New Training Session

We had obedience class last night and at our club I was asked to help in the beginner’s class for this session.  I assist the other two instructors in that class, which was fun getting to see some new dogs coming into the training program and how their owners are responding to the class and homework with their dogs.  The only problem is that I gave up having Jasmine in the Versatility 2 class which is running at the same time as the beginner class.   Blueberry is in the Versatility 1 class, which follows the V2 class, our instructor said that she didn’t mind if I rotate Jasmine & Blueberry on alternating weeks.  At least Jasmine will be able to work in the class setting and I will just have to keep up with the homework on my own right now.

Blueberry is doing much better in busy, crowded settings, but she still stresses when she is on her own, without one of the other girls for some confidence.  She spent the first hour at school waiting in her crate, which after a little while she settled down.  Blueberry doesn’t do anything crazy, she just tenses and won’t relax.  Before we went to our class I walked her outside and got her playing with me to get her mentally having fun and to forget about the other people for a few minutes.  Once our class starts we have a minute warm-up time, our instructor expects us to some or all of the following, short heel pattern, spins, tugging, stretches, etc., anything to get our dog’s muscles loosened up and their focus on us.  I usually add some bunny hops, and “get close” work for Blueberry as she likes those moves.  We started class working on sits in front boxes with opposition reflex in a 360 circle, this is where we leave the dog in sit and put pressure on the leash with the dog putting opposing pressure against us to reinforce the sit position.  Blueberry does this very well and we are almost out to a 6′ leash on this, soon we will add a flexi and more distance.  We spread out and did “get close”, our having the dog in heel position, then sliding to the right with the dog moving sideways back into heel position.  An exercise to reinforce the “heel position” and the dog’s rear end awareness.  We also did some bunny hop work and Blueberry really does well at these two exercises and likes them.  We then lined up on the rail and worked on “get back”, clicking each time step back the dog took.  Blueberry caught on pretty quickly as we started this last session and she kept wanting to sit down instead of moving backwards.  Within a few sessions she got the idea and last night she was moving quickly back several steps at a time without trying to sit at all.

Putting the stand, get back, and get close commands together to complete a left turn was next on the lesson plan.  I really have to put some work into her stand command and response as she is really slow to stand up and many times I need to remind her with my hand on her belly.  At the top of our practice list this week to get a better response on that.

Circles to the right, then circles to the left, then we all fall down!!!  Oh, wait we didn’t fall down, but some got a little dizzy working on the circles!!!  An exercise that you wouldn’t think is that complicated, just need to walk in circles, right?  Wrong!  Trying to get your feet to walk in a straight track, look where you are going, keep your shoulders turned, feed your dog at the right time, keep their body bent to the right direction, not forging, or keeping up, whew no wonder we get dizzy on circles.  I can’t even count all the hours I have put into circles with my girls and still have to fix things.

Chair fronts were next, with me sitting in a chair and our instructor holding Blueberry.  Blueberry hates this one as Linda walks her away from me and holds her until I call.  Then Blueberry comes rushing in and tries to get a straight front, but was a little crooked last night and she is stopping farther back on her sits.  Another one to add a little more time in our practice this week.

Lastly we worked on touches/go outs, depending on where our dogs are.  Blueberry is still working on touching the stansion, but we are moving along a little faster now that I am actually working on it regularly.

After class I bought a Gentle Leader for Jasmine to see how that will work on her when walking her and dealing with our neighbor’s dog barking at her.  I used it this morning on her and Blueberry when I walked them, once they got the idea it worked nicely, so we will be using it on our walks from now on.

Cool & Breezy Tracking

I loaded the girls up at the crack of dawn this morning to get some tracking in.  I met up with my friend Joyce and her Golden at Astatula in an abandoned subdivision.  It has a long road shaped like an “L” with plenty of land on both sides, an orange grove to the back of one section, a playground, and lots of dirt paths, dips, and changes of cover to work with.  As we only get together every 3 or 4 weeks due to my schedule and how far apart we live we have to spend a few minutes catching up and deciding where and what each dog will track.  Today was the perfect day for tracking, it was in the mid ’60s when I arrived with a good breeze.  We had rain over the weekend so it wasn’t as dry as it has been.

Joyce headed off to put a track in for Blueberry, I wanted to work on change of cover as the last two times out we had distance and long aging for her tracks.  so, Joyce was going to use one side of the orange grove and I headed off to use the other side for Micah’s track, which she wanted long and to go through the playground and dry retention pond on the opposite side of the playground.

I put the beginning of Micah’s track into the orange grove, with an article dropped in the grove, and then came out into the field to make a right turn and head towards the playground.  On this leg I had two article drops about 100 yards apart with smaller articles that he would have to think about when working the track.  I headed into the playground and through the jungle gym to exit on the other side and go into and out of the retention pond to my last turn on the other side and the glove at the end of that leg.  The long leg ended up being just over 300 yards as I didn’t judge the distance when I started the track.  It worked out okay in the end as the track was 505 yards total length and he would get many different elements on this track.

I then had to walk all the way back to the trucks, which were quite I distance at the other end of the subdivision.  Joyce had Blueberry’s laid and while we waited for it to age, she went ahead and put one in for Chauncey in another field behind us. I stayed and took pictures of a dragonfly that insisted on sitting on my truck and posing for me, he wouldn’t leave me alone.

