Saturday, November 28, 2009

Last post

I've made the leap and integrated all of Lucy and Walter's blogs into one single blog. So from now on, updates on Walter's agility fun will be at Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Going back to school!

A certain blogosphere friend (I won't name any names, coughELFcough) planted a seed in my mind a few months ago, and this week the sprout burst through the soil. I had written that I haven't taken agility lessons in years and that the one school I'd really like to take lessons with is out of town. The suggestion was made to perhaps consider taking occasional private lessons there.

Well, I finally decided that Yes! I want to do that! I will do that! Now! I was going to wait until getting my future third dog, but I owe it to my current dogs to try to become the handler they deserve.

I'm pretty excited about it. Many of my favourite agility teams train out of this school. The dogs are happy; the handlers are quiet and smooth with good attitudes; the communication between dog and handler is a thing of beauty. Plus their handling system seems to have a number of things in common with whatever mishmash system I've ended up with over the years, so hopefully it won't be too much of a confusing retrain for the dogs.

So the plan is to head out there with both dogs for a private lesson every three or four weeks or so. It won't be cheap, but is anything in agility cheap?

It's been so long since I've taken lessons, and I've never taken lessons with a place whose handling style I really and truly admired. I'm going to have to remind myself to keep a wide open mind and be ready for lots and LOTS of constructive criticism, especially since I've been set in my ways for so long and have developed tons of bad habits.

Looking forward to it!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tips for teaching a dog how to beg

How to teach your dog to beg in five easy steps.

1. Get a good amount of your dog's favourite snack. Probably something like hot dog or steak works best.

2. Sit down on your comfiest chair.

3. Start eating the snack.

4. Make it clear to your dog how delicious the snack is, being sure to include many verbal indications such as "Mmmmmmm" and "This is soooooooo good".

5. Voila! By now your dog should be staring at you, a stream of drool hanging down to the floor -- an expert at begging, after only five easy steps.

Ok ok sorry, that was my sad attempt at humour.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I've been an utter failure at teaching my dogs to beg / sit pretty. I used the luring technique, holding a treat over their head. They'd either stand up, or paw at my hand holding the lure, or both.

At the seminar this weekend we got a few pointers and now both my dogs are on their way to becoming expert beggers. The tips were basic common sense, no earth shattering rocket science involved, but really did the "trick". Using the same luring technique (surely it can be taught by shaping, but the less patient/skilled should feel no shame in luring IMO):
  • If the dog stands up to reach the treat, hold the treat lower, closer to their head.

  • If the dog puts their front paws on your hand or arm to balance, hold your hand/arm more vertical so that they can't. Also, make sure you're holding the lure far enough toward the back of their head so that they won't be tilted forward when reaching for the treat.

  • At first, reward even very short-duration attempts. It will take time for the dog to develop the core strenth required for holding the position for a longer time.
Oh, and probably a good idea to use soft treats rather than something crunchy to prevent the treat getting caught in their throat thanks to gravity.

You can bet I'll post a photo of Lucy and Walter here if when they finally manage to hold a nice beg!

BTW if anyone has any alternative trick names for this, I'd love to hear them. Neither "beg" nor "sit pretty" particularly appeal to me but I'm not creative enough to come up with anything better :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Chris Zink seminar - day 2

Wow, another full day.

Some of the topics discussed included strength training, endurance training, proprioception training, stretching, and a variety of injuries such as medial shoulder instability, iliopsoas strains, biceps tenosynovitis, and jump down syndrome. The afternoon was spent working dogs over jumping exercises.

Chris strongly recommends teaching dogs to "beg" because of the benefits it has for the dog in terms of developing core strength. I tried teaching this to L&W a while ago but for whatever reason (okay okay I know I'm a pathetic trainer!) had no success whatsoever. She had a few suggestions for some of the problems I've had, and bingo! Both Lucy and Walter are now on their way to learning this basic but valuable trick. I will be very excited to see their progress with this considering I once thought I'd never be able to teach it to them, especially Walter. Once they've got the beg down pat, next will be the difficult but great-for-the-leg-muscles beg > stand on two legs > beg!

Lucy was my working dog for today. She was part of the Level 2 group, working an exercise on bounce jumping. The jumps started far apart and gradually came closer and closer (4 or 5 feet). For a few of the close ones I ran when I should have walked so she was going too fast and had to do some crazy/scary maneouvre by the time she got to the last jump. Sorry Lucy!

So yeah, it was certainly a full weekend. Many topics other than the ones I've mentioned were also discussed. Also it's entirely possible I've misunderstood some things so please take what I wrote with a grain of salt. One last thing I have to comment on is how well the seminar stayed on time. It was really nice to know that when Chris said we'd start up again in 15 minutes, we really would start up again in exactly 15 minutes, whether or not some people hadn't returned from their break yet. Punctuality is a very good thing :)

I would definitely recommend this seminar to anyone else doing agility and would go again if she comes back in a few years, both as a refresher and to see what new material gets added.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Chris Zink seminar - day 1

I've been really interested in learning something about dog structure lately, so no way could I pass up the chance to attend Chris Zink's "Coaching the Canine Athlete" seminar, less than an hour's drive away. Originally had an auditing spot but figured what the heck, upgraded to a working spot. Oh, and it's held at a new place we'll be trialing at this winter, so a side bonus is being able to give Lucy and Walter treats all over the arena :) Walter got to be the worker today and I'll probably work Lucy tomorrow.

Though the entry fee wasn't cheap, I feel like I got my money's worth after only today.

We received a packet of several articles she's written, which will be neat to read later. Took 10 pages of notes today alone. There were lots of videos and photos as part of the presentation.

Here are some of the topics she discussed: ectomorphic vs endomorphic vs mesomorphic; effects of spaying/neutering before puberty; weight to height ratio; rear angulation; front angulation; dewclaws; a bunch of stuff about all the gaits; exercises to teach a dog to trot instead of pace; effect of different body types and performances on the dogwalk, a-frame, weaves, teeter, and jumps.

My favourite part was learning about front and rear angulation. I'd heard these terms before and tried googling about it once or twice but couldn't really find anything that helped explain it. If I understood correctly, more rear angulation means less stability, less ability to turn efficiently, whereas less rear angulation leads to more stability, better ability to turn efficiently, but also more stress on the legs, increased chance of CCL rupture. Something in the moderate range is good for agility dogs. As for shoulder angulation, I can't remember what effects it has, but crappy rear angulation is much preferred over crappy front angulation. Like most GSDs, Walter has "wonderful" shoulder angulation, woo hoo! His rear angulation is maybe the high side of moderate (from what I saw comparing him with today's other canine participants), but nothing too exagerated. Of the dogs in our little working group (which included a golden, sheltie, JRT, malinois, and ACD), Walter had the most shoulder angulation (good) and the second most rear angulation (not so good). I had a look at Lucy afterward and was surprised to see that it looks to me (not that I'm any expert after just one day of learning about it) like she has quite a straight shoulder, at least compared to Walter. But her rear angulation is nicely moderate.

Another interesting bit was the discussion about the weight to height ratio. Walter's is 2.5, Lucy's is 2.2. A general rule of thumb is that anything greater than 3.5 is in the danger zone; 2.0-3.5 means you should be careful, take care to run on only good footing, limit how many full height jumps they do, and so on; <2.0 is easy street. I'm glad both dogs are toward the low side of the middle range, especially since I thought Walter would be higher up on the scale.

Chris is a big proponent of not spaying or neutering before puberty. Lucy wasn't spayed until after her first heat, but only because the shelter didn't know if she had been spayed or not. The day after I brought her home, she went into heat. Walter on the other hand was neutered right around 6 months. That was just The Way Things Are Done as far as I knew back then. Food for thought about what to do for a future dog, although probably s/he won't be a puppy, so someone else will have made that decision.

Learned today that pacing is neither a natural nor a healthy gait for dogs. Just my luck that both my current dogs and my old childhood dog are/were all pacers. Actually, not luck so much as me inadvertently teaching them to do that, which she suggests is the main reason why some / a lot of dogs pace. Learned an exercise using pvc poles as cavaletti to teach the dog to trot instead of pace. Also she showed a neat way involving footwork (by the human) to encourage dogs to trot instead of pace. A very handsome big dobie did a great job of demonstrating these.

