Lil and Hop-Along at NADAC Championships 2015

What a wild roller coaster ride NADAC Championships was for me this year.  It took a few days to process everything Lil and I were able to accomplish two and a half weeks after breaking my ankle. I also learned something new about myself… that my brain is very good at being in denial. I was certain my ankle would be well on its way to healing by the end of Champs (3 weeks), even though the doctor said healing would take between 6 and 10 weeks. I guess I needed to believe my ankle would feel better vs. worse to get me through each round at Champs.

After Round 3, my ankle really started hurting and I began to wonder if I’d be able to make it through another round and from that point on, I took it one run at a time. I barely made it through Round 7 and knew it would be impossible to run in the Finals. This was hugely disappointing but in hindsight, I should have stopped after Round 6 but its impossible to know where the sanity/insanity line is until crossing it. Enough about my ankle though. I’d rather focus on Lil.

(above) Pre-Champs Touch N Go

Before breaking my ankle I entered a few pre-champs classes. I decided not to scratch so I could see how confident Lil was running at a distance in this new exciting setting. She did very well.

(above) Pre-Champs Chances Q
(above) Paula Goss and Sharon Nelson (in the center of frame) are two people who have taught me so much about distance training and handling. Lynn Smitley was not at Champs this year, but she is responsible for encouraging me to attempt our first Bonus Boxes and continues to be a very good friend and great training partner (albeit from afar these days).

(above) Champs Round One. I made a handling error that caused Lil to “lose flow” which cost us our chance to earn a “Sash for Excellence” but we still Q-ed. We scored 104.12 and needed 105. I’d like to think I will NEVER make that mistake again.

(above) Round Two. Had I been quicker to step over the line, I might have avoided that off course tunnel before the barrel. Regardless of that bobble, I loved how well Lil ran this round. She had great drive and nailed the opening and closing distance challenges.

(above) Round Four. This was the LONGEST lead out I have ever taken and Lil held her stay with full confidence. I was so proud of her willingness to wait so patiently at the start line all week long while I slowly hobbled out to get into position.

(above) Round 6. The highlight of this run for me was being able to stay behind the bonus line the entire run when I didn’t even think we’d get through the course. We earned 29 bonus points on this run. In hindsight, I think Lil was distracted by my “hop, hop, skipping” and knocked a bar as a result. The only other fault on this run was a missed dog walk contact, which has not happened for so long, I can’t even remember when Lil’s last missed dog walk contact was so NO BIGGIE.

(above) Doggie Luge track in Woodstock. This is one of the many ways I train and maintain GO ONs / driving away with confidence and speed. This is NOT hardwired in Australian Terriers like it is with Takoda, my Border Collie puppy. Its been enlightening to see how much I am getting “for free” with Takoda. It makes me REALLY appreciate what Lil has been able to accomplish.

(above) A more complex Doggie Luge track in Boulder

(above) Lil at 5 months. At 1:11 she was already showing me what a great distance dog she would become.

(above) Another video of Lil at 5 months old working on baby contacts and sending to a mat.

Smoochies with Lil
Smoochies with Lil. Need I say more? 🙂


Sometime there is a silver lining.. even with a broken ankle

A week ago, I had a freak accident, which resulted in a ankle fracture (and a face plant which has since healed).    The timing was unfortunate.. not that any time is fortunate to break one’s ankle, but in my case the accident occurred 2.5 weeks before NADAC Championships. Not only was I looking forward to running Lil at Champs, but I was also looking forward to seeing and cheering on my friends from all over the USA (and Canada) who make the trek to Champs.  Attending Champs is like being at a 5 day long, super fun party with agility mixed in.  After Champs, I had planned to meet a very good friend in Interlochen MI, followed by a workshop with another good friend, led by Dawn Weaver in WI.  Having to miss out on all three of these fun events was a triple bummer for me.

So where is the silver lining?  My first thought was perhaps the Urgent Care diagnosis was wrong and my ankle wasn’t really fractured (OK I was in denial) but the diagnosis was confirmed by an Orthopedist 4 days later.  SIGH. The only good news about my break is patients can now choose between wearing a bulky velcro-laden boot or a plaster cast.  I opted for the boot which I take it off when not walking around and I am very happy with that choice.  The other good news I received that day was to let pain be my guide:  If it doesn’t hurt its fine to do and if it hurts don’t do it.  That guideline seems simple enough to follow.