Blueberry’s track had aged about 45 minutes, so I gave Joyce my camera and harnessed Blueberry up.  Blueberry loves to track and was ready to go, at about 15 yards before the start flag I have her sit and transfer the lead from her collar to the harness.  I use this to signal to them that they are getting ready to work.  I found that many times they are already on the track and if I stop them at the flag it breaks up their work, this way they can just track on in.  Blueberry’s track started out with a long leg with the wind blowing across it from right to left, so she worked a little to the left of the track and at one point she drifted off a little more as there were a couple of birds in some thick weeds off to the side.  when they flew off she didn’t really notice them, but did come back to the track area.  She took the first turn very nicely, it went to the right and now she was working with the wind in her face which really brought the scent strongly to her and she leaned in and pulled hard.  At the next turn it took her an extra double-check before she headed off to the left and into the orange grove.  This direction was trickier as we crossed a dirt rutted path from the truck that came along the orange grove and working between the tree rows adds another element to how the scent lands in there.  She worked this leg very well, finding her first article a few yards into the grove, and made a right turn that went down one of the rows of orange trees and found another article about halfway down the leg.  We then came to an area that had some small trees and a couple of dead trees, so it was more open.  She worked the turn before committing to the leg headed to the right and out of the grove.  A few yards onto this leg she started to drift to the left as if the leg went at an angle instead of straight, I followed as I wasn’t sure which way Joyce went.  After working it for about 10 yards, Blueberry started to backtrack and move back to the right where she came back to the actual track and followed it out of the grove.  At this point we came to the dirt/weed area the surrounds the edge of the grove before it changed back to the grassy field.  Blueberry started working back and forth at the edge of this area and I could tell she was on the verge of shutting down on me.  Just a couple of feet after the cover change I could see her last article laying there, so I just stood still and let her think it through.  After about a minute working on it she went forward and then caught the scent of the article, where she got a lot of praise and some food fed on the article.  It gave her the extra burst of approval she needed to finish the leg, work the last turn and head into the wind, almost running to her glove.  She did an amazing job working through a tough track with change of cover, trees, dips, and ruts to make her nose work harder.  I am loving that her love of tracking is still strong, but her drive to get to end has really shown up and she has been committed to the end in conditions that she doesn’t like to work in, mainly, heat!!!  Blueberry’s track was 435 yards long in the end.

We headed back to the truck and traded out for Chauncey to work her track.  Chauncey’s track had aged about 30 minutes by the time we got to it.  She was ready to go and committed right away.  Chauncey is not a heavy puller, but steadily works her tracks.  She checked her first turn both ways before committing to the right, which she worked about 5 yards beside the actual track because of the wind pushing her off of it.  She came to the second turn which she took with no problem, but halfway down this leg she found her first article.  She started working again, but caught sight of the article on the next leg, an orange bandanna, she would go a little off track in that direction and I just waited, then she would come back to the leg we were on work a few more yards and try to go that way again.  I didn’t stop her, just did not move with her as she thought about what she was doing.  After three times of doing this she came back to her current leg and worked it to the turn and then to her second article.  She finished that leg to find her glove at the end.  Her track was 240 yards long at the end.

When we got back Joyce headed off to another section to lay a simple track for Jasmine as I am trying to get her interest up for tracking, she is not a tracking fool like the other two and I am having to teach her a lot more that Chauncey and Blueberry came by naturally.  When Joyce was finished we headed out as I wanted them pretty fresh for her right now.  Joyce laid a series of three tracks, each one was about 70 yards long with the start and 30 yard flags, then a glove, then Joyce made a turn and a yard after the turn she started the next track, with flags and glove at the end, the did this one more time.  We wanted to get Jasmine to do a short track but then see if she would just take the turn and start the next track on her own, a kind of variation on teaching turns.  Jasmine did pretty well on the first track, she puts her head down and just slowly pranced down the track with no pressure on the line at my end.  She came to the glove, got her reward and praise, so I just stood up and waited, she then put her head back down and went right onto the second track like we wanted, “Good girl!!”. Just before we came to the second glove I focused on the fact that there was almost no contact between her and I on the line as she just does not pull.  I know I need to have some pressure on the line so I know when she commits to a track and she knows that I am moving with her or stopping, like having a conversation with your horse through their reins.  After rewarding her at the second glove, she nosed around a little before headed down the third track, only this time I applied a very light, steady pressure to the line as she turned and before I followed her.  I kept the pressure up and released it only slightly if I felt her give in the harness like I was stopping her.  She found her last glove and did very well.  I know we will be out and running short fun tracks now and working on adding more pull on her part and getting her used to pressure on the line and the it is a good thing to encourage her to move forward.

I then followed Joyce and Micah on their track, which he was slow getting the started but then really did well.  He worked through the grove well, and down the very long leg, finding both his articles there.  Micah went right into the playground with no problem, but wouldn’t go through the equipment, instead he circled the edge of the playground until he picked my scent up on the exiting side and then finished his track very nicely!!!

We had a great day tracking, I love seeing the steps forward my girls are taking and how much I am learning to recognize what they are doing and what I need to do to help them in different areas.  I am hoping to get Blueberry certified at a clinic in June, so we will see how that goes.  If Chauncey is doing well, might try her as well for a certification.

