Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Boost Almost Does Standard

SUMMARY: Video of one of Boost's better runs.

An agility video service (Agility In Motion) for whom I did a really tiny favor at the November USDAA trial actually videotaped one of Boost's Masters Standard runs and sent it to me. Here's what I wrote about the run in my private notes: "Very nice--nice table, nice cntcts. Turned wrong way after rear X and missed wv entry on a bad pull (meant to front X but chickened out) but going ahead @end and no ref/rnout." video

And if you want to watch a fun archival video of theirs of me and Jake doing a Masters Jumpers course in April 2003, go here.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Doggie Junk Food

SUMMARY: What wakes up the dogs' salivary glands?

Team Small Dog posted an excellent recipe for dog training treats, with explanatory photos, which you must read before you read this. Because here's my response.

This was an excellent recipe for hot dog rewards and one that I have used on many occasions when chopped-up-tiny Rollover (or the healthy choice alternative[1], which is what I usually use these days) wasn't quite special enough.

Although World Class Trainers have told me that hot dogs aren't special enough; they should be getting a whole roast chicken, probably with truffle sauce.

I don't get it. If my hypothetical dog (hypothetically named Tika) thinks that stale left-over puppy kibble is most delectable and so salivates heavily about it, why do I need a whole roast chicken? And do dogs really know the difference between orts (that's a useful everyday word I learned from crossword puzzles) of chicken and minutiae of hot dogs? I don't think so. But certain hypothetical big name trainers said that she felt sorry for my dogs if I thought that hot dogs were a special treat for them. Who am I to argue with success? I don't argue, I just usually use the stale leftover puppy kibble for everyday rewards.

And I use chopped-up Rollover (which I still call "rollover" even though I haven't used that brand in years) as a secondary level of escalation, and chopped-up hot dogs for a real treat. And, in-between, when I'm in a hurry and want something moderately stinky, not greasy (which kibble is, actually), very small (so dogs don't fill up on candy between meals), I use Zukes Mini Naturals, which have the added conveniences of being already chopped up into tiny pieces and of coming in sturdy resealable bags that can withstand almost anything[2].

But I'm still not certain how much difference it makes--at least, with any of my dogs, "high value" treats tend to be either "food" or "toy" but without a lot of levels of distinction within those categories. You know when vendors at dog shows offer your dog a piece of freeze-dried Alaskan Wild-caught Salmon or Free-Range Montana Organic Smoked Buffalo and say, "my dogs really love this stuff, and look, yours does, too!", I frankly see no difference in the quality of the tendril of saliva coming from Tika's lips or the level of frenzy with which she takes the treat and most of the fingers holding it.

I read somewhere recently that dogs don't taste food in the same way that we do and don't make that much distinction among flavors. I believe it, for the most part. Tika can quickly identify whether something is either "food" (snatch it out of midair and swallow in one gesture), "probably food" (including fingers that might be holding "food" but you can't tell until you've actually closed your teeth around them), or "not food" (say, gravel, which you can spit out quickly, or bananas, which are obviously not intended for consumption by canids of any level of intelligence[3]).

Or there's Boost, who has to (a) evaluate via olfactory methodology whether it's actual food before she'll even open her mouth, and (b) decide whether perhaps there's something going on that might involve running that would be more worthwhile than taking the time to eat. In which case, she might take any kind of food reluctantly after a call to her attorney, but she'd rather not. Hot dogs might make a difference, but it's hard to tell what level of duress she feels that she's under.


[1]: With a name like Natural Balance, you know that it's healthy, right? Or Science Diet? Or Natural Choice? I'm sure that it's all honesty in naming, so of course manufacturers would call their brand Unidentifiable Ruminant ByProducts if it were really so. Right? Am I right?

(I also need to point out that, right now, the quoted string "unidentifiable ruminant byproducts", when put into google, comes back with exactly 0 results. Let's see whether we can effect a sea change in Google by (a) doing a search right now on the quoted string (quotes are important) "unidentifiable ruminant byproducts" and then by adding it to your web page. Aren't community projects fun? And educational?)

[2]: Except Jake experiencing a premonition that he was going to have massive brain seizures that night and not survive beyond the weekend and so needed to consume all reserve bags of Zukes (and everything else) stored in the van. After he was done, the bags were no longer resealable. But I digress.

[3]: Except Jake, who once ripped open my ex's gym back to get at a banana and, on another occasion, nearly tore his crate open to retrieve one that I had in my gear bag sitting next to the crate. There was a dog whose definition of "food" was considerably broader than Tika's. I had to remove gravel from his mouth on many occasions as he was trying to figure out how to chew it up to swallow it. In his last couple of years, I had to put screening on all of my potted plants because he was starting to eat the soil out from around the roots, and Boost was starting to think that this was a normal thing for puppies to learn from their wise and experienced elders. (See photo of typical agility home's potted plant with screen, dragon head, and Ethernet cable. )

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Competing This Weekend and In the Past

SUMMARY: The dogs are looking forward to it, an so am I. Jake always did, too.

First trial since Thanksgiving weekend. Every time I've loaded stuff into the car, the dogs have started dancing around, only to look SOOOO disappointed when I leave without them. Breaks my heart.

Both dogs are in Masters this year, so I can do Bay Team's Masters-only Saturday and then come home. The trial is 2 hours away, so it'll be a long day, but it's under cover, so even if it's still raining, we're good to go. There's one of each of the regular five classes.

Time to remind myself where I am with titles and competing.

Boost: Has two Standard legs and one Snooker leg. In theory, she could get one each of Standard, Jumpers, Gamblers, and Relay and finish her MAD. Frankly, the odds of that are slim to none. I haven't been working on distance stuff with her much at all, AND she's another bar-knocker, AND we still have that refusal problem with jumps. But I'm sure it will be entertaining.

Tika: I would sure like to get that Gambler's leg to finish her Gamblers-Ch Bronze. That 15th leg has proven to be SO difficult to get, don't know why. Of course, I haven't been practicing distance work with her, either, doh! Nothing else is in reach this weekend.

Jake: Well, dang, he's been gone since last February. But a friend pointed out that, with the new rules for Lifetime Achievement Awards now combining Performance and Championship, maybe the little guy could get his LAA Bronze posthumously. So I went back and looked, but no such luck.

He had only 126 masters/p3 legs, counting the Grand Prixs. 52 masters, 12 GPs, 62 Perf's. It seemed like I moved him to performance late in his career, but he had only 4 years in masters and 3 years in Perf, so his "semidachshund semiretirement" went on for a while.

If I had entered him in more than just Jumpers during most of the last year he was competing, maybe he'd have gotten enough. But, no, I entered him in only one class each day at USDAA trials for all of 2005, and then retired him completely from USDAA in 2006. He WANTED to run more, but I was just worried about his arthritis. Just for the record, that's 87 runs that he didn't do in 2005 and 114 runs he didn't do in 2006.