I was very diligent the first 72 hours re: RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) and by day 4 the swelling was almost entirely gone.   I had also taken Arnica and Symphytum officinale from Day 1 which I think also contributed to the reduction in swelling.  After learning from the Orthopedist that I can let pain be my guide, the thought occurred to me that I might still be able to compete in Champs because Lil has some great distance skills and I might be able to get by without needing to run.  Of course I hadn’t been working on distance the past 5 months, as I prepared for Lil’s first AKC trial in 3 years (which she totally aced.. but that topic is covered in another post). Plus this year at Champs I entered Lil in the Standard division vs Starter Stakes, a distance class.

Given my injury, I decided to test Lil’s distance skills to see if I thought she would be able to read my handling cues well enough to be able to compete at Champs.  Here comes the silver lining part!  Lately I have felt that Lil has become a bit darty when running agility.  I can’t think of a better word to describe what I felt was going on.    It was like she was not 100% committed to obstacles or the path she was running.. and that she could pull off at any moment.  I thought maybe it was due to something bothering her physically.  But as soon as I started challenging her by running her at big distances again, the darty-ness evaporated and she went back to running with full confidence and commitment.  In hindsight, I think chasing me around courses is just not mentally challenging enough for Lil.  She is a very smart dog and I think she likes to use her brain.. and working at big distance necessitates a lot more thinking than chasing a handler around a course (not that I’m putting that style of handling down, because I really enjoy running with my dogs and getting to do some fancy handling).

Its funny to think had I not broken my ankle, I would not have gone back to training / practicing distance with Lil and I would have continued to worry that something was bothering her physically.   I would have gone to Champs feeling less than 100% connected to Lil and I’m sure that would have affected our teamwork.  Yet the other, more significant part of the silver lining is since we’ve started “serious training” again, Lil has gone from hanging out by herself in a dog bed during the daytime to hanging out with me on the sofa.  She is back to being her sweet affectionate little self again, a real Mama’s girl.

(above)  Lil running a Jumpers course at VT runs hosted by Mountain Dog Sports yesterday.  It was great for me to see how well Lil ran without me being able to run….or even move my feet very well.    I was very pleased with how happy she looked before, during and after each run and to see that sparkle in her eyes while she prancing proudly at my side as we made our way back to my chair.

I’ve always thought of training as a shared language between dogs and humans but until now, I had not realized how important it is that the language be meaningful / the training be challenging to have a maximal affect on the dog/human relationship.

(below) Lil playing a new scent game I’m playing with all three dogs.  I think its a great way to challenge their brains.

Scent Game

I have two very awesome friends who do Search and Rescue in New Mexico.  They offered introductory classes in SAR at Yellowstone Dog Sports camp in July.   After seeing Takoda in action at camp (he was HIGHLY motivated to find the hidden person), I felt SAR could be Takoda’s true calling in life since he loves people more than anything else and has a great work ethic.   Takoda and I will continue to work on foundation skills for the game of agility, but I am noticing that SAR is taking over my thoughts in terms of training… myself and Takoda.

After returning from camp, I looked into local SAR groups and found a fantastic group.  Front Range Rescue Dogs (FRRD) is a small group of very experienced SAR handlers and dogs.  The people are incredibly knowledgeable and very generous about sharing information with newbies such as myself.  They are all excellent teachers and the style of learning is fantastic…mostly experiential… learn by doing.  I LOVE IT!

They have 2 field practices per week, which get cancelled if members are called out on a search… which does happen.   Yesterday we met on hour outside of Boulder at 10,000 feet.  What an invigorating way to spend a day!

This morning I decided to see how Jake, Lil, and Takoda would do searching for a real scent article.  The following videos show my interpretation of a foundation game my SAR friends from NM play with their puppies.  I put half a bandana, that I’d been carrying around in my pocket for a week, under one of the pot liners, and kept the other half to let the dogs sniff before releasing them to GO FIND it.

Takoda did very well all three reps.. and found the article every time.  The coolest part was with each rep he seemed to get a better understanding of the game.  He became more amped with each turn and was vocalizing in this crate when Jake and Lil had their turns.  This is not typical for him at this point.. but not so surprising either considering how much he appears to love this game.