Exercising Becomes Training

All I wanted to do with this plan was to get in better condition, run a little in the morning with Blueberry and we both benefit in the long run.  Then we start meeting our neighborhood rabbit on our early morning runs and now we have added a training program along with running.

I was at Maggie’s this past Saturday to groom her Poodles and during our conversation discussed how I was having to run and drag Blueberry by the bunny.  Maggie told me to click and treat to get Blueberry’s attention on me and not the rabbit.  Why do I not think of these things and Maggie does??

Thankfully, the bunny just sits on the side of the road and watches us go by, if he ran we would be in big trouble as Blueberry’s chase instinct would kick in.  So, now I will be up at 5am exercising with Blueberry and trying to figure out how to click and treat while running.  Such fun!!

Organizing: Training & Exercise

I wanted to talk about the painful exercise part before I get into the technical training stuff:o)  I have wanted to add an exercise program to my “losing weight” goals.  I find that even after losing almost 40 pounds now, that I have to get my muscles back in shape.  I am a very active person when it comes to being outside, riding horses, training the Poodles, working in the yard, or even hiking around the lake or into the woods to get a good picture.  What I don’t like to do is formal exercise, other than walking.  I have heard several friends talk about a website called “Couch to 5K” that they followed to help them get in shape.  I decided to check it out and just be nosey.  After reading through it (and finding an app for my iPhone) I decided to give it a try, what could it hurt, right?  Apparently it could hurt me a lot when I headed out at 5am this morning with Blueberry, she was the guinea pig I chose to get in shape with me, to complete the first day’s goal.

The program has you run for 90 seconds, then walk for 60 seconds, with a warm-up walk and cool down walk.  I made it through 6 of 8 walks and 7 of 9 runs before my body quit and screamed at me that I was an idiot to try this.  All day I have been in pain and my legs don’t want to work right, they are so stiff.  I am going to cut the first weeks routine in half and then next week see if I can do the full-time.  Blueberry doesn’t help much as she would much prefer sniffing along the roadside to trying to get in condition, and the neighborhood rabbit didn’t help much by deciding that 5am is when he needs to sit on the edge of the road and then run when Blueberry comes by.  Try jogging while pulling your Standard Poodle that wants to run backwards after the yummy looking bunny.

So, stick around and see if I live through this torture I am inflicting on myself.  Oh, since I am talking about being organized, the app I found has a nice way to organize my runs for me, a journal to keep track of what happens and it records my progress of each weeks goals.  It also have this lovely voice that keeps telling me to run when I have barely caught my breath and my legs are burning from the last 60 second run, if you haven’t figured it out by now, running is not an exercise I have ever been eager to try.  I would much rather lift weights or do push-ups, which I do pretty well, thank you very much.

Now for the fun part of my organizing project, the girls training.  I do need to squeeze something in this post about them since it is their blog.  We have two weeks before our classes start back up at the training club and I sat down to review our past lessons and see what exercises need to be polished up and what just needs to be reviewed.  Some days when I am training it seems like I have too much material to cover with each dog, even though I keep notes on what we work with and on each session, it still requires me to sit down every once in a while and review it all.  I did that today and made a list for each dog of what exercises need some polish and what exercises I need to add to get to our goals for the show ring.  Hopefully, this will help to keep each training session more focused on each individual dog’s needs.  Now we being the technical part for those of you who become bored as soon as I mention “Poodles” and “Training” in my posts.

Blueberry-will be going into the jump skills class for the next 8 weeks and needs the versatility skills, plus some different ones.

1) Working on the right side really needs to get polished up and have time spent every session on this as she hates the right side.

2) Work on turns and pivots for jumping.

3) Need to have me in the standing position now for rounded jumping repetitions.

4) Speed up fold-back down and increasing the down time before releasing.

5) Work on swish poles with the broad-jump, alternate with plate work.

6) Pop-up stand needs to be faster and more consistent, less cookie and more hand signal.j

7) More polish for fronts, use chair, front box, and cookie toss through legs.

8) Build up time for sit & Down stays with Opposition Reflex.

9) Finish nose bridge work.

10) More beat the pop games.

Jasmine-will be taking Chauncey’s place in the Versatility 2 class and knows much of the work but is not as steady as the class requires for attention and holding still.

1) Need to refine her hand signals and start adding distance to them.

2) Keep adding opposition reflex work to her stand, she has to get her front feet solid.

3)Fronts need to be more solid and straight, she has to slow down earlier as to mot overshoot her front.

4) Add more distance to plate work, she needs to be close to 15 feet now.

5) Work on glove turns #1 & #3

6) Has to pick DB off floor and hold it longer.

7) Longer times for sits & downs.

8) Understands the “close” command, needs work on the “get back”.

9) More “round the clock” for her broad jump.

10) Longer touch on nose bridge work.

11) Needs to be able to go either direction on brick work.

12) Needs to be touching ring stansion from more distance.

Chauncey-no jumping and mostly having fun

1) Finish article search game in house.

2) add more plate work and pivot/turn work.