I was NEVER sure that I was doing the right thing for him; he really wanted to run and never really relaxed at a trial until he had been on course at least once, sometimes twice. He did fine jumping at 12" in CPE the whole time, and 16" for a dog who started out jumping 24" didn't really seem like that much. And, furthermore, he never had trouble at 16" while he was doing that. I just didn't want to push it, which was the wise thing to do.

But, oh well--

Historical side note: You know, I think Jake was only in 3 DAM team events ever in his entire 10-year USDAA agility career and never Qed! And only 6 steeplechases, with only 1 Q. Shows how times have changed. Boost's been competing for just over a year, and she's already been in 8 Steeplechases and four DAM events.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Retrospective Photos

SUMMARY: From my collection, one of each dog.

For the Power Paws new years party, Instructor N is gathering photos and video clips from students for a show. These agility photos aren't necessarily the best ones of my dogs, but they are distinctive in one way or another. For this blog, for completeness, I added photos of my first two (preagility) dogs. I have very few photos of them, turns out, and most of them are lying down. Wish I had tons more, but nooo--these are the best photos of the whole dogs.
Amber, my first dog, German Shepherd/Golden Retriever. Here she's about a year old. Got her at 6 weeks; she lived to 13.
Sheba, our Siberian Husky. Came to us at about 6-12 months just after we got married and barely predeceased our marriage (her: 17 years; us: 19).
Remington. He was about 10 months when we adopted him, and 3 when he started agility. I chose this one for the presentation because it shows the whole dog and has me in it, and I realize that it's been almost 5 years since I lost him, so there may be many people who know me but don't remember him. Almost inconceivable that it's been that long--he was just lying on that bed in the corner only yesterday, wasn't it?
This remains one of my favorite photos of Jake, who joined us when he was 6.
Tika, adopted at about a year old. Picked this photo for the presentation because it's the funniest weave photo I've ever seen.
Boost is only the second dog I've had as a real puppy--about 3 months when she came home. I don't have a lot of photos of her doing agility yet, but this surely shows off her teeter speed--although lately she's often been sliding into a slam-down, which is a joy to behold.

(Oh, by the way, here's a photo of Boost's mom, Tala. Nah, there's no family resemblance--)

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Comparing Jumpers and Coming Weekend

SUMMARY: Four agility dogs, different results.

My first two agility dogs, Remington and Jake, hardly ever knocked bars. It just wasn't something we ever worried about. Tika knocks bars. Looks like Boost is a bar knocker, too.

Some numbers: Remington's USDAA Starters/Novice record is vague; Jumpers didn't count for anything back then, so all that mattered was placement, which was time plus faults. I didn't track the faults. He placed anywhere from 1st of 13 to 3rd of 5 before he moved up to Advanced, where he quickly Qed in 2 of 4 Jumpers to move up to Masters (things wuz different then).

Then, he often didn't make time. (This was the long period when I was discovering that he slowed down in reaction to my stress.) When I finally figured that out--and how to deal with it--well, he Qed his last four Masters Jumpers in a row after Qing only 2 of the previous 17.

In all those Advanced and Masters runs, he knocked a bar only once, and he was running with someone else at the time.

Jake didn't come to live with me until he already had his novice AD title. With him, so much faster than Remington at the time, my problems were all learning to handle all over again; lots of runouts and refusals. In the 56 Masters and P3 Jumpers that we did, the only knocked bar I have recorded was after he had already run past a jump and then knocked the bar backjumping.

Tika. Well. 21 starters/novice Jumpers before she got a clean one--actually got TWO that same weekend. Then, in advanced, she Qed her second one, and I thought I was on a roll. ...I was, and it was all rapidly downhill. 13 Masters Jumpers until our first clean one, and that's what had held us back from our MAD forever. Then another 7 until our next clean one. Then the legs are sporadic--10 of the next 24. This spring, we got five--FIVE!--in a row, and I thought I was on a roll! Well... you know what happens... downhill again.

The Booster isn't as bad as Tika, but probably only because I'm not making as many handling errors (I hope). She got 1 out of 4 Startes Jumpers; knocked bars (and other problems) in the others.

Has earned only one Advanced Jumpers Q out of 11 tries. That's enough to get us into Masters if we can get that third Standard leg! (2 out of 16 tries so far) ...Two more chances this weekend at TRACS in Woodland.

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Monday, August 20, 2007

A Fetching Story

SUMMARY: Dogs who provide a return on investment.

Is one never satisfied? Remington, a brilliant trick dog, wasn’t keen on “fetch.” I loved teaching him but ached for a fetcher. Then came Jake who, in his first hour with us, found each of the hundred balls abandoned by Rem. And—for the next 10 years—he dropped them at my feet, over and over. I wished for a dog less fanatical. Now there’s Tika, who chases but doesn’t pick up. And Boost, who picks up but requires a personal invitation to bring it. Oh, for Jake again! The fetch is always greener on the other side of the grass--

Ministory written in response to a challenge to write a story in exactly 99 words.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Today's Briefing

SUMMARY: Upcoming events, rodents, Jake's ghost

Only two weekends to our next actual trial. It's a CPE trial, so I'm hoping that I'll be more relaxed and focused on using it as a training experience with Boost (although CPE doesn't allow training in the ring, there's training and then there's training). On the other hand, I'll also be Big Chief Running Score Table Czar, being the resident expert on CPE scoring, so who knows how relaxed I'll really be. Fortunatly we've got a bunch of people who are good at score table.

Then--I planned my calendar out for this entire year. I was supposed to be doing another CPE trial 2 weeks after that. However, for whatever dumb reason, I missed the fact that the premium was out, and now the trial is full and I can't get in. Have I mentioned before how very much I despise limited trials for exactly that reason? There go my year's plans, down the tubes. If I had been counting on that trial for a specific purpose (as opposed to simply "convenient trial on convenient date", I'd really be floating my begonias. (Whatever THAT means. Sounds distraught, though, doesn't it?)

However, conveniently there's an ASCA trial the same weekend, and closer to home. ASCA agility is now the way NADAC agility was originally. Simple--Standard, Gamblers, Jumpers. And all the usual normal equipment. But I haven't done any of that in so long, that really I can't count it as a weekend for earning legs, because they'll be of pretty much no use to me. But they do allow training in the ring like NADAC did/does. So it's a fun match. A pricey fun match, but a fun match none-the-less.

Tika made it out of Novice to Open and Elite in NADAC, but so few of those were dual-sanctioned with ASCA that in fact according to them she's still in Novice Jumpers and open Gamblers. But apparently I can run her in Elite and they'll just apply any Qs to the levels I'm missing. For me, it wouldn't feel fair towards the other competitors to put her into Novice or Open, so Elite is what I'll do.