(above) Takoda’s 3rd rep

When I tried to get Takoda to come back in the house after rep #1, he balked and took off running in the other direction.  He NEVER does this.  The following video shows where he went in such a hurry. 🙂

Lil’s first rep was by far her best.  After that she started picking up the pot liners and flipping them into the air like she does with frisbees and toys.   Its a cute trick but not what I am looking for with this scent game.  🙂  She was able to find the bandana all three times.  It just took longer the 2nd and 3rd reps.

(above) Lil’s first rep.  When she found the article flipped it at my feet and didn’t want to tug but that is totally fine with me.  I was happy to reward her with food!

Jake didn’t seem to understand the game.  He ran in and out and around the pots like they were a mini-agility course.  It was very cute.. until he started marking.   Watching the video playback at 1:17 he did stop and look at me while standing in front of the pot with the bandana in it.. but he also did that same thing in front of other pots so I don’t think he was trying to indicate anything.  Next time I play this game with Jake, I’ll use a scent that is stronger and unique like vanilla because Jake did very well in nosework classes at Camp Gone to the Dogs a few years ago so I’m confident he’ll figure out this new game.  He just needs a slightly different beginning step.

(above) Jake’s turn   He is such a hoot!

Like everything else I’m doing with Takoda, I will expose him to a variety of SAR games now and then vs. having a rigid training schedule.  Seeing the lightbulb go ON this morning, I think he’s off to a great start.  If Lil was bigger, I suspect she’d make a great SAR dog.  She has a great work ethic and GETS the game.  My gut feeling however, is the Rocky Mountains are too rugged for a 10 inch, long-backed dog to be able to search for up to 10 hours a day running up and down steep slopes with boulders, loose rocks, etc.  So Lil will not be adding SAR her resume anytime soon.  I actually think she is currently busy enough with agility, daily walks or hikes, and a lot of RV trips!  Same is true for Jake.

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



Takoda’s first off-leash hikes and videos of group flatwork

(above) video of Takoda doing a little flatwork,  He will be 7 months old in a little over a week

In July, I took Takoda to a local agility facility four times to work him in a new challenging environment.  The biggest challenges of this environment are a herd of sheep in one adjacent pasture and a couple of horses in another pasture.   The first time there were other teams working and that was too challenging but the other times, we were alone so I was able to work on “passive attention,” a term I made up to describe a dog keeping track of his person without being officially asked to do so.   The reason I wanted to test “passive attention” is because he’ll need to keep track of me on off-leash hikes in the mountains and I don’t want to have to ask for a specific behavior like heeling (which is not practical on trails) or constantly call him if he gets too far ahead or behind. Ideally I want him to WANT to stay within visual range.

With no other teams working in the agility field the last few times we went, I thought it would be a good opportunity to see what Takoda would do off leash if I disappeared.  So as soon as his focus shifted from me to the sheep or horses, I quietly moved away and hid from his sight.  It didn’t take long (maybe 5 seconds) for him to notice I was MIA and he came looking for me.  He ran straight to the gate where we entered and stared at our car in the distance before realizing I was about 10′ away hiding behind a shed.  He looked so happy to see me and we celebrated our reunion with a BIG play party.

In comparison, when I tried the “sneak away” game with Jake years ago, he either didn’t notice I had disappeared or he didn’t care.  He just wandered around sniffing and marking. Its not surprising considering how independent and confident Jake is but I still remember how disappointed I felt at the time.

After Takoda and I had our BIG party, I started strolling around the agility field again and he moved along with me.  After a few minutes, his focus shifted to the sheep and I crept away and hid again (this time ducking behind a tunnel) while he stood at the fence line looking at the sheep.  This time he didn’t wait 5 seconds before coming to look for me and ran to the gate much faster than the first time.  It took him a little while to stop looking for me around the shed but eventually he found me hiding behind the tunnel.   After that I couldn’t shake him.   He kept an eye or ear on me just like I hoped he’d do while hiking off-leash.

