Takoda’s first RV Trip to Moab Utah


We spent the past week in Moab, Utah, participating in a three day workshop led by Sharon Nelson followed by a Fun Raiser (trial).   Its the second time I’ve had the good fortune to work with Sharon in person and learned a ton.   What a great group of people and dogs.  It was as much fun to watch other teams run as it was to run Jake and Lil.  Over the coming days, I’ll be transcribing my notes to make sure I remember every single DIAMOND Sharon shared with the group.. and there were plenty.

I’ll be writing a separate post about Jake and Lil’s experiences in Moab including Jake’s highs and lows (there were plenty of both) and Lil’s fantastic runs both in the workshop and Fun Raiser, including a Bonus Box Q.  But this post will be mostly about Takoda, who will be 12 weeks old tomorrow.


This was Takoda’s first long trip in the RV and he was a very good puppy.   He traveled well and was perfectly quiet unless his antler fell out of his crate, which I later realized he was pushing out intentionally to engage me by putting it back in his crate.   He started doing this the previous week at home but I didn’t put it together until I watched him methodically push the antler through a small opening on his crate door as soon as I had pushed it back in.  HA HA.  The joke was on me!

In terms of potty training, throughout the trip Takoda let us know when he needed to go potty and he didn’t have a single accident.  I had set up an elaborate Expen area outside the RV to make pottying a breeze for all concerned.  At one end was a 4 x 6 feet area with artificial grass which was the designated potty area (the grass had been previously “seasoned” at home).  The adjacent area was 6 x 21 feet and covered with interlocking rubber matting to provide a non-slip area to play and work on.   The only bummer was the weather was so bad most of the time, we barely used the matted area but Takoda certainly made good use of the potty area, which drained well and was rinsed off by rain so it remained neutral in terms of scent (for humans).  It was so nice to be able to say GO POTTY and watch Takoda walk down the ramp and potty on his own without me having to go with him especially during the massive sand storm with wind gusts so powerful they moved the Expens, or during the day and night of pouring rain.  He was a real trooper.

Given the rough weather, I felt very lucky we had the RV for playing games like “This one is getting away!” which involves me rolling a donut toy on the floor and while Takoda runs after that toy, I bang the other donut toy on the floor, which brings him back with the first toy so I can say “This one is getting away” and roll the second toy.  An RV is so much nicer than say…. a bathroom for playing games in contained spaces to keep a puppy from running off with toys.   We only played it a couple of times but by the time we got home, his understanding about bringing toys back had improved considerably in the kitchen.

We also played the game “Put the spoon in the bowl” in the RV, as well as outdoors on the matting when the weather permitted, and inside the arena.  I was shocked Takoda was able to play this complex thinking game in such new and distracting environments.  Smart puppy!  We also did some short heeling sequences and Mark bucket work outdoors and in the arena. He did well as long as there were no dogs or people in the vicinity.   However, when there was ANY activity within 50 feet, he became totally distracted and wanted to “Go Say Hi.”   I saw some modest improvement by the end of the week but clearly his desire to “Go Say Hi” is the other side of the highly social puppy “coin.”  So while its been fun watching Takoda joyfully interact with every person he sees, its time to move on to Phase 2, where we’ll take a break from interacting with everyone who wants to meet him and then only allow him to interact after he is able to sit calmly until released to “Go Say Hi.”

Agility people are great for this type of puppy training.  They wait patiently, avoid eye contact, and act aloof until the puppy has met criteria and then quickly swoop down to interact before the puppy has a chance to jump up out of the sit.  So for Phase 2, Takoda will only be meeting people who know how to greet a puppy in the manner described above, which is not going to be happening very often in the coming weeks.  I think the timing is perfect to take a break from meeting a gazillion more people because as Sharon and Sue both pointed out, Takoda and his litter mates are very well socialized and do not need to meet more and more people and dogs at this point.  I have Heather to thank for that.  She did a great job raising and socializing this litter.

Takoda spent a fair amount of time in a crate during this trip and I decided to take advantage of his positive experiences in a crate by removing the Expen I had set up in our kitchen.  Previously I had a crate inside an Expen, which was in our kitchen that had dog gates to keep Takoda from wandering around the house.  The Expen took up way too much space for long term use but the triple containment system worked perfectly for the first couple of weeks because it allowed three different levels of freedom based on how much attention I was able to give him at any given time.  He was only in the crate when I was totally preoccupied with something else or elsewhere.  He was in the Expen when I was sort of watching him but busy doing something else in the vicinity of the kitchen where I could still see him.  He had full run of the kitchen when he had my undivided attention.   This kept undesirable behaviors to a minimum while also beginning to work on being quiet in a crate and Expen, which has been quite challenging so far.