My least favourite part of the day was where we had to get our dog to trot by our side for about 70 feet while everyone else watched. Sounds easy? Well, it wasn't so easy for many of us, and she seemed a bit impatient with our shortcomings as handlers. We had to get our dog to trot as fast as they can without breaking into a canter, all the while not looking at the dog, but also at the same time looking at them out of the corner of our eye so we could sort of see what they were doing. I was first up on this exercise and Walter was being goofy, kept jumping up at me and biting at his leash. Anyway eventually he settled down and got the job done. Lots of others had problems too - handler looking at dog, dog pacing, dog cantering, dog giving too much heads-up attention, handler not keeping up with dog, and so on. If I had one suggestion for improving the seminar, it would be for her to be a bit easier on us for this exercise. She seemed to be a bit impatient, and her impatience seemed to be stressing some of the people out. I was glad to have gone first, otherwise watching everyone else getting stressed out may have resulted in me dreading my turn and wishing I had audited instead ;)

But the rest was great!

Looking forward to more information overload tomorrow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Morning Star trial: Walter's farewell to 22" specials!

Our last trial of 2009!

The weather outside was relatively warm and the inside of the building was crazy warm. So much for a nice cold trial for Walter. Hopefully it will be good and cold at their January trial, but after that, next year I'll probably just do one day instead of two since it's basically a summer weather trial. Save some money and spend it on the (very few) venues that don't feel like summer in the middle of fall or winter. Anyway, enough whining! I'm sure the wee little short-haired dogs appreciated the warmth, and it made for comfortable hanging-out-between-runs-in-a-t-shirt time.


Three Standards: One run was a Q, one was botched by weave issues, and the other I can't remember what the goofs were.

Three Gamblers: One run was a Q, two weren't. Tough gambles today for sure but always fun to give them a try. Our Q rate in Snooker is much higher, but I'll take a Gamblers run over a Snooker run any day!

Speaking of trying, tried a new dish for my Kingston trial tradition of take-out from Lotus Heart Blossoms Vegetarian Restaurant: Pasta Mediterranea - delicious! Will definitely get this again.


Three Standards: Weaves botched in all three runs, some other miscellaneous goofs too here and there in two of the runs.

Walter hanging out in hot summer-like temps.

One Snooker: A decent Q.

One Jumpers: A fun Q. I love nice, flowy courses that don't present off course options at every turn.

And last but not least: One Steeplechase. I hadn't originally signed up for this, but in the morning decided to add it on since it was a gorgeous, fast, fun, flowing course, exactly what a Steeplechase is supposed to be, and it had two frames instead of two weaves. So, it looked like a fantastic way to end our day and to celebrate the end of Walter's time as part of 22" specials. However, when the time came around late in the afternoon Walter was getting tired and in his previous course (Standard) had big trouble with the weaves, so I was second guessing about my decision to add it on. Anyway, the worry was for naught as we had a blast over Walter's last ever 22" jumps. He ran wonderfully, no weave issues at all, Qd with 8 seconds to spare, and took first (though in an admittedly very small height class :) )

I could not have asked for a better run with which to say farewell to 22" specials!

I admit I shed a few quiet tears back at his crate after that run. I'm just a really sentimental person when it comes to goodbyes, and in a way that run was a goodbye to... oh no, here come the tears again... I guess, to the innocence with which I started on the agility journey with Walter four years ago this coming January. I found myself thinking ahead to the day Walter and I will have our last ever run together. I just feel so grateful to Walter for all he has given me and the experiences I've had and friends I've met, all thanks to his willingness to play the game of agility with me.

I love my dog! 16" vets here we come!!!

For posterity's sake, here's our last ever 22" Jumpers run and the last part of our Steeplechase run (the first part didn't make it on video):

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dream Fields trial

It was cool in the morning but warmed up to a sunny 11 degrees which qualifies as hot in Walter's books. Despite the cool morning, he wasn't as peppy as he usually is in cool weather and was definitely low energy by his last run. I'll limit next season's non-winter trials to four runs max. Probably doesn't help his energy level that we have a rousing session of fetch and tug after every run, but that's the best part so won't give that up of course.

Gamblers: Opening went as planned. Did the teeter mini once but went with him the second time since he was so hesitant the first time. Lucked out with perfect timing arriving at the main gamble - that was fun! As far as Masters gambles go, the main gamble was pretty darn easy, unless you have a fast and/or tunnel loving dog, so Walter did well and got a Q.

Snooker: Walter ran well. It was a nice unSnookery Snooker, so it was fun. Walter didn't slow down / demotivate in all those tunnels as much as I thought he might. Q despite the botched weaves at the end.

Gamblers and Snooker:

Jumpers: The first half felt good though slower than Lucy's run, but the second half turned quite slow. I had walked the last line of the course with a rear cross having never thought to use a front cross, but when I saw someone else use the front with great success I thought I'd give it a try. Weird wavey arm after that but Walter was very forgiving and knew what I meant. Q.


Steeplechase: Walter was slowing down, but fortunately the course had two frames intead of two weaves. But it was a tough-for-us soft side entry so he got the wrong entry. Even on the restarts from a straight approach it took several times before he'd enter at the first pole. On the bright side, he didn't pop once he got the entry. 20 seconds over time, definitely no Q!

Team: I probably would have scratched this run if it weren't Team because Walter's energy level had definitely waned, but we had a go. He easily let me lead way out -- a sure sign that he's tired! Weave issues: twice he entered correctly but immediately popped, then finally he skipped a pole AND popped at the end so we ended up incomplete. Then I sent him over a wrong jump; I think he quite enjoyed our partner's 6" jump height. Heh. On the bright side, he did a great 2o2o on the dogwalk. Our partner is having a-frame issues so they incurred some faults as well.

Only one more trial for Walter this year, which will be his last time over 22" jumps. As of January he'll be a 16" vet. Woo hoo!

Saturday, October 24, 2009


Been a while since we had a practice. But given how today's trial with Lucy went, I thought it would be very good to remind Walter about his dogwalk contact in advance of tomorrow's trial.

So I got him all hyped up (easy to do when it's cold, he's fresh, and I'm holding a favourite toy in my hand), sent him over a jump to the dogwalk at a distance, and ran fast past the end of the dogwalk. Walter took the bait! So we did that a few more times and the next times Walter didn't fall for it, good boy. Will make a point of doing this king of thing at least once every practice, however few and far between they are.

Gave him a break, then worked a wee bit on the wrap weave entry using six poles, with distance. Well, not really a wrap entry, but a jump at 90 degrees so the entry was not straight on. He did great so I made it a bit harder, and he still got it. We don't work on weave entries very much so I was surprised he did so well. Soft sided entries are a whole 'nother thing but we'll work on that this winter. Maybe.

That was it, only had him out for about ten minutes total. Was going to do a third session but thought he'd lose his zest so we ended it there.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Morning Star trial, Ta-ta to 2o2o on the teeter

Recently I started thinking of no longer requiring 2o2o from Walter on the teeter. It's not his favourite obstacle; he's slow on it; I think he'd probably hit the yellow most of the time without 2o2o anyway; so really, why not let go of the 2o2o? So I started that this trial, similarly to how we abandoned 2o2o on the frame, just saying "okay" after he tips it. It's much more fun this way, for both of us. Definitely keeping 2o2o on the dogwalk though - we luck out with the a-frame most of the time, but I doubt we'd be so lucky with the dogwalk.

He was in 6 runs on Saturday and 5 on Sunday, for a total of 6 Standard runs, 3 Jumpers, and 2 Snookers. It was a bit cool outside, but bummer -- inside the building was toasty warm most of the time. So Walter wasn't his most fresh or invigorated self, but still a good sport.

Saturday's Standards were tricky and we had several goofs in all of them including botched weaves in all three (two pops and one missed entry). Sunday's Standards were nicer but still gave us trouble. The great news is he did clean weaves in the last two. We ended up with 1 Standard Q. Oh yeah and on a few of the dogwalks he either didn't do 2o2o or self-released, but this probably has little to do with the teeter thing since he did that last weekend too.

We got both Snookers, nothing particularly exciting to write about though. Didn't include any weaves - one course didn't have weaves, and the other had them as #7 so I planned around them.

We got two of the three Jumpers. Of note, one of them was the very first time I got to run Walter AND Lucy on the same course at a trial!!! (Check out Lucy's blog for the details of her fantabulous weekend.)