3) keep the db game revved up

Breakthroughs and Good Stuff

I was so looking forward to tracking yesterday, packed my stuff and was up at 5:30am to leave the house at 7am and still managed to be about 30 minutes late to our meet-up.  I arrived a few minutes after 9:15 and Joyce and another lady, Jodi, were already there with a couple of tracks laid and aging.  One track was run about 30 minutes beforehand and we decided to reuse the track so I chose Chauncey to go on it.  Joyce had laid a 600yd track for her Alex that went over/through a huge pile of old truck tires that had been dumped on this man’s land.  It then went up through the edge of the woods and then through the pasture and over the road and back again.  I followed Joyce on Alex’s track before running Chauncey.  Alex did very well, he wasn’t sure how to get through the tires, but once Joyce started climbing into them he jumped ahead of her and went off into the woods.  He worked out the track as it crossed the two lane road and finished up very nicely.  Joyce’s dog’s have their TD’s, so she is getting them ready for TDX tests.

Chauncey was up next and her track (I have lost the map with exact yardage) was not real long but was an open box with 2 turns.  Chauncey worked the first leg very well as it went up a small hill, at the top of the hill was her first turn.  She started on the second leg but then wanted to go backwards and towards the other side of the hill.  She kept looking that way and then coming back to the track.  Once she came back to the leg and worked more to the lower side of it the scent was strong enough to pull her in and she went to the next turn worked that and finished the third leg to the glove with regular Chauncey style.  I believe what was happening at the top of the hill is the strong breeze was coming over from Alex’s track and drawing her in.  By just holding my spot she worked it out figured out the correct one to follow.

Before I ran Chauncey, Jodi laid a short track for Jasmine and Joyce headed off to lay a track for Blueberry.  So we talked a little after Chauncey’s track and then it was Jasmine’s turn.  Jasmine is not into tracking and even after all these years, sometimes I wonder if she is sure what the goal is.  She trotted into her track putting her head down every few feet.  With some encouragement from me she made the turn and found her glove.  She just likes to get out and spend time with the others:o)

Jodi made the comment after Jasmine finished that Poodles worked very different from Goldens.  I had to tell her that she hadn’t seen Blueberry track yet.  So, we talked some more and Jodi passed around chocolate chip cookies while I got Blueberry harnessed up.

We headed off to track with Joyce following.  Blueberry’s track was 375 yds long, aged over 1 1/2 hours, and the temps (which had started out in the low 60s) were in the middle 70s by now.  Blueberry does not care to work in the heat and I was concerned that she would shut down on me.  Blueberry started well on the first leg, moving right down it and made the first turn with ease.  The second leg ran parallel to the woods, about 10yds from the edge.  She worked the leg well while being pulled to the woods.  This was a long leg, about halfway down was her article, which I did not see, and as she was tracking offside of the actual leg she had to work her way back to the article which she did with out overshooting it.  We went on and about 3.4 of the way down and off the track she stopped to sniff something and decided that she need to roll in whatever that smell was:o)  She went back to work and worked out this turn with a little circling.  This turn and turn #3 were a little tough as she was working uphill and the breeze was blowing downwards.  Blueberry had to try a little more to be sure of the correct direction.   Her next leg was short and she worked the fourth turn with ease.  The fifth leg had an article on it a 1/4 of the way down, which Blueberry indicated and got her treat on, she then went back to work.  A little farther down the leg was a large toy truck that was in the middle of the field, Blueberry looked at it but went on as she figured out quickly that it wasn’t right (some animal had pooped on the truck and Blueberry knew that it not normal to find on an article).  She worked the last turn and leg to the glove with the ease that I expect Blueberry to track with.  This track was awesome for her, not in the length or the ease that she worked it out.  It had difficulty in length and age, plus the added work uphill and with a strong breeze.  What was so awesome and possibly a good breakthrough was that she tracked in the heat and did not once show signs of quitting or running back to mom because she was too hot.  I loved seeing that maturity come out in her tracking, made me so proud of her.

We will have to get back out again and keep this up.  Blueberry  doesn’t know it yet, but we are starting a conditioning program.  I need to get in better shape and am starting a walking/running program called “Couch to 5K” and Blueberry has been elected to be my training partner.  I think that it will be good for her and maybe help to push her level up towards the strength and endurance she will need for a TDX track.  I will only be talking about this on my blog and not real publicly unless I really see results.  Exercising is not my favorite thing to do so this will be a real commitment for me to try.  I will keep notes along with the girls training as to how we are doing.

Tracking and Alligators

At least the title made you look!  There were no alligators on our track today, although I did end up at the lake’s edge trying to fit the track into the piece of land I was using and did check for gators before running Blueberry.

I planned to take Blueberry tracking today at a new area I found that is part of a medical center just down from where I work.  There is not a lot of land, but enough to get almost a whole TD length in.  We awoke to a gentle rain this morning that is ushering another cold front in.  Almost perfect tracking weather for Florida, cool and not humid, with dampness to hold some scent after the freezes and dried, brown grass everywhere.  Once I arrived and went back into the area, I found “No Trespassing” signs and new construction using up much of the land.  A little disappointed, but still wanting to do something I headed back to the clinic and decided to fit a track into the 3 1/2 acres next door.  The rain let off while I plotted the track and then after aging for 40 minutes it was drizzling again while we tracked.  Blueberry had fun and did a nice job on a tough track because all the legs were closer than I would have liked to each other.  Below is a technical description of the track and Blueberry’s tracking efforts.  I was pleased and am trying to find more locations locally so we can get out more often.  All the places that have room and different types of cover or obstacles are fenced and I have no idea who owns them.  We usually travel over an hour away to meet friends at some places that have a lot of room to use.