Takoda also spent time in the arena crated next to Jake and Lil during the workshop and he did fairly well except when I worked Jake or Lil.  He also tended to vocalize when he heard people praising their dogs or when the entire group WHOO-HOOed for dogs with higher pitched tones, similar to the tone I use when praising.  I plan to experiment with shifting my praise tone to a lower-pitch because I think the higher pitch creates more arousal which is not a good thing for a puppy who is quite vocal to start.  Time will tell if teaching Takoda learn to remain relatively calm and quiet around other dogs and people is going to be a huge challenge or a moderate one.  I remember Lil going through a phase of vocalizing in agility environments.   It was so annoying but I don’t think it lasted very long.  I hope the same will be true with Takoda.


Evoking a Thinking Relationship with Toys

Two weeks ago when I tossed a toy Takoda brought it back to me.  But it didn’t take long for him to decide that toys were more fun to hang onto rather than bring back.  Jake and Lil, being the terriers that they are, enjoy chasing more than tugging or mouthing toys so they learned quickly that bringing back a toy = another opportunity to chase.  But with Takoda, it appears the value of the toy is mostly about having it in his mouth.  This is great for tugging, but eventually I want to have the option to place or toss a toy at a distance, and I won’t be able to do that if he runs off with the toy.  🙂

Takoda running off with toys is not something I’m freaking out about.  After all he is just 10 weeks old.  But I also don’t want him practicing behaviors I’d rather not see when he grows up so I am paying attention to everything he does so I can encourage the things I like and discourage the things I don’t like quite as much.

Still life of toys used for various "thinking" games we've played these past few days

Still life of toys used for various “thinking” games we’ve played these past few days

Silvia Trkman has a fun way of training dogs to to bring back toys.  She starts by training the dog to pick up a metal spool and drop it in a bowl. Eventually the dog learns to drop the spoon in her hand vs. in the bowl.  Over time she switches from the metal spoon to other low value objects and eventually switches to low-value toys and gradually moves up the “toy chain” to higher and higher value toys.  I thought this would be fun to do with Takoda plus I really like that it is a “thinking” game.  Plus my gut feeling is if Takoda learns to associate toys with “thinking fun” vs. “instinct fun” that he will maintain his ability to think when toys are used in training.

On April 8,  we did three sessions with a metal spoon, and by the third session Takoda dropped the spoon into the bowl a few times and earned huge jackpots.   One reason he progressed so quickly is because he likes holding the metal spoon in his mouth… so much so that he actually ran off with it outdoors before we moved the game indoors.   Another reason is because his attention span is very long, especially for such a young puppy, so we were able to do a bunch of reps with no loss of motivation.  I suspect his long attention span is a typical Border Collie trait.

On April 9, we played the game again in various places and he did not try to run off with the spoon, although he thought about it a few times.  Each session he started off mouthing the spoon and only dropped it when I clicked and tossed a piece of kibble into the metal bowl.  The CLANG of the kibble hitting the bowl was an added incentive (like another CLICK) that inspired him to drop the spoon to get the kibble.

With each session, he tends to gradually build back up to dropping the spoon in the bowl vs. starting right off doing it.  I suspect this is due to how much he loves having the spoon in his mouth which makes this a great game for learning there is something to be gained by dropping the spoon (kibble) and nothing to be lost since he gets to pick up the spoon again.

I like solving training puzzles by approaching them from different angles so I asked my two “go to” friends how they trained their dogs to bring toys back because they are both experienced and great dog trainers and one happens to have a dog that used to run around holding a toy in her mouth but now mostly brings back toys.  I must have slept on all the different methods because in the morning I woke up thinking about a few of them, including using two identical toys.

On April 1o, I started with two identical donut plush toys I happened to have, which are of medium value to him, and while Takoda chewed the label on one (his favorite part of these toys), I rolled the other donut toy a foot or so beyond where he was lying.  At first he only eyed the second toy while continuing to munch on the first toy.  But after a few seconds, he grabbed the second toy and brought it back to his original position and proceeded to munch on that toy.  I then rolled the first toy by him.. and so on.  I felt this game would be good for teaching Takoda a game I play with Lil which I call “This One is Getting Away!” which is a fun way to teach dogs nothing is lost when they give up a toy.

However, with Takoda munching on the toys, the game stagnated after five or six reps so I decided to drop a little star treat inside the hole of one toy.  He had to move the toy to get the treat which stopped him from munching on the labels and increased his energy level because he was now “thinking” and problem solving.  While he extracted the first treat,  I put a treat in the hole of the other donut toy and we continued going back and forth between the two toys.  He loved this “Two Card Monty” game and it was great fun to watch him go from pawing the same toy looking for more treats to quickly leaving one toy for the other toy.  After that, I started pointing to the “loaded” toy, thinking it couldn’t hurt for him to learn when a human points, its a hint 🙂  and he picked up on that quickly.  After a handful of reps with pointing, I put the donut toys away feeling really good about the session.