Got video of most of the runs but won't bother posting most of them since they really weren't particularly exciting. A few goofups I scratched my head about until watching the video back, where it so clearly shows that I sent Walter right over that off course jump, right into the offcourse weaves, and so on.

I will, however, post two videos. First, the Jumpers run on Saturday for which I got to run both dogs! :-))) It was the last event of the day so we were all on the slow side.

And, since Walter's clean Standards are so few and far between, here's that one. Again, not very exciting as it was warm and we were slow, but it shows the current state of our new teeter performance... and oops, the lack of 2o2o on the dogwalk was MY fault - I released him way early in the panic of being so close to a Standard Q. :>

Saturday, October 3, 2009

AARF trial: Bronze, Bronze, and Bronze!

Our annual trip to AARF for their October trial. This year's trial was quite small, but friendly and fun as always. And I was excited to see they now have breakaway tires -- I think of the places we trial at, they're the first and only ones with breakaway tires.

For some reason there were hardly any regular dogs there. In fact, some of the classes had ONLY special/vet dogs. For all of our classes we were within ~5 of the first five dogs in the running order which was a reallllly nice change. Do the walkthrough, get the dog, and go. I liked it!

Friday was fantastic. We had great weather: cloudy and downright chilly. So chilly, in fact, that I was bundled up in my winter coat for much of the day. 7 degrees (45F) in the morning, up to a cool cloudy high of 12 (54F). A bit rainy too in the afternoon. But no complaints from me; Walter LOVES this weather and ran happy and peppy all day.

Friday Jumpers: An offcoursey course but we made it through clean for a Q.

Friday Standard #1: Our first Standard run since spring. A flowy course, Walter did all of his weaves (woo hoo!), and he got a Q. This one little Q gave him three shiny new titles: Expert Standard Bronze (10 Masters Standards), Versatility Bronze (3 expert bronze titles -- he already had Snooker and Jumpers), and Bronze Award of Merit (10 Masters Standards plus 25 Masters Games). AARF is one of the clubs that give out these crazy huge ribbons for the Awards of Merit so I'm glad Walter got his Bronze here. One of the competitors is also a photographer who kindly agreed to take Walter's ribbon photo which I'll add here later.

Friday Gamblers: Didn't try the minis as they weren't our cup of tea, and the main involved a send to a sharp offside weave entry which is certainly beyond our skill set. Walter gave it a good try though.

Friday Steeplechase: This one had two sets of weaves; he popped the first set at the end so I waved him through; second set was clean (woo hoo!). Got his second ever (!) Steeplechase Q.

Friday Standard #2: We had an offcourse jump, but a decent run overall. It was two sets of 6 weaves which Walter didn't have a problem with.

Friday evening we continued our Kingston trial tradition of getting takeout at Lotus Heart Blossoms Vegetarian Restaurant. Tried a new dish this time, Barbequed Tofu Rice Bowl. The tofu was bland (but certainly edible), but the rest of the dish was delicious, with lots of veggies and sauce. Definitely a keeper.

I wanted to file a complaint with Mother Nature on Saturday. The last forecast I had heard was for Saturday to be the same as Friday. Woo hoo! Well, it turned out to be a sunny and hot day reminiscent of friggin July or something! 15 degrees (59F) first thing in the morning, already warmer than Friday's high, going up to a sunny and felt-much-warmer-than 18 degrees (64F). Oh well, what can you do. Walter was in his slow and unsharp mode for all but his first run of the day.

Saturday Gamblers: Did a lateral teeter/chute mini twice, good boy! Then when the buzzer went he ended up going on the dogwalk heading directly AWAY from the gamble. Although he got the main gamble (a distance serpentine with a couple of extra jumps thrown in), we had eaten too much time with that dogwalk mishap so were 3 or 4 seconds over.

Saturday Snooker: We were going along fine until halfway through the closing when he ran past what I thought was an obvious jump. Too bad so sad!

Saturday Standard #1: An early teeter offcourse, followed by great weaves (woo hoo!), then he felt like doing a running dogwalk so we went into training mode.

Saturday Standard #2: A brutal start requiring a lead out to a tough-for-us weave entry. Needless to say I messed that up, then he got the wrong entry AND popped. Oh well. The rest of the run was nothing to write home about. Poor Walter was feeling the heat.

Saturday Jumpers: It was hot, hot, hot. How can 18 degrees feel so darn hot? Walter was slow but ran clean and under time for a Q.

So yeah, yesterday was FUN -- Walter was loving the fall weather and ran with pep and enthusiasm. Today, not so much, just too stinkin' hot so he was flat flat flat, just not fun for either of us when he's flat as a pancake. How dare it be hot on one of our rare cool-weather season trial weekends! Maybe I should consider starting up a new Snow Agility League or something... ;-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dream Fields trial: Tumble #2 and Gamble #5

I think Dream Fields trials are my favourites -- Walter always feels so at home there. Anyway, a great day today with Mr. Reliable in which he went 3 for 4. Video below.

Gamblers: Scary moment at the dogwalk! We were going at a decent speed, I shaped his approach but not enough -- he started to scramble on the up ramp and then fell from the top. He landed upright and seemed ok, so I figured I shouldn't turn it into A Big Deal and instead just keep going, keeping a close eye of course to make sure he was ok. If memory serves, this was the second time he's fallen from the dogwalk, first time being quite a while ago. Anyway the gamble was doable for us and many others. His fifth Masters Gamblers Q -- hooray for gambles designed for Not Tunnel Sucks. ;) Oh and hey I just realized this is the ONLY Gamblers Q including Starters and Advanced that I've caught on video!

Jumpers: Last weekend: 3.9 YPS and over time by 2.5 seconds. This weekend: 5.2 YPS and under time by 9 seconds. Go figure. Q.

Steeplechase: We haven't entered Steeplechase since May 2008-- in the cool season we usually "save" our weaves for Standards, and in the warm season we don't enter Standards or Steeplechases because of the weaves thing. But this one fit into the day's schedule well so why not. Two sets of weaves -- during the first set I started clapping, and LOUDLY! What the!?!? The only times I've clapped on course before have been to help get his attention for a turn, so no wonder the poor guy pulled off the weaves. So, incomplete on the first weaves and over time by a couple of seconds.

Snooker: Getting warm and muggy... Planned the opening to not need the #6 weaves so we Qd with the minimum 40 points.

Hoping for cool, happy weaving weather next weekend when Walter runs in Standard for the first time (except for Nationals) since April!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Dogz trial: The super-dork and the slow-poke

I was feeling extra-specially dorky today after one of the nose pads on my glasses fell off and got lost as I was swatting at flies early in the day. Hopefully the lopsidedness wasn't too noticeable, but it feels weird for sure so off to the glasses repair shop tomorrow.

Wow, they sure weren't going to run out of Q ribbons with today's courses being what they were. The day started with two Standards, neither of which Walter was entered in but from what I saw they took more than their fair share of victims.

Then it was Gamblers, and NOT ONE of the ~35 dogs in the event got the main gamble. And, it's not like dogs were coming close to getting it: only one dog made it beyond the second of the five obstacles in the main gamble. And, no, it wasn't Walter. Oh, and there were no mini gambles to have a try at, which was a bit sucky.

Then Snooker. Holy combinations, Batman! The 5, 6, and 7 were three-jump combos, and the 4 was a two-tunnel combo. But hey, no weaves so I wasn't going to complain. Went for a non-exciting 5-2-3 in the opening since the combos would have eaten up a lot of time. So we had just enough points for a Q and actually had about 6 seconds left over.

Last, Jumpers. Walter was quite slow for this run, about as slow as he's ever been, I guess because of the heat. It was only about 22 degrees (72F), but felt warmer than that. I had to slow down and wait for him at a few spots and even started cheerleading at one point, poor pup. This run reminded me of the reason we don't do a lot of summer trialing, although what trialing we have done he generally hasn't been that slow. Anyway, his slowness (3.94 yps - typically he's in the 4.5-5 range for Jumpers) combined with the tight SCT gave us almost 2.5 time faults, so no Q. I can't remember the last time we ran clean but with time faults on a Standard or Jumpers course - was probably back in Advanced due to non-NQing bumbles. Well, at least we were in good company today as there were quite a few clean Jumpers runs save for time faults.