Weather: Overcast, drizzling, temps in the mid ’60s                                                                     Short grass, with some sandy areas                                                                                          Aged for 40 minutes                                                                                                                       Ran track in 11 minutes                                                                                                          Length 225 yds, 3 turns (3 right, 1 left), 1 article on 3rd leg (stuffed toy)

I sat Blueberry about 8 yds from the start flag, changed her line to her harness and gave her the “find it” command.  Blueberry put her nose to the ground and went to work, pulling steady to the first turn, which she overshot by about 5 yds.  This turn was a little tricky as I had to make an acute right turn due to being almost in the woods and I needed to get some left turns in as well.  She worked the turn and picked up the scent but circled for a minute until I backed up several steps and then she came back far enough to pick up how the leg almost doubled back on itself.  She was steady on the 2nd leg, but about 3/4 of the way down I saw her catch the scent from the article I dropped on the 3rd leg.  She was still working the 2nd leg but kept veering to the left and then coming back to the correct leg.  Blueberry did cut the open left turn by about 3 yards, so I wasn’t too worried about that as she was hot on the 3rd leg and headed straight to the article.  She did not look up and sight it either, she kept her nose down working the scent.  Blueberry loves finding articles and getting a reward at them.  Sometimes I have more than one, but wanted to back off a little on them in getting her ready for a TD certification and test where she won’t have one at all.  At the 3rd turn she had to work again, it was another right turn that was a little more acute than a 90 degree turn, but not as bad as the first turn.  The turn was about 15 yds in front of the woods and that kept pulling her in, so I backed up a couple of feet and just let her work it out.  She circled for a couple minutes and then stopped by my side.  This usually indicates that she is shutting down on the work part of the track.  I just stood there quietly and told her to “find it” one time, no hand signal or body movement.  Blueberry thought for about 30 seconds and then she put her nose down, headed to the right and was on track again.  She  was a little to the left of my actual track but had her head down, working the scent right up to the glove.  After her reward on the glove, she wanted to head for the water, but I made a quick retreat back to the truck.  No taking chances with all the alligators in that lake, especially as we see them here and there up on the land behind our clinic.

A pretty good day and track for Blueberry, now to keep it up and get her out more regularly.  I would like to get a track in with her once a week just to keep her stamina up and her nose/brain working.

Hopes Dashed

There are times when you are asleep, but you know one of the dogs is doing something different.  I felt one of the girls get out of the bed and heard them get into the crate and lay down.  Jasmine sometimes does this but in the wee hours of the morning this is not typical.  I flipped on the light and saw that it was Chauncey in the crate, so I crawled out of bed to see what was going on.  Chauncey does not voluntarily get in a crate, ever, ever, ever.  So, I was a little worried but she came out and seemed okay, so I started getting ready for the day with one eye on her.  Not too long after that I saw that she was walking stiff and not lifting her head, so I knew she hurt her neck again.

I immediately knew that this injury will end any hope I had of getting her CDX title.  This title has always been a dream of mine to get with Chauncey and I feel like such a failure as a trainer that we haven’t earned it yet.  To be so close, but just not make it really is depressing and a let down.  Sometimes I get stuck on what my goals are and if we don’t reach them really kick myself for it and see all the “we should have’s” and “what if’s” looming up before me.    Having to start over with all our training at the age of 5 years because it just wasn’t working for her and then having to adjust training to find what worked best with Chauncey took longer as well.  Dealing with injuries has thrown a kink in training, for her and I, in years past, there is always something that wants to interrupt plans.  I never thought that I would get her to retrieve and after a long year that is one of her favorite exercises, so I know we have learned a lot of good things together and she has helped me a be a better trainer for my next dogs.  I just wanted her to have that title for her name and know that we accomplished our big goal.

Now to let her heal and play with tracking and see if we can at least get her TD title.  I do still have Jasmine and Blueberry to train and get them in the ring.  I will feel better in a couple of days and realize that it is for the best, but man, it really hurts right now.

Our Not So Great Open A Debut

I decided to enter Chauncey this past weekend in a 4 day show in Brooksville.  It was being held outdoors and I knew the weather would be cooler for her.  Getting ready for the show we were focusing on her jumping as that has been our area with the most issues.  I know we have trained this past year, but not to the extent that we should have to be ready and deal with jumping issues.  A part of me did not want to have Chauncey re-injure her back and the other part did not want to struggle with her every time we jumped.  Why is it that you always see where you failed your dog once you look back.

