Lil’s big weekend at TOPS!

Lils winningsLil had a perfect weekend in every sense of the word. QQQs both days at TOPS  (Terriers Only Performance Summit).  I was blown away by how much fun she had running every single course.  Not too shabby considering we have not done AKC for over 3 years.   Her course times were off the charts too!  SCT for Exc Standard was 81 seconds both days: Lil ran the course in 46.65 seconds on Saturday and 45. 20 seconds on Sunday.  In T2B her times were 33:32 on Saturday and 30:21 on Sunday.    I have always sensed that Jumpers courses are her least favorite but I think adding Weave Poles like they do in AKC helps break up the monotony of jump jump jump jump jump..YAWN… and maybe a tunnel before jump jump jump jump jump.  She ran both Exc JWW with good speed (15- 17 seconds under SCTs).  🙂    Following her 100% Q rate in Excellent, she is now in Masters Standard and JWW.

Other highlights were meeting all the Australian Terriers and their people.  What a lovely group of dogs and people (very friendly too)!  Icing on the cake was Lil earning the distinction of “Highest Scoring Australian Terrier.”   I could not be more thrilled to have a partner like Lil!   Her kennel name “Just for a Thrill” couldn’t be more perfect!  Here are videos from this weekend.

(above) Lil’s T2B Winning Run on Saturday, August 22

(above) Lil’s T2B Winning Run on Sunday, August 23

I loved both T2B courses.  The crowd gets into cheering everyone on, which makes it even more fun.

(above) Lil’s Excellent Standard Qualifying Run on Saturday, August 22

I love the variety of Standard Courses.  Lil had no issues performing obstacles she has rarely even seen the past three years, like the Table, Teeter, and Spread Jumps.

(above) Lil’s Excellent Standard Qualifying Run on Sunday, August 23

(above) Lil’s Excellent JWW Qualifying Run on Saturday, August 22

Its a bummer that the videographer lost Lil during the trickiest part of this course.  She ran that part beautifully!

(above) Lil’s Excellent JWW Qualifying Run on Sunday, August 23



Fun Trial and Nice Heeling by Takoda who is now 18 weeks old

Black Forest Regional Park

Black Forest Regional Park

What a fun weekend we all had at a NADAC trial.  Nice site, nice weather, nice competitors, miles of nice hiking trails, and nicely behaved dogs. Nice. Nice. Nice.

(above) Our only Bonus Box attempt this weekend. I knew we’d likely have trouble with that turn AWAY, since its a skill I have not trained out of tunnels (yet) but Lil did a great job running this course… and this was her 6th run on Day 2. Yey Lil!

The reason I only attempted one Bonus Box last weekend, was because I’m currently focusing my attention on running with Lil at moderate distances to freshen up my handling skills. While Bonus runs are difficult to GET, they are actually easier in terms of handling because you can see the whole course, your dog, and your dog’s path perfectly due to being on the outside looking in. Yesterday, I signed up for Amanda Nelson’s Exercise of the Month to help me get back in the swing of things re: running with Lil.. not that I’ll be running right along side of her.

Bruce brought Jake to the trial on Sunday.  I'm sure Jake appreciated spending Friday and Saturday relaxing at home.

Bruce brought Jake to the trial on Sunday. I’m sure Jake appreciated spending Friday and Saturday relaxing at home.

Takoda was super well-behaved at the trial, and very quiet while hanging out ringside.  He was also able to maintain his compusure 🙂 around his litter mates who were in the tent next door.  Lots of great heeling and Mark work in the midst of trial distractions too.  I didn’t get any video of Takoda at the trial site but I finally got some footage of him heeling in the backyard the previous week.

(above) Takoda heeling at 17 weeks in the backyard

(above) More heeling in that same session.

I’m so impressed with how well Takoda is responding to my body language and how straight he is walking, trotting, and sitting in heel position.  He has always been better on my right (likely due to him having a left lead preference).  Because of that we spend more time practicing with him on my left and at this point I think he is almost as good on my left as on my right.

He is such a good puppy!