Takoda was ready for more fun and the only other toy I had in the kitchen was a medium- sized holy roller ball with a mini Kong ball inside.   My goal was simple…for Takoda to interact with the ball and me at the same time.  I put the ball on the floor and dropped a star treat under it. Takoda nudged the ball with his nose, and got a CLICK and the treat.  He continued to roll the ball around the kitchen for about 15 reps and then I rolled the ball towards him and he picked it up and brought it closer to me.  I praised and petted him like crazy, and then I rolled the ball a few feet away.  He got the ball and brought it closer to me again…  more praise and petting.  End of session.  He was not intentionally bringing the ball TO me but he was not taking it AWAY from me either so I consider this short session very successful.

(above) Later that day, my friend Sharon stopped by to meet our puppy and got to witness Lil and Takoda playing tug for the first time.   Not sure how often they will play tug once Takoda grows bigger. Right now he weighs 13 lbs and Lil weighs 14 lbs so they are pretty evenly matched.

On April 11, we played an advanced version of the “Two Card Monty” game because I also happened to have 2 rubber donut toys that are harder to extract treats from.  By the way, I don’t know how I ended up with so many donut toys because I don’t even like real donuts but I sure am glad I have those toys. HA HA

Later on, came big surprise during Takoda’s witching hour, which unfortunately happens every day around 6pm, right when I want to sit back and enjoy a glass of wine (SIGH).   Anyway, Takoda was hanging out with me in the kitchen when suddenly he grabbed his favorite plush toy (the yellow fuzzy chicken) and took off running around the backyard with it in his mouth.  Its the first time he ran around on his own (vs. chasing Lil a little here and there)  so I spontaneously said GO GO GO as he zoomed around.  Then much to my surprise, he came running towards me and I sent him to GO run some more.  After a short loop he came back and he put the toy in my hand and we played a short game of tug.  I sent him away again and after a small loop, he came back for more tugging.

This was extraordinary.  It indicated to me that my thinking is correct and he doesn’t have an “issue” stealing toys.  He just lacks experience in terms of all the fun he and I can have together with toys.  I am in no hurry to have him to fetch on cue but I’m certainly looking forward to playing a bunch of different “thinking” games with toys which I’ll bet will end with Takoda bringing toys to me when I throw them without me needing to get all serious about training “fetch.”

Dog training is way too much fun to get serious about anything.   🙂

Week Two with Takoda, who will be 10 weeks old tomorrow, April 8, 2015

Takoda is a fantastic little guy and growing like a weed.  At 8 weeks old, he was Lil’s height.  Two weeks later he is now Jake’s height or maybe even a little taller… not that you can see this when he is lying down.

Group_photo_4_8_15_3286Its been a busy week helping Takoda make good choices about what to chew and what not to chew.  He is showing great improvement over last week but seems to enjoy touching forbidden objects with his nose, and then his tongue, all the while maintaining full eye contact with me to see what I think about what he is doing.  Its actually quite funny!   I’ve also started putting him in his crate for short naps when I see he is tired, which I think is good for him and also good for me as it gives me time to get stuff done without having to keep an eye of what Takoda is doing.

On Sunday, my friend Julie brought over Tate, a perfect gentleman of a dog, and Heather  brought over two of Takoda’s litter mates for a play date.  Please excuse the poor quality of the videos.  I reached my quota on Vimeo for the week so I had to email myself short clips and upload them to YouTube in order to get the job done quickly.

(above) Takoda with litter mates Echo and Glen playing Tug.  I loved how the puppies immediately broke off play as soon a Heather appeared.

(above) Puppies meet Tate

I didn’t realize until we got a puppy, how perfect our house is for exposing a puppy to all sorts of noises and activities.  There is a middle school directly behind our backyard and we can hear daily announcements, the pledge of allegiance, and a Rap music over their loud speakers every morning.   Throughout the day, kids are out in the field playing soccer and screaming up a storm.  Next door to the south is a preschool where little kids play and make kiddie noises off and on all day long.  Next door to the north is a potter’s studio that has people coming and going all day long.  And finally the road in front of our house offers a variety of noises and action, especially during rush hour when cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, and an occasional motorcycle buzz by.   Plus the robins are back and hopping around in the grass.  We also have a woodpecker that is dedicated to making a racket pecking at our chimney liner every day and also a squirrel with suicidal tendencies that visits our backyard most days.

