2015

I have no idea where this year will take us. I know what I want, and that’s to compete again. We’ve been in training mode for two years, in agility and flyball, focusing on criteria and improving performance in different environments. I would like to push that now, put the training to the test and win some stuff.Fast as you canIn a related sense, I want to get out of our comfort zone this year. I’ve already started, since Dylan is entered in our first Obedience competition at the end of the month. Actual obedience! I don’t find obedience very exciting but that’s part of the challenge. It matters more that Dylan enjoys it. Obedience has very clear criteria, and he likes that. I’ve also missed working with him, so it’s nice for us to find something we can do together.DistinguishedI want to set goals, because I feel like I need goals to push me on. But I wrote out some goals and then decided they were too unattainable. Impossible goals are no good for me. I need goals that are reachable. It’s a matter of when, rather than maybe.

So. Goals.

  • Rio and Daisy to get their 200pt Flyball Dog awards
  • Rio to win out of Grade 3
  • Dylan to get his P-Beg Ex award

Daisy Edit

A Final Glance

One last look back at 2014, mainly to wave goodbye. It had it’s moments, but it’s wasn’t much of a landmark year for the us. It was certainly unpredictable. I don’t yet know whether that’s good or bad.DylanDylan has stepped down and then stepped up, taking on the mantel of the girls before him. Who would have thought it? My scared mouse is my rock. I never could have foreseen it at the start of the year; we were racing around in Grade 6, and now he just does the occasional Anysize run. I miss competing with him. He’s not my flyball dog anymore either, as my lovely mother has taken him on for next season. But he started going to classes, and then he passed his Good Citizen Dog Scheme Bronze, Silver, and Gold. I take him places when I need a dog that I can trust to handle whatever we face, and he does it without batting an eyelid. He comes to work with me, and plays demo dog for student canine physiotherapists. He has spent eight years disliking being touched by strangers, and now he passes tests on it and teaches people how to manipulate joints and muscles. Dylan is a Good Dog.

RioRio didn’t step up. She was frustrating and disappointing and wild and beautiful. Of course, it’s Beans, so she can do what she likes and I will still worship the ground she walks on. She runs on her own path, not the one I choose for her. She finds her own adventures, and if I worry about what we should have been doing, more fool me.

Ri does like flyball – it is fast and involves racing other dogs – and she does like jumping classes. Jumping is also fast, and involves racing me. She does not enjoy agility classes. Seesaws are hellish contraptions of torment, and dogwalks are untrustworthy, sneaky things that might actually be seesaws in hiding. She will concede that Aframes are cool. It doesn’t actually matter what we do. I love this dog more than I love most things.

HiDaisy, my Daisy, my messed up pup. She waxes and wanes like the moon. Who has ever met a dog afraid of snow? The world went white and cold overnight, and it took two days to convince her this wasn’t the oncoming apocalypse. This is an insight into the mind of Daisy. Well, one of the minds. The working personality is everything you could want in a working dog; determined, fast, driven, unflappable, utterly focused and committed. She can be extraordinary, could be the best agility dog I ever own. However, would not recommend the normal-dog personality. Fear and panic and was that a noise? For all that she’s special, she’s come a long way. She has nearly made up all her minds that we are good people and that she is a good dog. She needed time, and 2014 was time. Her greatest achievement this year has been learning about belly scritches, and how to sleep. Good learning, Daze.

KimFinally, the most important dog and Queen of the World. My old Lady Jane turned 14 in December. She refuses to be old, and she glories in it. She chases birds and tries to jump the river, and she is angry with peasants when they get in her way. She demands food and walks when she wants them, and she gets them. She sleeps where she wants, and has basically given up any pretense of doing as she is told. Or, in fact, following any basic manners.

I worry about her; her muscle tone isn’t … existent, really. Her mind isn’t as constant. Kim has always been razor sharp, and it breaks my heart to see her occasional confusion, or worse, her ignorance of what she normally would be so aware of. It comes and goes.

Dig It Dec (Daisy & Ri)

Goal with Rio was weaves. The Intermediate Jumping course was lovely, but I trained it anyway. Rio was … consistent in her errors? She is hitting the entry and then skipping the second-third pole and continuing. This is still a too-much-speed problem, and she is learning to control it. Slowly. She’s gone up a couple of gears in competition and is attacking those weaves now, and we just need to work on controlling it a little more.