Takoda’s maiden voyages for off-leash hiking happened this week and he passed all four tests with flying colors.   His natural distance is well within my comfort zone.  He runs or trots ahead between 20- 30 feet then turns to see where I am.  He is usually able to WAIT, SIT, or LIE DOWN on cue at a distance and his recalls have been PERFECT.  He mostly stays on the trial and when he leaves it, he doesn’t venture off too far before coming bounding back on his own.   He loves to pounce in tall grass.  Not sure what he is seeing or hearing…. maybe grasshoppers?  Regardless its very cute.   So far all of our hikes have been in less populated areas where visibility is good so I can call him before we have any close encounters with other off-leash dogs or bikes.  I think he’d be totally fine with bikes but based on yesterday’s test at a very popular off-leash dog hiking area, which is more like a giant field with paths more than it is like a hiking trail, he is not yet able to resist playing with other dogs who are in turn eager to play with him and each other.  Both times, when I tried to call Takoda away from playing, he immediately came running but didn’t stay with me due to his playmates being in hot pursuit and me not wanting to pull out a toy or food reward with other dogs so close by.   I won’t be testing him at places like that for at least another month.  Eventually, I know he’ll come when called and then stay with me around off-leash dogs but as my good friend Heather pointed out “He is still a puppy.”

For those of you who know me well, you might be wondering why I took Takoda to a place with so many off-leash dogs since I don’t take my dogs to dog parks and I don’t think dogs NEED to have a bunch of dog friends to be happy.  The reason I did it is because there is no escaping off-leash dogs in Boulder County.   They are everywhere so being around off-leash dogs will be part of Takoda’s experience.   I knew he’d be fine since he has such great dog social skills, but what I didn’t know is how he’d respond to cues around off-leash dogs.  Now I know the answer to that question.  I think Takoda is off to a very good start re: coming when called, even though he didn’t stay with me (due to playmates in pursuit) but I think he did really well for his first time around so many playing dogs.  He is such a great dog across the board:  super sweet, friendly, social, athletic, easy going at home with a great OFF switch when we are not working and an instant ON switch when we are.   Oh and did I mention how cute he is?  🙂

Below are short videos of Takoda working along side Lil and Jake yesterday.    Its only the second time I’ve worked the boys together on dual heeling and run byes… and maybe the fifth time with Lil.    I’m so pleased with how well everyone did!

(above) Four short videos of Lil and Takoda working together

(above) Two short videos Jake and Takoda working together

Takoda and Jake’s relationship is so different than Takoda and Lil’s relationship.   I think its mostly due to Jake being more amped up than Lil.  I loved how even when things weren’t going perfectly, all three dogs continued working vs. falling into spontaneous play with each other.  And aren’t they are three CUTE BEYOND IMAGINATION?  YES!  I think so!

Glimmers of maturity!

All three dogs have been so mellow all day long, after their big swimming adventure this morning at Coot Lake (everyone chose to get in the lake on their own) so I decided to do some group training this evening for their dinners. First with Lil and Takoda, and then with Jake and Takoda. The reason I worked with 2 vs. 3 dogs is because with 2 dogs I have a reasonable chance of regaining control if it all falls apart vs. with 3 dogs, they take on a pack mentality and egg each other on which can turn into game of chase, which rarely ends well due to Takoda’s bumper not lining up with Jake and Lil’s bumpers, if you know what I mean.

Lil and Takoda’s session started with some dual heeling, one dog on each side. I’ve been doing that with Lil and Takoda for a while and they both seem to understand their jobs so I decided to up the ante and play the game where one dog stays while the other dog runs by the staying dog. I was shocked at how well Takoda did. I could see he was really listening and when I said LIL COME, he looked like he totally understood I was not talking to him and he held his stay with just a tiny flinch.  And when I said TAKODA COME, he immediately raced toward me, no hesitation at all. Of course I didn’t have a video running but it is the same game as I have been playing with Jake and Lil for years, and I do have a video of them:

Jake and Lil last summer

At one point I really challenged both dogs by asking them to DOWN with their front feet touching (facing each other at 45 degrees), yet both held their positions and only one dog got up and raced towards me when I called that dog’s name. I also did some challenging leap-frogging reps where the running dog flew right by the staying dog at full speed and both Lil and Takoda were rock solid.  Yahoo!

Then I switched to Jake and Takoda. They have a very different relationship than Lil and Takoda have. I think the boys actually like each other, whereas I’m not sure what Lil thinks about Takoda. I think her main objective is to maintain control over him.. which is not easy at times given his size and puppy antics… but that is a totally different topic which I’ll post about when I gain insight into what I think Lil thinks about Takoda (and why I think that).  🙂

An early example of Takoda recalling past Jake when he was a little over 2 months old. This is BEFORE his inner BC started awakening.  He would not have been able to run by Jake without engaging him  at 4 or 5 months old.