We took Takoda for a few short car rides and when we stopped at a grocery store, Bruce did the shopping while I hung out with Takoda on the rear hatch of the car (on leash) which was parked near the entrance of the grocery store.  Jake and Lil were in their crates right behind him….just so no one thinks Jake and Lil are being neglected.   Takoda was a powerful puppy magnet.  HA HA.  He met a couple more children and a dozen or so new people, and was also exposed to the sights and sounds of shopping carts on asphalt, as well as a huge rumbling garbage bin that was pushed right by the car.   Takoda’s temperament appears to be rock solid.  He loves every person he meets and adjusts quickly when exposed to new environments and sounds.

In terms of training, I’ve continued to focus on life skills such as being quiet and calm when I’m working or playing with Jake and Lil, reinforcing heel position, which has pretty much gotten rid of Takoda being in front of me and under my feet, plus building value for standing on a Mark bucket which we’ll be using a lot in the future, thanks to Sharon Nelson’s ingenious use of this simple but AMAZING prop.   All three training categories seem to have blended together even though I didn’t plan that in advance.

(above) group mark bucket session including Takoda  pivoting into heel position.

This week, Takoda started to understand to stay on his Mark while I reward Jake and Lil.  Not too shabby for a puppy who has not been trained to Stay yet.  🙂

(above)   I have barely practiced “real” heeling with Takoda but you can see the results of reinforcing him in heel position (vs. in front of me) in day-to-day life, which has created so much value for being at my side, I didn’t need to train him to heel because he is offering it.   I am also mixing in some crosses and he is doing a great job following my body language and arm movements.  🙂

(above)  Lil is teaching Takoda how to play like an Australian Terrier.  They carry on like this for a while before transitioning to a stationary version of the game.

(above)  Lil and Takoda playing the Nibble Game, which involves the interaction of open mouths as well as some paw nibbling.  Jake and Lil love to play this game.   So far Jake wants nothing to do with Takoda.  Luckily for us, Lil seems to be enjoying playing with Takoda and teaching him the rules of nice play.

That pretty much wraps up week two!  🙂

Week One with Takoda

What a busy week it has been since Takoda joined our family one week ago.   It has been so interesting to see him change so much from day to day, both physically and mentally.

I don’t have a rigid training plan in mind but I do know what is most important to me… and that is peace and harmony in our home.   I was so happy to see how well Jake and Lil did from the first time they met Takoda.

(above) Jake and Lil meet Takoda for the first time, when he stopped by for a visit on March 23, 2015

(above) A couple days later, he came back for another visit and I decided to introduce a little movement by  walking around the yard.   More movement equals more arousal so I didn’t get too crazy moving around.

(above) First group feeding session on Takoda’s first day living with us full time, one week ago.

I didn’t plan to feed them all together on Day 1 but Bruce took forever to come outside with the video camera, so I needed to do something since they were all three milling around.  I was blown away that Jake and Lil allowed me to feed another dog.  I was equally impressed with Takoda’s calm and thoughtful attitude… and this was after he had just learned to take food when offered in a few short sessions on his own.

One very funny thing was the more I praised Takoda for taking a piece of kibble, the more enthusiastic he became about eating the next piece.  I had to wonder what alternate universe  he was from?  HA HA but seriously, my terriers never needed any encouragement or praise to take food with a nice level of enthusiasm.  This is one of many differences I’m noticing about Takoda. Very fun!

(above)  First time working with Mark buckets, March 30.  I had already introduced Takoda to Mark buckets on his own but he had just done a handful of reps before this session.

In day to day life, one thing was immediately clear and impossible to ignore… Takoda liked to scream when I left him alone and he screamed even louder when I tried to work with Jake or Lil.   I wasn’t sure what I was going to do about this but I knew I had to do something and what better day than April Fools Day to try to stop his terrible screaming.

I started by putting Takoda in an Expen next to 12 weave poles with mark buckets beyond so Jake and Lil would have something to drive towards and wait on to give me a chance to reward Takoda for being calm and quiet before rewarding Jake and Lil.   I didn’t have a lot of confidence this would work but it worked brilliantly!

I started off tossing a dozen or so pieces of kibble in the Expen and while Takoda scavenged around, I ran Jake and Lil through the weave poles.  When Takoda looked up and noticed the action, I tossed in a few more pieces before he had a chance to start screaming.    After that, all it took to keep him quiet was praise and walking over to the Expen to give him a piece of kibble each time Jake or Lil ran by in the poles.

