioned above, not shown off to the far left was the teeter. She kept taking the teeter on the way back to the broad jump and would nail her contact and just stand there with four on and wait for me to give her a release. She was pretty darn cute.

Last night she had a bath and I hope to get some pictures tomorrow while her coat is still shiny. I used a cream rinse and really worked it into her coat. She seems to be thickening up a bit in the neck and shoulders area. I hope that bodes well for the remainder of her coat. Perhaps it has to do with some of the new food items she's been getting lately.

Saturday is a fun match. I've got her entered to run in both Standard and JWW. Will be nice to get to run even if it's just for fun. Fortunately for us its free so its no harm no foul but I can get her back into the trial mind set since the next four weekends are trials for us. Yay for agility! Happy Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Training & Stuff in the Works

Over the last few days I've snuck in five minutes here and there working on some exercises Vegas needs to hone for our drill team routine. One of them is backing up for a count of eight. She can do it brilliantly when working between the baby gates but not so much outside of them. In fact, in between the gates she doesn't even focus so much on the food and I can verbally queue her to move backward. She's even moving back to about a count of 16. Outside the gates she's very distractable and resistant plus she curves a lot in her movement and I don't see any fluidity in her hind end. So while we're working on backing, I'm also working on additional hind end awareness, primarily using our Fit Ball balance disk for right now.

The other tricks we've been working on are quick and smooth spins in front of me going both directions. I'm happy to say those are going fabulously. In fact, I'll have to catch it on video because to see how tightly she turns and bends her body is a truly sweet thing to see for such a large dog. Now to start fading away the food lure....

Yesterday my friend, Lindsay, and I went to Corvallis for a freestyle competition. I had seen the announcement on a local dog Yahoo group and thought it would be a great place to get ideas for tricks to put into our drill team routines and also see how this type of routine really comes together, how precise, what kind of music, you name it. We arrived around 10:15 am and stayed for a good couple of hours. It was neat to see some novice routines, some more experienced teams, a wide variety of dog breeds represented, and to definitely get some ideas for things we can implement in the future. We then were fortunate enough to get to visit with some almost six-week old fawn Great Dane puppies which was completely fabulous! I can't believe I hadn't seen Dane puppies since Vegas was a baby and wow do I wish I could see them way more often! We got to go outside with the whole litter, 11 pups, and boy were they rambunctious. They have energy and spunk and teeth. Boy do they have teeth. And the puppy breath! We stayed until they were all crashed out tired and mama was fretting over being away from her babies for so long.

After driving home I did work with the dogs a bit on some tricks and before I knew it had to head off to a meeting. It was a whirlwind weekend and Sunday was definitely the highlight. This evening Vegas and I headed off to drill practice with Pam to join Lindsay at our Monday night practice location. We did get some trick troubleshooting accomplished and I think an agreement on how to plan better what to work on, setting deadlines, and when our next practice is. I'm really glad everyone is flexible to change the routine based upon what our dogs need. I really have a hard time getting Vegas to move forward from a heel position (either side) when I have no forward motion. I was really struggling and felt myself starting to get frustrated when I spoke up. We're going to try a step forward with one leg to encourage that forward motion. Plus, I had "downing" Vegas with my rump in the air so we played with some stylistic changes that would best be explained in video. Hopefully next practice....

When I got home I had all these grand ambitions and plans for things I really need to get done. Of course I floundered on all that. I spent some time mourning, worrying, trying not to imagine what life without V would be like and of course ending up with that all I could think about, and in the end, just gave into some extra time spent cuddling my dogs. I'm lucky to have them and I know that. Boy how poignant that gets when the fragility of life smacks you in the face.

Once I got on here I started watching videos. Here are some of my favorites of the night and that have given me some great ideas to work on with Vegas.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

With Heavy Heart

It is with heavy heart I post tonight and transition from my blog's intended path to something I feel very strongly about. Health testing, health concerns, breeding for longevity, and stepping up to fight diseases known to your breed. I'm very fortunate. As I write this, my beautiful, beloved Vegas is snoring peacefully at the foot of my bed. But a friend of mine is mourning the loss of hers. The very sudden loss. To what exactly is uncertain at this point, but it is suspected a heart condition took him away from her way too soon. Mars was not quite six and struggled with many things over his life as a result of irresponsibility in breeding, but at the start and the end of every day he was loved.

Another friend of mine lost her Dane a couple of weeks ago. Gunner passed away in her arms just shy of his first birthday. He, too, was lost for a heart condition.