With Jake and Takoda, I started off with the same dual heeling I did with Lil and Takoda. It went well with the boys that I moved onto one dog staying while the other dog runs by and they both did surprisingly with this too.  Each dog broke his stay one time as the session progressed but in both cases still came running to me vs. drifting into a game of chase. I suspect the number of reps had something to do with the one OOPSIE by each dog, and also the fact that Jake does not have the high level of impulse control Lil has… and because Takoda is still a puppy, he doesn’t have an abundance of impulse control either.  Regardless, I was thrilled with the high success rates of both sessions. I love seeing more and more glimmers of who Takoda will be as an adult, which of course are currently mixed in with a bunch of silly puppy antics.  The most profound glimmers of maturity are apparent when he is working.  I can see his strong work ethic over-riding his silly puppy antics more often than it did even 2 weeks ago.  He still has a long way to go in terms of consistency re: impulse control around his biggest temptations which are #1 people and #2 dogs, but it is cool to see glimmers of Takoda looking like a serious working dog vs. looking like a total blithering idiot but cuter-than-cute puppy.

Now that I think about it, I might be under-appreciating other signs of maturity.  Takoda is  able to hang out and chill for hours on end when we are not working.  He is mostly quiet when I’m working Jake and Lil, and he waits for us to wake up before making a ruckus.  He really is a great dog to live with.  I feel very lucky!

Takoda is 6 months old today

IMG_4292We celebrated by going for a short hike early this morning

IMG_4289(above)  Takoda looking very mature

IMG_4282(above) Yesterday in the yard, Takoda looked very much like the puppy he still is

Takoda_herding_instinct_test Takoda’s herding instinct test

Takoda_watching_lead_sheep_break_offTakoda thinking “Now What?”  He becomes very serious when working sheep

Takoda_herding_instinct_test_w_cappyTakoda working with Cappy

Takoda and Lil ringsideTakoda graduated to a larger crate (4 months old)

2o2o_3577Takoda offering 2o2o on his own while playing with a stick (3 months old)

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 (3 months old)

Group Mark Session, May 24, 2015Group mark session (between 3 and 4 months old)

dogs_in_moab_4_15_3457In Moab for Sharon Nelson’s workshop (10 weeks old)

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

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

Group_photo_4_8_15_3286Takoda hanging out with Jake and Lil (8 weeks old)

Takoda curled up on 3-23-15_3081Takoda (7 weeks old)  I had the good fortune to be able to interact with him from the age of 5 weeks old because the entire litter came for visits to meet a bunch of people in our yard.  By the time he came to live with us full time at 8 weeks old,  we all knew each other  well so the transition was smooth.

I decided to celebrate Takoda turning 6 months old with photos vs. text.   He has learned and done so many things over the past 4 months, the post would be way too long and boring to read.  Here are some highlights:

#1. Takoda continues to be a totally sweet, social, friendly, and biddable puppy with a nice OFF switch.  These were the reasons I wanting a puppy from this litter.  They were all that way.. and still are.

#2. Takoda and I are beginning training for Search and Rescue (SAR) after being introduced to it at Yellowstone Dog Sports camp a couple of weeks ago.  He loves people more than anything, and did really well in SAR classes at camp, so I think its fair to assume that Search and Rescue will be hugely rewarding.  For me, I love hiking and being out in nature with my dogs more than anything, plus SAR offers me the opportunity to put my dog obsession to good use while contributing to my community so I think its a good fit for both of us.

#3.  Takoda will continue taking herding lessons every few weeks.  He did really well in his first lesson.  I don’t anticipate getting serious about herding…too much to learn on the part of the handler plus I don’t have plans to buy sheep, which makes practicing easier, but taking lessons will be a fun way to see his hard-wiring in action.

#4.  Takoda started performance puppy class a month ago.  My main goal for him in class is to learn important life skills like being calm and quiet in his crate while other puppies are running around, to stay focused on me vs. wanting to play with other puppies when more than one puppy is working (very common in this class), and to enter and exit the building with composure vs. acting like a blithering idiot :).   He is progressing with these important life skills but we still have a ways to go.

