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

 

 

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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!

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’s first RV Trip to Moab Utah

Moab_pano_4_15_3381

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.

dogs_in_moab_4_15_3457

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.

POP!

Lil and I are developing a new start line routine.  She has always preferred to stand at the start line, but since head bobs and nose touches have become linked to standing, I needed to change her position, at least for the time being.  So for the past week I’ve been heavily rewarding SIT in Lil’s day-to-day life.  I’ve been very careful to reward in ways that do not cause Lil to move her head and so far so good.  Lil’s head has remained perfectly still and she is sitting faster and straighter with each passing day.

One thing I have noticed about Lil’s sit position is its rather slouchy.  Her front feet are not deep under her body and her head is not held high.  This position can easily morph into the dreaded (HA HA) vulture pose which could easily lead to head bobs or nose touches.   So one thing I’ve been doing a little here and there is asking for SITs with front feet on a Mark bucket.  At first this was hard for Lil to do, but after maybe 10 reps over the course of a week, it became second nature.

Lil sitting with front feet on the Mark

Just for kicks, I elongated Lil’s legs (below) to show how the angle of her back is similar to longer-legged dogs when her front feet are on the Mark bucket.

Lil_long_legs

Now, back to the slouchy sit.  A friend suggested I ask for Sit Pretty (begging) but the thing that doesn’t work well with Sit Pretty and Lil is she positions her rear legs in a way that makes the position very stable and easy to maintain.. but she is not really sitting.. its more of a very low crouch.  I assume she learned to do this in anticipation of “Sit Pretty to Stand back to Sit Pretty,” which is difficult for dogs to do but great for conditioning so we do it now and then.

Since I don’t need or want any duration of Sit Pretty at the start line, I decided to train a new trick that will position her front feet deeper under her body.    Below is a video of this new trick. Its pretty simple.  Starting in a SIT, Lil lifts POPS her front feet up and back onto the ground, while maintaining a SIT position with her rear feet.

Already I can see how well this trick is influencing her sitting position.  Even before I cue POP, her front feet are already in a good, non-slouchy position under her body  in anticipation of the next POP.  The rep at 0:16 is exactly what I’m looking for:  a small, fast popping up of front feet with feet landing a tiny bit deeper under her body.

After watching the video I see that I have to be careful to reward her in ways that keep her weight shifted back.   In some reps, she leaned forward to get the reward, which is the opposite of what I’m looking for.  This is still very new for her so she sometimes offers a lingering Sit Pretty, which is fine since POP is still a new trick.

My end goal is to be able to cue POP from any position and from any distance… but that will take a while… or maybe not.  Lil is a super fast learner and this is an easy trick for her to do.

Sometimes being WRONG is Fantastic!

At last weekend’s trial I was 100% certain Lil did NOT have the necessary skills for one Bonus Box run so I didn’t even attempt it… but lo and behold, when I set up a similar scenario on the yard this morning, she totally surprised me.

I included a rough drawing of the course map in the 1 minute video below:

Up until this point, I thought the best reason to try Bonus Boxes was to figure out which skills we are lacking so I know what skills we need to develop and that certainly holds true.   But until today, I had not considered that a Bonus Box attempt could also point out skills we have that I didn’t even know we had…. so maybe Lil and I should attempt all Bonus Boxes for a while and see what happens.    🙂

Huge progress with “Forward Focus.” Lil is now able to focus forward on nothing (in partcular) and with a little more duration.

In this session, Lil is practicing “forward focus” while looking at nothing (in particular).   In the past couple of days she has begun to offer the behavior in her day-to-day life (which I’ve been rewarding) and is able to hold “forward focus” for a bit longer.   She is one smart little girlie!

For non-dog training fanatics, this video might be like watching paint dry but this is a very complex trick to train. Dogs have zero natural incentive to look at nothing so the fact that Lil is willing to stare into the distance for even a moment or two means she understands what I am asking of her and she trusts that she will be rewarded even if she cannot see me when she is doing the behavior.

Eye Gaze used as the only cue

The video below is of maybe the 10th session of Lil playing a new “eye gaze” game. The only cue I am giving her re: which toy to target is shifting my eye gaze towards one of two toys.  She picked up on this game so quickly (like in the first session) it is likely she has already been using the gaze of my eyes as a “cue” beyond this game. The inspiration to set up this game was to determine how much dogs pay attention to where their “people” are looking since this has been a big topic amongst agility folks lately.

 

A few of Lil’s runs at her first outdoor trial of the season

Here are a few of Lil’s runs from our first outdoor trial of the season.  I could not have asked for better weather, which makes outdoor trialing even more fun than usual.    Not much to say about the video other than I think well Lil ran very well!  On day one, she felt a bit scattered but surprisingly it was not visible on the video.  By day two, we were back in “the zone” and she felt super confident.  Her running contacts looked either good or great all weekend long.  There was just one A-Frame I didn’t like but she hit the contact zone so I shouldn’t complain.

Over the winter, I focused a lot of attention on forward sends and increasing distance with both dogs.  I am so pleased to see how well the training translated to the trial environment.  Both dogs ran really nice clean lines all weekend, including Lil’s Elite Chances run and Jake’s Novice Chances run, which they both aced.

I will be uploading a few of Jake’s runs too.   I just have a few pressing deadlines for my “real work” that I’m focusing on lately (like the last 8 months).  🙂

I stumbled upon this video of Lil running her very first agility course (Tunnelers) at Camp Gone to the Dogs.  She was only 7 months old, but I think she was already exhibiting what makes Lil a great agility partner and family member.  GO LIL!