Sunday, June 28, 2009

We're Havin' A Heat Wave

SUMMARY: In which we attempt to get the TMH dogs to go swimming in an actual swimming pool.

106 F (41 C) today on my back deck. Yeesh. (Although the official temp, at the airport, closer to the bay, was a mere 94, the Los Gatos temperature, which is farther up the valley, more or less parallel to where I am, came in at 105. What a difference 10 miles makes!)

So we invited ourselves over to my sister's yard, in which they have a swimming pool. I know for a fact that Tika likes to get into water where she can swim a bit; likes getting into the ponds here in my yard (one ankle deep, one chest-deep when full). Figured that she, at least, would like the pool, especially if I were in it with her.

Boost isn't keen on getting into the ponds unless there's a toy there, and even so she attempts to get as little wet as possible. But she loves playing in the hose spray. And her sister can't be kept out of the water. And there are so many Border Collies around who love water. I figured that with a little frisbee, she'd be in, especially in this heat.

Didn't work that way.

Worked slowly at coaxing each onto a shallow step, then a medium step. Actually lifted them, I think. It's all a little fuzzy now. Spent about 2 hours trying to gradually get them to where they'd actually swim. Coaxing, lifting, holding, praising. It was quite an exhausting experience on all our parts. Finally got boost to hop in from a step under her own power--once--to get the frisbee. First time that I took her in and held her until she was making swimming motions, she wanted nothing to do with the frisbee and instead wanted out. By that time, had a decent but not perfect idea of where the various steps were. After that, though, she wanted the frisbee badly enough that I was able to lower her into the pool in my arms, aim her at the frisbee, and she'd get it and make a beeline for the exit.

Tika came down to the deeper step for food, but she wasn't happy about it.

Ah, well. I think we all got a good workout. I took a camera but didn't actually put it into someone's hands and say "take photos of this!" Oh, well.

Photo: Why you shouldn't slack off on trimming your dogs' toenails if you're going to carry them into the pool.

Photo: Afterwards, lying in the shade and drying off.

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Brrr! But Keep On Practicing

SUMMARY: Near-record lows for California, but that deters our agility not a whit. So much to work on. And my back yard is less limiting than I thought.

Saturday morning, 10 a.m.
Tika's favorite pond still has a layer of ice.
My back yard as no one has ever seen it before--from my plum tree! Jake ponders the incomprehensible activities of mom.

The low parts of the Bay Area have been colder before, but not by much, and not on these dates. It's cold. There oughta be a law. We live in California for a reason, and this sort of thing just shouldn't be allowed. All our artichoke and citrus crops are freezing to death, literally. What will we do, what will we do?

But at least the sun is shining. So, in the sun, it's fine to be out in the yard running around with the dogs, as long as I'm dressed snugly and don't mind numb fingers.

I could probably get by without weekly classes, after 12 years of them, if I were any better at--on my own-- (a) figuring out what I'm doing wrong, (b) keeping up with the latest knowledge and skills about training and handling, and (c) figuring out how to create simple yet versatile course layouts in my yard to assist in developing my handling skills.

The latter is quite hard for me. Probably I just never work at it very much. Course design just doesn't excite me. Plus, as you can see from the photo, although my yard is about 95 feet long and varies from about 25 to 40 feet wide, there's a lot of unusable space (patio and trees and such) plus that danged lilac shrub and planter right in the middle of my practice area. I'd have torn it out along with all the other shrubs, trees, and planters 5 years ago, except that the landscape designer I talked to convinced me to leave it. It really is gorgeous and smells delicious. For about 6 days, once a year. Is it worth it? I've been threatening to take it out for the last 5 years, but of course I also planted a whole lot of smaller plants and bulbs around it, so I want to take those out, too--and so it stalls.

But I digress.

I got a complementary copy of Dog Sports magazine at the USDAA nationals this year, and it has a lovely little backyard grid of 7 obstacles that allow you to practice a phenomenal array of techniques and paths in a small area. They've got it laid out on a 40 by 50 grid, but with only a little tweaking here and there, I've got it fit into about 30 by 40. I've used it for three days now and I'm not yet running out of handling challenges that we need work on.

The obstacles are:
  • the tunnel (theirs looks like maybe a 15-footer spread over 10 feet; mine is just 10 feet)
  • table
  • teeter (mine, which you can barely see in front of the Aframe, is at an angle to avoid the aframe and the corner flower garden, but theirs was aimed straight at the table)
  • 6-pole weaves (mine isn't quite where theirs is in relation to the tunnel, but close)
  • Three jumps arranged in a pinwheel--one next to the teeter, one opposite it (next to dogwalk in my yard), and one perpendicular to them that you can barely see out by the winter-naked lilac shrub. (OK, you can barely see it and only if you peer really closely)

They've got a dozen or so courses of 6 to 9 obstacles laid out starting at the table, and another dozen ending at the table, so you can combine them for longer courses if you're inclined. You can get to either end of the weaves from either end of the tunnel. You can go past the weaves on either end to get to the pinwheel. On those three jumps, you can practice pinwheels, wraps, 180s (bypassing the back jump). You can practice a push out and turn over the left jump to the teeter. You can practice either end of the weaves from any of the three jumps from any direction--coming towards you or going away and wrapping. And from the teeter. And from the table. And from the table you can do jumps, either end of the weaves (far end is tricky), eitehr end of the tunnel. And so on.

I of course have an added level of complexity because I have a dogwalk set up to the right, and beyond the far jump of the pinwheel I can send the dog straight to another tunnel or turn left over an additional jump which can get me to *another* tunnel and so on and so on.

The only major flaw here is that the approach from the table to the tunnel is on the concrete patio, but I do few enough of them that they probably won't hurt--and Tika, for one, is always up on the hot tub and flying off onto the patio all on her own, so if that doesn't bother her, a few table exits won't, either.

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