Agility was more weaves, more Aframes, all easy. Training training training, but we made the most of it. Maybe eventually Rio will be able to do dogwalks and seesaws as well.

Daisy’s two jumping runs were on a lovely straightforward course. We had fun with it! One little pull-thru that she rocked so we rewarded that. She was picking up obstacles really nicely, driving on to tunnels beautifully, we just need to work on the drive to the finish. She knocked a couple of poles, but her jumping judgement will improve as we go (I hope!). Her confidence has improved dramatically, and we’re developing a start line routine that I’m reasonably happy with.

Large Steeplechase for Rio was a really straightforward course, very appropriately fast and flowing! We got E’d, because I didn’t cue the sharp left turn at the end of a row of four jumps early enough. Rio was in full forward mode, and overshot the turn completely. She nailed the rest of it though, beautiful running. Love handling her when she’s in full flight, it’s epic.

Daisy’s Steeplechase course was awful, however. Pull-thrus and push-outs on an Open Steeplechase?! I trained it and we did our own awesome run instead. Nailed all the rear crosses, she was demanding and driving and we stopped halfway for a play. She set off again and got her speed up and then we nearly had a happy-zoomy moment … the little nubbin tail got tucked and ears back and the silly smile, but then she contained it and kept focused. Very proud of her, moreso for zooming than anything! I want her to feel joyous and happy at agility.

My only grumble for the day was Oblivious Small Dog Handlers. I had to run interference for Daisy in every queue, and twice had to take her out completely. Daisy will snap at dogs in her space, which yes, not appropriate and not good. However, I had her focused on me in each instance, totally engaged in a calm manner (rewarding for sits/downs, playing Look at That, etc), and I kept a 5-6ft distance between us and the next dog. Or I tried to. In every queue, the other people found it totally acceptable to either a) watch their dog walk up to Daisy and sniff her, or b) totally ignore their dog and let it wander at the end of the lead. Really frustrating! It was nice to see some of our non-agility training pay off, as Daisy initiated Look at That a couple of times, and also asked to leave the queue (in search of space) at one point.

Patience

Rio’s seesaw is still progressing, but not quite as fast as I would like. She’s just not confident on the first attempt, although she gets faster and more confident with each subsequent approach. E nicely shouted at me on Tuesday, and reminded me to stop being impatient. (She wasn’t as blunt as that!)

Daisy has hit the awkward part of the V-weaves, where they’re upright enough that the channel is gone and suddenly it’s got more difficult. She’s still looking good and working hard, just needs to control her speed some more. I haven’t been able to work on her weaves as much as I’d wanted – maybe twice a week? – but she’s getting there.

Both girls are at Dig It on Sunday. All I want is happy, confident girlies. I would like Rio to nail her weaves and for me to get my timing right, and it would be nice for Daisy to get a course where she picks up all the obstacles right off the bat. But those are bonuses! Rio is at Wyre on Saturday as well, because I want to see how she gets on at Myerscough. Could go either way, she’ll either love it, or it will blow her mind.

Both Rio and Dylan are looking lovely at flyball; I’ve finally got the stride regulators where I want them for Dylan, and he’s getting much better rotation through his turn. Rio has also reached a stage where she needs regulators, but she’s getting her three strides now and getting less distracted on her changeovers, thankfully.

Daisy needs more work … she’s making lots of progress in some ways (other dogs!) but her ball obsession is back so she’s failing to engage her rear on the box and her turns are incredibly … over-rotational. This is where our brand of Phantom-perfectionism comes in, because I spent a good ten minutes today explaining to my team members that her turn sounded wrong and could they watch more closely? A few more turns and we get the consensus that she’s driving off her front and not her rear even though her paw, head, and body placement is perfect. I actually suspect she’s probably double hitting with the ball in, hence the driving off her front, because as well as basically back-flipping off the box, she’s driving up instead of down and forward, which is a classic double-hitting symptom. But she’s only got little paws, so it’s hard to tell by eye.

