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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Takoda’s first RV Trip to Moab Utah

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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.

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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.