Friday, October 23, 2009

Competitive Dog Sports -- Another Pass-Around Thang

SUMMARY: About me & my dog sports.
Found on Facebook. I'm posting here because I've answered many of these questions before and I'm just going to link to 'em. If you want to do this note on facebook and tag your dog-sport pals, copy & paste these instructions as well as the rest of the content:
Copy and paste the content below, then erase the other person's answers and put in your own. Tag as many Dog Nuts as you can think of, including the person who sent it to you as "first tag." Don't be shy to make your answers long, if need be.

NOTE: This will be a very long read if you also read the links in which I answer some questions at length. Don't you have something better to do with your time?

List the dog sports in which you compete. If you have a particular favorite please tell us, and tell us why!

Is there anyone you'd like to thank or BLAME for getting you into competitive dog activities?
My obedience instructor started taking agility classes and recommended it to me. For my active, eager dog. Who is also clearly to blame.

Please tell the story of how you got started in dog sports. Where/when (year please, don't be shy!)/why/etc.
Remember, you asked. (First competition: January 1996.)

What is your FAVORITE thing about dog sports, and what is your LEAST FAVORITE?
One answer, from June 2009, on "why agility?"
What I hate about agility? Disappointing myself, sometimes; the expense; the amount of time it takes away from everything else in my life.

What breeds or mixes thereof do you/have you owned? Please list their name, their breed (or mix thereof) and then their BEST quality as a sport dog and their WORST quality as a sport dog.
Whoa, can you believe I've never done a post on this? (At least not that I'm finding.) This would make a good future blog post. Summary:
  • Remington, Squirrelhund (Lab/Shepherd probably). Almost never dropped a bar. Loved to learn. Could be pretty fast. Extremely sensitive to my moods and shut down a lot.
  • Jake, Semidachshund (sheltie mix probably, maybe beagle?). Took forever to learn anything new. But once he got it, very reliable.
  • Tika, Craussie (Aussie cross, maybe Husky?). Pretty darned fast, loves doing agility, easily distracted, fights the "rules" every step of the way. 
  • Boost, Border Collie. Extremely fast and driven. Loves to learn. Very focused. Wants to do agility. Light on the concepts of keeping bars up and doing weaves from beginning to end.

How many dog beds do you currently own and what did you pay for the most expensive one?
  • Double-thick bathmats once were primary dog beds. (3 or 4, bought on clearance for about $15 each in the early '90s. Tucked away now or used at trials when sleeping in the van.)
  • Official dog mats, thick pile fleece with blue border. (3, one in kitchen, one in crate in bedroom, one for trials. About $15 each at pet stores through the years.)
  • Raised PVC bed frames with rip-stop "hammock". (3, one in office, two in kitchen. Bought one at giant February AKC dog show at the Santa Clara County fairgrounds. Two bought at USDAA Nationals in Scottsdale. $55 each in 2001. )
  • Big thick dog bed cushion with zippered cover. (2, both in office, one on a PVC bed frame--which the dogs take turns using--one from Costco about $20, one won in agility trial raffle.)
  • Down-filled bed with stuff bag. (1, stored in closet, won in raffle.)
  • Giant fleece/fabric sturdy throw used as dog bed in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Smaller fleece rectangle with raised sides in my bedroom. (1, won in raffle.)
  • Spiffy actual nice plush dog bed, bought for Jake with a Christmas gift certificate to PetSmart (so it was either free or $79.99, depending on your viewpoint, which could make it the most expensive). (Jake died only a month later, but he loved it while he had it. Tucked in the corner of my office, Boost uses it all the time. Tika sometimes uses it.)
(Short post in which this photo originally appeared.)

What is the most you ever paid for a large bag of dog food? Probably $55. Same thing sells at a discount at nearby Pet Club for $35.

What is the most you have ever paid for a dog toy, and what was it?
No clue. Probably in the $20 range from time to time.

List the vehicles you have bought specifically for traveling to and from dog competitions.
MUTT MVR! Read my 2005 post about it in the Quintessential agility car.