Anyway, it’s all because she’s ball-obsessed, so I need to do more training with that. Handler-enforced lead tension is a major stress for her so I can’t use that as we usually do (to prevent her to re-engaging with the ball), so I need to figure a way around that as well otherwise I’ll make her lead-shy. Such an awkward little terrier.

Weaves, weaves, weaves

Weaves! I hate starting weave training because it’s such a hassle, getting weaves and taking them round everywhere. However, I do like weave training and I like my method, it’s nothing revolutionary but it works, and it’s been adapted through a whole host of dogs so I feel reasonably confident about it now. Requires only V-weaves, reward placement, and timing. Easy.

So, Daisy started weave training this week! So far so good, she actually has a much better grasp of what is required than I had expected for this stage. She struggles to sometimes even see the weaves, sometimes it’s just Daisy running, but when she gets her head down and concentrates, she’s super. Fast, low bounce action. Efficient, I like it. So far, we’ve also done weave training in three different places, and she’s looking nice and consistent.

Hopefully will continue like this, and we’ll be weaving six uprights in a few weeks. Optimism!

Dig It November – Daisy’s First Show

My only goal for Daisy was to ensure she was confident, happy, and had fun. I also wanted to figure out our immediate weak points so we can get to work training for December.

She was a little freaked out on initially entering the arena, particularly when she thought people were going to try and touch her. (If you ever see me with Daisy, please do not try to touch her. Ignore her. She will be ever so grateful, and so will I.) She settled within 5 minutes and began to offer behaviours in the queue, so that was cool. Her response and then recovery time from Scary Things has improved dramatically, but it’s always good to see it happening in a demanding atmosphere.

Obviously all Daisy’s runs were NFC, so we did lots of tugging on the line and through the course. First run, she had no clue we were then going to do agility as well, and took ages to clock the first jump. She was very underfoot, uncertain about the tunnels, but we had some nice sections, particularly a nice drive to the finish jump. Second run at the same course, about 10-15minutes later, and much improved. Still quite clingy, but driving on to jumps and she was beginning to get the idea that we were actually doing agility. Nice wing wraps!

Third class was Steeplechase, and a lovely big, open course. Daisy set off before I was ready, which wasn’t ideal but I like that she’s beginning to understand the routine and the game. She did some really nice sections of work on this course, skipped out on a few jumps but did a fantastic drive down the last, very stretched line of jumps. Potential, we’ve got it!

First things to work on … startline routine. She has no wait, and I don’t particularly want a wait, but I do need some kind of set up which will allow us both to start at the same time. Second thing is obstacle focus, particularly coming out of tunnels. (Third and fourth and fifth things are weaves weaves weaves. WEAVES.) I also need to do a bit more training without the toy in my hand. We have been working on this, but I need to bump it up in priority.

Rio had a nice day too! I trained her jumping run (waits and weeeeeeaves) and she was happy bouncy Rio. I’d always intended to train that run, but I thought the course was waaaay too hard for Intermediate, so wouldn’t have run it anyway. Much too hard for Rio anyway, not something I’d ask her to do at this stage (but it reminded me that we do need to do some work on flick-flacks). I also trained her two agility runs, which she found very confusing (because the start jump and the Aframe were at opposite ends of the arena). Still, really, really nice Aframes! Waits were generally great in all runs too, nice and happy and not freaking out.

Steeplechase was a nice Rio kind of course, not as nice as Daisy’s but still nice. Unfortunately just as we were getting to the front of the queue, there were some fireworks outside. Rio isn’t especially bothered by fireworks, but she was a bit perturbed (and the stalls were packing up too, which she found a bit worrying). She set off very slow for the first few jumps and then picked up speed, very wide into the first tunnel but then rocked the rest of the course. Including some layering, which we haven’t done at shows before! She finished up 4th in Intermediate Large, pipped by a couple of G4 dogs.

Next time I’ll probably run her in Steeplechase and Jumping, and train her Agility runs again. We may attempt a seesaw, but I’m not sure yet.

Seesaw

I have been dabbling with the theory that Rio is just weird when it comes to her seesaw issues, and thankfully I have good friends to observe and clarify those theories with me.