Here's our Jumpers run, the only one of the day we got on video:

Having fun though, and looking forward to more trials in the weekends to come, though hoping for cooler weather!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Fetchin' frenzy

In my paranoia (isn't life fun as a worry-wart!) about the potential for Walter to injure his front end, over the past months I've been cringing more each time I throw a tennis ball, tug, or other such toy for Walter and see him dive into the ground, swinging his rear around and twisting his shoulders as he stops to pick up the ball. Seeing a post on Susan Garrett's blog about this sort of thing recently wasn't much comfort!

But Walter loves to play fetch on our daily walks at the park. So I'd like to find safer ways to play the game.

One thing we sometimes do to mix it up is I tell him to back up, then toss the ball at him. He can easily and safely catch it with all fours on the ground, unless my throw is wonky. Which happens a lot when one is a klutz! It's fun once in a while, but not the same thing as throwing something for him to chase.

One alternative that seems to be working well is the same normal game of fetch, but using a Hol-ee Roller toy. It's bigger than, say, a tennis ball so it sits higher up off the ground, and the holes in it make it super easy for him to grab. So, he doesn't have to lower his head as much to grab it, and being so easy to get a hold of, he doesn't miss it and then stop sudenly to turn around and get it. He just runs up to it and scoops it up, then slows down to turn around much more gently. I'm no physiology expert, but playing fetch with this thing looks a lot easier on his body than with the usual fetch toys.

And, the Hol-ee Roller is great for tugging - easy to hold, and stretchy to make for a more comfortable tugging experience for both of us. BUT!!! beware of teeth - all those holes mean not much protection for human hands, as I keep learning the hard way!

Oh and no I don't own stock in their company :)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cat drinking from faucet

Boring post title, but this is one seriously funny video. Actually gets funnier and funnier towards the end. Caution: Not recommended for viewing with food or drink in your mouth unless you're looking for an excuse to buy a new computer.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A couple more thoughts

came to mind and made me smile after writing that last post.

Better a vet than at the vet's!
and my favourite:

Putting Walter in vets isn't the beginning of the END of his agility career;

Putting Walter in vets is the beginning of the EXTENDING of his agility career!
Feeling much better about the whole thing now :)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Day 2 - And more thoughts on Walter as a soon-to-be vet

Sinus cold continues, but not too bad.

Gamblers was first. An okay opening including the jump/chute/jump mini gamble, but Walter went into the wrong tunnel in the main. Didn't call him off the wrong tunnel since he was going out of his way to go to a far tunnel, a good thing!

Next, Jumpers. It felt like a nice run, and it was a Q, but in watching the video back I like yesterday's Jumpers run better -- Walter seemed more into it and I seemed less bossy. Anyway, here's today's Jumpers:

Last, Snooker. Like yesterday, went for four reds to avoid the #6 weaves in the closing. But unlike yesterday, it wasn't quite as smooth, and three of our four obstacles of choice were three-obstacle combos, so we ran out of time just before the #5 in the closing; no Q. There were a couple of awkward snookerish moments in there, so I wouldn't have felt that great about the Q anyway.

Ok - here's where I get all wordy and whiny - long blog coming up!

Walter had a massage today by the very popular local canine massage person who had a booth on site. She noticed he seemed tight in between his front legs, and it showed on his face when she manipulated him there, perhaps a knot. She asked if he lands heavy when jumping, which I think he kind of does. She showed me a stretch to help with that area, which I will add to our routine. But, this really confirms three things for me: (a) he'll be started on a regular massage regime; (b) he'll be started on a regular chiro routine; and (c) more and more I'm thinking of dropping him to 16" vets before his sixth birthday, probably in January just because it's the start of a new year though I could do it any time.

That last one is a subject that's been tugging at my thoughts since Walter turned five in July, becoming eligible for vets. The thought of Walter as a vet forces me to accept that he's getting older and to think about his mortality. Also it would suck that there would not be any further height drops to look forward to when he gets OLD old. And, quite simply, I enjoy watching videos of Walter athletically jumping 22" -- seeing him over 16" jumps is just not the same thing. These must sound like pathetic, selfish reasons for delaying putting him into vets, and they are. But in a nutshell, what gets to me is that, in my mind, I can't help but think that dropping Walter to vets is the beginning of the end of his agility career. [sniff... boo hoo... WAAAAAAH!! okay I need to get a grip!]

BUT. As a 16" veteran dog...

Would Walter be unhappy or somehow feel a lack of satisfaction? Nuh uh.
Would he enjoy and be more comfortable jumping 16" instead of 22"? Safe to say, yes.
Would his body undergo less wear and tear and hopefully allow him to keep doing agility well into his senior years? I hope so. I would love love LOVE for Walter, who wasn't bred for agility and doesn't have the world's best structure, to still be doing agility five years from now. Dropping him to 16" soon is probably one of the best things to make that happen, along with stretches/massage/chiro and putting forth a more focused effort to cue smoother turns for him.
I am definitely very grateful that the AAC is so welcoming of its veteran dogs. Not only do they offer a vets class, to begin with, but also, dogs who drop from Regular to Specials to Vets don't have to restart their Q counts for titles. Plus, as of this year they've dropped the "S" and "V" prefixes on all titles. Pretty darn cool eh.

I know there are far more important things going on in the world and who the heck cares about something as trivial as this. Still, it brings a tear to my eye to think about Walter as a vet. But, once the deed is done I'm sure I'll get over it quickly and will have no regrets! And will stop whining about the whole thing here on my blog :-)

P.S. I hope it's understood that I have no judgement toward people who keep their dog in Regular or Specials for as long as they want. Every dog is different. I just feel that for Walter, this is the best thing.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Day 1 - ADSC trial (All Day Sneezing and Coughing?)

Thank goodness that for today's All Dog Sports Club trial we were only signed up for two classes and that they were the first two of the day, cause I have a cold :( Snooker followed by Jumpers, a Q in each, with Walter running like a dream, really attentive and fastish (for him - dogwalk aside!) - he loves flowing lines where he can just open up and run. The Snooker video is missing the start and the Jumpers is a bit too zoomed in since my cheapo camera doesn't always cooperate with zooming out. But anyway it was quite a fun morning with some fun courses; the judge is from Saskatoon, where years ago I dreamed of moving to...

The Snooker allowed for a nice flowing opening with four reds so we did that instead of needing the #6 weaves in the closing, a good thing too since he ran right past them. Not crazy about how I chose to handle the ending to the Jumpers run from the tire to the next jump, but Walter didn't seem to mind too much. Lots of people stayed on the left of the jump after the tire, then rear crossed the next jump for a much more flowing line than the way I handled it. Oh but hey, tons of front crosses in that Jumpers and I'm glad to see I don't seem to be bending forward nearly as much as I used to.

Back for three more tomorrow.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Guides Canins trial

Woo hoo! Fall is here and with it, the start of Walter's trial season. We don't do much agility in the summer due to the heat.

Just three events both days for Walter, and camping onsite Saturday night, fun! Except for the nearby snoring, which this time definitely wasn't coming from Lucy, unfortunately... Oh, to be able to sleep through anything like the dogs can.

Saturday Gamblers: Not really our best run ever, though much better than Walter's first ever run here last year - just watched the video of that run again and it's frigging hilarious - we must have had a thousand faults! Anyway, back to this weekend: Opening was okay but his confidence wasn't there for the mini, and then for the main he was sure the fact that the tunnel was snaked under the dogwalk meant that he was to take the offcourse dogwalk after the tunnel. Oh well.

Saturday Snooker: The darned weaves were #5 so I had to decide whether to run for the safe Q in case he botched the weaves which would mean 4 7s and a very choppy course, or just say what the heck, go for a nice flowing course and see what happens at the weaves. I went for the latter and lo and behold, he did all of the weaves! and finished the course in time. Yay! Q.

Saturday Jumpers: (Video below) Rats, in watching the video back it looks like I went way too deep in the pocket of the pinwheel at the start of the run and pushed him off the far jump. Later on I watched as he headed toward the offcourse tunnel and didn't call him off it in the interest of keeping his motivation up. But then he had a weird spaz moment when something outside the ring (no idea what) caught his attention. Bizarre!

Sunday Snooker: Weaves #6. Decided again to just go for a flowy course, come what may at the weaves. This time he entered at the second pole and then popped at the end, so no cigar.