#5. Takoda is doing very well with trained behaviors like SIT, DOWN, WAIT, MARK, heeling on both sides an knows a ton of tricks.  But anyone who is into dog training knows this stuff is relatively easy to train.  Given my interest in doing Search and Rescue with Takoda, my main focus will be on training a rock solid recall as well as good manners on and off leash.

Just thinking about Takoda makes me feel ridiculously happy.. but then again thinking about Jake and Lil makes me feel ridiculously happy too!   I guess that is why I’m so dog obsessed.  Its SO rewarding for me.

Mark Practice Indoors on a Rainy Day, June 12, 2015

Its been quite a while since we worked indoors. This morning it was pouring rain so I decided to bring in a few of my smallest Mark buckets to practice Sends and Recalls between three Marks.

(above) Jake

(above) Lil

Jake and Lil were so enthusiastic yet remembered to collect so they didn’t knock over the tiny buckets. Their sessions were so much fun, I decided to try running Takoda to see if he was able to stick his landings on such small buckets. I have not used these buckets with Takoda for many weeks since he is now a BIG puppy.

(above) Takoda

The tight spacing didn’t allow him to really run but I think the videos clearly show that he knows HOW to keep the buckets from tipping over… by collecting!

(above) Takoda

Marks are such simple props, yet they are so great for teaching many important skills:

* Practicing impulse control to remind Takoda that STAY is a behavior he is capable of maintaining if he is thinking about it. The tactile aspect of front feet on a mark bucket really help him to remember to THINK about what I am cueing vs. DO something based on my motion.

* Disconnecting my motion from Takoda’s motion by practicing SENDS ahead or laterally with me taking one big and definitive step and “bowling” the path ahead with my arm. I sometimes use multiple Marks to help him differentiate between GO ON and GET OUT.

* Disconnecting my position from Takoda’s position by practicing RECALLS with me standing or moving well beyond the mark I am releasing him to. I sometimes use three marks and ask him to stop on the middle mark while I stand near the farthest mark, which is REALLY HARD but he is progressing very well with this skill.

* Practicing collection which I think is helping Takoda learn how to turn tightly while maintaining control of his body. He seems to really keep his weight over his feet when running around the yard. I think practicing collection will also come in handy down the road when he starts jumping, doing weave poles, and of course working on contacts. Continue reading

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!

Group Training Sessions, May 24, 2015

Group Mark Session, May 24, 2015

Group Mark Session, May 24, 2015

(above) first group feeding session in the living room

What impressed me most about this session is not so much that it was the first time all three dogs have worked together in the living room but rather how we got there. Jake and Lil were already in the living room when I called Takoda in and everyone’s attention stayed 100% on me. They didn’t even glance at each other. The other thing that impressed me was how easy it is for Lil to “sit pretty” for a very long time.

(above) early morning group mark session on the back porch

A few minutes prior to the group feeding session in the living room, we ended a group mark session on the porch with me releasing one dog at a time to go back into the house. Jake first, then Lil, and finally Takoda. Jake had a little hiccup and came back outside but Lil and Takoda waited patiently to be released, in spite of the intruder. 🙂

(above) late afternoon mark session in the backyard.

In this session, I added more distance between the marks and also added more handler motion, which adds another level of challenge. Lately I’ve been using either 4 or 5 mark buckets. 4 marks makes it easier for the moving dog to go to the correct mark since there is only one empty mark but 5 marks allow for more variety.

I am so happy with the progress Takoda and Jake have made working in close proximity each other. At this point, when one of them runs to the others “occupied” mark, nothing happens. I just redirect the OOPSIE dog back to his last mark and praise and reward the dog who got crowded but stayed “centered.”

Takoda is learning so many important skills by playing group training games like these. He is practicing impulse control, like staying put until released, which is a big challenge for any puppy, but perhaps more so with breeds whose natural instinct is to herd anything or anyone that moves. Takoda is also learning to differentiate when I am engaging him vs. another dog AND when to pay attention to my handler motion and when to ignore it. Valuable learning taking place for sure in terms of dog sports.

But most importantly, all three dogs are learning how to BE vs. DO when they are all together which makes for a much calmer household for all five of us. YEY for all the benefits of group training sessions because they necessitate 100% focus and intention by me to remain 100% aware of what all three dogs are “thinking” and “feeling” the entire session so I can stop mistakes from happening before they happen. I think it well worth the effort though. I’m so proud of all three dogs. 🙂