Takoda GETS barrels, May 20, 2015

Takoda will be 16 weeks old tomorrow and continues to make great progress in many different ways.  I’d say the most significant progress has been out on walks in the “real world.”  Today he offered heeling about 80% of the time. The other 20% he walked on a loose leash and checked in with me often.  Given where he started off a few weeks ago, which was a happy, enthusiastic, energetic, curious puppy who wanted to meet everyone, I thought it would take MONTHS vs WEEKS to get to this point.

I have to say the drizzly weather is contributing to our success this week because there are far fewer people out running and biking but we did encounter that same group of 30 or so runners with the whistle commander. Takoda did great and kept all four feet on the ground when one of the runners “just had to meet the super cute puppy.” As soon as she disengaged, Takoda reoriented to me instantaneously and completely on his own. He didn’t even watch her running to catch up with the group!  BIG YEY!

The rain has been fantastic for being able to change up our walking route. We’ve even been able to walk along one section of the ever-so-popular Boulder Creek Trail as a result of the uncharacteristically Scotland-style weather which apparently most Boulderites are not willing to venture out into. Having spent 20+ years on the East Coast, I guess I’m used to rain.

Since I don’t have videos of our walks, I uploaded a couple of videos shot today in the yard.

(above) Takoda ran around the barrel so well in both directions today, I decided to add some distance.

(above) Lil running around a table and doing some flatwork at 5 months old.

I thought it would be fun to compare what Lil and Takoda were learning as puppies.  This is the first video I uploaded of Lil in 2009.  She was 5 months old at the time (Takoda is now 4 months old) but we didn’t get Lil until she was 13 weeks old so that gave Takoda a 5 week head start on learning various skills so I thought this was a reasonably fair comparison.

I can still remember what a fast and fun learner Lil was as a puppy.. and still is as an adult.  In terms of running around an object, I think Lil figured it out quicker (she is super smart) but I had to gradually increase the distance with her.  Takoda took longer to figure it out initially, but once he did, the distance came “for free.”   The video of Takoda was the first time I tried adding distance. After I stopped recording because we’d be out of the frame anyway, we did a few more reps from 30+ feet away and Takoda confidently and consistently drove towards and around the barrel in both directions.. like he was born to do that. Hey wait a minute.. HE WAS BORN TO DO THAT! 🙂

I’ll have to get some video of Takoda doing the same type of flatwork like Lil is doing in the video. He is following my body cues brilliantly and enthusiastically.. just like Lil.

The next two videos are a follow-up on my post about tugging styles.

(above) This short video is an example of one of Takoda’s many styles of tugging. I refer to this style as moderate arousal level.

(above) A short video showing how Jake and Lil play tug. I think Jake’s tugging style and vocalizations are hilariously cute. Lil rarely vocalizes and is less-intense than Jake for sure. But then again, she is less intense than Jake is across the board.

I’m loving experiencing how ATs and BCs are inherently different and how they are the same which I suppose is largely due to them all having the same trainer.

Takoda’s first exposure to pinwheels, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Beginning Set up, May 18, 2015

Everyday I try to come up with something new to do with Takoda.  Today I decided to expose him to a pinwheel of hoops with props to help him be successful without me needing to babysit.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

Pinwheel Set Up 2, May 18, 2015

(above) This video is of a couple of reps with Expens helping Takoda seek out all three hoops.  I used toys for some reps and mark buckets and food for other reps. 

(above) Over the course of one day, I gradually moved the Expens away from the left and right hoops but left them close to the OUT hoop.  By the last set of reps, there was just a sliver of an Expen near the OUT hoop.  I was very pleased with how well he drove through the hoops.  I also varied my position.  In this video I tested rear crosses, which he read very well.

The forecast is for RAIN, RAIN, RAIN, so it will be a while before Takoda sees any more hoops or pinwheels.  It will be interesting to see how much sunk in today but I am guessing he will remember what he experienced today because it looked like he was having fun and feeling really good about his success.