April 1 set up in yard to promote quiet and calm behavior when other dogs are workingSince that went so well, I continued by sending Jake and Lil through four hoops in various patterns. Between each rep, I praised and rewarded Takoda for being a good quiet boy.  Jake and Lil had a blast working at a distance…. and it was also fun for me to be able to practice handling BACKs.IMG_3186I didn’t assume this strategy would work the next day, but figured there was no harm in trying so this morning I set up 3 Mark buckets, put Takoda in his Expen, and followed the same protocol as the day before. On a side note, I was amazing by how much variety there is running 2 dogs between 3 buckets.  It was like we were playing Three Card Monty!  🙂  Today’s session went as well as yesterday’s session.  I am very happy to have been such a fool thinking it wouldn’t work.  🙂

(above) Takoda’s first time working on multiple Marks.. the third Mark is not visible, April 2.

After being such a good boy watching Jake and Lil work,  it was now Takoda’s turn to do something fun. I spontaneously decided to use the 3 Mark buckets out in the yard to see what he would do.  Prior he had only worked close to a single bucket.  I added the low platform in the middle of the Marks to add variety and a different performance (4 feet on).

My intention was mostly to see if he understood that he should move in the direction I am moving and face the direction I am facing.  This was a priority for me because his out-of-the-box behavior was to “herd from the front” like his amazing father.  While that works very well herding cattle and sheep, it was insanely dangerous to have him running in front and under my feet every time I moved.  So all week long, I had been careful to only reward him in heel position or when he was behind me facing the direction I was facing… and POOF…. he stopped tripping me up and started offering heel position when following me around the house and yard.   He even started staying in heel position when playing with toys… with my encouragement.  I cannot believe how quickly a puppy’s behaviors can change.  I assume this is because all behaviors are not well rehearsed with little puppies.

I feel fortunate to have been able to start interacting with Takoda so early in his life.  I met him for the first time at 5 weeks old.. and continued to visit with him a couple times a week until he came to live with us full time at 8 weeks old.  He is the perfect puppy for me.  We are already fully in love.  Gush Gush Gush. 🙂

(above) Just in case you think its all work and no play, Takoda spends a vast majority of every day being a very happy and cute puppy.  This short video is of him reenacting a scene from the move “Alien.”  HA HA

Please excuse typos and bad grammar.  I’m BUSY.  HA HA


Our New Puppy

Let me start by saying I have not abandoned my breed.   I love Australian Terriers and think they are spectacular dogs.   So why would I consider getting another breed if I love ATs so much?  The biggest factor was our move back to Colorado last summer.

The plain and simple truth is life is different in Colorado.   I love to hike and most of the nicest, most scenic trails around Boulder are designated as “off-leash” as long as dogs are under voice and sight control.   As a result, there are a lot of off-leash dogs on the trails, the vast majority of which are big Colorado-style dogs.

Jake and Lil are not dog-aggressive but I don’t want them interacting with unknown big dogs, due to the size discrepancy.  I just don’t trust that people know their dogs well enough to take their word for it when they say “He’s Friendly.”   I guess I’ve encountered too many “friendly” dogs with hackles raised to put my small dogs at risk.  For the record, there are plenty of nice on-leash trails in Boulder, but those trails are mostly shared with bicyclists, which means being vigilant about keeping Jake and Lil off to one side of the path.

As months rolled by, I noticed feelings of jealousy rising about all the happy-go-lucky people hiking with their big dogs on the off-leash trails around Boulder, which you can see from some of the on-leash trails.   I found myself wishing I could do that with my dogs.  Then in November, I went to an agility trial in Southwest Colorado and was struck by the number of herding dogs and the overall vibe of these working dogs.  They were not bred for agility nor were they raised to do agility as their primary jobs.   These dogs made a lasting impression on me.

Over the winter, I starting thinking about the type of dog I wanted to add to our pack of two and came up with this list of criteria listed in order of importance to me:

1) friendly and sociable towards people and other dogs

2) strong work ethic and balanced brain

3) structurally sound and built well for navigating over rough terrain and for the sport of agility.  Many agility trials are held in horse arenas here in the west.  My small dogs have to work much harder to run well in soft, deep dirt.  Big dogs seem to have no trouble at all running in dirt.

With these criteria in mind, I started keeping my eyes open and it didn’t take long for the perfect puppy to appear.

Takoda curled up on 3-23-15_3081 Meet Takoda, which in Sioux means  “friend to everyone.” So far, he is living up to his name perfectly.  He has the most beautiful eyes and his expression is alert, engaged, and intelligent.  He is 7 weeks old in this photo taken yesterday.

(above) Jake, Lil, and Takoda meeting for the first time yesterday

(above) video of Takoda’s father herding.

