Back

The blog is finally back online.

Dylan isn’t getting a lot of extra love now he’s officially retired; he isn’t coming to agility training any more, although hopefully I will have some new equipment to play with shortly so perhaps he can come and demo a few things for my outdoor classes. He is still doing flyball, and is finding his feet again, but disappointingly he won’t have a team to run with this year. We have only got one height dog now Daisy has been pulled from training, and we won’t run a team without a height dog. Dylan just isn’t fast enough for our first team, so I’ve pulled him from the lineups. Flyball is a team sport and our club was established on that premise, so it would be hypocritical of me to demand he gets to run just because I’m me! It is disappointing but it’s one of those things. I’m not holding out much hope for 2015 as Dylan will be 9, and should be starting to ease back from flyball competition anyway at that point. With what amounts to three years off, I’m a little doubtful he’ll even get on to the starting lineup at 9yrs old, but we’ll see!

We are going on a Working Trials day tomorrow though, although I’m not sure if I’m going to work Dylan or not. I already know that he will physically struggle with the Agility elements, but I’ll see if there is anything he does enjoy. One of the perks of working for a dog trainer, getting to crash seminars and workshops on a whim.

Daisy is both improving and … not. She has been doing very well with her agility training, but we had an unfortunate incident this week where she was “shut down” by another dog at training. It was an unfortunate circumstance where Daisy ran past a tunnel just as the other dog (let’s call her E) was turning off a jump. E is a little fear-reactive but as long as other dog’s respect her space, she is fine. Daisy ran up to E a few weeks ago and scared her, so E thought she was doing the same again and got in a pre-emptive strike. Neither dog was hurt but Daisy took a long time to stop hiding. She only really came back to normal-Daisy once the arena had cleared. Whilst I’m glad she didn’t react in any other way than to be scared, I’m a bit worried about how long it took her to bounce back. Another thing to work on.

All the dogs had a quick boxwork session this week (including Daisy!). Dylan is looking sharper, although he has a tendency to fall back into old habits and go wide, especially on full runs. It was nice to work on some close up stuff with him. Rio is looking excellent, we’re continuing to build on the Robbins’ Recalls and she’s slowly getting the hang of it. She’s swapping the ball for the tug fantastically though, I’m so proud of her! Daisy also did well, she stayed reasonably calm and worked hard. She always works hard, it’s the calm that’s tough! We’re chilling out this afternoon and watching some of the Winter Olympics.

Rolling On

Everything has started again for 2014; we’ve been back to agility training and done two flyball sessions now. Dylan and I also went on a Maintaining the Canine Athlete workshop with Veterinary Physiotherapist Hannah Michael, which was excellent. Would highly recommend! I learned loads and I’m trying to make changes now, which isn’t as easy as I had hoped (in terms of exercise). My dogs do a lot of free running but not much structured exercise, but I need to change some of that to get them as fitter.

As we did the muscle and joint checks, it was clear that Dylan was sore in his “usual” places; shoulders and lumbar. It doesn’t confirm my decision to retire him – that was comfortably made – but it makes me feel happier about it. He really enjoyed the stretches we did on the workshop too, he got very relaxed and comfortable about it all.

Dylan’s retirement day is this weekend at Wilmslow. I’ll still run him despite the soreness, which sounds terrible. It probably is, but I feel ok with it. It’s the kind of minor tension which doesn’t merit pain for a dog, just means they won’t run at 100%, and I don’t want him to do that anyway. He’s not quite 8yrs old but I am absolutely sure retirement is the right decision for him. Just as I was with Kim! I’m finding it very hard to explain why this is, but I feel very content with the decision. It makes me feel that our relationship is a good one, that I can see the very small things in my dogs which tell me that they are reaching the end of being able to physically give what is required.

He will carry on doing flyball. We trained on Sunday and he looked great, smoother and more confident than he’s looked for ages. I hope he has a team to run with over the summer but it’s not looking promising right now. We don’t have enough height dogs as we pulled Daisy from training.

Speaking of Daisy … she is learning to control herself around the other dogs again, and we’re going through her socialisation all over again. It’s frustrating at times, especially when some family members make small errors which set us back, but we’re on the right road. Right now it all seems worse because she’s in the dramatic teenage phase as well, which amplifies all the other issues. She is learning to trust us again, and we work on changing her stress responses. She is turning on the box now, without a ball, and she’s learning her agility foundation. She’s got her first class this week, although it’s just a environment introduction. She’s a dog who needs a job, and hopefully my Intro to Agility class will work for her. Rio is her biggest problem right now, because she can’t handle Rio’s energy levels.

Which nicely leads on to Ri! I love this dog, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that. Her joy is infectious. She’s triggering the box with the ball comfortably now, and did her first session of jumps to the box last week. No problems, although toward the end she started clowning around. She has a sense of humour, that’s for sure.