50 Shades of…. Play (HA HA)

Since attending Sharon Nelson’s workshop last summer, I’ve been keenly aware of my dogs’ energy/ arousal levels.  Since Takoda enjoys tugging at a wide range of energy levels, I’ve been using the game of tug to explore Energy Matching with him.   Energy Matching while tugging would not work with Jake, who IMO tugs like a typical terrier… “all or nothing.”   He looks and sounds like he is trying to kill the toy, growling and intensely tugging with me.  Its fun to tug with Jake like this but if I bring my energy down a notch, Jake will immediately drop the toy.  Over the years I’ve had a number of people ask me what cue I’m giving my terriers to get them to release the toy since they both go from “all to nothing” in a heartbeat.  My only cue is that I lower my energy level, which they read as disengagement and they both immediately drop the toy in response.

In contrast, Takoda appears to enjoy tugging at a variety of energy levels that range from “a polite conversation between friends” to “YAHOOEEE!” but it never feels like he is trying to kill the toy.   When tugging like “a polite conversation between friends” we are both very low-key and the style of engagement is soft, like two little girls playing with dolls or Breyer horse models (my favorite kind of “doll” when I was a kid).  Takoda and I each hold one end of a tug toy and move it gently this way and that way while maintaining eye contact for the most part.  Takoda can tug this way forever and its a nice relaxing way for us to interact when I don’t feel like doing anything.  Its a perfect evening activity while I sit on the sofa with Takoda at my feet or in the morning when I am drinking coffee and not quite ready to start my day.

Takoda also seems to enjoy tugging at a medium arousal level which works well for loose leash walking around distractions (people, bicyclists, traffic…).   When we engage in this type of tugging, he is holding one end of the tug toy lightly in his mouth and I am holding the other end lightly with my hand (we use a long tug toy so I can remain totally upright).  There is just a slight amount of pressure on the tug toy and his leash is entirely loose.   In this situation, I think the tug toy pretty much functions like a head halter in that I can redirect Takoda by moving the tug toy but he generally does not need to be redirected when we use a toy in this manner.   He seems perfectly content to walk a little ahead of me, beside me, or a little behind me while holding one end of the toy in his mouth.  When the distraction is too great, he might drop his end of the toy but quickly reorients and grabs the toy again.  When this happens, which is not very often, I tend to increase our energy levels a little more for a few seconds of active playing/ tugging before continuing to move forward.

The thing I like about using a tug toy with Takoda when out on walks is that tugging is a duration activity and it is easy to match his energy level and then increase or decrease it based on what is happening and what I want to have happen. Treats worked really well for Lil, even when she was a puppy, but she has always been highly food motivated.  Takoda will take food when out on walks but that is because its the first thing I trained him to do…. take food when offered.. sort of like how my ATs were trained to always tug when a toy is offered… due to training vs. natural inclination.

So far, Takoda does not love food enough for it to be a jackpot when confronted with the range of distractions we encounter in the 2 block radius around our house.  You name it, we have it…. runners, bicyclists, kids, dogs, loud trucks, buses, cars, etc.  But when I have a tug toy, which BTW is tucked under my arm when not in use, 99% of the time Takoda quickly reorients to me (and the toy) and then I am able to match his energy level until the distraction is far enough away that it is no longer a distraction.   Its actually very fun to go for walks like this and it generates a lot of smiles from passers by because who doesn’t like to watch a puppy having fun and an adult acting like a child.  HA HA

The past few walks we’ve started going back and forth between a minute or two of obedience style heeling (with frequent kibble rewards) and a moving game of tug played at a moderate energy level (as described above).   I love the way this combination feels because its all about teamwork.  Takoda is focusing his attention on me when heeling and then he gets rewarded for all that great impulse control (not being distracted by what passes by) by playing tug.. with ME.  But just so no one thinks walks are 100%  all about ME (HA HA), I let Takoda do his own thing for short periods of time, which for him means trotting along at an easy clip with his nose lowered to take in all the interesting ground scents.

Since I don’t have any video of the above, I thought I’d share a few short videos from last week.

(above) Group Mark Session.  The reason I set up this “test” was to see if Takoda would be able to stay on his Mark while  Jake and Lil moved from Mark to Mark.  He did pretty well but it was interesting to see how much greater a challenge Jake’s motion was compared to Lil’s in this session and others as well.  I plan to practice this now and then as I believe it will help Takoda learn that he doesn’t NEED to bound towards Jake and Lil whenever they are in his sight.