Jake and Lil won’t be missing out on any fun.  We will continue to go for our daily three mile walks and engage in a variety of fun training sessions.   Once Takoda is fully vaccinated, I’ll be adding a second walk to my daily routine to work solely with Takoda.  As soon as he learns the ropes about nice leash walking, I anticipate Bruce and I will be able to walk all three dogs together on a daily basis.  And once Takoda has a rock-solid recall,  I plan to take him for off-leash hikes while Jake and Lil enjoy quality time with Bruce, who is not crazy about hiking over rocky terrain.

Takoda comes to live with us full-time tomorrow.  For the past couple of weeks we’ve been visiting him and he has been visiting us.  Its been so great for us all to get to know each other before the big day.  🙂



A New Scientific Study: Canine Jumping

There is a new scientific study re: Canine Jumping.  The last sentence in the Abstract below, regarding obstacle spacing, is of particular interest to me because it makes sense that obstacle spacing, relative to a dog’s size, will have an enormous impact on a dog’s jumping style, which in turn will affect how much wear and tear repetitive, agility-style jumping will have on a dog’s body.  Fantastic there is now REAL science to back that up.

Lil Jumping, fall 2012Highlights

• In contrast to equines, canine sport science has been poorly studied.

• As the distance between consecutive upright hurdles increases, so do the take-off and landing distances.

• Take-off and landing distances further alter with the dog’s skill level.

• There are greater differences in jump kinematics when the distances between consecutive hurdles are shorter.

• Apparent joint angles alter for level of skill, with beginner dogs showing greater differences than advanced dogs.


Canine agility is a rapidly growing sport in the UK. However, there is a paucity of scientific research examining jump kinematics and associated health and welfare implications of the discipline. The aim of this research was to examine differences in jump kinematics and apparent joint angulation of large (> 431 mm at the withers) agility dogs (n = 54), when the distance between hurdles was altered (3.6 m, 4 m and 5 m apart) and to determine how level of skill impacted upon jump kinematics.

Significant differences were observed for both the take-off (P < 0.001) and landing distances (P < 0.001) between the 3.6 m, 4 m and 5 m distances. Further differences were observed when level of skill was controlled for; take-off (F[3,55] = 5.686, P = 0.002) and landing (F[3,55] = 7.552, P < 0.001) distances differed at the 3.6 m distance, as did the take-off distance at the 4 m hurdle distance (F[3,50] = 6.168, P = 0.001). Take-off and landing speeds differed for hurdle distances (P < 0.001) and level of skill (P < 0.001). There were significant differences in apparent neck angle during take-off and landing (P < 0.001), lumbar spine angles during take-off, bascule and landing (P < 0.01), and in shoulder angles during the bascule phase (P < 0.05). The results indicate that agility dogs alter their jumping patterns to accommodate the spacing between hurdles, which ultimately may impact long term health and welfare due to altered kinematics.


Lil earned her Versatility NATCH at Mountain Dog Sports Trial, February 27, 2015

Lil's V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

Lil’s V-NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH photo with Judge Ron Young.   It was cool that Lil earned this Championship Title under a judge who knew us from the East Coast.

I didn’t feel any pressure about this run being for Lil’s V-NATCH, because Lil runs Weavers courses well.  The only reason we lacked Elite Weaver’s Qs is I tend not to enter this class when it is offered late in the day on Sundays, which seemed to be fairly common on the East Coast (this is not a complaint though). I just personally prefer to run Elite Weavers (3 sets of 12 poles) with a fresh dog.   But since moving to Colorado in July, I’ve found many trials offer Weavers on Fridays, so we were able to get 8 needed Elite Weavers Qs (for a total of 13) over the past 6 months.

(above) Lil’s Versatility NATCH run at Mountain Dog Sports on Friday.

Elite Weavers was the first class of the trial.   Lil was acting tentative outside the ring so I ran this course with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, thinking Lil would appreciate feeling that type of energy to avoid feeling bogged down by the soft, deep dirt or feeling concerned about the environment which smelled strongly of horse poop and pee (Yucko).  Lil got her Boogie On about half way through the first set of poles and finished well under SCT.  She ran incredibly well all weekend long, Q-ing 11 of 14 runs and as usual the few NQs were due to handler errors.  I was (and am) so happy because this was the first trial at this site where Lil felt like her confident little self.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Touch N Go on Saturday

By Day 2 of the trial, Lil felt entirely confident when entering the horse arena. The tentativeness I felt on Day 1 and at previous trials at this site was gone.  I loved how tightly she wrapped the hoop and barrel. If you watch her wrap the hoop, you can see she was so tight, she had to hop over the timer foot.  🙂

(above)  Lil running Elite Regular on Sunday

This is one of my favorite runs of the weekend BECAUSE we NQed early on.  The turn after the dog walk seemed so easy on Round 1, that I took it for granted on Round 2. I guess I forgot it was easy on Round 1 because I handled it vs. stood there facing the tunnel while watching Lil run into it. Duh!  But as a result of this early off-course tunnel, I decided to run the rest of the course from a self-imposed handling box. Lil aced it…and she looked like she LOVED the distance.  🙂

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1 on Sunday

Having recently participated in Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance workshop, I knew exactly how I wanted to handle Chances courses this weekend.  I knew WHERE I wanted to be, and WHEN I wanted to be there to show my dog the correct path ahead.  I handled Round 1 and 2 the same way with Lil and Jake and both dogs ran the course beautifully.

