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Two Dog Travel – Take Two

My very first blog post was called Two Dog Travel.  This was the story about how the Labrador broke out of her soft crate while visiting family.

I should have read it before we went home for Christmas.  While it’d been more than three years, and not one incident in all that time once we got back to my parents guess who decided to break out of her soft crate again?

Once again we traveled with two dogs.  This time the 55lb Labrador and the 65lb Golden Retriever.  We now have a Subaru Forester all decked out for the dogs, making the trip even more comfortable for everyone.

On Christmas Eve we decided to go shopping, so the dogs were placed into their soft crates, and my Father who elected not to go with us was given strict instructions not to let them out.

Out we went, shopping for a few hours only to come home to the Labrador greeting us at the front door, tail all a-wag, and evidence of an entire eaten loaf of bread on the floor.  All that was found was the wrapper.

“Dad!” I yelled, “I told you not to let them out!”

The Labrador followed me through the house, tail wagging as I went to find my Father, but there was no answer to my rather loud and exasperated exclamation.

Turning the corner I spotted him.  Asleep in bed!  How dare he?  He let out one dog and then didn’t bother to watch her?  “Dad!” I cried out, feeling fully justified in waking him up for a scolding.

Only… “I didn’t let them out,” was his sleepy, confused reply which sent me flying down the stairs to spy a ripped open soft crate.  This time she didn’t bother with the zipper, but ripped her way right through it, while the Golden watched (good boy for not following your sister’s example!).  And then she figure out how to open the sliding door to my old bedroom and probably happily trotted up the stairs to find the loaf of bread so easy to reach on the counter.

Lesson learned.  Metal crate purchased and left at my parents house!

And then I sheepishly apologized to my father, several times.

 

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I’ll be ringing in the new year home, with my husband and the three dogs.  Perfect way, in my opinion, to ring in the new year.  While there are lots of people posting about their new year resolutions I wanted to take a minute and look back over this last year.  Sometimes I don’t feel I’ve accomplished enough.  I’m not a good enough trainer.  I’m not progressing fast enough.  I left a training session frustrated today.  Part of the frustration is due to me trying to figure out my training philosophy – where my lines are.  There has been a lot on Facebook these last two days about training methodologies and labels — pure positive, balanced, force-free, “Have to” vs “Want to” — and I’ll be honest I haven’t read much of it, but what I do know is I have to figure out what is right for me and my dogs, and I’m having some difficulty with that.  Hopefully I’ll find more answers in the new year.  For the moment I’m just glad to be sitting here at home with the pups.

I know I want to stop comparing myself to other people.  I want to be able to appreciate and celebrate their accomplishments, while not feeling like I’m not keeping up.  I need to remind myself that that we don’t travel for trials, and yet the Labrador and I earned five new agility titles this year!  Considering I was someone who knew nothing about competition until the Labrador came into my life four years ago, that’s not too bad.

The Beagle earned her Novice Trick Dog title this year!  This was a lot of fun.  She loved getting to train!  And the Golden earned two legs of his Rally Novice title.  I should probably stop telling this story, but the second leg when the judge told me I qualified I replied with, “Really?  Are you sure?”  Probably not the best thing to blurt out to the judge!!

We’ve done a lot this year.  Maybe not by some people’s standards, but I’ll take it.  I’ve learned a lot this year.  Played a lot of games with my dogs.  And as frustrated as I may get I am enjoying the journey.  What more can I ask for?

Happy New Year!

September we competed and didn’t do so well.  We manged only two Q’s all weekend.  Something was off, and I actually scratched from a few classes.  I don’t know what it was — if something about the site was bothering her (there was constant noise from the highway as we were very close), or what.  Seeing that she wasn’t having fun, we scratched several classes on Sunday but stayed to run our first Elite Tunnels run!  My Tunnel Dog decided whatever was bothering her, tunnels were still more fun and she pulled of her first Elite Q!!

October’s trial was much more fun, though rather cold!  This was our first time running in Open in many classes and we came away with several Open Qs!

What a difference! In March while the Friday started out with 2 Q’s, the rest of the weekend we couldn’t buy a Q to save our souls. The Labrador was distracted. We were not connected and she wanted to visit everyone instead of stay on the course. I left the ring and said, “Did you see my untrained dog in there?”

So, we knew we had a few issues to work on. In lessons our instructor kept a crate next to her. If the Labrador left me to visit, she got put in the crate. Cheese lady was no longer fun! During practices, we asked friends to ring crew and do the same thing. If she visited, just take her and put her in her crate.

During the April trial I had two goals. The first was if she left me to visit, she got one “here.” If she did not respond, she got taken off the course and put in her crate. The other was contacts. If she blew a contact, I was going to pull her back and train it. In April we only had 2 Q’s all weekend, BUT I pulled her off the course when she went to visit, and I trained the contact when she broke it.