Friday-We were scheduled to be the 4th and last entry in our class.  I arrived about 2 hours ahead of time to let Chauncey and me settle in, find out where we would be and warm up a little.  I left Chauncey warm in her crate in the truck as I was about 60 feet from the ring and it was a very breezy 32 degrees outside.  Watched some of the other classes go and about an hour ahead of our class I took Chauncey out to warm up over the broad jump.  I thought she might jump better in the ring if she wasn’t going to jump cold.  We did 3 broad jumps and Chauncey was amped, tail up, flying over them with great enthusiasm, no hesitation at all.  It really helped my confidence in her going into the ring.  About 2 entries before our turn, I did a couple of DB retrieves and a short warm-up heeling.  Just before going in we did a few cookie tosses through the legs and a nice front.  I didn’t feel nervous like I had felt in the past.  I was focused on Chauncey, keeping her attention and revving her up between exercises, so that she didn’t lose her connection from me.  We had a nice heeling pattern, a little lag on the 2nd about turn, but Chauncey caught up for a nice sit in heel position.  The figure 8 wasn’t too bad, she had some lag on the right circles, but got both her sits.  Chauncey’s lagging gets worse as she stresses in the ring, so I knew to play a little with her on our way to the next part.  Wow, she had an awesome drop on recall, fast and all the way down.  A little slow on the last part of the recall, but nice front and no finish.  Her retrieve on flat was awesome, she ran out for the dumbbell, tail going the whole time, a fast pick up and nice trot back to me.  Chauncey had a very nice front and finish.  We moved to the high jump.  Chauncey took off over the jump with great enthusiasm, grabbed her dumbbell, and I saw her think and then she trotted back around the jump.  I knew we were in trouble then.  We headed to the broad jump, I gave the jump command and she didn’t even try, just came right to me.  I wasn’t upset as we keep dealing with these exact jump issues in training.  Just wish I could figure out what she is thinking to help fix this problem.  As we were the last ones, we immediately came right back in the ring for groups.  Only 3 came for the groups as one person was excused after his dog ran out of the ring.  When we left for the sits, one of the dogs ran after his handler, so there was only 2 of us behind the tent.  When we returned Chauncey was sitting where I left her, but after the judge told us exercise finished, he told me not to praise her too much as she laid down and then sat back up just before I returned.  We set up and left for the down, came back to find her standing about 3 feet in front of where I left her.  This part was a surprise, as she has been doing so well at home, in class, and in the WC Open classes we had entered, no breaks there.  Oh well, went home to think about what I needed to try the next day that might change things.

Saturday-I decided not to arrive as early, we were only about an hour ahead of time.  I didn’t do any warm up jumps or heeling.  I did a couple dumbbell tosses, some quick “get close”, and fronts just before going in the ring.  Other taking her out to potty, she was in her crate until right before ring time.  I was thinking that I warmed up too much the day before and took the edge off her ring work.  The judge, Stephen Ambrosio, was running the dogs through very quickly.  He called us in, I set her up and then bumped her with my leg which caused her to stand up, as I moved to correct it, the judge asked if I was ready and said “forward”, then he said “Oh, you aren’t ready yet”.  He hadn’t given me a chance to respond.  I got her ready took a deep breath and told myself don’t get flustered and we went off to heel.  I felt she did pretty good, had sits, but did lag more on the last leg and about turn, but Chauncey caught up for a nice sit.  Her figure 8 was better than the day before, so I calmed down a little.  The judge was very quick and barely gave us time to set up before asking if we were ready, once I told him “not yet” as I had to fix her sit.  Chauncey did not go down on the first command, so I told her “down” again and she dropped right down, but both parts of her recall were very fast.  I don’t remember which exercises it happened on but she gave me several fronts without sits, but all her fronts, sitting or not, were very straight.  Her retrieve on flat was awesome again, lovely tail wagging, happily ran out to it with a fast pick-up and springy trot back.  So, nice to see Chauncey happy about her retrieve in the ring or anywhere for that matter.  The high jump wasn’t pretty, I gave her the “jump” command and she started but turned back and came front.  The broad jump was the same as before, gave the command and she just came front.  I know I was starting to get flustered and Chauncey was getting slower on her sits in the set-ups.  When we went to set-up for the Retrieve on flat I had to tell her 2 times to sit and the judge made the comment “she doesn’t listen very well does she”.  I probably should have pulled her from the groups at this point, but we barely left the ring and the judge called everyone back in for the groups.  This time Chauncey held her sit until seconds before the judge called us back and the down, she sat up almost immediately and about 3 minutes into it, I could hear a soft bark from her, she did that about 3 times.  I knew she was stressing, probably a lot from me and my stressing.

I didn’t feel that upset about our performance as I knew what might happen with the jumps, which did happen.  At this point I don’t know what to do with the jumping, except go back to square one and work back up again.  More proofing on the broad and high, the high I think I need to lose the dumbbell and go back to plate work so I can correct.  I haven’t wanted to correct with the dumbbell as that has to remain a positive thing for her.

Definitely need to go back to proofing our out of sights and in sights.  I have not had an issue with them and in looking back there was a lot of stress from me, especially the last day.  I also did not review them and keep them fresh in her training before the show.  In all honesty I neglected the groups with my focus going to the jumps and dumbbell work before the show.  That I know was a handler error as Chauncey deals with separation issues and I should have been keeping them fresh in her mind.

I know I can’t blame what happened on the judge, but I will not show to him (at least with Chauncey) again.  I don’t think he was considerate of a green person in Open A, that is a tough class and yes, some is my fault, but come on at least be encouraging and give me chance to set up and not discouraging when I can already see that my dog is stressing and not listening to me.

At this point I am going back to the drawing board with her jump training and see what happens.  Chauncey is 10 1/2 years now, I am not sure if I should push on and try to deal with the issues or let her retire and focus on the younger two.  I guess one weekend out in the open classes isn’t a fair review to tell me that these can’t be resolved.