Apparently I didn't even bother to register Boost with NADAC or ASCA. So I had to send in her registration to get a number. Get this: It costs only $10 to register a dog. But you have to be a member to register a dog, and the minimum membership fee is $10. So what they're not telling you is that it costs $20 or more to register a dog. It's all in how you phrase it, I guess.

Her, I *will* enter in Novice because that's about where we belong, IMHO!

Even though she seems to be channeling Jake's ghost.

I used to have this old, low-slung, wrap-around-backed chair that was so crappy and ugly that I always had it covered with a throw. I kept it only because the dogs liked it. Jake in particular. One of his big hobbies was digging enthusiastically at the throw cover until he had bunched it up into a useless glob or thrown it off the chair entirely, and then going off on some other urgent chore. I'd put the throw back on. Next time he came by, he'd notice this travesty and do his artistic rendering of a lump of fabric again. This went on several times a day, for years.

When Boost came along and tore the chair into a zillion pieces, I finally got rid of it. Poor Jake, his main hobby out in the trash. I finally got him a nice replacement bed, a soft outer part with a removable inner cushion. In January of this year. Talk about bad timing. Anyway.

The bed has been sitting there. The other dogs have used it on occasion. But over the last couple of weeks, Boost has used it more and more, and Jake's spirit seems to have taken over her brain. (Sounds like a bad horror movie, doesn't it?) I've noticed her on occasion digging and pulling at that center cushion until she gets it out of the bed, and then she goes off on some other mission. So I put it back. Next time I notice, it's out in the middle of the floor again.

It's nice to know that some dog hobbies can be passed along from generation to generation.

I'd like mouse-catching to be one of those things, but apparently catching mice in the house is a lot harder than catching them outside. Outside, you can dig under the compost bin, then push on it until it tips over, then, after spending half an hour eating all the really nummy bits of kitchen waste that were inside the bin, you can actually get at the mice or rats and dispatch them. Not so easy to do with a fridge in the kitchen.

Maybe it was yesterday's weather--very unsummerlike, overcast and gloomy and windy and looking for all the world as if it wanted to rain (apparently did in san francisco & a few other places around the bay)--but the "mouse" that I have had in my kitchen and bedroom was hyperactive all day yesterday. I could hear him digging and chewing and dashing around in cabinets and behind the fridge and under the stove and dammit there was nothing I could do about it. Even saw him dash across the floor several times. Even the dogs were going nuts. They wanted to go into the living room, next to the kitchen, and were poking around eagerly at the couch as if they had seen and/or smelled the furry little beast right there. Boost even stood or lay in the kitchen for about two hours, ALMOST catching him as he scurried out-from-and-back-under. Driving me nuts.

So I finally took the two traps that had previously been sprung but caught nothing, and reset them and placed them more strategically carefully under the sink. I had barely sat down at my computer when i heard one go off. Bingo! I disposed of him in the trash can, sat down at my desk... and the other one went off. Got another one of the little buggers.

It's heartbreaking at the same time as it's a relief to catch them. I don't want or need their diseases and their pee and poop all over my house. But I do really love little furry wee beasties, and opening the cabinet and seeing the little bright black eyes (deceased) and little sweet furry bodies, oh, it tears me up. But catching them live and turning them loose outside isn't going to help me or whoeve else's house I'd put them near.

So I put THAT one in the trash can, along with the trap (I dont' bother trying to separate ex-mice from the traps--they all go to the dump together), went back into the kitchen... and heard one scamper among the items stored under the sink at the SAME TIME as one was gnawing under the cabinet on teh opposite side of the room. This morning, my housemate reported that one ran into his bedroom and back out again right in front of him. Dammit!

Anyway, bought a ton more traps today. Set them all over the place in clever strategic areas, but there doesn't seem to be quite as much hyperactivity in the heat of this sunny summerish day. Still, sat down at my desk, and heard one under the sink go off. Disposed of that one, set another one. Later--heard it go off again. So that's four down and I could've sworn that when I went up to my bedroom to set traps up there, I heard scurrying.

I've never had a mouse problem like this before, and it's a little intimidating. How many of them are there? One female can have up to 10 litters a year with up to a dozen or more babies per litter. Yikes. I might be doomed. We'll see whether I can get 'em all with billions of traps. I don't really want to use poison bait, which seems to be the more effective but scarier method.

And on that note--I'll be off to Wednesday Night 8:15 class shortly. It'll be a quiet night, as our usual instructor Jim is gone (Nancy's taking his place) and three class members--that I know of--are also out of town, including Ash and Luka, who won ALL THREE tournament events at the northwest regional last week. Jim says that he can't remember any dog ever doing that. So when they're back in town, we'll have a big old celebration. It's just amazing to think about how far he's come since he first joined our class as basically a novice, seems like not that long ago, but I guess at least 2 years now. And here the rest of us are, putzing along...

But it's good for a lot of celebrations. I hope he doesn't get tired of it and decide that it's all too easy. Although rumor has it that he might be thinking about a second dog so he can play with the big dogs--

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Title for Tika

SUMMARY: The Gamblin' Dog

Oh, and by the way, that was Tika's Gamblers Champion title (10 Masters Gamblers Qualifying scores). Jake, whom I felt was a pretty good gambling dog, only ever earned 5 Gamblers Qs in Masters and 7 in P3.

But Jake earned a total of 29 Masters/P3 Jumpers Qs in his career, and 31 Standards, things that Tika has a very long way to go to match.

Only one more Snooker leg for Tika's Snooker bronze (15 Masters Qs), two Relays for the Relay Bronze, and one Standard for her Standard Championship.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

A Few Jake Photos

SUMMARY: A few photos from the last year or so.
These have all been published in this blog.
December 2005January 2007
January 2007December 2006
November 2006November 2006
Maybe more.....later

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The Last Weekend

SUMMARY: I sent this email yesterday.

November 2006
I am completely unprepared to make this announcement. On Saturday, Jake ran in two CPE classes at the Championship level and Qed in both, even placing 3rd among 7 considerably younger dogs. He celebrated by getting into the front seat of my car while I was elsewhere and consuming 5 or 6 bags of truly gourmet dog treats, his own dream come true.

In the wee hours of Sunday, he had a major seizure and spent half a day at the emergency clinic recovering and being tested, none of which revealed anything. It wasn't the goodies, thank the gods. The main likely thing left would be a brain tumor, although we didn't scan for it. By afternoon he was the same old Jake, and I could only hope that it was a one-of-a-kind occurrence.