Her biggest issue is that the seesaw moves behind her when she gets off. She doesn’t like things happening behind her, it has always been a worry for her. This also ties into why her wait has been suffering; she doesn’t like dogs in the queue behind her. Her best waits have been when we queue with Diva, presumably because she knows it’s Diva behind her and not some unpredictable unknown dog.

Because I’ve been rewarding at the end of the seesaw, she’s become really aware and suspicious of the tip-back. Which means her reward is de-valued. De-valued reward is less motivating, and we enter the spiral of Nope.

This week, I had someone else rewarding her at the end of the seesaw, and holding the seesaw in place to ensure it didn’t tip-back. I then called her forward to reward her 20-30ft away. Thankfully it worked! By the end of the session, she was actively seeking the seesaw and we had no avoidance. Her confidence isn’t there yet and we won’t be doing seesaws elsewhere for a while, but I finally feel like we have a plan I’m happy with.

Daisy’s seesaw is going to be the next challenge. She could go either way; it could be terrifying or it could be awesome rocket launching. We’ll see; I still have to teach her to weave. One day, I promise.

Waiting on Winter

Dylan has been lame. No particular reason for his lameness, he just came up sore one day. Left fore, I think carpal, hence a slow recovery. He is bored. Tough cookies, old man, you rest. I miss having him around. Dylan and I have been embarking on all kinds of adventures this summer. Not super-exciting-jetset adventures, but normal-dog adventures. We explore new places. We go to Good Citizen Dog Scheme class. Dylan passed his Bronze and Silver on the same day, in September. We’re working toward Gold. We started class and I realised I’ve never taught Dylan normal-dog stuff like loose-lead walking. Or how to be normal in a class full of other, normal, dogs. Normality is new for us.

Hey Daise

Daisy is cheerful. I want to practise ball retrieves but we’re on our flyball break until the end of October, and I want to enforce that. We have been working on agility instead, but not as much as I had wanted to. Sheep, in our field, ruining plans. Weaving is next on the list, after minor things like getting her KC registered, and major things, like getting her measured. Measuring is the next big hurdle, since it combines Daisy’s biggest fear, strange people reaching over her and blocking all forms of escape. Hopefully I can minimise this to me reaching over her and offering her exits if she wants them, but we shall see how generous the measuring folks are feeling. She’s an obvious Small, which should help.

Squirrel Watcher

Kim is Kim. Increasingly deaf, and therefore both more and less noisy. She looks like an old dog now. Not so much muscle mass, gets a little bit confused by simple things like how to turn around. But she is still sound, still hungry, still demanding, still opinionated. She still does her normal walks, although it’s at a slightly slower pace. Sometimes she still wants to chase birds, and does so. This is not particularly good for her old bones. She’s getting a little wiser about squirrels, and just watches them with narrowed, thoughtful eyes.

Squirrel Hunter

The squirrels have it hard. Rio is a mighty huntress (in her mind).

UKA Osberton – Competing (etc)

Osberton

I elected to go NFC in Beginners Jumping just so I could reward Rio’s weaves, which have been awesome recently. We have no weave problems, but I thought it would be nice to let her know how good she is. Of course, she promptly blew her mind with excitement and broke her weaves. First run of the day and she was away, no waiting, all barking, too fast for weaving. All my baby dogs (in fact, all young dogs that have trained with us) go through a phase of overpowering the weaves, where they get too confident and too powerful and too fast, and inevitably either a) pop the last 2 poles or b) pop out at weave 2/3. Rio did both! Not concerned, I’ll reward when she’s right and she’ll learn how to control it.

Steeplechase was … really boring. Accel – decel – pinwheel and repeat. Minimum spacing straight lines, no curves, no tunnels (!). Not my kind of course and definitely not Rio’s kind of course. It didn’t start well anyway as I dropped her toy behind her, assuming someone would pick it up, and they did not. So Rio released to her toy, oops! That messed up our start and then we added in some extra jumps, missed a few others out, knocked a few poles off … eh. Steeplechase II was the same course but one straight line of 2 jumps had been replaced with a straight pipe tunnel. More boring! Sorry judge; I do feel extra bad when I criticise courses now, but this was not my idea of fast, flowing Steeplechase.