Which leads us to this weekend. 8/12 Qs! Four new titles! Only one almost visit, where she came back on the first “here!” NO missed contacts, and only one early release on her start line stay!

This was a Games Trial and we started off Saturday with Touch N Go. It was not pretty. We weren’t connected at all. Definitely an NQ, but the next run I left thinking we’d rocked it! She nailed the discrimination, hit all her contacts and I was so proud of her, but I spent too much time praising her perfect contacts and we missed the Q by 5.84 seconds. But I was happy with that, and I think in the long run it’s going to pay off on contacts. Then we did Weavers. The first run was fantastic! The second run….well I should have taken her for a longer walk before hand. She did the first three obstacles like a rockstar, then popped out of her weaves and gave me that “I’m so sorry mom, but I have to poop” look. Shit happens 😉

Then we ran two Open Tunnelers! I forgot I was in Open and almost missed the walk through! Luckily each day a friend reminded me we’d moved up and I ran in! She rocked the tunnels!

Sunday as if to redeem those 5.84 seconds from yesterday we nailed the first Touch N Go course by 4.73 seconds! Close, but we made it with a fantastic discrimination (awesome “here walk it” for a dog who LOVES tunnels!), and beautiful contacts! Second one we were even faster making course time by 10.96 seconds! The first weavers didn’t go so well. I didn’t realize how awkward an entrance it was from the tunnel to the weaves, and we didn’t Q that time, but the second Weavers she was beautiful. And then of course we had our two tunnelers. When I started this journey I swore I’d never be able to get a front cross in on the Labrador because she is so fast, but this weekend on several occasions because of the distance work we’ve been practicing I managed to several times! It was most obvious on the tunnelers where I was able to send her out and around loops without me having to run along side her for each tunnel and then at the end – the final stretch of tunnels where I was over a tunnel length ahead of her, looking back teasing her that, “I”m gonna beat you! Come on! Faster!!”

At the end of the day, I realized we’d earned our Novice Weavers, Novice Touch N Go, and first Open level title — Open Tunnelers! What I only realized moments before writing this is she also earned her OUTSTANDING Open Tunnelers!

First AKC Agility Trial!

This weekend the Labrador earned her very first AKC Novice Standard Q and a first place!  It was our first AKC agility trial.  We entered Standard Novice.  While we’ve been competing in NADAC for two years, we’d spent some time training the four obstacles (teeter, tire, chute and table) that AKC uses that NADAC does not.   We read the rules, but didn’t fully understand all of them and figured the best way to learn was by doing!

The morning of the trial we arrived a little early to learn about where we check in, how numbers are handled, and getting measured.  Good thing we did because the Labrador got moved down on her jump height after being measured which I was happy about!  She gets to jump 20 inches instead of 24!  And there were two people available to measure so she’ll get her permanent card in the mail and not have to be measured again.  I also learned that ribbons were handled much the same as (self serve) as at a NADAC trial.

Some things that are fault in AKC aren’t a fault in NADAC (passing the plain of an obstacle).  But where as with NADAC you must have a fault free run to qualify, with AKC (at least Novice) you can have up to 15 faults (You have to score 85 out of 100).  Since I wasn’t completely clear on what was a fault and what wasn’t I just ran my course on Saturday.  We had a very disjointed started.  The Labrador wasn’t focused, but once I got her focused she was awesome.  She collected and dropped on the table, left the table flew long and low over the broad jump, into the chute!  From the chute she sailed through her weaves without a problem and over the final jump!  We skipped a jump in the beginning of the course, and I was told the next day that I had taken her back and done it we probably would have qualified.  I made the decision to move forward once I got her attention passing it by.  I’m happy with what she gave me once she got focused and cheered at the end of our run.

Sunday we had a fantastic start — chute to tunnel, to the dog walk to tire.  Then a switch to a jump.  She almost managed her stop on the table, but got right back on (-5 points).  From the table she completely missed the teeter, but I pulled her back and resent (-5 points).  From there well, the person scribing was more important than the jump (-5 points), but this time I pulled her back and had her do the jump once I got her focus back.  The rest of the course she was awesome.  Fantastic contact on the A-Frame good enough I got a front cross in, then beautiful weaves to the final jumps!  Again I left the ring happy with what I had gotten (the fantastic weaves, great contact etc), and knowing there are things we are working on and need to continue (not everyone wants to see you Ms. Labrador!).  What I didn’t realize was that we qualified!  After I left the ring, someone came up and congratulated me.  Then another person asked me if I’d gotten my ribbon.  Ribbon?  Really?  We were only Novice Standard dog to qualify that day!