Great Danes are highly prone to heart disease, particularly Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM). Hiding known instances is not effective. Not testing for it an hoping it never happens isn't effective. Auscultation is not effective. Breeders are not the only people responsible for pursuing answers to this deadly disease, to any deadly disease that affects each of our breeds. Pet owners, conformation people, and performance competitors are responsible, too. Each of us needs to do our part. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago about having had the dogs' blood drawn for a research study. In addition to looking at conformational characteristics (The study requested participants take a bunch of measurements of our dogs.), the research group is also looking at genetic diseases. Sure, my dogs had to have blood drawn. Sure I had to spend some time on some paperwork. I had to send their pedigrees in. And I don't get any information back. But big deal. What if it helps find out something down the road that helps your dog? Your friends' dog? Your breed line's offsprings' families? It's a small price to pay.

I feel very strongly about health testing, continued health testing, specifically not breeding affected dogs - YES, even if they have amazing, overwhelming other positive characteristics. So what? You don't know until it's too late the strongest gene he or she may pass on could be a deadly one. Bloat is looking more and more like it has hereditary roots. Heart disease certainly does. How about cancer? Danes are highly known for their susceptibility to lymphoma and osteosarcoma. Is there anything more devastating than losing someone too soon?

I don't mean to harp. I don't mean to make anyone mad or feel bad. I hope to make people think. Breeding isn't just putting Fido and Fifi together and making cute puppies or future champions. It can't even be just about carrying on a line. It's about looking ahead. Look ahead at what you set in motion. How many people will be affected by the wrong decisions? I hate that diseases like DCM don't show up until it's too late, often after a dog is bred. It's unfortunate. But even in hindsight we can take measures to halt it's steady growth. Every puppy every sold out of a litter of an affected animal should be tested, possibly altered to avoid the potential damage that could continue to occur. But blessed be, what is most scary is burying our heads in the sand. It's nothing to be ashamed of - unless we don't test, don't step up and own it, and we don't do something about it. It's for the breed we love! It only behooves us all to do what we can to stop it.

On that note, I have some resources to provide. Whether you have been affected directly or not by one of the diseases this breed is known for, it's worth a look into the information, worth signing up for different Yahoo groups as well as other educational resources. Make those appointments at the national each year for heart testing. Get those color echocardiograms done every year. Test. Test. And test again to be sure. Please do your part.

DCM Yahoo Group:
Great Dane Club of America Candidate for Gene Research:
Washington State University:
(Breeders and others - for normal/baseline echos, put together a group of 4 or 5 dogs for a special rate)
University of Pennsylvania:
Heart Disease in the Great Dane:
Diseases in the Great Dane:
The Dog Heart Disease Called Cardiomyopathy:
Gone in a Phlash:
Great Dane Health Problems:
A Look at Cancer in Great Danes:
University of Prince Edward Island:
Lymphoma in Dogs:
Canine Osteosarcoma:
Texas A&M University:
University of Guelph:
UC Davis - Echo Atlas:
UC Davis - Cases:
Animal Medical Center - Clinical Trials:

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Very Best Monday

Not just any Monday, a Monday where I came home from work and grocery shopping and took off for Champoeg State Park with the dogs. It was the very best way to end the day. Even better, the entire two hours we were on the trail, we only saw one person sitting in a car when we passed from one trail to another through a parking lot. It was blessedly, beautifully, amazingly peaceful, solitary. It was heaven. I've been going to Champoeg since December fairly regularly and I love seeing the changes the weeks and months and seasons are bringing. The park is positively bursting with growth, mostly green but with splashes of color all around. There are wildflowers in abundance and beauty everywhere you look.

Aside from the pristine beauty, the quiet, and the joy of spending a day winding down with my dogs in nature, the best part of the evening was my crazy squirrel hunting girl. And I'll let the video say it all.

Right before we got back to the truck the dogs were wandering around in the grass, sniffing and whatnot, and I was actually on the lookout for a critter to send Vegas after. Low and behold a squirrel or chipmunk appeared. Of course Vegas doesn't respond to "over there" and see what I am pointing at and by the time I could get her on the track it was up the tree. But, she had her fun anyway. Can you see him? 

He's not going anywhere with Vegas on duty. 