Last night, two more major seizures overwhelmed his poor little Jakey brain. This morning, although his tongue barely functioned and his mouth, mind, and body hardly better, Jake the Obsessive Chowhound proved to be indestructible and perked up as much as the damage allowed when I pulled out the goodie bag, and he took goodie after goodie from my hands, obsessively oblivious to anything else in the world, right up until the merciful drugs put him to sleep for the last time.

Oh, Jakey-man, my old guy.

Jake Performance III Jumpers video from 2003; in 2004 he was USDAA Top Ten in PIII Jumpers.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Jake at Emergency Clinic after Good CPE

SUMMARY: Jake's status TBD. Bad ending to a lovely day.

Jake had a prolonged seizure in the wee hours of the morning. Don't know whether it's related to that little episode a week and a half ago where he briefly had trouble standing, or to getting into the front seat of the car during the trial yesterday and consuming every bag of Zukes and a variety of other dog treats that he could find. I don't think that he ate anything other than dog treats--can't find any evidence of it and can't think what it would be--but emergency vet doesn't think it would've been caused by dog treats.

They dosed him with phenobarbitol and another drug both to prevent seizures and to ease his horrible panic that continued after the seizure. Vet reports this morning that he's agitated and barking in his crate, and I couldn't tell him whether that was typical for being at the hospital, and they're too busy at the change of shift to let me in to see him and I have to go meet someone in an hour for some photos I've been trying to set up for weeks and don't want to cancel, so I don't know whether just seeing me would calm him or make him worse.

They are trying to get a urine sample and want to do some xrays. It's almost $900 just for the overnight stay and this basic array of tests. They've found nothing in his blood work.

It's really too bad. He seemed very happy to be running in the morning. He did fairly well in Full House--a strategy game in which the handler usually designs the course but in this case was designed primarily by jake who couldn't hear me very well or maybe see me very well or who knows--but at any rate, earned a Qualifying score AND placed 3rd of 6 dogs. His second run was much later in the day, after the gorge-fest; Jumpers, and he was obviously slower, which didn't surprise me considering how much he had eaten. He still earned a qualifying score by only by grace of the CPE rule that drops fractional seconds: SCT was 36 and he took 36.5.

Tika Qed 4 out of 5 classes, and the 5th was a stupid handler trick--I thought that she was over the last jump when I slacked off and said "Good Girl!", but the bar went down right *after* that, so my brain had just extrapolated incorrectly. Sigh. And she took 1st place in all 5 classes (the other 24" dogs made more mistakes than we did in that same class).

Boost Qed 4 out of 5; the fifth was a couldn't-be-easier-to-Q nontraditional Jackpot that I just completely mishandled, got out of place, panicked, and couldn't think on my feet. We had about 20 chances to get it and my brain went south. Sigh.

Still, good for her 1st CPE trial, starting at Level 3 (completely bypassing 1 and 2), and she had two 1sts for the day. Qed in Standard with no faults although went past 2 jumps that I had to bring her back around for, in Jumpers although went pas 2 jumps that I had to bring her back around for, in Colors although missed weave entry and had to come back for it.

Fourth Q was in Full House with a nearly flawless run on a course that I designed beautifully, if I may say so myself--knocked a bar, so ended up with 1 fewer point than Tika, with whom I used the same course. And they were the 3rd and 4th-highest scoring dogs out of 125 competing--the two who beat us (a) are very fast smaller dogs who get 5 seconds more of running time and (b) have running Aframes, and I held each of my dogs on two Aframes long enough for a "good girl" and then release. That was definitely my highlight for the day.

Tika's Jackpot was about 5th highest of all 80+ 3/4/5/C dogs, all but one of the higher-scorers small dogs with more time.

And she was 4th fastest of all 3/4/5C in Wildcard, with all 3 faster dogs having running Aframes and I once again held her for a "good girl". Don't know if releasing her immediately would have beat the very fastest dog who was a full 1.5 seconds faster, but probably the other 2. She was at 4.94 yards per second, on a course including an Aframe, 6 weaves, and a 3-jump serpentine.

Her Colors was 2nd fastest of all 3/4/5/C again, but there was that danged bar down (her only non-Q). That was over 5 yards per second, with a teeter, 6 weaves, and two short, sharp right-angle turns.

Anyway, this is one reason why I like CPE--because we really seem like hot stuff because there is a much-smaller percentage of hot-stuff dogs at CPE trials than at USDAA trials, where any more it feels like 80 to 90% are hot-stuff dogs. Still, I watched so many amazing blazing dogs on course even here this weekend. And I think, because we just normally do so well in CPE, I relax more and therefore do even better than I might on a similar course at a USDAA trial and probably have even more fun with my dogs.

This was good typing this, I haven't thought about Jake for 5 whole minutes. Now it's off to deal with my day.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Weaves, Pushing the Envelope, and Getting Old

SUMMARY: Boost's weaves--huh? Tika and me--how far can we go? Getting old: Me and Jake.

Boost's Weaves

At our last 2 weekends of trials, Boost got all of her weave entries (except once where she didn't see them at all and went past the whole thing), and stayed in all of them except twice when I tried to get ahead & she popped out at last pole. At home, I've been working on fixing that last issue by getting farther ahead, racing her to the end, doing distractions, etc. And have been working on weave entrances with a short set of poles from various tough angles, sometimes just across the lawn but more often from a tunnel or over a jump.

Today in class she couldn't do weaves worth beans. She hit the first pole entry every time but then just started skipping randomly, often the 2nd pole but just as often staying in for a few poles & then skipping here and there. Jeez! I'd even just load her in manually to the first pole and still she'd skip. I wasn't racing her or anything. Finally towards the end on one troubled attempt, Nancy had us just go to the other end and weave back towards where we came from, and she did it fine. Then she was OK going the right way if I loaded her in carefully.

Then, after class was all over and Nancy "left the building," telling us all to do the exercise one more time, Boost not only made a difficult entry in flow, full speed, but stayed in the weaves all the way through very nicely, thank you very much.

So I blame it all on Nancy.

But seriously--what a frustrating experience! Hope it doesn't remanifest itself at a trial.

Tika Pushing the Envelope

I've said before how much I like my current class. In particular, Ken with Apache the Terv and Jenn with Kye the Aussie, all of us jumping 26", and Ash with Luka at 16", and all of us pushing the limits of our handling skills. Of course, Ashley and Luka are rapidly working their way into being in the top teams in the entire country in both USDAA and AKC, and I just can't compete with his vast stores of energy and long legs, but I can feed off of that drive to succeed. We talk about "The Cool Factor" in class a lot. That's one of Jim's seminar jokes--why would you choose one handling option over another? The Cool Factor! Because everyone will think you're totally cool if you can pull it off! What it really is, is stretching what we think we're capable of. All one of us has to say is, "I'm going to try it!" and the others of us are right in there, not wanting to be uncool. :-)

I'm finding that it's hard for me to pull up a lot of energy or to move my legs and arms really fast, though. Some of it, I'm sure, is just being out of shape from the months of knee issues and post-surgery. And I'm not doing much about it, either. Like--hmmm--I could've been doing the exercycle instead of typing this blog entry. But what fun is that? (Not.)