(above) Takoda running between 2 Marks with a hoop in between.  We have only played around with hoops once before but since the hoops  were still out in the yard after Jake and Lil’s session, I figured it would be fun to see what Takoda would do.

(above) I was so pleased with his performance with one hoop, I moved the Mark further away so there were 2 hoops between the Marks. I also added more handler motion and ran a little beyond the Mark to see if he would stop…. which he did!

(above) another rep with more distance and me driving slightly beyond the Mark.

Takoda is different than Jake and Lil in many ways but they are all so much fun to work and play with due to their differences.. and similarities.. the biggest similarity is they all seem to really enjoy working!

Takoda doing a little Mark practice at 13 weeks old.

(above) Takoda running to a Mark bucket on a flat DW plank.

When we returned home Sunday evening after Takoda’s first outdoor trial I decided to do a little training with him since he had been such a good boy all weekend long while spending a lot of time just hanging out.  A DW plank was sitting there so we did some Mark practice.  Apparently between the last session and this session, Takoda learned HOW to collect and “stick the landing” on small Mark buckets.   He must have learned it while he was sleeping because the last session he was not running nearly this fast (I always leave speed up to him).   I love how well he appears to understand he should keep his front feet on the bucket and his rear feet on the plank, even if I am behind him.  You can see him turning his head waiting for me to catch up vs. spinning his rear feet around to face me.  Good boy!

I didn’t plan to run him in the other direction but it was fun to see how he targeted the first bucket with his front and rear feet, and then how he ran to the very end of the plank vs. leaping off.  I think this was because I started with Mark buckets at both ends of the plank.   I’ve written about the Mark buckets in previous posts.  They are the most amazing training tool I’ve ever come across.  The way I’m using them is based on Sharon Nelson’s foundation training.

Lil earned her NATCH2 this weekend

Lil's NATCH2 photo with cooler-than-cool Judge Sunny Williams

Lil’s NATCH2 photo with cooler-than-cool Judge Sunny Williams

(above) video of Lil’s NATCH 2 Jumpers Run.  This was our sixth run on Sunday at the end of a 3 day trial.  I was so thrilled at Lil’s enthusiasm and energy level.  She got the job done with great pizzazz.

(above)  Lil’s Tunnelers Run.   I loved this run.  Lil was fast and her turns were super tight.  Her YPS were over 5.50.   I think she loved this run too.

(above) one of Jake’s Touch N Go runs.  NQ due to crossing the plane of the barrel and then circling it in the other direction but I was beyond happy I didn’t lose him at that point.  This was his first outdoor trial of the season and something was clearly tempting him in the grass.  Good boy for staying in the game.

I’ll be uploading more videos of Jake and Lil’s runs.  There were so many really nice runs, I can’t decide which ones to post.

Lil and Takoda hanging out ringside at the trial.  Jake was in the RV with Bruce at this time.

Lil and Takoda hanging out ringside at the trial. Jake was in the RV with Bruce at this time.

IMG_3535 I was so blown away that Takoda was so relaxed and quiet at his first outdoor trial and you can see how close our doggie neighbors were.  He took it all in stride like he has always hung out at trials.  He also did some amazingly precise heeling through oodles of dogs and people waiting to run.  I was shocked he was able to remain focused in such a distracting environment.   By Sunday he was playing and tugging with me as well at the trial as he does at home.  This little puppy is so darned adaptable!  So are his litter mates who were also at the trial.



Takoda at 13 weeks

Takoda turned  13 weeks old today.  I can’t believe how much learning has taken place over the past 5 weeks.    He continues to astonish me with how adaptable his is and how quickly he learns.  Every day is an entirely new day in terms of what he wakes up capable of doing.

Here are a few very short videos shot yesterday that show his progression with Silvia Trkman’s super fun game “Put the Spool in the Bowl.”   It was the first time I asked him to put the spoon in my hand vs. in a bowl and he had no trouble transitioning, likely because he really seems to enjoy doing nose touches to my palm.  The other possible factor was the retrieving breakthrough we had with his favorite fuzzy yellow chicken toy, which I wrote about a couple of days ago.  He pushed the toy into me when giving it in a very intentional way.