Of course before we had left the fields, Vegas had to have a hey-day in the grass, one of her favorite things of all time. 
A splendid evening come to a close...and a great start to the week.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Holy Catch-Up Batman

Blogger was down a few days ago and now I feel like I have a ton of catching up to do. Wow. We've done quite a bit this week. So Wednesday I posted about Monday and that's where I left off. Of course it's worth mentioning I've veered off training a bit lately - but not entirely. We haven't had agility in a bit but most of what we're doing is training related in one way or another, even if it's conditioning. So Tuesday was Leo's agility class and I had an appointment after work so the dogs didn't get a whole lot of attention. We just did some random stuff around the house but nothing notable. On Wednesday after work Vegas and I headed to Memorial Park with our friend, Pam, to practice our nose work again. It was raining and nasty so we used the Forest Shelter at the park which turned out to be a pretty great place. We spent about an hour and did three searches with varying numbers of hides. Vegas did pretty well. Sometimes I think I push her ahead too quickly so really need to rein things in and remember she doesn't have the experience that Pam's Jewel does nor is she quite such a natural at it. Either way, I'm glad I went ahead and joined Pam.

Thursday I came home from work and mowed the lawn. Afterward the dogs were feeling a bit neglected and since it was such a beautiful evening and we get so few of those, we headed out for a walk. I mentioned before I liked the app I found for my phone, Walkies. Well, goofy me, I'm going to have to figure out what I did and not ever do it again. Our two hour walk would have been fantastic to have mapped and stats tracked, but I managed to turn the app off not once, but twice, and delete our information both times. Either way, it was a nice outing. It was cool enough the dogs weren't so warm but I did notice how much more tired they were than they might have been a month ago. It makes quite the difference getting them out as often as I have been and working them at home or on other activities, too. One thing I didn't mess up with my phone, a few pictures taken along the way....

This one is funny because there was a critter she had just chased down and really wanted to get out of the brush. Probably a squirrel. Boy does her prey drive kick in though.

After our two hour walk and probably about four miles, all the dogs wanted was food and their comfy bed.

So along with our increased activity, biking, hiking, walking, I've noticed Vegas' gait is a bit off. I couldn't pinpoint what it was but I suspected either her right shoulder or her left rear hip/low back. I had asked my friend, Rachel, whose a veterinarian if she had any ideas and she suggested putting some video together of her from both the left side, the right side, front, and rear. I also had Lindsay take a look at her today and she thinks it was the rear left, too. Fortunately she doesn't act like anything bothers her at all. She's not in pain, favoring anything, and it's not slowing her down. It's more a well, "hitch in her giddyup" for lack of a better way of putting it. It's just one of those "off" things you notice when you're in tune with your dog and used to working with them.

Here's the video. I'm curious to hear what anyone else thinks, too.
So Friday was another lazy-ish night. I was exhausted after work so aside from the gaiting Vegas for video, I took a nap before taking the kids to their dad's house. When I got home I had intentions of crashing early but that didn't happen.

Today we went to My Dog's Gym and Training Center for the really cool opportunity I mentioned us getting to participate in. We got to be students for the students of the Karen Pryor Academy. I cannot say enough good things about this experience. It was awesome! It makes me wish I could attend the academy and get into this field. Every opportunity I have to spend seeing dogs and their handlers learn and grow makes me enjoy dog training all the more.

So we were directed to show up and come to the door without our dogs first. I was the last to arrive (although I was early) and met our first trainer, Shaun. She walked with me out to the truck and we got Vegas out, grabbed her bed, my treat bag, and took Vegas to go potty. Then we went in and set up. They had this great space set up with separated partitions so dogs didn't have to interact or worry about another dog next to them. There were just four of us participating with the four students. Vegas was by far the largest dog, the second being our friend, Crystal's Koira, then a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever, and then a Portugese Podengo, the latter who was just a puppy. Helix started things off by having us (the volunteers) introduce ourselves and our dogs. I had put Vegas in a sit and stay with Shaun and just started to speak when she lunged and practically drug Shaun up to me. Yeah, not the greatest start but fairly typical of Vegas. Keep in mind, I was fully in sight and only about 10 feet away. She's a nut.

After everyone had introduced themselves we got started. Helix came over and talked to us a bit about Vegas. I hadn't realized the intention was to have the student work with the dog and then the owner. I let them know about Vegas' severe separation anxiety and told them she may be more cooperative if I wasn't in the room. We figured we'd see what we could do. Helix started out working with Vegas. She took her lead and was just backing up and treating her. She did this for several minutes and it was actually really cool to see how quickly Vegas caught on and didn't even more than glance occasionally to make sure I was there. We did try to move forward, too, a bit, and then Helix handed Vegas off to Shaun. Oh my goodness! Would you believe that in almost not time Shaun had Vegas heeling at attention with her? Yes, I started out by her side as the "third wheel" but eventually as we progressed, I was able to get as far back as about eight feet behind Shaun and Vegas kept working with her. First, it seriously almost brought tears to my eyes to see her work with someone else. Just the simple fact that she was able to give someone else her focus was amazing. Second, that she was giving the kind of attention that I envy so much with other handlers. It is possible! was the thought that kept going through my head, still goes through my head. Wow. Amazing.