Sunday Jumpers: (Video below) Walter came flying out of that chute and I did a crappy job of telling him where to go next so we totally missed the jump after the chute. Would probably help if I actually practiced leadouts and being in the right place for them, but leadouts with Walter The Creep are such a headache, in more ways than one! Anyway for the rest of the run I ran mostly silently to focus on body language and was pleased with how he responded to that.

Sunday Gamblers: Missed both minis, then on the main had trouble with a send ahead to a tunnel. The judge blew the whistle but then realized she shouldn't have so we got a rerun. Better with the opening this time, and managed with some difficulty to get the tunnel in the main and got a Q, our first Gamblers Q this year! The main gamble was a go-on jump to far-away tunnel (a known problem for us), then layered jump and a tire. After he took the first jump he turned around, but I held my ground and what a good dog, he turned back around to take the tunnel instead of backjumping toward me. Probably 90% of the dogs got this gamble no problem. There are some drawbacks to not having a tunnel suck!

I didn't feel like hassling people to film most of our runs but did want to see our Jumpers to see how he's handling the jumps (seemed choppy in Jumpers at Nationals) and what my handling is like, so thanks to Indy's human and a kind stranger, here they are:

He looked comfy with the 22" jumps so no plans yet to drop him to 16". Very glad I stuck to my plan to not "fix" mistakes. Overall I was very happy with how he ran this weekend. That's my Walta-boy!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

At least I didn't forget the tent

Monday we packed up and headed off for our annual two-night camping trip at Sandypants.

We were about two hours into the three hour drive when it struck me that somehow I had managed to forget to bring the dogwalking bag that comes along every time I leave the house with the dogs. No big deal, it just had some poop bags in it. And the dogs' haltis. And my camera, cell phone, and wallet. Fortunately the gas tank was full and I had about $30 cash on hand and lots of poop bags in the car. Had also packed some spare anti-pull collars/harnesses, otherwise the lack of haltis would have been the dealbreaker. Wallet -- who needs it? Anti-pull shoulder-saving dogwalking devices -- gotta have 'em. As for the camera, well, it turned out to be kind of liberating not feeling obligated to dig it out every time the dogs struck a pose, and besides, the photos would have been no different from the ones from last year.

Fortunately the trip was pleasantly uneventful, so the lack of cell phone and wallet wasn't a problem though I wouldn't recommend leaving them at home.

The weather couldn't have been better:

Usually we go earlier in the summer, but this time the water was much warmer and the water level was low so we could easily wade across the mouth of the Outlet. The early sunset was nice, and the nights weren't nearly as cold as I thought they might be.

Our site neighbours were all quiet - woo hoo! So no blasting stereos or drunken partying into the night. The only sound we heard at night was snoring, but I realized the second night that it was coming from Lucy!

All in all it was a relaxing trip, but maybe next year it will be time to try somewhere different. Not sure anywhere can compare to the dunes though... that's always my favourite part of Sandypants.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Friday, August 14, 2009

New dog!

Meet Pancho! Here's his writeup on the BARK website (that's the rescue group Walter came from):

If you're a dog and your ear itches and you need to scratch it, BUT some very interesting doggie play is suddenly occurring 30 feet away, what do you do? WELL, if you are little PANCHO, you keep that hind paw glued to your ear and run at all speed... on three legs! What a cutie this boy is, quite an original :0) Pancho is about a year old and weighs just 20 lbs. We think he is an Eskimo - Chihuahua or MinPin mix and his character is typical for his breeds. He is an affectionate, comical and smart little sweetie. He loves to cuddle, loves to play with toys, loves to be part of everything we are doing.... and yet he respects boundaries and isn't pushy or overly needy. He is just a very sociable and "interactive" boy. He is vetted, neutered and microchipped. Pancho is a bit insecure and needs time to get used to new people. Once that is done however - and it is not difficult - he is very friendly and loving with them. He needs a patient person who will give him time to adapt. Pancho is fine with our cats. He gets along with the other dogs and plays with them a lot. His favourite companions appear to be small and medium sized females. He also loves to play with toys and will chase a ball quite happily. Pancho is potty and crate trained. He is food and toy motivated and very smart, so calm, positive and consistent leadership should make training him a breeze! Pancho will make a wonderful companion for playing, walking and enjoying life with a family that has another dog or is home at least part time. His small size makes him quite easy to bring along just about anywhere!
Doesn't he sound neat? Ok, maybe the fact that he kinda looks like a mini-Walter makes me a bit biased. But if this were two years from now, I definitely would have inquired to find out more about this little guy. He seems to meet everything on my wish list for my next dog: small, a rescue, a mutt, about a year old, good with cats, build suitable for agility, likes toys, good with dogs... But with Lucy 6 years old and Walter 5, I need a few more years between them and a future new dog, otherwise I'd end up having three geriatric dogs at the same time. Can you say "VET BILLS"!

So in a few years I'll definitely start keeping my eyes open for a new dog like Pancho!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Nationals videos

Here's the video from Sunday at Nationals. Walter's jumps look particularly choppy in the Jumpers run. Will keep an eye on that for sure.

Also, I forgot to post a link to Walter on tv! How could I forget Walter's 15 milliseconds of fame! A local news station aired a montage of clips from the prequalifier, in which Walter appears twice. The video quality is attrocious: I filmed my tv while it was playing, and the rabbit ears were not in a very cooperative mood so the picture was a tad fuzzy. This link opens the video in You Tube. If you want to skip to the parts with Walter, just click on "1:03" and "2:09" in the video description section.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Fun match

Played around at a fun match over easy 16" jumps. After last weekend I didn't want to do anything technical, just keeping it easy and fun, so instead of Masters we ran the Advanced Standard with the added element of some distance. We had fun :-)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Woo hoo: Wider weaves!

As of September 1st 2010, the required weave spacing in AAC must be 24". Currently the permitted spacing is between 18" and 21". There was some discussion about weave spacing earlier in the year on the Yahoo list, and though I emailed my Regional Director to express my support of changing to 24" weaves, I didn't really expect anything to change, so this news was a welcome surprise!

Here's an article from Clean Run about weave spacing.

And here's a really neat video showing dogs of all sizes going through 20" weaves and then through 24" weaves.

I rarely practice weaves with Walter (nevermind weave entries) because it just seems so hard on his body. Definitely looking forward to trying the new wider weaves!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

AAC Nationals - Day 2

If yesterday's 6:30am start was painfully early, today's 6am start was downright brutal! (Though necessary given the 600 dogs running.) The last time my alarm was set for 4:30am was for driving to Kingston for a trial. For much of the morning I walked around feeling like if I closed my eyes for two seconds I'd be out like a light.

First class of the day was Jumpers. I didn't really like this course - it seemed like a big boring (not necessarily easy, just boring) jump grid exercise. Come to think of it, it's the first time I've come across a course that I actually found uninteresting. Anyway, we managed a clean run.

Then it was Gamblers. It was a fun opening including both minis. Like yesterday, the main was definitely doable, but I messed up and once again sent him into the wrong end of the tunnel. A bit disappointing that I messed up both main gambles, but oh well!

Finally, Standard. A wretched rear cross toward the start with Walter jumping almost from a standstill! What a good dog to put up with my bumbling, I tell ya. I had planned a front cross there but got caught in spectator mode. Popped the first set of 6-weaves but did the second set great, yay!

And thus concluded our time in the 2009 Nationals rings. We ended with 382 points, in 20th place out of 29 dogs in the 22" Specials class.

Here's the video of today's runs:

Overall, Walter ran well although of course he slows right down in the summer heat (not that he's super speedy to begin with!), and he was comfortable and happy as evidenced by his typical startline barking. He wasn't too distracted as he sometimes is at a new venue and was comfy enough to do 2o2o on his teeters and dogwalks. But my handling was definitely sub par this weekend (even for my low standards) - rough and choppy, getting in Walter's way, sending him the wrong way, and so on. Oh and our startline stay, which already was nothing to write home about, really went to pot as I didn't want to delay things by insisting that he sit before releasing him. Will have to work on that for sure!

Walter was super-good at hanging around in his shade tent as well as in the sometimes-really-crowded main areas. If it weren't for the supervised isolation aspect, with a little more work he could maybe even pass the Canine Good Neighbour test! He sure has come a long way in the manners department.