 

I learned a hard lesson this past weekend at a NADAC trial. I thought the Labrador was done with visiting folks. I thought we’d over come that, but it was cropping up more and more in practice. She would bounce over to visit the instructor and I’d call her, usually more than once. She always came back to me, but not always on the first call. And I let this continue. I’m sure you see where this is going.

In practice if she blew a contact I made her go back. We train two on two off. In the trial setting as long as she got one paw in the contact zone I didn’t care. We kept going. We were qualifying! It was new and exciting! We earned titles! And then there was this last trial.

Friday we entered two classes — Touch N Go and Open Tunnelers. We rocked. We were together and a team and she ran a fantastic 5.85 yards per second! Nothing could stop us! Two first place Q’s!

And then Saturday things started to fall apart. We started the day with a beautiful Chances run. She got the distance. We were flowing and graceful and then she leapt off the dog walk. The photographer even got a wonderful sequences of photos of this. Isn’t that the memory you just want to keep? Actually…just maybe it is.

Our next few courses were all over the place. Some almost good, but not good enough. Our teamwork was off. Something wasn’t clicking.

Then Sunday it all fell apart. Or at least that’s how it felt. Our Regular run I felt like I had an untrained dog. She was all over the place. She went to say hi to the photographer. She ignored my recall. She acted like she had no idea what contacts were. And lucky for me I have wonderful friends. It was all my fault. As the judge said in the briefing, “Everything out there that happens right is your dog. Everything that goes wrong, is your fault.”

But instead of blame, they reminded me things that I’d been told before, but let slide. Things I’d ignored to my out detriment. The next course she left me. I called her. Once. She didn’t come so I walked over to and without a word took her by the scruff, signaling for my leash. I leashed her up, walked her to her crate and put her up without a word. Then I walked away.

The next course she stayed with me, but blew a contact. I called her back and put her back on the contact and then praised profusely. Then we finished the course. Not a Q, but second place and only a 10 point fault.

What I had trained — what I had allowed was exactly what I was getting. It was time to remember my criteria, hold the line and take my ego out of it. When I called her to come, she must come or the game ends. This isn’t just a because I say so, but it in the end is a safety issue. If there is someone across the street she wants to see, but a car is coming, she must return to me if I tell her to. A contact must be a two on two off. This is the criteria I have trained. This is the standard I must hold her to even if it means we NQ a few courses as I insist upon this. That is one thing I love about NADAC is the ability to train in the ring. So, take my ego which wants us to win NOW out of it, strengthen the criteria so that in the future she knows this is the way to play the game she loves, and how to keep playing.

Up until recently we ran Tunnelers and Jumpers only at trials, but now the Labrador has her weaves down and her contacts are getting better.  So at the last trial we entered a few more classes, but we were limited on Saturday due to the fact we had another obligation in the morning that meant we didn’t arrive at the trial until late morning.  We now have two Regular Q’s, a Weaver’s Q, and five Tunnelers Q’s!

So now we are looking toward our next trial and trying to figure out what to enter since technically we are now eligible for everything!  First I need to consider the Labrador’s endurance – physically and mentally.  Is she up for six or seven runs in one day?  Laying around, to come out and run, to lay back down, to come out and run?  And honestly, I’m not sure.  At this last trial we ran three classes on Saturday, with only one Q (but two first places!).  The first class her mental focus wasn’t there, but the last two she was fantastic.  The jumpers run was gorgeous (only a no-Q due to a knocked bar), and her Tunnelers run we were 11 seconds under course time, which means at the end of the day she was not only focused, but still raring to go!

The next day we did five classes.  Our two Q’s that day were the second and fourth classes, with a 4th place in the middle.  No Q there due to faults.  Our Tunnelers time was still 8.18 seconds under time!  This leads me to believe she has the physical endurance.  Her mental focus was good, though I think she was little more distracted.  Now was that due to the longer day?  The weather?  Me?  I suppose one trial isn’t enough to judge.

My endurance on the other hand — let’s just say I think I’m going to take up jogging!  Mentally too it was a much longer day, but I enjoyed it.  I remembered the courses, stayed on track, and was still smiling by the end of the day.  Saturday I wasn’t feeling well, and didn’t eat during the trial.  Sunday I felt better, but didn’t eat.  I think if we up the number of classes, I definitely need to eat. The end of the trial crash due to not eating isn’t good.  So I will definitely try this next trial to calm the nerves and figure out something I can eat.

This next trial we are considering doing 6 classes each day.  That’s a big jump.  So the questions I’m asking myself are:

Is there a class I could skip?
Can running in all these hinder our training?  (For example what will it do if I run her in all six and she blows her contacts every time?)

I’m sure there are other questions to ask that I’m no thinking of at this time, but I have a little time to consider this, and so I will before I send in the entry.