Basically all they had done was set up two large circles on the floor with flat cones. The cones were spaced approximately one large step apart from each other so there were quite a few. As the training progressed, Helix removed random cones so the distance between cones varied. What the students were doing is stopping briefly at each cone to click and treat. As long as the dog was giving attention and on a loose leash, they were rewarded. I don't think Vegas even realized there was anything to this "game" except food, but she was offering such beautiful behavior it so totally inspired me. At times she was striding ahead eight feet watching Shaun, heeling with attention, and not checking back on me. It was so cool! I never did try it because it was so inspiring to see the two of them work together.

Believe it or not, that took about an hour between each of the students and volunteers taking turns on the circles. We took a 10-15 minute break and got back into things. We also traded students. I forgot the second student's name already.... She worked with us on targeting. She just started with holding her hand out and clicking for any interest Vegas showed in her hand. Of course being food motivated, Vegas instantly was interested since hands deliver food. For the first little bit she was doing a fair amount of licking at her hand, but before long she was just giving slight nose bumps as was desired. We talking about using other objects, too, particularly with small dogs who are lower to the ground. In Vegas' case, targeting to a stick/spoon didn't draw her interest so we went back to the hand. This gal was quickly able to get Vegas moving with her hand, following the motion a step or so. I tried it a bit and saw some result in our little cubicle, but when asked to do it in front of everyone, Vegas was not interested in working with me. I will say, too, she preferred me giving the "Yes" marker word while working with her (I didn't have a clicker.) versus the other girl using the clicker for the marker while I did the targeting. The two of us working with her at once seemed to confuse her.

Amazing how tired they can get from doing mental work though, although Vegas never tires of the treats. She acted like she was starving the entire time. It was a great opportunity and I have some new tools in my toolbox for sure. What a great facility at My Dog's Gym, too. Very spacious and wow do they have a ton of equipment for working just about anything. My biggest, burning question at the end was: Do you constantly work the attention with heeling/loose leash walking or do you ever get a break? Here's why that came up: On the break I took Vegas out to potty. My thought was, it was a break. Do I work her or do I let her relax and walk the way she normally does? Yikes! The honest truth is, Vegas isn't a horrible puller. She's just an end of the leash walker. It's cats and squirrels that will cause me doom if I'm not "on my toes." But she's never been a loose leash, hanging by my side, remotely close to heel kind of walker. The answer? Basically, every time I let her walk at the end of her leash, pull on her leash, it reinforces the way I don't want her to walk. How to get around it? Helix suggested some other kind of hardware. And, as a for instance, she explained that her dog gets to go fast and be out ahead when she (Helix) is on her scooter. But if they're both walking, she needs to be on a loose leash. They also introduced me to a new kind of harness and let us try one on. I'm going to look into having one custom made with the padding on it when I can. It'll go from affordable to yikes with the padding, but a bare dog like Vegas can't really afford to have anything rub on her. In walking her around the gym with this harness on, she really wasn't prone to pulling. Of course she wasn't faced with a squirrel and had just spent two hours working her brain so, who knows. It's worth a try.

After being in Salem we went home for a brief 15 minutes to gather Leo and some treats and water, then went to the barn for drill team practice. We had a good practice again working over the first umpteen counts and trying to make sure the steps are solid in our own brains then we took the dogs through it a couple of times. Then we worked without the dogs on some of the transitions and scheduled our next practice. As we were clearing out and I was waiting for my class to show up, I worked Vegas a bit on some of the equipment being as she hadn't done any agility since our last trial. Oh my goodness was she happy! That girl had some major mad weaving skills tonight that I would give anything to have at a trial. We're talking me moving in completely random directions out off the end of the poles while she was weaving and she just kept on moving through them super fast. It was awesome to see and I know she was glad to be working again. I can't wait for our next trial!

And that's all for now. We've got a low key day for tomorrow including some more nose work at the agility barn with Pam and then a meeting scheduled. It's supposed to be rainy and 50s here so more inside time than outside is on the books again. Guess we'll work on our balance disk and some backing up and spinning tricks.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Rant and a Little Random