On a side note, I'm thinking about dropping him to vet's next year. He doesn't need the extra time, but it'd be nice to have the option of running him at 16" especially in the summer -- I think he'd like that. If he's spry and fresh in the winter then he could still jump 22" for winter trials if he really wanted to. I dunno. We'll see how it goes.

Anyway, what a fun way to spend a weekend with my dog and friends. Hanging out, doing some agility, watching a lot of great runs... All a 20-minute drive from home! A bunch of the top dogs were local, including the dog who won Walter's class, who also won last year's Nationals - amazing! The winner of the prestigious 26" class was also a local dog, and what I think is pretty funky is that this dog, who thinks nothing of flitting off to Europe once or twice a year to compete in the worlds, also plays flyball. How many world team agility dogs are also allowed to play flyball? Nifty eh.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

AAC Nationals - Day 1

The 2009 AAC Nationals are being held right in our backyard, at the Nepean National Equestrian Park! Almost 600 dogs entered in the six-ring circus. It was a warm, sunny day, but not too humid.

First up was Standard (link opens up the course map in a new window). Managed to get in a bit of a leadout to help him up the dogwalk. Near collision after the #2 tunnel! The weave entry was a problem, no surprise there, but amazingly after that he weaved all the way without popping! Of course, I forgot to rear cross the weaves and then messed up the out-jump right after by giving him no cue for it whatsoever.

Next was Jumpers. Didn't get quite as much of a leadout as I wanted and then didn't run fast enough to get ahead and failed to cue for jump #5, so Walter goes shooting toward the offcourse tunnel. A hard calloff (sorry Walter!!) for which I'm still hanging my head in shame! :-( "Come" to think of it, "COME!!" doesn't sound too different from "TUNNel!!" -- poor dog must have been so confused. Since when do I say "come" in agility anyway? Sigh. Poor Walter deflatedly managed the rest of the course and we got in a decent rear cross at jump #12.

Finally, Gamblers. I didn't try the teeter mini because I wasn't crazy about the approach angle to the teeter, but the weave mini was certainly doable. But, Walter was once again in last-pole-popping mode. The final gamble was definitely doable but I gave him WAY too "get out" to get him off the tire and over the jump so he was understandably quite certain that I also meant to get out to the far side of the #4 tunnel. What a good dog!

Here's the video, but it's not all that exciting, what with my bumbling, pokey handling and Walter in summer slow mode.

At the end of the day Walter had his first ever chiropractic session. So many people in the dog sports world including a ton of local folks swear by chiro (and massage of course), not only for treatment but also for prevention, so I figured why not? He wasn't too sure about the guy bear-hugging him for so long, but of course he was a very good boy and just waited patiently until it was over.

Back for three more runs tomorrow!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh deer!

Look what we came across today! (Click on the photos to see more detail.)

After I had a chance to zoom in:

Of course, I reeled Lucy in and put Walter on leash and halti as soon as I saw them. The wind must have been wrong since the dogs didn't notice until I pointed them out. Lucy got excited and started barking and rearing but Walter kind of wondered what all the fuss was about. Actually I think he was probably scared but trying to come across as indifferent, secretly praying he wouldn't have to get any closer to the beasts.

This photo is my favourite from this morning's adventure - if you look closely at the detailed version you can see the deer at the right edge of the photo. This is the closest Lucy's ever been to a real live deer - she was a very happy hound.

This could have been a neat photo if I had the right camera and knew how to use it. Oh and I think it's time to re-adjust Lucy's halti.

One of the deer was quite interested and didn't stop staring at us, but the other seemed to want us to just move along. So we did.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Qualified for Nationals!

I haven't been posting much lately as I've spent the last month consumed with my "job" as Volunteer Scheduler for the 2009 AAC Nationals. 300+ volunteers and 1000+ shifts = oh. my. GOD! What a huge job. I think I sent and received more emails in the last two weeks than I have in my entire life. Thank goodness for the support and guidance of our Volunteer Coordinator Extraordinaire and for the amazing software program that made it possible. I can NOT imagine doing that by hand. [shudder] It was fun, and I was soooo impressed by how eager people are to help out, but I'm so happy to have my life back now!

So today was the one-day pre-qualifier for dogs who missed Regionals due to injury or other valid reasons. Like Regionals, there are six rounds (two Standards, two Jumpers, two Gamblers), judged on a points basis. Standards start with 100 points, Jumpers with 75 points, faults deducted. In Gamblers you keep all your opening points, then if you get the main gamble you get 35 points added to your opening score. Bonus points for being clean under time. There's the option to drop out after accruing the minimum 350 points required to qualify for Nationals.

I guess I ruined the suspense with the blog post title, but here's the play by play:

Standard #1: A really nice, flowing, straightforward course. Walter ran really well, no weave issues, stuck his teeter and dogwalk. We got 5 faults which I think must have been a missed frame contact (!). Score: 95 points.

Jumpers #1: Hmmm. Okay now I'm starting to stress a bit: Walter, Mr. Reliable Poopy Pants, has not yet had his second poop of the day. Please oh please don't poop in the ring... this would be a terrible first time for that! So anyway. I led out and Walter was a star, holding his sit-stay (well, with the usual creeping of course). However, in his haste to catch up he knocked a bar. Somewhere else he got a refusal. This was a challenging course, definitely making up for the easiness of the Standard. Score: 65 points. Aggregate: 160.

Gamblers #1: Still no action in the poop department! Gah! Well, as someone commented the other day, dogs aren't machines, so even Mr. Predictable Poops has the right to be unpredictable now and then. Well, this Gamblers course was super for Walter. He got both minis, one of which tested a distance dogwalk, the other a distance teeter. For a not-a-tunnel-suck, he sent out to his tunnels quite well. We were in a good place when the buzzer went and he did his thing great! The test was a distance frame and an out-tire. So he got the gamble! 76.78 points. Aggregate: 236.78.

Standard #2: Finally! He had a good BM before this run. Phew. Another pretty easy, non-trappy Standard and he went clean. Given all his weave-popping in practice lately, I was amazed that he didn't pop despite it being so hot. What a good boy: 108.75 points. Aggregate: 345.53.

Jumpers #2: Man, another brutal Jumpers course. It was not pretty. Walter was clearly tired and hot and I was not exactly on my game so we ended up with 3, count'em, 3 refusals. But, at least we managed to avoid costly offcourses. 56.47 points. Aggregate: 402.

Gamblers #2: Woot! We'd already scored the minimum 350 points, so we didn't run this. No point, much rather save his enthusiasm for the weekend.

But, we did go and do the warmup run after the Jumpers. 90 seconds to do whatever you want. Toys/food weren't allowed, so I petted him up for sticking his contacts. He seemed to enjoy the relaxed, easygoing time in the ring.

I scratched him from the Steeplechase tomorrow since that was to be my consolation prize if we didn't qualify. So, we'll enjoy a nice day off tomorrow and be ready for an EARLY start to the day on Saturday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Last qualifier prep fun match

A bit of a shock to find that the Standard course tonight was the Challenge course from Sunday! Well, we gave it a try. It really wasn't a good run - I went into it in defeatist mode, and Walter wasn't enjoying it. Our second try I ran him at 16" instead of 22" and went into it with a better attitude; he looked MUCH happier this time. It was fun trying the tricky handling bits and I just kept going when we went off course. Oh I should mention we tried the weaves in our first run but once again he kept popping at pole 10. Not wanting to demotivate him, we skipped the weaves on the second run.

We did just one try on the Gamblers course since it was getting late. Unlike other fun matches, this one I treated like a real run instead of just practicing the gambles. We ran at 22" this time since it was a nice wide open course. Walter ran great, getting a mini twice (tunnel to jump) and the main gamble in time. The challenges in the main gamble were a distance frame (heading away from the line) and an out tunnel with an offcourse jump possibility. I wasn't sure if he'd do the frame but he was pretty confident, and the out tunnel wasn't a problem.

This was probably our last practice before the one-day qualifier next week. My goal is to avoid costly off-courses but at the same time not overmanage him and keep him happy. If we don't qualify for Nationals then we'll do one of the Steeplechases on Friday just for the fun of it and then get ready to watch lots of great teams!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Dogz trial

Three classes for Walter at today's trial, held at the beautiful Dogz facility. Those folks sure know how to put on a fun, friendly, relaxed trial.