Trying New Things

I took the girls tracking today for the second time this month after not tracking since May.  All of them took right up where we left off.  I love that about tracking, time off always seems to sharpen their drive and focus on the track.  We met up with my friend, Joyce, and her Goldens.  I had a late start so by the time we arrived Joyce had her boys tracks laid, which is probably good as they usually have longer laid and different obstacles as they have their TD’s, so Joyce is working on TDX stuff.  We decided to have Blueberry run on the first part of Alex’s track after he had run it.  Joyce would just drop an extra glove at the right distance while running it with Alex and then we would let it age for about 45 minutes because it was doubled laid.  Joyce had articles on the track so she was just going to leave them for Blueberry to find again.  By the time we finished talking and discussing what we were doing Joyce got Alex out to track.  Her grandson was along to hang out with her so he followed right behind Joyce while they worked the track.  Alex did very well even with a small boy following along and I am sure asking questions. Once he was done, Joyce headed off to lay Chauncey’s track in another field, while I headed out to lay one for Jasmine.

The area I chose to lay Jasmine’s track was in a field of mowed grass that is usually pretty tall and thick with weeds and tall grasses.  It had troughs/ditches where the wheels of the tractor had gone with thick, mowed grass in between.  After talking with Joyce, I decided to lay a track with 2 turns as Jasmine struggled with her turn on her last track and I thought it would give her some turn practice.  The first leg started crosswise to the direction that the tractor went, came out of the deep thick grass to a smooth, short grass where I placed the first turn at 60yds.  I added a toy/article about 4 strides after the turn to help encourage her to continue working after the turn, went about 10yds and headed back into the deep grass walking parallel to the direction of the tractors wheel ruts.  Another 60yd leg and a right turn in the deep cover to again go crosswise to the tractor mark for 60yds and the glove.  I also left another toy/article again about 4 strides from the turn.  The ground was damp as I laid the track around a bayhead area.  I let it age for about 15 minutes.  By the time I made it back to the trucks after laying it, Joyce was back from laying Chauncey’s track and had Micah starting his track.  I took my time walking back to the start flag with Jasmine to let it age more.  Jasmine started very nicely and worked through the tractor ruts like I expected.  She would head straight over the mowed grass and then head down each rut we crossed a yard or so following how the scent was pulled down it, then come back to the line of the track.  She worked the first turn with no problems and indicated the toy.  She checked the track as we changed cover from short grass to the deep mowed grass.  Jasmine did well on the second leg until about 30yds into it and a plane flew over that was landing at a nearby airport, so was low and loud.  It startled her and she lost her focus after that.  This is not something unusual for this field and dogs that have not tracked there before.  Many a dog has blown test track because of the planes.  Jasmine got to the second turn and it took her a little to work it out, then she pretty much shut down on the last leg.  She didn’t want to track and every couple yards was stopping and coming to heel position.  I would give her the track command and she would work a couple yards and then stop again.  She found the glove and we had a party and the left the field.  One thing I noticed with Jasmine is that she was happy walking behind me as we walked out of the thick areas.  Blueberry and Chauncey are always ahead of me, tracking the track layer out of the field.  For now we will be going back to one turn tracks and do some tracking games with her to build up drive and build her foundation skills more.

Joyce was waiting for us when we made it back to the trucks.  Blueberry’s turn was next and she loves to track and is an excellent worker, with tons of drive.  When she tracks Blueberry is in the persons footsteps and goes straight to the glove without stopping to hunt or get distracted along the way.  She has been in two tests but failed both times because she shuts down and won’t leave me with all the strangers watching and I am sure some of my nerves get to her as well.  Even going to training class stresses her with all the crowds, she is my momma’s girl and a bit on the timid side.  I had this great idea to have Joyce handle her on the track instead of me, add some stress for her to work through and see how she would handle it.  Joyce agreed and got her started as I stood by the truck.  Blueberry didn’t want to leave and Joyce really had to work to get her to get busy. At about the first turn I decided to hide behind Joyce’s van and see if that helped.  On the second leg Blueberry started working better and by the second turn she was pulling Joyce down the track with only occasional stops to look back at the cars for me.  By the last leg, she was into her harness and pulling Joyce to the glove.  Joyce had a big party for her at the glove and then headed back to me.  About halfway to me Joyce let her go and she came charging in for hugs and back scratches from me.  I was liked that Blueberry was able to work through her stress and Joyce came back amazed that she was pulling her like a Golden.  Joyce said that Blueberry found all her articles and one was a 4”x6” pieces of particle board that she was off the track a couple feet, went past it and worked her way back to it.  This really gives me more confidence in Blueberry’s ability to handle stress better while tracking.  I don’t have a map for her track as I forgot to have Joyce draw a copy in my tracking book.

Chauncey’s track was next and her’s was in a mowed field with short, green grass.  She had 2 turns with articles on each leg.  With all of my girls I have them leashed on the flat collar until about 10yds before the start flag, I have them sit and switch the line to their harness and let them track from that point.  I was taking the start flag, downing and changing the line there.  My trainer pointed out to me that Chauncey was tracking strong heading into the track, then I would down her and restart her.  At that point she would lose her focus and get very jerky and do a lot of casting on the first leg.  Changing my starting style really helped her to remain focused on her track and I just continued it with the others.  So, back to our track, she worked very nicely and stepped on the articles, indicating them nicely for me.  At the third turn the last leg was running crossways to the direction the wind was blowing and she overshot the turn.  I backed up a few yards before the turn and let her work it out, which she did and headed right to the glove.  Chauncey is getting very confident on her turns and much better at pulling me once she has committed to the next leg.  I really work on myself not to immediately follow her after she turns until Chauncey gives me strong pressure on the lead, then I move with her.