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 1

(above) Lil running Elite Chances Round 2

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 1

I made the same mistake with Jake both rounds and pulled him off a hoop but I was so happy with how well he ran this course both rounds.  This was a tough weekend for Jake.  He found the temptation of huge mounds of horse poop along the one side and the back of the arena to be too much to resist on about half of his runs.   But on Sunday, I only lost him to horse poop on one run.

(above) Jake running Open Chances Round 2

(above) Lil running Elite Chances on Friday

The Chances course on Friday was one of the most challenging courses I’ve encountered.  There was only one Q in the entire Elite class.   Lil didn’t Q due our only missed dog walk / tunnel discrimination of the weekend, but I loved how well she ran the uniquely challenging portions of this course.  The coolest thing for me was that I knew exactly WHERE I wanted to be to send her out to 2 jumps after the second tunnel….which was as far away as possible from the tunnel exit when she emerged.  My plan worked beautifully.

Another challenge I felt really good about was the left turn after the first tunnel.  Once again, I knew WHERE I needed to be.. and WHEN I needed to be there in order to pre-cue that left turn before Lil ran into that first tunnel.  Plus she totally aced running through the “box” in the center of the course twice.  The first time was straight through 2 hoops to the far entrance to the purple tunnel.  The second time was from the exit of the purple tunnel OUT to the jump.

(above) Jake’s Open Chances Q on Friday

Jake Q-ed this very challenging Chances course in Open, which was particularly challenging for him due to the proximity to huge mounds of horse poop in that area of the ring.   I almost lost him twice.  The Q was saved by the Open line having a narrow channel in which the handler could walk in front of the tunnel, which helped me coax him back into “working mode.”

Jake’s contacts were PERFECT all weekend long.  So were his tunnel/ contact discriminations.  There were many things to feel good about which helped balance out numerous Es due to Jake wolfing down huge mouthfuls of horse poop.   SIGH.  Good thing we don’t need no stinkin’ Qs.   HA HA and true!

A few of Lil’s runs at Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance Workshop in Phoenix, AZ

(above)  a few of Lil’s runs plus Jake’s run during a lunch break from Paula Goss’s Advanced Distance Workshop.

Paula Goss is a fantastic agility instructor.  She has a great eye and set up challenging courses that could be worked from a variety of distances so each team was challenged yet not over-faced.  She also shared some great tips for training and course analysis.  I left the workshop with fresh ideas for what I want to practice at home.

I really don’t know how she kept going and going and going….like the energizer bunny for 3 days straight…. especially because it was HOT and SUNNY.   Amazing!  Plus her vibe is so upbeat and fun AND her demos of handling moves are inspiring to see and then try to mimic.  Paula’s handling is precise and graceful, yet totally punchy and dramatic when it needs to be.  I have a long way to go before I will be capable of handling anywhere close to Paula’s level but I am totally jazzed about trying.

Enough about me!   Lil was a real trooper.  She approached every course with great energy and speed and gave it her all.   I was thrilled to see how much her distance skills have improved this past year.  What used to be a GET OUT is usually now a simple GO ON and she appeared to be 100% confident working at HUGE distances.   But as we all know, agility is a game of balance, and as Paula pointed out on numerous occasions, Lil’s COME INS/ Turns towards me, especially to the left are a bit weak right now.   I am confident we’ll regain our balance as a team and in the mean time I’m 100% fine having some off-courses when working at a distance since the benefit of having developed such a solid GO ON far outweighs a few lost Qs!    Qs…. Shmoos is what I say.  🙂



New Multi-dimensional Doggie Luge Track

Jake and Lil are so confident running big loops with great speed and distance, I decided to try something new.  Instead of a digging out a simple circular luge track with a bisecting line, I designed a track that would allow us to practice GO ONs, GET OUTs, as well as a variety of tighter and wider TURNS.

On a side note, the A-frame can be incorporated if the grass is dry or barricaded if the grass or contacts are slippery.

There are 2 more loops in my grand design 🙂  but that part of the yard has a lot of heavy snow so digging will have to wait until the snow melts down a bit.  Plus there are plenty of fun options to explore with the current set-up.