I'll start with the rant to get it off my chest. We'll call it purging. Let me just start with this: I do not advocate people being rude and disrespectful of leash laws nor do I think it's cool when completely out of control dogs are off leash when laws indicate otherwise. That said, there have been two instances lately that just chapped my hide. The first was a couple of Saturdays ago when I was out walking both of my dogs plus my dad's dogs. We were just at the end of our street where it butts up against a small park and closest to the basketball court. As soon as I started into the street I could see two small dogs off leash on the basketball court and two women talking on the far side. I kept my eyes on the dogs - theirs and mine - and tried to keep moving as best as possible. Fortunately my dogs weren't acting interested at all but they were getting a bit tangled in each other's leashes since I did have four of them so it slowed my progression out of the line of fire, so to speak. I would have guessed these dogs were around 12 pounds or so, probably large Chihuahuas from the looks. Of course, as I had suspected would happen, the two started barking and coming toward the dogs and I just as we were passing them. Anytime a dog take that tact I worry about a tendon being bit on the ankles. I yelled for them to get the dogs and they didn't move. Oh, and at this point they weren't even watching the dogs or reacting at all. Yes, steam started coming out of my ears. When they still did not react I had a few choice words about off-leash dogs and the propensity of Chis to bite (I apologize to anyone with Chis who are nice but there is a statistically proven greater likelihood of small dogs to bite than larger ones.). One of the women hollered back at me something along the lines of being a bitch but the dogs and I kept moving and enjoyed the rest of our walk with no incident even when encountering plenty of other leashed dogs.

The latest incident was this Monday. My son went with me on a bike ride with both dogs to the water treatment plant. When we got there I let both dogs off to run. Yes, off leash despite the signs indicating dogs aren't allowed to be. Of course dogs aren't allowed off leash anywhere unless it's a designated off leash park. But, and here's my argument for my decision to do so. I have excellent verbal recall over both of my dogs, particularly Vegas. She will return to me 99% of the time and the only times she might not would usually be when faced with the entertaining opportunity to chase a cat or a squirrel. She's a mama's girl so she's not about to be left behind and she just plain knows better. I've trained her to be that reliable.

So Monday we were happily enjoying our time and the park was empty; we were the only ones there. We had stopped at one of the waterfall areas and were watching the water and I decided to take the dogs around on another lap. I had just headed around the loop again when I saw a man walking his two chocolate Labs. Instead of going the long way like I usually would I took the path up the center so I could go in front of him and come around where I started instead of coming up behind him. Pretty respectful, right? Both of the dogs were with me and hadn't even really glanced at his dogs. I made sure I sped up at the intersection of the two paths and kept talking to the dogs. He was about 15 yards from the intersection at the time I passed through. We looped around uneventfully and came back toward where we'd started to pick up my son. I didn't see the man and his dogs. At that point I wanted to loop around again and so we took off the long way. As I rounded a bend I saw the man and his dogs again, this time farther out from us. We kept an even, slow pace to maintain the distance but he kept looking over his should back at us. I didn't recognize him giving us a dirty look at the time but I have little doubt now that he was. When he reached the end of the path from the park heading back toward the residential areas, he turned around, pointed at the sign and told me in a completely rude voice that I should read it. "Maybe you should read the sign!" he said several times as he walked away.

Grrrr!!! I went out of my way to maintain a distance and be respectful of his enjoyment at the park, too. Even more so than I might at other times, I am extremely careful at this park because we LOVE to go there but it's also a city building and working environment (during the daytime) so I don't want to lose the privilege. Plus I am quite the spectacle with my itty, bitty Pomeranian and my big, black Dane. I know people will remember me so I take extra care. I even picked up loose, unused poop bags flying all over the park that same day. So the fact that he yelled at me really irks me. And it's bugging me two days later which I shouldn't let it. But dammit, I don't try to hinder others' enjoyment outdoors. I just happen to believe my dogs should be able to run when they can and have trained them to be under my control in such an environment. Humph. So there's my rant. Stupid people should not inhabit the earth - at least not in my world when I'm trying to enjoy a beautiful Spring day with my son and my dogs.


I don't usually include product promotions here on my blog but I kind of have to this time on these two items. One is new and the other is something I've had for a couple of months but realized I can't live without.

The one I can't live without is the Premier Gentle Leader Treat Pouch designed by trainer Terry Ryan. I love this thing! It goes with me nearly everywhere from training class to dog walks and I even wear it around the house for training. It's so convenient with it's flat style. I have used other pouches that are more round and they get in the way and fall off and are a general nuisance. This one is smooth with the body, has an adjustable nylon belt with a sturdy, plastic buckle. Plus, the main compartment is lined with a waterproof fabric so moist treats don't soak through. The hinge at the top snaps shut so tightly treats don't fall out nor do they dry out quickly if left in there. There's an additional pocket on the face of the pouch, too, that, while smaller, is useful for poop bags and keys. Plus, if you put your treats in a Ziploc in the main compartment, there's still room for your cell phone, if you choose, when away from the house.