For the Agility class, I just did a ton of Aframes. I’m adding the stop back in and wanted to get some aluminium Aframe experience under our belt. Rio nailed it, beautiful drivey Aframes with a lovely low stop. No worries on the aluminium either! Maybe one day we will be able to do agility classes again.

DylanDylan got to play in the POTD Triple-A, he blew his first contact and we had a short discussion about contacts, so he got the others. He has decided that after eight years of being a good boy, he doesn’t need criteria anymore. He had fun, so it’s cool.

Daisy also got to play! For a few minutes, anyway. There was a practice ring set up after Power & Speed finished, so Daisy and I went to play on the Jumping section. She was very excited but did apply her agility skills to new equipment and in a new environment successfully, so it counts as a victory. She also did great with fake-queuing. We just need to work on control and timing. There will be no “small-dog-handling” with Daisy, I need to be cueing early, or she’s off, taking whatever she sees. (Maybe I should get on with teaching her to weave, then she can do proper shows.)

We were all done with agility by lunchtime! It was a small UKA show and the scheduling of Rio’s classes meant we were done and dusted pretty early. But Osberton had the Horse Trials running and Saturday was the 2* Cross Country day, so we took Rio and Dylan to watch the horses doing their stuff. I love my horses and the weather brightened up to lovely late September sunshine, so we had a good trek around the XC course. I’m going to have to do this show again just for the horses, it was great!

Dylan didn’t care at all for watching the XC, but Rio couldn’t get over it. If she could have had a jaw-drop moment for the first horse she saw jump the big XC fences, she would have done! She didn’t bark, lunge, or generally act inappropriately, but she was fascinated and would definitely have done a little chasing if allowed. (It wasn’t!)

Daisy did do some wandering around the show, but it was all a bit busy and overwhelming for her. She did much better on the XC course proper, where there was loads of room. She is a hooligan for barking and “chasing” horses on the TV, so was quite entertaining to see she is a bit wary of horses in the flesh. Sensible choice, especially coming from Daze.

XC

A Daisy Update

The munchkin is learning, but slowly.

I haven’t really blogged a lot about Daisy, mainly because we’re still in the not-fun part of training. Daisy has issues, primarily with the way she handles stress (both kinds of stress). Her terrier wiring means that she is predisposed to go into “kill mode” when she experiences stress anyway, but with her initial eight months involving little actual training, her wiring is now pretty jumbled up. It’s the only way I can describe it! She doesn’t try and actually kill anyone on experiencing stress anyway, but in the past she was simply given a tennis ball (or had one anyway?). This has meant that tennis ball = calming, and without her tennis ball*, she struggles to find a way to calm herself down.

*None of our dogs are allowed tennis balls; they’re a high value item which are awkward to control.

She also has issues with fear and being restrained/restricted. This means that managing her stress responses in the house is difficult, mainly because I only have so many hands and four dogs to juggle. Her stress responses are also making her confusing to the other dogs, who aren’t sure how to deal with her sometimes. 80% of the time she wants to play and relax and run zoomies with Dyl and Rio, the other 20% of the time she doesn’t want them near her because they’re big and stressful and scary. Dyl and Rio don’t understand why some times are different to other times.

Mainly, what it all means, is that we put her in high-stress situations like flyball without understanding how it would add to her confusion. She’s been pulled from flyball and is learning some low-key agility, because she needs something to occupy her brain. I honestly don’t know if she will ever flyball, because the atmosphere is incredibly amped. I don’t know if she will ever do competitive agility, because I don’t think she can be measured and I don’t know if I trust other people to keep their dogs out of her space and under control.

However, all this makes Daisy sound terrible, and she’s not. She’s a confused girly who is starting to get to grips with the world, and to learn appropriate social reactions. She is learning how to bring herself back under threshold, and eventually she’ll learn that she doesn’t need to get above threshold in the first place. She is sweet and clever and funny and she loves her frisbee. She is learning how to swap a ball for a tug and is doing great box turns, and she can do jumps and tunnels. We do lots of BAT and LAT and shaping, and she comes to small shows and walks around the car park. Last time she got to walk past the entrance and she stayed very calm and relaxed the whole time, and sniffed the walls before we headed back to the car. I’m proud of how far she has come, but she has a long way to go yet.