This week we started her Robbins Recalls, which didn’t go quite so well. Lots of ball spitting! Nothing we didn’t expect and we are making progress. Her striding and turn held up well, and she’s collecting the ball from the box at least. I think this will be the hard bit for her, she likes RUNNING and ACTION and that means glossing over the small details. We’re back on to using a toy instead of food though, and her focus and enthusiasm and drive is fantastic.

We still need to do some more work at agility, I’m starting to find the best handling options for her now. We need to do a bit of work on her jumping again, she’s a little bit hit/miss with take off points. Similar to above, Rio likes to GO, and thoughtful gets thrown out of the window. Instead of thinking, shortening, putting in an extra stride to find the appropriate take off, she just launches. K called it “bambi jumping” and that’s pretty much it. She’s like a deer, springing over things. We should probably do some of the extension exercises which would encourage her to skim the pole but most of them involve pole-knocking, and I fear it would be all too easy to have Rio think pole-knocking is the aim of the game.

Dogwalk and seesaw are still the mission. She does not like the seesaw, even with the RunAway game. I need to build her confidence on the dogwalk. It would be nice to run some agility classes before her 3rd birthday!

A Plan Comes Together

I love teaching weaves. There’s always a part where I hate it, right around the bit where it seems like we’ve been working on them forever and nothing is happening. But then it all comes together and I remember why I love it.

Rio

As you may have guessed, Rio’s weaves have clicked. She has beautiful weaves. I’m so happy I switched her back on to the Vs, her footwork is lovely and she’s getting her head down to drive through in the way I love. She’s going to be much, much, faster through the weaves than Dylan, and Dylan doesn’t have shabby weave speed, so that’s nice!

Rio

In the interest of fairness, I have to admit she has suddenly developed a block about me being on the right. We did a quick walk through with someone shadowing on the left and she was perfect, so I think it’s just a case of more training required. Independence looks good, she’s picking up easy entries off obstacles, and she’s done her first run of 6 to 6 weaves with lots of enthusiasm. Too much enthusiasm, actually, she does get very excited about multiple run throughs and starts going too fast for her own feet. I like the 6 > 6 method of taking them to 12 weaves, that’s my favourite part of the 2×2 method. Such an easy breakdown!

We haven’t done a lot of work on entries yet. I sometimes feel I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t train entries from day one, but I just don’t see the point. I trained progressively more difficult entries with Kim and Dylan was we went along, and only once they’d learned how to weave. It’s not like we’ll find hard weave entries in Grade 3 anyway.

Daisy

As one ends, another begins. Daisy has started learning her weaves as well. I’m hesitantly giving the 2×2 method another go, mainly because Daisy will drive to a dead toy and I think that’s sort of quite important for training this method. (Rio thinks dead toys are borrring.) If it’s not working out, we’ll switch to Vs and go from there. It’s all a bit experimental with Daisy, since I don’t know what her learning curve is like for complex skills.

A Long Wait

I don’t think I’ve ever gone a whole month without blogging before. Technically, I still haven’t, since I blog for The Phantoms and for North K9 as well, but I haven’t blogged here. My thoughts, my dogs, my blog.

I spent 12 days dog- and house-sitting in Cambridge for some flyballing friends whilst they were away in Canada. It was fun, I learned a lot, and I missed my dogs.

Dylan has Wilmslow this weekend and is appallingly unfit, I’m not sure I should even run him. He hasn’t trained anything beyond some single jump work, and 6 weaves, for 6 weeks. We’ll see. He has been tracking a few more times and he loves it. I do not love it, tracking is boring and it involves a lot of preparation work from me before Dylan can actually do anything. He is very good at tracking, he is methodical and accurate, and he can do corners and indicate articles. I never thought I’d get to the point of giving up whole days to stand in a field and shuffle around laying tracks just to make my dog happy, but apparently that’s where I am in my life now.

Rio continues to be wonderful in every way. Almost every way; she’s naughty about chasing squirrels, and she really HATES people visiting the house. We open the door to greet people and Rio goes INTRUDER ALERT ALARM BARK THESE ARE MY HACKLES INTRUDER BACK AWAY INTRUDER EVERYONE BACK AWAY IMMEDIATELY INTRUDER RARRRRRRR. I despair, and then she does something like her happy a-roooo and I forgive her. I could write essays about this dog and how much I love her. Every week she improves at agility, not just in focus but in skill. We need to work a little more on working at Large height, her take off points are a bit close. I remember Jet doing the same thing when she was younger, and Rio does the same things with her weaves that Jet did too (ie. hitting too hard, uncontrolled weave enthusiasm LOVE). If Rio ends up anywhere as good as Jet, I’ll be thrilled.