Gamblers: One of our best Gamblers runs: I didn't flake out and get all panicky in the opening; Walter did both mini gambles (one tested a distance dogwalk and the other was a straight forward jump-tunnel-jump line); when the buzzer went we were pretty close to the main gamble; in the main gamble, Walter sent out really well to the tunnel on the far side of the frame/tunnel discrimination. Too bad I mishandled the part after that so he ran past a jump, but we would have been a bit over time anyway. Still, I was really happy with this run.

Snooker: Yay, a no-weaves Snooker course! Walter ran super well and attentively; dopey me caused him to backjump in the closing after yet another fumbled rear cross.

Jumpers: Surprisingly, Walter had a really nice energy level despite the increasing heat. He ran great and lucky me, all of the crosses were at tunnels! Though I came close to messing us up with a near fall after the first tunnel. But I stayed on my feet and Walter stayed on his and we came home with a Q. Not sure how he managed to keep the bar up on that yellow in the far end of the ring - I think he was on the wrong lead. Thanks to Nat for catching this run on video:

Ever since Walter's down time from his lump removal, we haven't quite been in the agility groove, but at this trial we were back on track. He's such a good boy. I wasn't sure how it would go since I had the impending farewell to our old cat friend on my mind, but Walter didn't seem to distressed by any sad vibes. He was probably just glad to be out of the house.

Oh and today I got to see the new Challenge class for the first time. It confirmed my desire to NOT enter this for a long time. It was basically a huge Snooker course. Almost every obvious obstacle was an offcourse. Ugh. I used to run Snooker courses asking Walter to jog at my side the whole time and though he was very good at that it really wasn't much fun for either of us. So nope, we won't be doing Challenge any time soon. As one competitor with a long striding big dog put it, it was a 23 obstacle course that required 22 "HERE!!"s! Lol.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

No flank steak for supper

A problem Walter and I have been having lately is he seems to have forgotten that in this game of agility that we play, I'm the one who's allowed to do the rear crosses, not him. Well, I've started noticing that when we're out for an offleash walk, he crosses behind me *constantly* and now that I think about it, he's always done this. I've heard of some trainers who never, even when not doing agility, allow their dog to cross behind them; I guess I can see why!

So this week we've started working a simple exercise twice a day as a reminder. For his breakfast and supper, I place the bowl ahead and out to one side, with a lid on it so he can't reward himself for flanking me. I lead out such that he has to go around me on the opposite side of the bowl and we post turn to his reward.

The first few meals he needed a couple of tries before he understood, but this morning he was bang on and confident.

Gotta love simple exercises that can be done in the comfort of home!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fun match

In the first Standard course, Walter could not for the life of him complete the weaves without popping. Revved him up before each resend but still he'd pop at the tenth pole. Afterwards someone suggested it may be because he was looking at me anticipating a toy, which makes sense. Oh well. He had fun on that run, was nice and peppy.

In Snooker, I asked the judge to really follow him closely along the dogwalk since he got spooked by that at a trial recently; well, maybe it's because he knows this judge too well, but he wasn't worried at all about it this time.

The Big Oh-Five!

Happy birthday Walter! Five years ago today, a sweet stray dog gave birth to ten puppies only a short time after being rescued from homelessness and arriving at her foster home.

They all found great homes, including his mom. Just a slight bit of family resemblance eh?

Walter on the day we met, about five weeks old.

Walter at two and a half months, in the middle of one of his awkward ear stages.

All grown up. This photo is from a few years ago but is one of my favourites. So happy and relaxed.

Here he is, officially five years old, keeping our elderly, ailing cat Gizmo company.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Qualifier prep fun match #3

Standard and Gamblers today. Once again, the Standard had two sets of 6-weaves instead of 1 set of 12-weaves. What the! Surprisingly, he didn't have trouble with the slightly soft sided entry but did with the wrap entry - took a few tries before he entered the right side.

Gamblers: The mini was a threadle at a distance - brutal. We tried, but no cigar. The main gamble was a straightforward tunnel/jumps sequence which wasn't a problem.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Qualifier prep fun match #2

Today was Jumpers followed by Standard. The handling of the Jumpers course involved a lot of standing and pointing while the dog circled around, which neither Walter nor I get particularly excited by, so our enthusiasm level wasn't great. In fact, at one point Walter trotted between two jumps - oy! Oh and this was the type of course that not only had a lot of offcourse options, but also was really hard to remember - a lot of going over the same jumps and through the same tunnels again and again, so any momentary "where am I going again?" was rewarded by a guaranteed offcourse. If I'm not mistaken, all of us forgot where we were going, at least once. And, um, some of us a lot more than once. :-)

Standard: Warmed up first by putting him through the weaves once rewarding with his soccer ball. Then, secretly gave the soccer ball to the judge to throw for him if he did good weaves during the course. I thought it was a pretty straight forward course but he surprised me with an offcourse at the teeter. Looking at it after though it was no wonder since I had set him up at the startline looking staight at it. Anyway, he weaved great twice and got the surprise soccer ball reward both times. Good dog!

There was light rain during our first Standard and it started coming down more heavily during our second so it was a good opportunity to give lots of reward in the rain since going out and deliberately practicing in the rain isn't exactly the highest on my to-do list...

He stuck all his dogwalks and teeters today, what a good boy.

Oh but once again he (almost) flanked me, ignoring my front cross and heading for the wrong tunnel entrance. Interesting trend in him since we started practicing again after his foot episode.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Qualifier prep fun match

Walter's not going to be doing a lot of agility practice this summer since he gets flat quickly in the heat, so we'll be taking advantage of a series of fun matches that use previous Regionals or Nationals courses as our main form of practice for the next while. Plus they're in the evening, so it's not tooooo hot.

We went to our first one tonight and had a great time. First it was Standard. A pretty straightforward course with 2 sets of 6-weaves instead of the usual 12-weaves. I would sure love to see that more often! The first set he got the entry and popped immediately, possibly because I rear crossed, but the rest he did well including another rear cross.

Then it was Gamblers, and it was the same course we had set up a few months ago. He got the jump/frame/tunnel gamble great on his second and third try (on the first I had fumbled my timing for frame to tunnel), and the final gamble posed no problem at all on both tries.

Both courses involved a flip away from frame to tunnel -- the judge suggested I should be careful with the timing of the flip cue because he responds quickly, so if it's too early he's prone to leaving the frame before hitting the yellow.

Oh and another thing I'll need to remember for summer trials: he slows right down in the heat so his commitment point is pretty different than normal.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fun match - Dogwalk!?!?

Lucy and Walter shared a spot, Lucy taking the two Standard runs and Walter the two Gamblers.

On his first run I tried having the judge feed him at the start line while I led out, but he was quite sure this was an evil plot to distract him so that I could run away and abandon him forever and ever, so he had none of that. Oh well.

Lots of troubles - I mean, challenges and things to work on. Let's see...

- dogwalk/tunnel discrimination a few jumps into the course with no lead out

- dogwalk: He strided over the contact AGAIN!! Egads!! I mean, what the!? This is a dog whose dogwalk I have never ever ever had to worry about. But then the Gamblers run last weekend, and now this one -- Well, but the rest of his dogwalks today were fine.

- distance teeter: He used to have this but it's been a while so better dust it off before trying it in competition again.

- flip away contact to tunnel: the mini gamble of frame to tunnel went great, but the main dogwalk to tunnel wasn't happening as there was a nearby tunnel in front of him that he kept taking instead of the one under the dogwalk.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Gadzooks! I mean, All Dogs trial, Day 2

Three runs today:

Gamblers: This was just after Lucy had done a fabulous job on her return-to-trialing run, so I was not entirely present for Walter's first run of the day. It started out decently enough, then all of a sudden he jumped over his second dogwalk contact!!!!!! To understand the gravity of the situation you must know that Walter has NEVER, EVER, not in practice or trials, missed a dogwalk contact! Once in a while he won't stick 2o2o, but at least he's always trotted through the yellow. After that our run went to pot as I tried to recover from the sheer shock of it all. It wasn't pretty. Got a 16-point mini gamble (that was before The Incident) and could potentially have gotten the main gamble but I was late on a "pip" cue for turning away from frame to tunnel and we ran out of time anyway.

Jumpers: An ok run, but definitely on the slow side. What a good dog to run in the heat for me. Picked up a Q.