Getting older

And some of it is just getting older. Things just don't work the way they used to. Things come up sore that not only didn't used to be sore but that I didn't even know existed. How can I be feeling the effects of aging when I don't THINK I'm getting older? It's just not right!

My knee isn't perfectly better yet. After I've been sitting for a while--say, driving to/from class or at the computer--when I first stand up, if I try to take a good step immediately, the knee half the time collapses under me with a small bit of pain. I have to stand for a moment and let the knee loosen. I'm hoping that this is a transitory phase in its healing.

The original Border Terrorist (Terrier), Bobbi, who was quite the competitor when I started agility but who has been retired for quite a while now, celebrated her 15th birthday just last November, same time as Jake. We just got word now that she's passed away. It's always too soon! And Jake's been doing pretty well, just the usual complaints from me that sometimes he just won't come out in the yard and play fetch. (But annoying me immensely because if I take it into the living room, he'll run forever as I bounce his toys off collectibles, priceless heirlooms, glass cabinets, and windows.) So sometimes I just insist. Yesterday afternoon, of 2 days of him looking at me eagerly but then trotting back into the house, I wouldn't let him go past me, and of course then he turned around, got his toy, and plunged full-heartedly into an enthused, tail-wagging all-out game of fetch. And then suddenly, after not really all that much running, he dropped his toy in the middle of the lawn (*never* does that) and just came over and stood next to me, panting and wagging his tail. Usually he wanders off with his toy to take a dunk in the pond or wander through the shady shrubs or something. It struck me as a little odd.

Then he trotted up the stairs to the porch, turned around, and just about fell right back down the steps. He started after Boost, blaming her, I guess, but when I came over, his back legs kept falling out from under him. Still, he managed to go back up the steps, but as I stroked his back, he started staggering, then would stand OK, then stagger off to the side again like he was losing his balance. Almost fell into the water bowl the couple of times he started to take a drink. But didn't want to lie down. So I just balanced him against my leg, stroking him gently, and in a minute or so he was fine again.

But it was scary; thought I'd be spending the evening at the emergency room. He's been fine ever since. People in class last night, who've had old dogs, said it sounded like a ministroke and that there could be more. So I guess at some point I'll take him in and talk to the vet about it. Argh. I'm just not ready for this.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Just Some Photos

SUMMARY: Have camera, will shoot.
Jake returns from a fetch with his Tug'N'Treat. This is two days in a row he asked to play. But this morning we went for a walk first, which was ALWAYS how we did it all the years I've had him until the knee really acted up last year, so the walks dribbled away. So now, all is right with the world and it's fitting a proper to Fetch.
Usually, however, Tika has abandoned her own toy for the joy of proving that she can always get to Jake's toy before he does (then either scooping it up and carrying it 5 to 10 feet then dropping, or simply barking twice, "Beat you!"). In this case, Jake almost always returns with an escort tender as seen here. Boost would never get away with any of this with Jake.
Boost's idea of playing fetch while Jake and/or Tika go after their toys: Doing an outrun full speed across the yard to be ahead of them as I start to throw the toy, then racing back to me to watch them fixedly in the likely chance that either of them will move rapidly again. I'm realizing that this is probably why she never wanted to go around front of the goats in her herding test--she was expecting them to take off full speed after a tennis ball.
Meanwhile--It's a pencil eraser! It's a shoe polisher! These nifty slip-on shoes that have become so popular are wonderful for me. I can pull them on and off in an instant to, say, wash off mud, they're comfortable, I can do moderate agility in the yard or yard work in them. I knew that my first pair, these ash-gray ones, had become gradually more soiled and discolored ("ash gray," she says? Hmmm--), but I didn't realize how much so until I just bought a second pair (not shown). Then I went looking for ways to clean suede shoes. Found this on ehow.com, used a large pencil eraser (the pointed kind that you push on the end) for about 15 minutes on one of these--what a difference!
Here's a funny lemon from my tree next to a regular (but smallish) one like all the others on my tree. Have been told it's a worm of some kind. There's actually a type of citrus that does this all the time but even more so, the Buddha's hand citron. What's really funny, though, is how my camera interpreted the bright yellow against my greenish teal dogwalk. Bright blue?!

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Agility-Related Goals for This Week

SUMMARY: Some realism, some extreme optimism.

  • Today: Walk around the (long) block--about 2/3 miles. Exercycle briskly 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Jump-knocking drills with Tika and Boost. Finish removing plants around lilac in hopes it will be taken away later today--then another 15 feet of usable length in my yard! Woohoo! Go to class with Tika, my cold be danged.
  • Thurs: Walk around the long block. Exercycle 10 minutes. 5 minutes quad work. Go to class with Boost. Go-on drills with Boost. Bar-knocking and snooker practice with Tika.
  • Fri: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. Pack & load car for the weekend (usually takes 1-2 hours). Snooker and bar-knocking drills with Tika. Go-on drills with Boost. Get to bed early.
  • Rise at the crack of 4am, drive 2 hours to Santa Rosa, ice my knee after every run (5 with Tika), earn Tika's ADCH with a Super-Q, don't freeze my buns off. Night at Motel 6.
  • Sun: Ice my knee after every run (5 with Boost), earn Boost's AD with a Standard leg. Don't freeze my buns off. Remember to do stuff with Jake. Drive home, stopping for nap if need be.
  • Mon: Walk around the long block. 10 minutes exercycle. 5 minutes quads. I dunno, that's 5 days from now!

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


SUMMARY: Just thinking.