Daisy is being “managed” around the other dogs at the moment. She needs more consistent management and training from all family members to overcome her issues, but unfortunately that isn’t happening. I’m frustrated about that, because her issues are “fixable”, especially at her age and at this stage. She gets overexcited (over threshold, reactive, whatever word works to describe best) when the other dogs get overexcited, and she tries to shut them down/control the situation. Dylan and Rio ignore her, or get worried and offer lots of calming signals. Their reactions are appropriate (ie. socially acceptable) but I don’t like them to be put in a situation where they feel that way. Kim overreacts, but because of her age I think it’s easier to try and change Daisy than Kim. To be honest, part of this problem is due to the approach taken in her first 8months, which was just to stick a tennis ball in her mouth. It’s why her tennis ball obsession is so strong, as the tennis ball was a calming mechanism when she got over threshold, and has become (what I assume to be a) a rewarding behaviour on a chemical/hormone release level. A chew has the same kind of effect on her – give Angry Daisy a chew and it’s like flipping a switch to instantaneous nom-nom-nom relaxed Daisy.

She’s a case study. Maybe I should write her up for my KCAI. Worth mentioning that she is also cute and funny and fast, she has discovered the TV and takes it very seriously, and she loves playing with Dylan. He told her off for biting his ruff so now she asks him to play by hurling her whole body at his head and then bouncing off, accompanied by vocal persuasion. He always gives in.

I Only Blog When It's Going Badly

I have a tendency to be naturally suspicious of anyone who writes glowing, exciting blog posts when their training, handling, or competing is going perfectly, and skips over anything that isn’t fitting in to that. Especially those who then say things like “It didn’t go well, I’ve learnt a lot” and then utterly fail to explain exactly what went wrong and what they learnt.

Having said that, this isn’t a “thing are terrible” blog post.

Daisy

Daisy did her first sends over an agility jump this week. I need to work on her wait (she doesn’t have one) but she drives to her toy with great enthusiasm. She is 100% ON when training, and she’s all terrier feist and killing things. She’s also going to start learning her contact position this week. Tempting as it is to try running contacts, the same applies to Daisy as applied to Rio. I have no room and no access to equipment, so she’s going to do 2o2o and she’s going to do it well.

Rio has done a lot of single jump work this week. I wanted to play around with motion-based motivation, and I also wanted to build her drive off the line. She was super, of course. She is very good at getting out of the car and working immediately, it’s when we have to wait that I tend to lose her.

She did some ball retrieves on the flat at flyball, and then did her first hits with the ball in the box. This went about as well as expected! Some nice hits, but without the ball. Some attempts at grabbing the ball, but no hits. Some hits with sort of touching the ball, but not actually fetching it. This is the hardest part of box training this way, when two things get combined, and all in all she did well. She made an effort to turn and made an effort to grab the ball as well, it’ll come together soon. Pleased with her!

Lost in Lens Flare

Dylan’s flyball training is continuing to look good. His agility training looks great, as always. The Agility Nuts results went online and really, his times are so slow. I knew they were, but it’s worth seeing it in results order. He’s generally the slowest clear in the class (although interestingly, usually not the slowest to get around the course) and we have no where to go now in a competitive environment. He can’t reach his AW(G) collecting clear round points – we’re about 150pts short – and we’re well out of the placings.

If the courses were continually challenging, it might be worth entering for the variety, but they’re not. In terms of training skill, Grade 6 is easy for us. Partially, I’ll admit, because Dylan is slow, but also because Dylan has a high skill level when it comes to the things which are currently popular, like push-outs, independent contacts, tunnels-under-contacts, weave entries/exits. There are also two popular things which don’t suit Dylan at all, and make me worry; A) Aluminium contacts, and B) the long-jump-to-nowhere, which seems to be cropping up a lot in course designs and which Dylan struggles with physically.

So, Dyl will do Wilmslow in November, and Wyre in December, and then he retires from KC competitions. And my show diary for the winter now includes lots of unaffiliated shows for Rio.

Killer Terrier

Flyball Training

Flyball is a lot of fun at the moment. We’re focusing on individual skills work rather than teams; this is mainly because our dogs all need skills work, but also partly because not all our dogs are team-ready yet, and we haven’t made any decisions regarding lineups for next season. That will happen soon (I have my coloured post it notes at the ready).

Dylan is really improving, I’m so happy with him. He got to do his first full singles runs this week and he was awesome, great turns (great for Dylan, anyway) and really driving back to his toy. He’s going to be 8 by the time he competes again but I’m already psyched to be back at flyball tournaments with him, in a consistent team he’s really going to make a contribution and fulful the potential he has left. His fastest years are behind him now, unfortunately, but I hope he can still creep under 5s and maybe run in a sub-20s team again. Of course, all the pressure is now on for us to find a few decent height dogs!