What is the furthest you have ever traveled in order to attend a dog event?
Scottsdale, Arizona (USDAA Nationals 2004,05,06,07,08).
Second furthest: Either San Diego, CA (USDAA Nationals, 2000 and 2001), or Eureka, CA (2002, chasing the last gambler's let for Remington's NATCH).

How many dog-related pieces of clothing do you currently own?
As of March 2007.

How many dog toys do you own? Don't forget to include the ones in the car and in various closets and at your in-laws' house.
As of November 2008. (Remember that you can click on a photo to see a larger version of it to make out more details.)

(Read the original post that goes with the photo.)

How many dog-related books do you own?

Remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. (Read the post that goes with the photo.) Here's the list of the books as of 2006. (Read the short post that goes with the list.)

Have you ever been bitten by a dog? If so what were the circumstances?
Accidentally when Jake and Remington got into a fight between me, the couch, and the coffee table.

Has your dog ever peed/pooped/barfed someplace that they really shouldn't have? If so, tell us what happened!
Are you kidding? I own dogs! Duh!

Has your dog ever stolen a major item of human food? Tell us!
Not that I recall.

When competing in dog sports, did you ever admire someone else's dog from afar so much that you will always remember that dog? If so, please tell us all about it.
So many dogs! Several Border Collies stood out, including one who would eventually become Boost's mom. Several mixed-breed dogs! I love their distinctive looks and how well they do even against Border Collies.

Of all your friend's dogs, which dog would you like to take home and keep if you had the chance? You can list three, just to be fair...or just one if you're ruthless!
I've had such a wide variety of my own, I now know that there is no perfect dog. Any one will have its issues and its successes. I don't covet others's dogs.

What has been your most embarrassing moment thus far while competing in dog sports?
Probably a tie between:
  • Me and Jake running a beautiful first half of a Pairs Relay course, to have our partner cry, "Where's the baton?!" as I came racing in, empty handed. (That's an automatic disqualification.)
  • Running into the teeter totter. Read about it here.

What has been your most shining moment thus far while competing in dog sports?

Oh, so very many! Jake's MAD (the first I ever earned). Remington's NATCH (my first dog's championship, FINALLY). Winning Full House with zillions of points over and over in CPE trials with Tika and Boost. Boost doing the weave poles correctly! Winning a ribbon at USDAA Nationals with Tika in an individual event. Making Team finals at the USDAA Nationals with Tika. Finally getting Jake's 5th Gamblers Q for his ADCH. Finally qualifying for Grand Prix semifinals with Tika with a smooth and beautiful and aggressive run. Having a Perfect Weekend with Tika. Earning a trophy at CPE Nationals with Tika--one Q away from a perfect 3-day Nationals with 1sts or 2nds in everything (and I mean of everyone competing, not just her class). Remington getting excited about agility again and running like when he first started. Jake jumping into my arms at the end of a run. I dunno--I could go on and on. 220 trials over 14 years--lots going on in there!

What are your goals for the future with your dogs?

Not sure any more. Once upon a time it was to win More First Places and Make It To the Nationals Finals. But now, I dunno, I'm thinking "retire and do a lot of hiking."

If the Dog Fairy could grant you one wish (sky is the limit), what would it be?

I love my dog family the way it is now. Love the dogs, love how they get along together, love how they've come along in their training. Don't want to have to start over again. Keep them around and healthy and active for many many years.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

He Whispers So Quietly, No One Knows What He's Doing

SUMMARY: A review of Cesar Milan's book.

I knew a bit about Cesar Milan even before someone gave me his book-- from reading & hearing descriptions; had seen a couple of his shows. I knew that most Dog People I know--trainers and behaviorists especially-- think that he's the worst thing to happen to dog training in decades. I wasn't impressed with what I saw; I felt sorry for the dogs, sorry for the owners.

I read his book. There are some things that he says that I like. Dogs need exercise. You must be firm with your dog. OK. That about sums up what I agree with in the whole book. The rest seemed like smoke and mirrors--OK, THAT example seemed to work for him, but really what went on behind the scenes? What happened after he left the room? What happened on the days he DIDN'T write about?--or like just appalling lack of understanding or engaging in all the progress that's been made in companion animal training in recent decades, reverting to I Am The Bigger, Stronger Beast method.