We had a great day tracking and are ready to get back out again for more.

Confidence Building for Blueberry & Me

My trainer and I have been working on Blueberry for a while now with confidence issues. The issues are more leaving mom and being around men. In the beginning she was very scared of men, even though she had been around them since she was born. When we went for lessons, Blueberry went with Maggie’s husband while we worked with the other two. Darren would lock her in his office with him while he worked and play with toys and give her treats. In the beginning he would have to drag he away, but now she loves him. I didn’t fully realize how much she depends on me for confidence, so a couple weeks ago Maggie wanted us to start teaching her the dog walk and A-frame for confidence and to learn where her rear legs are. The first lesson with a lot of food and help from us Blueberry made her way several times back and forth over both pieces of equipment. We practiced at home on my mom’s A-frame, but was not able to use her walk as it is rotten. She was doing good and then we headed back for the second lesson. Blueberry made it to the top of the walk and froze, she could not move her feet at all and stood there for several minutes. We finally got her to take a couple steps before freezing again, and did this until she was all the way off. So next we just went up one ramp, about 3/4 of the way and then let her jump off. We did this for several repetitions and jumping off either side. Maggie wanted her to understand that it wasn’t that far to jump and to understand that she could land on her feet.

So, at this week’s lesson we started on the agility equipment and just had her go up the ramp on either side, jumping off near the top. She was moving up it with speed, had her tail up and relaxed, so Maggie had one of her Border Collie’s run across it ahead of her for several times. Maggie had me take Blueberry’s leash off, because I tend to be dependent on their leashes:o) That is my confidence area to build. This time I kept moving ahead of Blueberry and dropping food about every foot and a half. Sometimes Blueberry bailed in the middle of the top and would jump up to find her treat, but quickly learned she only got it when on the walk. By the end Blueberry was walking steadily over the walk with a relaxed expression. Yeah for her!!! We the worked on the A-frame, but this time Maggie placed a table by one end(about even with the yellow area). I had Blueberry get up on the table and then step onto the bottom of the frame and walk down to get her treat at the bottom. We did this several times and she really loved this game. Then Maggie added a small jump on the other side, across from the jump, against the A-frame. I did the same as before, but with a jump first then onto the end of the A-frame to come down just that side. Blueberry really liked this one as once we were finished I turned to talk to Maggie and Blueberry did it on her own. Smarty pants dog!!! She the got to run through the baby tunnel for fun, she likes that part and we did a couple beginning chutes, with me holding the chute up for her to see out the end. I am really starting to see things click in her head about this, but still have a ways to go. She then got to go back in the truck to rest and get a drink while Chauncey had her lesson.

I have Chauncey entered in Wild Card Open in 2 weeks, so last night Maggie did a run through of the exercises with us. Her heeling and figure eight are looking lovely. The drop on recall is good, although she is slow on the drop and ends up closer to me. Maggie said in actual Open A some judges might call us on that exercise, but at her age and dealing with her injuries last year, we are not going to force or re-train the issue right now. I may just have to show until I find judges that let it slide. Her retrieve on flat was perfect and a lovely front and finish. We set up for the retrieve over the high jump and set the jump at 26 inches as that is what she will have to jump in the ring. I set her up and sent her, she did a great retrieve, but hit the jump with her feet on the way back. We changed sides and did it again, this time she knocked the top 2 boards off, but still finished her retrieve with a lovely front. I set her up again and sent her without the DB and she cleared the jump by at least 6 inches. So, this time I left her in a sit with the DB in her mouth, ran to the other side and just called her to come, front. She cleared it much better, so we are thinking because of the height change and carrying the DB it threw off her clearing the jump. So I will practice with the 26 inch height and a the DB once each session. The reason I have not had it at full height is due to her neck injuries last year, I am trying take it easy with her. We jumped the Broad jump at 52 inches, man that is a huge leap, but she clears it with ease each time. I have to work on her front after as she is not wanting to come in close to me. So, a great session and i am so happy with her retrieving. This is a dog that I didn’t think would ever take the dumbbell much less retrieve with it:o)

Now it was Blueberry’s turn for her obedience lesson. She is doing very good with her heeling, still working on straight sits as she wants to swing her butt some, but she showed good progress this week. We are not working on her comes right now as she is awesome at charging to me, but she has to learn to sit and hold it until i tell her otherwise. She can finally sit while I walk across the ring with Maggie holding her lead. I will stop halfway and reward the sit, then continue out. We do this several times before calling her to come. We have been working on her stand and not moving feet or swinging when I move around her. Right now, I have her do a pop up stand behind a bar with a treat on a target plate about 1 foot in front of her. I have been moving from left to right in front of her and applying pressure to the lead which is teaching her to brace against me. Last night I was able to move a whole circle around her without a foot moving. She really kept bracing against me and didn’t budge when Maggie examined from both sides. I think the training is starting to click with her and I love watching this.

So plenty to work on this week and more fun to come.