Speaking of midget dogs, Daisyface did her first two jumps this week! A jump and a stride regulator, actually, but it was more about testing her striding then anything else. She started off on a 7ft gap and it gradually increased to 10ft, which she bounced comfortably. For a little dog she has a big stride! We’ll probably leave it at 8ft gaps until she gets to four jumps, just to really drill in the bounce strides, and then start extending it slightly. She’s still over 3″ puppy jumps anyway. She’s also started learning her paw targets this week, it’s adorable and she’s great at it.

Rio didn’t get to play this week as I want to make sure her pad is fully healed and unbreakable before she starts hitting the box again. She did get to play some CU games around the equipment, and because she did well with that, she also got to play some ball retrieves. We’ve been working on this as she was reluctant to spit last time we did it at training, and apparently we’ve now gone the other way; she won’t hold the ball, she just jaw-touches and then grabs her tug. This also makes me happy. It’s a lot easier to work with tug obsession over ball obsession!

Positive

I should probably stop late-night-blogging, I’m not sure it’s that coherent.

Since I finally realised that Rio’s issues are threshold related, so I went back and re-read Control Unleashed, and immediately felt better. I formulated a plan, and it’s already in action. We’re worked through the Take a Break exercises and she’s already improving in terms of focus and control, but she’s also relaxing faster on the breaks.

We’ll continue working on it during high-intensity training like agility and flyball, but during clicker sessions and general training during the day. Daisy is doing some CU as well, since it fits in nicely with her clicker training. She’s finally sort of getting the hang of things; she offered her first behaviour this week, nudging a box with her nose. She is not a paw-kind of dog, which means it’s going to be interesting teaching her to hit a flyball target. I guess that’s because she uses the paw-lift a lot as a calming signal though, and she’s not comfortable with being physically handled.

I’m at an event this weekend with North K9, which also includes a few demos. Somehow Dylan has turned into my go-to dog (when did that happen?!) but it’ll be a really good opportunity for Rio and Daisy as well.

Things to Do with Daisy

Miss Daisy is definitely finding her feet. She’s such a puppy! I’m getting to know her better and we had our first play session today with just us, no toys or treats.

Things I want to do this week with Daisyface:

  • More clicker training! Some offered object interaction would be nice.
  • Ball obsession work (my least favourite game)
  • More crate games — learning Go to Bed would be useful!
  • Recall work … she’s getting cheeky.
  • Play!
  • Get more photos

She is getting better at life. She’s better at interacting with other dogs, although she’s still quite reactive to dogs she meets on walks. This is generally just barking from a distance, ala Dylan, but because she has little to no reward system in place just yet (not one that she trusts to revert to), it’s difficult to regain her attention. She is also somewhat uncomfortable with people, and the main issue there is her rate of escalation, which is FAST; she goes from minor calming signals to snapping within seconds. (Snapping is air snapping, there’s no bite intention and her bite inhibition is great). She’s done this maybe two or three times? Always in situations where she’s tired. Tired Daisy = grumpy Daisy.

Interesting that she has absolutely no kill instinct though. Rio found a squirrel to play with this weekend (and got bitten by it) but Daisy had no desire to kill it (neither did Rio or Dylan … we left it alive and intact, but possibly ready to die from stress). She also didn’t register the Mink? Weasel? Thing? that crossed paths with us the other day.

Bit of research suggests Daisy is maybe a Plummer Terrier? Not a breed I’d ever heard of, and not much of a real “breed” at all, but rather a working terrier strain that mainly consists of Jack Russell with a bit of Beagle and Fell terriers from the 80s. Speculation, however!

Melting Hot

There were times when I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but it is nice to be back to flyball!

Dylan and Rio have done their first power jumping session at our new venue, and both looked good! I wasn’t sure Rio would be up for 8 jumps but apparently that’s not an issue. And Dylan loves power jumping, it’s his favourite kind of training; no brain activity involved, just go-go-go!

Rio skipped the session this weekend as she came up a little bit lame on Sunday morning, and I didn’t want to risk anything. Dylan worked and did well, his first time on the new box and he wasn’t too shabby. He’s never going to have an amazing turn, but he’s doing well with the transitions.

Daisy came too and did a few flat recalls. She does look cute when she’s running through the slightly too-long grass, but she’s a secretly a monster. She loves her tug and thrashes around at the box when she hears her ready-set-go, I’m going to have to work on training her not to do that! She starts her flyball course at the start of September so we’ll start training her target soon as well. She is getting slightly more operant!

We are all baking in the meantime. I don’t want to complain about the amazing weather but it is occasionally a bit warm even for me. If we could keep the sun and maybe stay around 20degrees, that would be super!