I’ve played the spoon in the bowl game outdoors without being in the Ex-pen.   I’m not sure why I did this session inside it but I’m glad I did because this morning we returned to the Ex-pen to see if he was able to place other things in my hand… and his answer was a resounding YES with three different objects.   I attribute part of his success to having worked in the exact same environment the day before.

(above) putting the spoon in my left hand

(above) transitioning to the other hand by using both hands.  I really should bend the spoon a little (and not with my mind HA HA).  It’s really hard for him to pick up when it’s facing down but he sticks with it and gets the job done.  Good boy!

(above) putting the spoon in my right hand

(above) putting the spoon in my hand while I am standing. One thing I love seeing is Takoda offering variations of heel position vs. choosing to stand in front and facing me.   The reason he does this is because I have pretty much only rewarded him in heel position from Day One because of his strong, natural inclination to “herd from the front” like his daddy.   While that works really well with cows and sheep, it does not work well with people or other dogs.   I’m sure Jake and Lil agree entirely!

(above)  Prior to working with the spoon, we did a few mark buckets.  4pm is not the best time for “active” work because it’s usually Takoda’s nap time.   But whenever my videographer is available, I try to take advantage of it.

(above) I also like to mix in different types of recall games.  Today I led out, released him, and had him catch up to me.  But most of the time we practice recalls,  I am not moving when I release him or when he is running towards me.  Takoda came out-of-the-box with great natural chasing instincts so I don’t feel he needs to improve or even practice that skill.  I also think too much chasing with a dog who naturally LOVES to chase might be counter-productive in terms of my long-term goal of having a confident dog who understands that when I take a big step or two big steps while indicating the path with my body language that he should RUN AHEAD of me in the direction I am indicating.   I don’t want him to think his motion is tied to my motion as is the case when a dog is chasing the handler.  Being able to GO ON without handler motion is a necessary skill for dogs to do big distances in NADAC which I hope Takoda will eventually be able to do… following in the footsteps of his big (little) sister  Lil.  🙂

On a side note, I also use toys for practicing recalls but since Takoda’s toy drive is naturally stronger than his food drive, I like to use food as much as possible.


An Epiphany about Retrieving

A couple of days ago, I had an epiphany about retrieving.  It was based on something experienced handlers do when running agility.  They look in the direction they want their dogs to go vs. looking at their dogs.  I thought if that works so well for agility, why not try it for retrieving.

Takoda munching on his favorite fuzzy chicken toy, April 29, 2015

Takoda munching on his favorite fuzzy chicken toy, April 29, 2015

So I did a little test with Takoda and his absolute favorite fuzzy yellow chicken toy.  I knelt on the floor, sat back on my heels, and tossed the toy about 3 feet away and said GET IT! which of course he did.  As soon as he reached the toy I said TAKODA COME!  He continued running in the direction he was heading, hopped into his bed, and proceeded to munch on the toy.  This was pretty much what I expected him to do since this is what he’d been doing from Day 1.  I had intentionally left the dog bed in place and set up the game so he’d be facing his bed when running towards the toy for my little test.   In hindsight maybe I should not have said COME, since I knew he wouldn’t come… but one OOPSIE on my part didn’t mess up his recall, which has been pretty good lately.

Anyway, there he was in his bed happily munching on his favorite toy watching me like he always does when I dropped my head down to my knees into “Child’s” pose (yoga) and waited.. not saying a word.  I didn’t have to wait long (3 seconds or less) before Takoda came running over to mob me.  He didn’t bring the toy but I didn’t really expect him to.  However the next rep, he did bring the toy and by the time he reached me, I up-righted myself and he pushed the toy into my diaphragm.   He received massive praise and playful engagement in return for that stellar performance!

The third rep, I didn’t start off in Child’s pose.  Instead I put my hands on my thighs, palms open and looked down on my hands.  I tilted my head forward so he could not make eye contact with me.  When he reached the toy, I said TAKODA COME and BINGO! he didn’t take the toy to his bed.  Instead, he mouthed the toy where he picked it up and then ran back to me and pushed the toy into my chest again.  Another massive praise and play session followed.   I think having open palms and looking down at my hands vs. making eye contact created the motivation for him to come back to me with the toy due to his natural desire to reconnect with me.