There's another model of this pouch available, too, that I found when looking for a picture that I don't think I would like as much. Mine has the front pocket that is almost as wide as the whole pouch. The newer style has a smaller front pouch which I think would be less convenient.

My next spout off for a great product that I enjoy although I used it just once so far, last night, is Walkies-Online. This is an app I downloaded to my HTC Evo a few days ago and didn't think to turn on last night until we were a ways into our walk. Still. I love it!

Walkies! is a dog walk/run/bike ride/hike recorder for your phone. It makes it really easy to record routes so you can see where you've been, and how far you've traveled. Once you've recorded a route you can upload it to Walkies! Online to share and show your friends.

Walkies! is freely available for the iPhone and Android devices. To get started, either download Walkies! from the App Store or the Android Market, or ask one of your friends who already have the app to share a route with you.

Here is the information it gathered for us last night.


Duration 50m 24s
Distance 3.8 km 2.3 miles
Min Altitude 0 m 0 ft
Max Altitude 29 m 95 ft

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Mom's Day for Vegas

Whoohoo, Mother's Day. Whatever. It was Sunday and a lazy one at that. I stayed up way too late last night (this morning?) so didn't get up until 10 or so. Actually it was when Lindsay texted me that she was done at the dog show. She had Heffner entered in Rally today at the SDTC obedience trial. I had mentioned yesterday if she'd want to get together after his run was done to take the dogs for a walk together in the woods at Memorial Park or down at Champoeg. She was game and so when she texted me I headed over there and we had a thoroughly enjoyable walk around the woods for about an hour. Vegas didn't go bonkers to say hello to Lindsay and we only saw one other dog while we were out and about until we headed back toward the trucks. There are so many paths in the woods that it was easy to detour and avoid that dog altogether since the dogs were doing so well and we wanted to keep it that way. I have to say, I am really excited for how well it went. Lindsay has worked very hard with Heffner to be in situations that challenge him. Thank God the woods at Memorial are Vegas' haven because I think she was just so damn excited to be out there she couldn't care less who was with us. So yay for a successful outing, a mostly dry walk, and two Danes who could be on their way to being friends again. Thanks for joining us, Lindsay!

When Lindsay was loading up to leave, I decided to let Vegas off leash to go crazy out in the field. I checked my phone and realized I'd missed a call from my friend, Pam. She wanted to know if I wanted to  get together at the park by my house for some nose work practice. Vegas and I have been out of class for over a month now so I was definitely game. I stopped by the house really quick to pick up Vegas' harness, some treats, and our nose work supplies and we headed down there. We, too, practiced for about an hour.

The park has two play structures, an historic house with front and back porches, and plenty of grounds to work with including some barked landscaped areas alongside the house. Vegas has never worked outside before so I started her on the porch. It took her a while to get into the mode of searching and she really struggled more than I thought she was. In fact, she was almost more interested in the doors and windows and trying to get into the "house." She did end up finding most of the items, which were paired, with the exception of one we had to really help her on. Vegas' searches alternated with Gigi and Jewel. The next one was alongside the house. We hid the items on metal fixtures around the basement windows, on the downspout, etc. She did much better there!

The last search was a bust and I decided to call it quits with her. We hid the items on the play structure but at that point she was clearly not going to work. She was panting and not even trying to sniff them out. She wasn't looking at me or asking me for direction. I think having been away from it for a bit plus working outside was just too much for her too fast. We're planning on getting together again Wednesday at another location and I'm going to simplify what I work with her on so I don't overtax her. I want her to enjoy it and have success, not struggle and stress out,

The rest of our Sunday was spent napping and lazy. I finished up a few collars for a customer order so they can mail tomorrow. They turned out really well and I'm excited for her to receive them in the mail in a few days. Hope all the moms out there had a great Mother's Day. Mine was rather dog-focused as the boys wanted to fend for themselves. I guess we all just have those days sometimes. Happy Monday soon, all

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Cool Opportunity

A message came across a list early last week that I replied to after checking my schedule. I'm excited to say we got a response in fairly short order and get to participate. Yay!

Here's the details:
You will each be assigned an Academy student. Please come to the door of the training center *without* your dog. Your student will introduce herself and together you'll go to your car, meet your dog, visit the dog potty area and then bring your dog into the training center together.
We will be finished no later than 5 pm and possibly earlier. Don't worry!Your dog will have plenty of rest breaks. GEARPlease bring your dog ONLY on a *** regular buckle collar or front-attachment (Easy Walk, Sensation, Sensible) harness*** with a 6 foot leash. Bring along a mat or crate pad for your dog to use as his own private resting place.  
We really appreciate your participation in this part of the Karen Pryor Academy program.
Basically we're going to get to work with Karen Pryor teachers-in-training. So, we get free work for a few hours under the guidance of an uber experienced Karen Pryor and Clicker Training instructor. I chose Vegas knowing there are more obedience related issues I struggle with with her than with Leo. I hope it's productive! Will definitely be fun, either way, to see more about how hard core clicker training and positive reinforcement methodology works. (For the record, I train mostly with the positive but understand how a good time-out can help with some hard headed dogs, and also am not afraid to say "No!" when necessary.)