  • It's been SO dry here this winter. Not just in terms of rain (which we're quite low on), but the air. My fingers have been cracking since December. I use moisturizing hand lotion all the time. But I wash my hands so often, too, with being out with the dogs and (the last week or so) a cold and doing stuff in the yard, it's hard to keep up. Now my lips are chapping, my whole face is flaking. I think I'm starting to go hoarse--cold/cough or dry air? Ack.
  • The lilac bush is going going...hopefully soon gone! Blog commenters are good at making me put my money where my mouth is. I offered it on Freecycle.org, thinking that no one could really possibly want an 8' tall/wide shrub, but I was swamped with replies. This is apparently the ideal time to remove it. So after 5 years in this house, it's finally going*. But this means I'm having to dig up all the plants around it that I want to keep and move elsehwere. This is why I found/bought/stole/created dozens of pots and potting soil all summer, to do this, and then it just seemed like SO much work. But with shovels impending, I've made good progress today (yessss---less billable work again) and hopefully can finish tomorrow.
  • Tip for the brain dead: When you're lifting something really heavy and you're out of condition and you want to set it on a platform (read "agility table") that's next to you, turn, don't twist at the waist. Owwwies. I knew that. OK, now I have a sore back muscle on one side. Hope it doesn't stiffen up before the weekend.
  • For 2 days straight, Jake wouldn't play fetch no matter what I tried. Would finally go and get the toy and then skirt around me at the edges of the yard to dart back into the house. Yesterday he was coaxable, but I had to coax a lot. Then he fetched forever. Today I wasn't in the mood for coaxing, and he lay on the deck watching me toss a toy for the others for about 20 minutes between uprooting irises and narcissi, then he came down and asked me to to play fetch! I was thrilled. Did it a long time, too, like yesterday. Sucks getting old.
  • My mom's closest cousin--my clever, funny, "aunt"--has been writing incoherent letters from her home in New York. Senility/alzheimers/whatever is setting in big time. I think that's the curse & the fear of the woodward family women: Live a long life with your body and a shorter one with your mind. It's scary. My mom's doing good so far but we all know from her stories of her grandmother and from the way her mom deteriorated that we all could be next in line...and now the cousin... Argh even more. I'll just assume that doing agility will preserve my mind forever. Or, the way I sometimes run courses, no one will know the difference anyway. That's probably a better strategy--just be incomprehensible all the time so you and everyone else just get used to it.
*Oops, that would be an unclear pronoun reference. The lilac shrub has not, in fact, EVER been in this house to my knowledge, but *I* have been.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

The Jakester

SUMMARY: Just a couple of Jake photos.

Jake taking a snooze in the brand-new bed he got for Christmas, thanks to my sister Ann and her family.The last 3 (?) digits of Jake's tattoo, maybe 8 years old. Can you tell what numbers they are? I just got Tika and Boost tattooed, and I hope theirs don't look like this in 8 years.

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Friday, December 29, 2006

Christmas Rawhides

SUMMARY: Different dogs, different rawhide personalities. (This was one of several scenarios that I had envisioned as part of my Christmas letter. But I pared a lot out of it, so you-all get it on my blog, instead.)

Sheba and Amber: Christmas 1983, just a couple of normal dog pet pals enjoying a treat. Maybe Sheba wants to enjoy two treats.
Jake Step 1: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.
Tika Step 1: Tear off enough paper to get to work. No nonsense here.
Jake Step 2: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.
Boost Step 1: Carry it to bed and check it out cautiously.
Jake step 3: Carry it to bed and monitor for intruders.
Boost step 2: Bury the rawhide in a secret place.
Jake step 4: Carefully remove just enough paper to tempt the other dogs to just dare to try to come take it.
Boost's cleverly buried rawhide bone. No one will find it now.
Jake step 5: Carry his gift around looking concerned and mildly reproving.

In the Olden Days, when we had Sheba and Amber (who were just normal sort of pet dogs, although special in their own ways), we gave them giant rawhides for Christmas every year. They'd pull the wrapping paper off and lie there chewing on them for a while and eventually get tired of them and then chew on them off and on for maybe weeks.

Remington was completely spooked by giant rawhide. (He was a sensitive soul.) He just wouldn't go within a foot or two of one, although he'd chew small rawhides with pleasure. After two or three attempts in different years, we just gave up.

It occurred to me that I hadn't tried giant rawhide bones with any of my current dogs for Christmas, I don't think. So I bought three large rawhides, wrapped them loosely with just one piece of tape holding the paper, and handed them out.

Tika immediately trotted to the den, gently tore off enough paper, one small bit at a time, to get at one of the big knobby ends, and proceeded to gnaw. Normal. Except for the wrapping paper remaining on half the bone, for hours.

Jake, typically, carried his slowly around or just stood in one place, looking concerned and occasionally shooting me admonitory glances for saddling him with such a huge responsibility. Eventually he retired to his bed and let it rest beside him for a while, while he monitored the environment for encroaching canids. When none approached him, he appeared disappointed at not having a chance to warn them off, so after a while he tore the wrapping off half the bone and went back to carrying it around past the other dogs, looking concerned.

Boost took it gingerly, watched the other dogs for a couple of minutes, then took it to her bed, where she examined it closely for a while. Then she determined that the best course of action was to bury it where no one else could find it while she decided the ideal plan of attack. A couple of hours later, Jake found the cleverly hidden package and walked around with THAT one for a while, looking concerned. Eventually, it disappeared again, and I assumed that Boost had buried it again. Apparently she had, but in some odd corner of the living room, because the next day Jake found it again (still wrapped) and carried it around for a while before Boost finally took over once more and removed the wrapping paper to give it some chewing.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006


SUMMARY: Various dogs sing for various reasons.

The late, great Frankie, thinking about his glory days as a torch singer.
RemSing Feb 2003
The late, great Remington singing.

My sister Sharon had an Australian Shepherd, Frankie, who used to throw his head back and howl (sing) whenever anyone sang "Happy Birthday To You!" It was a great trick for calling family (of which Sharon and her then-spouse had huge quantities of) long-distance on their birthdays, just something a little different.

My old pal Remington used to move into a different world when sirens sounded; as though taken over by the spirits of his wolf ancestors, he'd raise his nose to the heavens and a long, thin howl from the depths of his soul emerged as though civilization and his family had vanished from around him, unnoticed. He also howled (sang) but in a more conscious way when he was very happy, and he did it more and more over time as we encouraged him by trying to get him to sing on command.

I have three dogs now who are useless as singers because they just never naturally howl and I know of no way to teach them to "sing" if they don't do it on their own. The only time I've ever heard Tika howl is when she's dreaming (very spooky, wild sound, thin and deep, pulled from an ancient memory, in the depth of the dark night).

The only time I ever heard Jake try to howl was when Remington used to howl at fire engines, and even then he couldn't quite figure it out--he'd put his head back in the right position but then make just really sharp, painfully high-pitched yelp-barks. Since no one else around here howls, I've never seen him try again, the little copy-cat who likes to believe he's really the leader of the pack.

And I've never seen any hint of howling or singing from Boost, although she does often do a little short "oww!" of happiness sometimes when she first gets out of her crate in the morning. Hmmm, something to think about trying to capture--

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Tootling Along

SUMMARY: So far so good, still

Housemate's cooking fan club
Housemate gets Tika and Boost lined up for some good fetch.
When tug-of-war isn't good enough--Boost learns to fly.
Yummy home-made cookies from Saturday night's party.
That's me at Saturday's party, rather blurry, oh, well, but the only photo I asked anyone to take. Really, I only just met the guy five minutes before and his wife was sitting right there.