The next rep, he came back immediately and pushed the toy into me again. During the next couple of reps he either mouthed the toy for a moment before bringing it back or bought it back immediately and always pushed the toy into me like he was trying to give me the toy.  At least that is what it looked and felt like from my perspective. 🙂

The final two reps I hid a small piece of cheese in my mouth and when he pushed the toy into me I gave him the cheese and then immediately gave him the toy back.  He looked astounded by the emergence of cheese from my mouth. It was so darned cute!  The last two reps were picture perfect.

The main reason I think this little test worked so well with Takoda is because he has a strong innate desire to be connected to humans.  He constantly seeks out eye contact in day-to-day life, even when munching on a toy in his bed.  Its nearly impossible to sneak away from him when he is out in the yard.   He always has one eye….or ear on me.   YEY for that and everything else too!   🙂



A few of Jake and Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar and Fun Raiser in Moab, Utah

(above) Lil’s Touch N Go Bonus Box run, April 17, 2015

After 3 days running Jake and Lil during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar, I was curious to see how they would run on the 4th day in a row, especially Jake since I am thinking about running him at Champs which is a 4 day event and he has never done four days of agility in a row.  He did very well at the seminar.  The couple of times he lost focus he quickly got it right back.   However, at the Fun Raiser Trial (day 4), he lost focus and did not come right back.  This was very disheartening for me because we have been working on this issue on and off for most of the 8 years Jake has been part of our family.  I think four days in a row played a role in his not coming right back but I think having more open space around the courses during the Fun Raiser contributed too.   During the seminar, participants tended to sit close to the action to be able to hear Sharon’s feedback.  Once the chairs were removed the arena looked noticeably larger to me and I assume it looked more expansive to Jake as well.  Since Champs is held in a HUGE arena, I am still on the fence about whether I think Jake will be able to stay focused or not at Champs.

As you can see in Lil’s Bonus Box run above, she ran very well on Day 4.  She loved the firm dirt footing in this horse arena.  I did too!   Lil has had a very reliable running A-Frame for a few years now.  The reason I am asking for a stop (4on) is because this A-Frame is 8′ vs. 9′ and she does not automatically adjust her striding so lately I have been playing around with stopped contacts sometimes and running contacts other times (like when the A-Frame is 9′).  So far she does not appear to be confused by mixing things up.

(above) One of Lil’s runs at Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   Handlers got to pick their own Bonus Box positions.  It was great to be able to look at the course challenges and to determine where I wanted to be to meet those challenges.

(above) One of Jake’s runs during Sharon Nelson’s Seminar.   He had been running  full courses up to that point without losing focus.  But since I wanted Sharon to see what he looks like when he does lose focus, I asked if we could run the course again, which I thought might him to lose focus.  The video shows what Jake typically does when he loses focus.  The feedback I got from Sharon was similar feedback I got from Sue Sternberg many years ago… that Jake is not stressed or demotivated by anything I’m doing.  He was just distracted by something that caught his attention.  If I had to guess what he is thinking it would be something like: “I know where we are going next!”… then “Whats that?”… then “I know where we are going next!” then  “But what was that?” then in this case  “I know where we are going next!”

The thing I need to figure out is how to change my emotional state when he loses focus and does not come right back.   If I can remain emotionally neutral, he responds better than when I stress out about it, which he picks up on and makes the situation worse.  Sharon gave me some good solid advice about what to do when Jake loses focus and I will be doing my best to “keep my head” so Jake can “keep his head.”  Time will tell if I am successful.

(above) Lil running Extreme Barrelers at the Fun Raiser the day after the seminar. She earned a 15 point Q (points are based on the dog’s speed) which earned her Novice Title with an extra 5 points to spare.   Lil has always turned incredibly tight.  You can see how she makes 90 degree turns out of each tunnel and also how tightly she turns around barrels which cut her yardage significantly.

I love running more than one dog.  Jake is a total blast to run when he is ON but its great having a dog like Lil who is ON 99% of the time and super fun to run too.  Lil helps me keep everything in perspective.