But I'm not an official dog trainer--although I've studied in that direction. I'm not a behaviorist--although I've learned so much by working with people who are, and interacting with so many people and their dogs (and my own six, too).

Here's a review by a professional; it's the most clearly thought-out explanation of why it's a bad book at the very least. (It's near the bottom of this page, which also lists brief reviews of other fairly well-known training books.)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Throw the Book At That Dog

SUMMARY: Compare and contrast: Powell's City of Books vs Taj MuttHall's unincorporated village of books.

One thing I did while in Portland--which is required if you ever go to Portland, you have sign an affidavit before you leave town that you've done it--is go to Powell's City of Books. This is bookstore paradise (you could lose yourself blissfully for hours just browsing) and bookstore hell (why do I always suddenly own 42 more books than I did just a couple of hours ago?). It is amazing beyond amazing words. It is the largest new/used bookstore in the known civilized universe, Jupiter included. It has sucked up an entire city block--and more than one floor of it, too. Without remodeling, either, so you kind of go up and down and around and in and out through holes in what used to be the walls; no redecorating, either, except by the application of bookshelves to everything that vaguely resembles a vertical surface, and all of the space in between.

And everything is SO organized and SO neat--all the book spines are pulled neatly even with each other so that you can browse easily while adding to your stack of 42 books. And there's an extrahumanly helpful person at the helpful person booth in every room. PLus they have little tags dangling from all the shelves that tell you their personal opinions about books, or useful facts, or helpful lists of all the books in a series so that you don't go home with Episode 3 missing from the middle.

You can get an online tour to get you in the mood, and you can even take a real tour when you get there, and pick up a map at any Helpful Person Info desk so you don't get too lost. For those who want to remember their day in paradise/hell, you can even buy souvenirs.

Some of us walked over there our last afternoon in town so's we'd be able to sign our Powell's affidavit, and I thought I'd just kinda look around for old times sake, but it turns out that (a) if you don't want to carry your books on the plane, the cashier is all set up to cheerfully mail your books for you anywhere you want them mailed. In a jiffy or even a trice. Even 42 of them. And (b) we got to Powell's around 2:00, a 10-minute stroll from the hotel, and I had to be back by 5:15 to meet my sister-out-law for dinner, and I almost missed the whole thing. A little looking around, my astronomical unit.

Here is what they have in the way of dog books (and we're not even talking favorite fiction like Jim Kjelgaard or Albert Peyson Terhune): not merely one monolithic bookcase, 4 feet wide by 8 feet tall so that I can barely reach the books on the upper shelf. Not two. Not three, but six and a half of those sections.

I'm not sure how long I spent browsing the books. Maybe 5 minutes. Maybe 95. So many books. New and used side by side so you can save money without any extra effort. Sitting on the floor (which was invitingly clean) half the time.

One fun thing was to note that, on every shelf, there were at least 2 or 3 books that I already owned. So perhaps it's not surprising that, after all that woofer-book browsing, I did not buy a single book from that section.

Because I have my own little burgeoning mini-Powell's woofer-book section. Not only does it have several shelves of woofer books, but it has little ceramic plaques with clever dog-related sayings (e.g., "DOG") on them, and a couple of very nice cedar boxes containing the only earthly remains of former Taj MuttHallers Jake and Remington, plus my childhood favorite china statuettes of a German Shepherd and a Collie, plus various awards and mementos--although I don't have any big dog agility trophies like the Power Paws overflowing awards display or other similar talented agility friends, still, it's a collection of randomness that's starting to fill up a shelf all by itself.

So, remember that you can always click on a photo here to see a larger version of it if you want to browse bowser titles yourself. In preparation for your own trip to the world-famous Powell's City of Books.

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Saturday, July 28, 2007

Readers and Albuquerque Residents

SUMMARY: Daniel Abraham's next book is out in September.