(above) an overview of the track design

(above) one of Lil’s reps

(above) one of Jake’s reps

(above) another one of Lil’s reps

A few of Jake and Lil’s runs at NADAC Trials in Arizona

What a nice break from winter we all had in Arizona attending 2 NADAC Trials and a 3-day distance workshop with Paula Goss, which I’ll be writing about in a separate post.

Here are a few of Jake and Lil’s runs.  They both ran so well on turf and stayed perfectly clean.  What a nice change of pace from running in horse arenas around Boulder.

(above) Lil Elite Jumpers Bonus Box

Lil ran a great Jumpers Bonus Box course on February 1, which happened to be her 6th Birthday. I could not be more proud of her.  She ran with full confidence and really nice speed. Feel free to MUTE the audio. I was a total blabber mouth but Lil is used to me doing that and ran really really well in spite of it….. or maybe because of it (GASP)!

Too bad I didn’t believe we’d make it through a couple of tricky turns when I walked the course because had I formulated a handling plan for that last turn away from me towards the closing line, I may not have been SO LATE and I think Lil might have gotten it.   In the future, when my handling fails, I hope I can resist the temptation to jump in and finish the course running with Lil.   I need to remember I can just take a few steps and continue working at a distance.  Regardless, I feel GREAT about this Bonus Box attempt and based on the huge round of applause and YAHOOing Lil earned, I think our fellow competitors agreed.  🙂

(above) Jake Open Touch N Go

Jake’s new 4-on contacts were stellar and he earned his Open Touch N Go Title.  The only time he didn’t stick a contact was when a disconnect occurred between us earlier on course.  He still hit within the contact zone but since stopping 4-on is now part of our criteria, I asked him to return to a 4-on once as a test.  It seemed to have a calming affect on him.  After a brief pause and praise, I released him and he appeared completely centered, reengaged, and I could tell he did not perceive it as punishment.  If I had to guess, he experienced it as a reset (physically and mentally) and he finished the course running beautifully.  I wish I had a video of that run.

(above) Lil Elite Touch N Go

I have been playing around with asking for 4-0n the A-frame with Lil but after seeing her response at this trial, or should I say lack of response over the first two A-frames at our first trial since training a 4-on, I decided I didn’t like it for her.  I think her long history of running over A-frames trumped her short history (under a month) of stopping 4-on and I really didn’t like how it caused her to shorten her striding down the A-frame which made her dismount higher.  So instead of trying to “make her stop” and potentially creating an issue with Lil and the A-frame, I decided to just say GO ON like I always have and she went back to her typical style of running over A-frames.

For the record, the only reason I had contemplated switching Lil from running to 4-on was because NADAC trials can have 8′ or 9′ A-frames and Lil doesn’t automatically adjust her striding when she goes from 9′ (at trials around Boulder) to 8′ (in Southwest Colorado and at Champs).   A stopped contact would have saved us the hassle of needing to train a few sessions on 8′ A-frames before we encounter those shorter A-frames in trials.. and at Champs, which is not convenient since I don’t have an 8′ A-frame.  Oh well.  Its not the worse thing in the world.

(above) Jake Open Weavers

I almost scratched Jake’s last two runs after he lost focus on a Chances course mid-day.  I thought he was mentally done but I’m glad I changed my mind because he finished up the day with two fantastic runs, including this Open Weaver’s course.  Jake has a bunch of Open Weaver’s Qs.  The reason I have not moved him up to Elite is because I don’t think he needs to weave three sets of 12 poles and Open Weavers has two sets of 6 and only one set of 12.

(above) Lil Elite Weavers

Too bad the video starts mid-course because Lil ran the opener super fast and weaved the first set of poles much faster than she has been weaving lately.  I have wondered why her weaving has slowed down this past year.  Is it mental?  physical?  emotional?  Or maybe its due to weave pole bases being a little wider than the poles we train on at home.  Regardless, I was very pleased with how well she ran this course.

(above) Jake Elite Tunnelers

Jake has been running so well lately, I ran him very similar to the way I ran Lil in Tunnelers and Weavers… just a few feet less in terms of distance but the same basic handling.  YEY Jake!

(above) Lil Elite Tunnelers

Lil ran this course beautifully with me mostly staying inside a self-imposed Handler’s Box.  I lost my nerve while leading out and released her before I got to my intended position but other than that, I stayed in my box, and Lil ran with full confidence. YEY Lil!

It was so much fun to run agility outdoors and to reconnect with friends from Champs and Yellowstone Dog Sports. Plus I love having Sarah Fix as a judge.  She always creates such a fun, upbeat vibe and this trial was no exception.  Also agility folks in Phoenix are very welcoming.  We’ll be back next winter for sure.