Things are progressing fairly uneventfully. Boost chose two of the coldest, frostiest mornings to go outside first thing and roll in poop, covering herself with gobbets of stuff head to tail, making us both miserable as I had to spend considerable time hosing her off with icy-cold water. I've always wanted to install a hot-water spigot to the back yard for dog care, but have never had the budget. Someday...

Jake has been eager to play fetch lately, which is grand.

All the dogs want more attention and excitement than they're getting, but they're surviving. I am going outside with them most days at least once and at least throwing a toy for them to bring back, with just a wee bit of basic agility that I can do while essentially standing still. Have worked on some basic tricks with a clicker inside the house on a couple of occasions for a change of pace, and have occasionally fed them their meals in Buster Cubes (which they have to roll around to get to dispense the kibble). It's been raining or drizzling the last two or three days, which makes me want to avoid having them run around in the yard--gets them all muddy and tears up the lawn.

But I haven't taken them ANYWHERE in a couple of weeks--no classes, no visits to the park, no walks, nuthin'. Really need to do something, anything, as soon as I can manage.

Fortunately, the renter/housemate always plays with them daily anyway, but has been making a special effort to get at least Jake and Tika well-run. And they love him for it--plus they're rather fond of helping him finish off a few scraps left over when he makes his daily sandwiches or otherwise cooks. Tika's not fond of fresh broccoli, but even she will munch a few pieces when she sees the other two gulping them down.

The knee mostly gets better. I had my first post-op physical therapy Thursday morning, where we did almost nothing (because my knee hurt at least a little with most things, and therapist doesn't want to start the pain cycle with even a little aggravation). On the way home, I stopped at Rite Aid briefly, and discovered that, even being able to park right in front of the store, I was tired and sore and my knee ached and it was quite strenuous. I slept two hours when I got home. That evening, I reverted to crutches around the house, which I hadn't used in probably 4 or 5 days.

But the next day, Friday, I felt my best post-op so far, even forgetting from time to time as I moved around the house that there was anything wrong with my knee at all. Saturday I went to the movies and did so by walking ALLLLLL the way from the back parking lot through the huge Oakridge Mall to the theater, the most walking I've done post-op, even including a couple of grocery shopping trips. I did take my crutches with me and used them just to give me a wee tiny extra bit of weight-bearing support for that leg, trying to walk normally, just braced with the crutches. I think I did fine.

I haven't used the icing machine in 3 days now, so that's been 3--hmm, maybe 4--nights I've gone without it overnight. The first of those nights I did get up in the night (towards morning) and ice it for 20 minutes, as it ached enough to be bothersome after I got up to use the facilities, and then it was fine again.

So I'm just icing for 20 minutes off and on during the day, and am doing a very few exercises when I remember to do so. Need to do some more; the weight is already creeping on (but I'm eating crappily, too--usually the exercise I get helps to accommodate that). Tried the exercycle in physical therapy briefly and couldn't do much; I'm going to try it again today and see what I can do.

Last night I carpooled with a friend on a lonnnng drive (over an hour an a half) to Pacific Grove to an agility club party/meeting. I survived the drive and the party and managed to snap a bunch of photos of club members, and although I was tired when I got home, I attributed it more to the late-night hour than to anything knee-related. So, yes, progress is occurring.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Out of Condition

SUMMARY: Many muscles sore from fun match.

Dang, why do I never think of taking photos until after I'm home?

The fun match was at Workin' Paws in Hollister. This is Susan Paulson's back yard, but not a back yard like you find in most of Silicon Valley. All of the houses in the neighborhood are on their own giant lots--I'm guessing at least 2 acres each, maybe more like 3 to 5. Many people have horses. Workin' Paws has a duck coop (what do you call a building in which you keep ducks? Chicken coop, dove cote, turkey trot--or something--), a huge fenced area for pottying and running dogs that's larger than my back yard, a pretty-close-to-full-sized agility ring in grass, and another ring under construction, plus their house and personal yard. And I have no idea whether the neigbhoring pastures with sheep and llamas were theirs or other neighbors'. Pretty cool. But a long commute from most jobs up here (just under an hour from my place in south san jose, so estimate at least one and a quarter hours--in good traffic (ha!)--to Sunnyvale or Santa Clara).

I ran Jake in 3 Jumpers runs and he seemed pretty happy to be there. I believe that I did 4 Jumpers runs each with Tika and Boost, and two or three Standard runs each. But they weren't straight through--they were most like practices, and we were allowed up to 90 seconds each in the ring, so I redid sections that I felt would be productive.

So I did quite a bit of running with my knee brace on, and my right knee got to feeling pretty tired by noon. Today, all the muscles in all of my legs (at least 2 of them) are bone-tired. This is bad. This means that I'm really very much out of condition. That's really not a lot of being on my feet for me normally, but apparently it is a lot for me NOW. I realize that I haven't been going for my daily mile walks for quite a while now, and I'm doing less and less with the dogs overall, but boy, I'm going to have to be careful after the surgery to remember that I'm not going from peak condition to surgery to peak condition.

Boost and Tika both didn't want to carry on to the end in the Jumpers courses with 4 or 5 straight jumps in a row. Bother! Something I worked on with both of them a lot and just assumed that they'd do. So we worked on that a bit. Worked with Boost on going over jumps and not going around them when she's trying to catch up to me. Worked with Tika on the start line stay. And worked. And worked. She got up and ran only once, but boy, she skootched and skootched and SKOOTCHED and skootched--

I've toyed with the idea of putting her in a down, since that's what she seems to want to do as an alternative to taking off early. Seemed to keep her in place better, but in fact she went into full relaxed position with one front leg tucked under, which isn't what I want, either.

So much to do--

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Thursday, February 07, 2002

Tika Day 17

SUMMARY: Things are going well so far.

Backfill: May 6, 2009
Whew, I knew I wouldn't be able to keep up that level of dog journal for long, but I wanted to capture my initial emotions and impressions and experiences.

She is so smart some of the time, too smart some of the time, and a dork on rare occasions.

My dogs are supposed to sit to get their leashes on when they go for a walk. They know this. We've been doing this nearly every day for 3 years (Jake) to 8 years (for Rem), but they almost always circle around and around until I say something, sometimes twice (even "Hey!" will do it). Tika figured it out perfectly. As soon as I head for the leashes, she sits and stays sitting right there. What a superstar!

She's getting a little better on the walks about other dogs. Even though she's still pulling at the leash, I think that lots of exposure to the rest of the world will be what calms her down eventually. She still gets excited when a yard dog starts barking as we go by, but she's manageable. And yesterday a dog passed on the other side of the street, and although she was on the verge of wild, she never went past the point where I couldn't keep walking and just try to manage the tension on the leash, and no screeching (just whining)! So that's improving.