Friday, May 6, 2011

I Forgot to Post This Yesterday...

We didn't continue with our nose work classes this session (Boohoo) because they're simply too expensive. Pretty much a major stinking bummer because Vegas was doing well and it was her only structured class/outing each week. But $160 for 6 weeks is just asinine. What bugs me is, 90 minutes south of me they're holding the same classes for just $90 a session. Grr! Anyway, I'm bummed. A friend of mine and I were talking and she, too, may not be able to continue due to the cost so we may continue training on our own. She's had a couple sessions more than us so that will be helpful and I have all the supplies plus we live within five minutes of one another. I'll keep you posted on that one.

I don't know why it matters this year but I've already bought the top 5 list from AKC for the invitational (twice). Here are the latest results:
I know we won't hit #1; Tilly is just too far ahead having surged last summer and fall to earn her MACH. Maybe next year when we earn our MACH!

On that note, though, I have some depressing news. My budget got shot to HELL today with car troubles. My truck is due to go through DEQ by the end of the month. I've been through twice and failed. Today I had to drop a hundred bucks just to get a more accurate diagnosis and have several hundred in parts to deal with, too. That means the biggest trial of the year that I would have been going to over a four-day Memorial Day weekend is a bust. I can't go. The entries alone were $168 and there would have been around $100 in fuel plus food and lodging. I'd be playing catchup through June to do it and in July I have to fork out $350 to kennel Vegas (possibly more if I have to kennel Leo, too) while I'm out of town on a business trip. *sigh* What a sucky Friday off work and a lame ass way to start Mother's Day weekend. Hope everyone else's weekend fares better, and happy Mother's Day to those of you with skin-kids to celebrate with.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Weird Wednesday

Yesterday I took off work early to pick up Vegas from the house and take her to Turner and see Dr. Lisa for a chiropractic appointment. While I didn't have specific concerns when I made the appointment, I mentioned her gait being a bit off when we were out Tuesday and I wasn't sure what was the cause. We got there a bit early, around 4:10 and our appointment wasn't to be until 4:30. The person organizing this group chiro session had sent out the schedule of who was when the day prior. I would never have thought about "who" would be near us in appointment times until I saw the schedule. All I can say is, thank goodness we didn't have to be in close proximity. The appointment time right before us was this guy who trials in AKC with his Ridgebacks. One of the Ridgebacks, at least, is nasty and has hated Vegas from first sight years ago in one of our first agility classes. The same dog went after Vegas and our friend Rachel's Boxer, Harry Potter, at a trial a few months back. Since that time Vegas is a bit edgier around Ridgebacks until she knows it's not "the one."

Anyway, distaste aside, we didn't have any issues. I kept Vegas in the back of the truck as I got things situated and Leo harnessed etc. Then I took the dogs for a potty walk in the opposite direction of Lisa's trailer. He was nice enough to load his dogs and holler to me when he was done. Whew!

Dr. Lisa took a look at Vegas once I got her settled down and found a couple of tweaky spots in her back, two in the lumbar area, but nothing super off that she could tell from my description. Once she got adjusted we chatted a few and then before I knew it the dogs and I were back on the road. It was 4:26 - four minutes prior to when our appointment time was to have started. Whoohoo!

The other stop I had hoped to make on this trip south was at our vet's office to get blood drawn from both dogs. I received an email on a Yahoo list I'm on a while back requesting participation in a Sutter Dog Genetics Lab study. We were sent vials for blood collection and a questionnaire asking for a ton of measurements on the dogs including the length of each section of bone on their legs (front, back, left, and right), length of ear, width between eyes, width of head, and much more. We were lucky enough to be able to request (and have in the office) our friend, Rachel (a different Rachel), to be the veterinarian assigned to us. It was so nice to see her and say hello outside of the agility trial environment - and I'm so glad my "kids" behaved!