Snooker: Wow, Walter really sprang back with great energy! Not sure if it's because clouds had rolled in or what, but it was great to see. It was such a neat course offering lots of flow, tunnels and jumps only (woo hoo! like yesterday's Snooker, no weaves! this judge is great :D), with everything multi-directional in the opening AND the closing. Never have I seen anything like that. A ton of people went for four reds with a really nice flowing course but I hadn't thought to do it so hadn't walked it, so I stuck with the original plan. Could definitely have thrown in a fourth red as he finished in 38 seconds with a Q.

TO WORK ON: At least three times this weekend I took my eyes off my dog and lost track of him, resulting in not so great stuff. Need to remember to keep an eye on him. Also need to do some work to remind him that blind crosses are a no-no. But considering other than one short practice on Thursday he hasn't done agility in six weeks, I think he did a great job.

Oh and Walter received a ton of compliments on his new cool coat. Doesn't it look spiffy? The sponge-like fabric stays wet and cool for a long time and did an amazing job. Walter doesn't take heat very well, but provided he was in the shade and wearing his coat, he wasn't even panting despite highs of 24 (26 with humidex) (75-79 Fahrenheit).

Saturday, June 13, 2009

All Dogs trial - Day 1

Glad to be back in the trial ring! In keeping with my promise to Walter to limit his summer trial load, today he was entered in only two classes, Snooker and Jumpers, which were the first of the day.

Snooker: This run felt mushy, not surprising I guess considering his long layoff. First, he was a bit nervous of the judge on the first dogwalk contact so didn't do 2o2o. Then, he paused for a few seconds on the teeter after tipping it, looking worriedly at the nearby sideline. But it was a fun course, with (WOOT!) no weaves, and the #7 was a single tunnel. Gave him a nice smooth opening and made it through to #6 of the closing before running out of time. So a Q, but not a particularly nice one.

Jumpers: Definitely a better and happier run than the Snooker, but with an off course and a run-by on the last jump. Here are some shots from Jumpers:

Trying to push myself to race Walter instead of jogging along at his side. This resulted in taking my eyes off my dog quite a bit...

... And here's where we went off course ("don't take your eyes off your dog!"):

I've gotten ahead of him again, driving a straight line of jumps, so he opens up to leave out a stride.

Back for a few more runs tomorrow.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Back at it!

Today was Walter's first agility practice in six weeks. His foot's all healed up now so he's good to go.

Was our first session using green fee time at a great facility that also hosts fun matches and trials.

It was hot and muggy so we didn't do too much but despite the heat I did ask for one set of 12-weaves which he did great! Happy soccer ball party for that.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ontario Regionals (Nepean Equestrian Park)

I'm proud to say that my timing was great this weekend! Not in the rings, of course, but outside them as I wandered from ring to ring to ring to ring to ring to ring (six ring circus) trying to catch as many friends' runs as possible. Got to watch some of my favourite agility dogs in action plus a bunch of other great agility dogs I'd never seen in person before.

All but the littlest, shiveringest dogs seemed to thrive in the cool temps, which would have been perfect for Walter too. Saturday was a cool, breezy 11 degrees for most of the day, "warming" up to a high of 16 in the late afternoon. Sunday was more of the same but with the added bonus of hail and a bout of heavy rain. Doesn't get much cooler than that for this time of year; normal would be a high of 22.

Parts of the site were a bit swampy given all the rain in the last few days, but the rings seemed in good shape. The oodles and oodles of goose poop blanketing everywhere didn't seem to distract the dogs at all.

Brought Walter and his well-wrapped foot for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon to hang out and get used to the site in case he gets a spot in the one-day qualifier in July. Apparently there will be quite a number of people applying for it this year, so no guarantee we'll get a spot, but oh well. I'm sure Walter would be able to get over the disappointment. ;-)

"Ha! All you suckers have to run around and work up a sweat while I can just relax here with my bo-bo and soak in the sympathy. And the sympathy treats." :P

At the top of the bank that overlooks four of the rings.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No Regionals debut for Walter this year

Back in December, I wrote "If all goes well next spring and Walter remains healthy and injury-free, it will be a lot of fun to run him in what would be our first Regionals."

Well, fortunately, Walter has remained healthy, but unfortunately, he hasn't remained injury-free. There were some complications with the healing from his recent lumpectomy, so he's now looking at at least another two or three weeks of recovery time, which means we definitely won't be going to Regionals this year.

Still looking forward to watching friends' runs since Regionals is right here in our hometown.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

B is for benign

Great news: Walter's latest lump tested to be benign, though to my surprise this lump wasn't infundibular keratonizing acanthoma which he's had several times including most recently last December. This latest lump was a benign histiocytoma; the lab is confident that the whole lump was removed, so there's no need to go back and take any more out. Phew!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Poor lumpy Walter

Walter developed yet another lump, this one on top of a toe. It grew a lot quicker than lumps he's had before. It was removed today so now he's got a great big bandage on his foot. Looks pretty dramatic but as usual the lump was just sitting under the skin so the only chunk of him that's missing is the lump and some skin, no bone or muscle or anything like that.

Walter is such a good, patient patient. But the poor guy: After having been in twice for two blood draws earlier this week, this morning while waiting in the reception area he dove under the chairs every time a tech came out to bring the next patient in for their appointment. But he's always so good at the vet's, so scared but doesn't put up a fuss, nobly going along with everything they do to him. Quite different from Ms. Lucy, Drama Queen Extraordinaire!

Needless to say I scratched him from all of the agility trials and fun matches he was to be in over the next few weeks. And given the location of the incision which doesn't lend itself to fast healing, there's a good chance he'll need to be scratched from Regionals, last weekend of May. Bummer since it's in town this year so it would have been our first time participating. Disappointing, yes, but it was a stressful week and day not without a few complications and worries so I'm really just so relieved that the lump is gone and Walter can start to heal. There is however a chance they may have to open him up again later on if they didn't get enough of a margin (depending on what the biopsy shows) but they took off as much of the area as they could given the limited amount of skin in that area available for stitching him back up.

Now it's a matter of keeping the wound dry and limiting how much he flexes his foot so we're all camping out in the living room for the next week, sleeping on the floor so there's no jumping on and off couches and beds and going up and down stairs.

One thing's for sure: if by chance he heals up super fast and gets the vet's ok for entering Regionals, he sure won't have been burnt out from too much practicing! Lol.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Dream Fields trial, EXJBronze

Been a while since we've been at Dream Fields on a Saturday, but the days were switched up from normal and I have to say it's nice to have the Sunday off to relax. Walter, however, was feeling pretty relaxed today, not his usual sharp self. His nose touches during warmups were wimpy, and overall he seemed a bit flat. Half way through the day I learned that one of Walter's fellow 22" Specials competitors was lost to cancer recently and well, that just about did it for me. Being emotional is exhausting, never mind trying to run around a course in that state.

But, life and agility go on, and Walter ran pretty well, all things considered. Watching the video back I'm asking for trouble releasing the dogwalk contact so quickly so often, so I'll try to be more careful about that. Also, what is up with my rear cross arm signal? Yikes, I'll have to get a handle on that (so to speak).

Gamblers: Ran out of time halfway through the closing and then he ran past the last jump. But, Walter the non-tunnel-suck did a nice send to the tunnel, good dog!

Snooker: A lot of dogs had trouble getting enough points before running out of time. Fortunately, Walter and I didn't have that problem: We got blown off in the opening for back to back obstacles of choice. :-D Oh well, I'm trying to not overhandle too much and if that's the price then so be it.

Standard #1: A Q, but not a particularly nice one, with two bungled rear crosses and several really wide turns.

Standard #2: Aye aye aye, this run was doomed from the start when I had to go back and reposition Walter at the startline after he moved too far to the side of the first jump. I hate feeling like I'm wasting people's time so then I rushed myself and gave up on the idea of leading out. The rest of the run didn't get much better! It's fun to have a run that's so full of goofs every now and then.

Team: Our partners Helen and Tucker went clean, but Walter missed a tough weave entry and we weren't enough under time to make up for it. Video of this run will follow later.

Jumpers: My handling of the threadle was pretty bad - poor Walter had no idea the turn was coming. And my rear cross at the end - augh! But Walter ran great especially considering it was about 12 hours into his day. He got a Q and his Expert Jumpers Bronze title (10 Masters Standards Jumpers Qs). Yay Walter! The Expert Jumper! Ha. Now if only he could get an expert handler!