Next we can work on walking without pulling. Another too-smart thing--she's figured out that she can lean into the gentle leader and, if she hesitates just long enough to shake her head, then the tension relaxes and she can lean into it again. So most of the walk she's still leaning into it, but of course not yanking like she does on a plain collar. Why she can't figure out to *not* pull and then not have to shake her head all the time, I don't know!

She's doing good with the stuff we're learning in Rachel's class, although I don't practice nearly often enough. She really recognizes Tika as her name, and is at the moment among the "advanced" students on the recall (Rachel gave 3 of us permission to go on to the next step beyond what we'd been practicing).

Also Rachel taught us a new way of teaching down (at least I wasn't familiar with it), where you kneel and hold the food in front of your knees and call the name--when the dog comes to you and starts trying to nibble at the food, eventually they'll lie down. Then you say "Down" immediately, let them have the food, and praise. When they're going down immediately when they see your hands with the food, you move to step 2, with your hands up to your knees. Then you move up to sitting on a step with the food at yuor ankles, then halfway up your calves, then to your knees. Then you go on from there. Our assignment for next week is to get to step 2. We learned this yesterday, and Tika's already at step 3 and I just didn't want to spend too much "training" time and burn her out.

On the other hand, the other thing we're learning is an under-my-control down, where when you push on the shoulders, the dog is just supposed to go down. The starting step is to pull down on the collar at the same time as pushing back on the shoulders, from a stand at your side. If the dog sits, you've lost the situation and you go stand the dog and try again. First week, rachel said give them a goodie to distract them and, sure enough, when I give Tika a goodie and push/pull, she goes down pretty easily. But without the goodie she stands like a rock or plops instantly into a sit. I keep thinking I must be missing something.

This evening, I had to laugh when I finally realized where we are--almost the instant we're in that position and I give her a goodie, she goes down! So she's learned the behavior to the wrong stimulus! I'll have to give Rachel a call and figure out what to do next.

She does a "shake" very well and a "crawl" moderately well. I haven't really worked on many other tricks yet. Still discovering that we're missing some basic skills that I took for granted. Have had to practice catching a goodie that I toss. She actually (like most dogs) figured it out pretty fast, but we had to take a break from other stuff to practice it.

Then I discovered that she didn't seem to have a clue about tossing a treat--when I made a tossing gesture, she focused on my hand! So I've had to start with a very short toss, and point it out to her, and we're getting better pretty quickly, but I had forgotten that that's kind of an abstract concept for dogs.

She's out of the pen almost all the time I'm here, now, but I have to remember to watch her when she starts wandering. She can find somethng and tear it up in about 30 seconds flat if I get distracted. So far fortunately nothing important, just packing material and trashy stuff. And she mostly doesn't do that if we've had a good play session and/or a meal in recent hours. I don't want her to start associating being in the pen with me being gone, though, so maybe I shd make a point of putting her in when she's just going to be snoozing anyway.

She hasn't been wanting to settle onto her mat in the bedroom unless I put a gate across that corner of the room. i was hoping that she'd get the clue that that's where I'd like her to sleep. She *does* know it's time to settle down, but she settles down in the hallway or somewhere. Because I don't quite trust her yet, I don't want that. So 2 nights ago I moved the mat right next to my bed (makes it tough to get out w/out stepping on her). Sure enough, when I go up to bed, she instantly settles there on the mat.

The DISadvantage is that at 6:00 this morning, I was sound asleep and in the middle of some interesting dream, when a dog stuck her nose into my arm and shoved, saying, "Hey, I just had a GREAT idea! Let's get up NOW!" I said something bitter and undoubtedly wittily ascerbic, and Lo! she settled right back down onto the mat and went back to sleep, thereby disproving my original thought that maybe she had to go potty. So *she* slept for another hour, but I couldn't get comfortable and tossed and turned and finally gave up and got up around 7, which is still a wee bit early for me. So I'm kinda sleepy tonight.

There is *so* much to learn and practice. I've been trying to do more of the stuff from Rachel's class and so for 2 days we haven't practiced our agility--and today when I tried what we'd been doing before, she was oblivious. So that clearly hasn't patterned on her yet.

I have to tell you about Reminton, too. I've always said he was a quick learner & loved to learn, too. But it's been so long since I've taught him anything new, and now he's watching me work with the puppy and me being excited when she does cool stuff. So I thought I really needed something to get excited about with Remington (other than just doing all the same old 40 or 50 tricks). So tonight it occurred to me to try to teach him to go to a "bow" from a Down position instead of from standing. It was a challenge, but within just a few minutes and a few attempts on my part to figure out how to make that connection for him, he was doing it! Probably not very solid yet, and we'll have to practice it some more, but I think that was a big conceptual leap for him. He's so good!

Remington was actually willing to play in the same room as Tika tonight--so I had all 3 of them with their toys. Argh--exhausting--need 3 hands. Tika's slowly coming around to the idea that, in this house, the current play toy for each dog is off limits to the other dogs. I'm not sure I'm entirely happy about that rule, but I'm looking for a peaceful and stress-free environment. Rem will snarl and even jump on her (or any dog) who tries to take a toy, or the only other choice is he completely loses interest and refuses to play. Has always been like that.

Jake doesn't do that, but in every play session, there is one Official Jake Toy and if I or the other dogs try to switch, jake will *not* play with any toy except the original one. He's always been like that, too. When I first got him, I used to take him to the dog park and throw one of the dozens of tennis balls that were always lying around. If he lost track of which one I'd thrown, he would NOT fetch just any old other ball I'd pick up--he had to check every tennis ball in the place until he found the one we had started playing with. And he was always right, too! He'd be good in obedience if I knew how to take advantage of that scent discrimination. Even now, he has several favorite squeaky toys. But if I try to switch from one to the other during play, he will NOT fetch the new one unless I insist forcefully, and even then he'll just drop it, put his ears back, and wait for me to roduct the original toy.

Oh--tonight I introduced Tika to the Food Cube! Went down to the pet store & bought her one. I've been using them for Rem and Jake for about a year and a half and they're great for burning off a few ounces of energy, especially when I've been away most of the day or don't have as much time to spend with them. She figured it out in just a few minutes and was rolling and pushing and pawing it aroudn to get the food out like an old pro. Rem learned moderately quickly, but he already knew the "nudge" command (push something with your nose), and that's how he originally learned, with my commands; Jake was a little slower I think--maybe I've got the speed backwards--although still within a couple of sessions he was pretty good at it.

Tika did decide that using the dog door was a good thing after all and for several days now has been going in and out sometimes on her own. Still not sure that I competely trust her to potty herself, so I still take her out occasionally, but she's not misbehaving at the fence near the neighbor's dog much at all.

So it's going well at the moment.

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