They were busy as it was the end of the day and we were there for a bit, but that was okay as we weren't really in a hurry. When we came home it was more of the usual bustle with the kids and not much else. I didn't exercise Vegas last night nor tonight as I want to be sure she relaxes after her adjustment. Chances are tomorrow we'll get out if the weather's nice for some romp and hiking time.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spring Continues

Today was another beautiful day! When I got off work I took the bike out of the garage, hooked Vegas up, and off we went to the water treatment park again. I just couldn't resist the sunshine, clear blue skies, and time with the dogs. It's a fantastic way to decompress after a hectic work day. Not a whole lot to report other than that we essentially had the park to ourselves while we were there and the dogs had a blast. I did notice on our way back, though, Vegas' gait was off. I think it's her right front shoulder and not sure what she did but will be keeping an eye on her. Our next trial isn't until Memorial Day (Yes, we're sticking with agility.) and she has a chiropractor appointment tomorrow. Good timing, I guess, to get her assessed and figure out a plan if something is awry. I hope it's not and this was just a fluke of romping a bit too hard, but I'll find out tomorrow. In the meantime, enjoy the video and pictures!

Vegas soaking up the Eau de Dead Worm

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring Has Arrived!

Oh wow did Spring finally arrive in the Pac NW! Even if it was for two days it was two days over the weekend, two glorious days of beautiful weather. I was just a *smidge* excited!

Saturday was a bit lazy to start. The dogs and I slept in then had breakfast. I decided 10 was the time I would be outside mowing the lawn. It takes about two hours and the dogs hang with me during that time. Vegas played fetch off and on and romped around being silly plus monitoring the yard and neighbors' comings and goings, too, like a good guard dog. After the great lawn mowing escapade, we mostly just waited around, me doing some chores, the dogs watching me with eagle eyes to make sure I didn't sneak out without them. We were waiting for my dad to show up to do some work on my truck. Once he did, some work ensued including mixing up some banana bread. I'd asked Dad to bring his dogs along, Trinka and Georgia, since I figured they would be better off hanging out with us than stuck in crates at home. With the bread in the oven, I braved taking all four dogs for a walk. Georgia and Trinka were on Gentle Leaders with a tandem leash; Vegas and Leo on their collar and harness, respectively, and regular leashes. By the end of the block I was laughing. At the end of the street I figured people questioned my sanity. Dad's girls are German Wirehair Pointers, approximately 50 pounds a piece. They have a lot of energy. A lot. They don't get to expend enough.

We ended up doing one of my favorite 3 mile loops taking the back way from our neighborhood to Memorial Park and coming back through town. The dogs were surprisingly good and we had a nice time. It definitely took the edge off for when we came back home. The dogs ended up staying the house with me the rest of the time since they got a bit whiny and barky in the yard.

I taught class that evening and came home to a late, late, late night making dinner, cleaning house, playing with dogs, chatting with Dad, and wrapped up for bed just after midnight - Yawn!

Sunday we went to Champoeg for a lovely hike. The weather was glorious! Such a change from a month or so ago on our last trip. The wildflowers were in bloom. The undergrowth and foliage was lush! It hardly looked like the same place. It seemed at first we were going to run into quite a few people but we managed to have a lot of our trails mostly to ourselves. The perfect morning. Almost three hours and I could have kept walking around and exploring with the dogs all day. They had a ball although Vegas was less energetic than normal. Such a sudden increase in temperature for our explorations makes for a tough adjustment. She'll get there but she trooped along joyfully anyway.

Vegas practicing her cow routine

This picture shows Vegas watching curiously at the grass where the snake slithered off. Being as this park seems to be the only place we see snakes when out and about hiking, I need to make a more hard core effort to learn about the species in our area and to make sure they aren't harmful. I know they're not going to be significantly of concern but the last thing I want is to be caught unawares with 120 pounds of dog.

More cow practice...Moo!

As if that wasn't enough for the day, I took Vegas out for another walk with a friend for just about two hours late Sunday afternoon. We wandered around the Willamette River Water Treatment Plant, taking a different route as we left that brought us over by the middle school and a lovely nature path behind the school through some of the wetlands. We headed in the direction of home and thoroughly enjoyed our time. Vegas was definitely walking sedately, unusual for her, but a black dog in the hot sun makes for a tired, big dog.

That wrapped up our weekend but what a weekend it was. I am so grateful for those spring days no matter how few they are. They renew my spirit. They rejuvenate me. And they allow me to enjoy my dogs to their fullest. What a great weekend!


Tonight was our drill team practice. In our normal fashion, it took us a bit to get around to business. But once we did I think we directed ourselves well and accomplished a good amount of review and solidifying some of the movements to ensure they will fit in the time counts allotted. Vegas also got to romp and play a bit with her friend, Wally, and I always enjoy seeing her play with other dogs. I'm counting on the rest of the week rocking as much as the last couple of days. Hope everyone else's is good as well!