I make a plug for it here, with links to info on an Albuquerque signing.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Walking the Dog

SUMMARY: Training Tika not to pull on the leash.

Just had a brief email discussion about training dogs not to pull on the leash, especially herding breeds when approaching something exciting like sheep.

Strategy that didn't work

[The other blog entry] reminded me of a John Rogerson strategy for fixing dogs who pull on leashes: as soon as they start to forge forward past you, grab the collar and PULL them forward, since most dogs' instincts are to resist whatever direction they're being pulled in.

I tried this with Tika for a little bit, but my miserable back wouldn't stand for it, so I quit. I don't remember why we were supposed to grab the collar and not just use the leash--or maybe we were just supposed to grab the leash at the collar (this was maybe 3 or 4 years ago so it's a little hazy)--but in any event, I can't picture bending down very much with a low-slung dog, and Tika is almost 23 inches at the withers.

Something that seems to be working

Here's what I started doing with Tika that seems to finally have an effect. Interestingly, I got the idea from watching a documentary on TV last year sometime (which is one of the approximately two only times I watched TV last year) where a woman who does sheep & sheepdogs took a rescue and taught it to do sheep with a 12-week time challenge. With mixed success, but that's neither here nor there--what she DID have, and very quickly, was a wild & crazy young shelter-reject Beardie who would bounce & leap & be leash and walking behind her at all times. It caught my attention.

(About this documentary: "From the award-winning public television series NATURE comes inspiring true stories of miraculous second chances. Henry Winkler narrates "Underdogs," in which two unwanted and abandoned dogs, Holly, an 85-pound bloodhound with a hyperactive and destructive nature, and Herbie, a two-year-old bearded collie who attacks livestock, get a last chance for a new beginning." Also: "For thousands of years, dogs have been more important as working partners to humans than as pets for hunting, guarding, herding or retrieving. Its these finely tuned instincts that often turn dogs into problem pets. Holly the bloodhound will destroy an armchair to follow a scent, and bearded collie Herbie petrifies sheep when he relentlessly chases them. To stop them joining the 100,000 dogs in the UK which end up in rescue centres each year, police dog trainer Larry Allen and sheepdog trainer Barbara Sykes have 12 weeks to turn the unruly pair into proper working animals. ")

Anyway, the trainer started with him on leash at the beginning, and as soon as the dog started to race ahead of her, she stepped on the leash to force him to lie down (which he did--eventually); nothing else. Then she'd praise him as long as he was lying down, and if he stayed lying down when she took her foot off the leash, then release him and try moving forward again. All I saw was that one shot, and she wasn't even talking about what she was doing, just that it wasn't acceptable for her dogs to take the lead.

I resolved to try it with Tika, since nothing else has really worked. I discovered that stepping on the leash of a crazed, forging dog isn't as easy as she made it look. So, despite my back, what I do as soon as her head moves ahead of the line of my body is stick my fingers into her collar under her chin and pull her head down (taking a step forward so that she's behind the line of my body) until she lies down. I praise and let go--if she moves without my permission, I do the same thing. There's no verbal, as this isn't something I want on command.

Then, when I'm ready, I step forward and then say "come with me" (I'm trying not to make it a "heel" or a "come", but "OK" is usually a complete release, and I wanted to invent something inbetween). Repeat. Repeat. Repeatrepeatrepeatrepeat. This might work much better on a dog who hadn't had years of experience forging ahead and pulling.

If I'm consistent at this, she stays behind me a much larger percentage of the time than with any other method I've used. (But it's harder to explain.) She's getting better and better over time. Would probably get better faster if I did it *all* the time in *all* situations.

Interestingly, I'm just reading a book by The Dog Whisperer guy (never seen his show), Cesar's Way, and he talks about how the leader of the pack is the one who makes and enforces the rules, and how the nonleaders never go past the leader when the pack is on the move. I knew that already, but that's one of the things that he emphasizes. Actually I'm enjoying his book quite a bit. It's just putting together a lot of pieces that I already knew and/or practiced and/or had thought about.

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