Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

('s Wordless Wednesday.)

Just for fun, we've jumped onto this blog hop
(What the heck this is all about, I'm not sure myself, so don't ask me)...

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Indoor Games (part one)

It's that time of year again, it's cold and dark by the time I get home from work and all I really feel like doing is snuggling up with a warm fire and waiting for spring... 

...However, my four-footed partner and I have plenty of agility work to do, plus she needs other mental stimulation and exercise as well (as do I, but that's not why we're here, so let's not go there). We've got a few other indoor games I'll cover at another time, but for now I'll share the newest addition to the rotation.

I call it "Start Line Laser!" (okay, so that's just a working title). ...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sometimes it is about the Destination

When you and the family head out in the ol' sedan, do you make sure everyone is securely strapped in, or do you just roll out of the driveway untethered and hope for the best?..."Everyone got their fingers crossed that we don't get side swiped by a texting teen or roll over on that icy road ahead?! Okay let's go!"...
No, you don't do that. You would never take that risk with the lives of loved ones.

It amazes me to think of all the years I'd driven without having my pets properly secured in the vehicle. ...Whoa!... Did you just roll your eyes at me? I hope not. Think about it. Fully aware of the range of injuries that can be sustained in an auto accident, you buckle yourself in because you simply don't know if or when you might be involved in an accident. You obviously care about your pet or he wouldn't be going on car rides/road trips/ vacations with you to begin with, so why wouldn't you want to make sure that, should there be an unfortunate accident, your pet has the best possible chance of coming out unscathed? Sure, my dog would love to be able to continue to roam around the back of our SUV and stick her head out of the window freely and I'd love for her to do that too, it's freakin' adorable, but I'd rather know that we'll all get to our destination safely where she can then do a whole bunch of other things that she enjoys that I will most likely also find freakin' adorable.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

A Walk in the Park

Idiom: An undertaking that is easy is "a walk in the park". The opposite is also true - "no walk in the park".

Some days, managing a dog like Zainey is no walk in the park.
Some days, being Zainey is no walk in the park. Everyone and everything is a possible threat and you must be on alert a good part of your day. You are taught not to 'go-off' at the dog on the sidewalk that is pulling at the end of his leash to greet you (when you are sure that what he really wants is to eat you). People come to your house and ring the doorbell under the guise of delivering packages (when you are sure that what they really want is to maul your family and steal your food) and you are told that one woof is sufficient and that you should then go to your safety zone (crate). In class, you are instructed multiple times that you must first sit and wait when all you really want to do is run the darn course and then you have to walk across the teeter board before you can have the yummy piece of chicken!

On top of all the things that present an almost daily training and/or teaching opportunity, there are also these top 10 worries to look out for (in no particular order) ...
  1. Fireworks, thunderstorms, and other booming sounds
  2. The smell of the BBQ (an association made with 4th of July fireworks)
  3. Cozy fires in the fireplace (not associated with the 4th of July as this issue developed before the other)
  4. The smell of other peoples fires when out on a neighborhood walk
  5. People that want to look directly at you and maybe even bend toward you 
  6. Aluminum foil coming off the roll
  7. Cheers and jeers on football Sunday
  8. Walking under an overpass
  9. The sound of ocean waves hitting the shore (that's a new one)
  10. Metal grates on sidewalks
....Every day it's something!

Not today. Today Zainey and I took a day off from everything and took a walk in the park where we do no training and no requests are made of her. The 6' leash goes away and the extendi-leash comes out. There are mounds and mounds of bushy grasses to run through, rabbits to startle, and stinky things to sniff and/or roll in. Heeling, sitting, and waiting is not required. The direction we travel is determined only by a dog's nose and when we see an obnoxious kid or an overexcited dog that would make for a great exposure and training opportunity, we take another path instead.
Training, staying on top of her issues so they don't get on top of us, and low level exposure to 'scary' things is crucial to Zainey's confidence building and comfort in life, but so are days like today when she can practice the art of just being a dog...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Picking up from the last post which covered day one of our first agility trial, here is blog post numero deux...

Day two started with a tough morning. Zainey and I both wanted more sleep and having been woken up at 3:00 a.m. for a random visit with the vomit fairy (she came for me, not the dog), I especially was not happy about the early start to our day.

Before zonking out Saturday night though I realized that we had a gap in our ribbons so I started Sunday with a plan; IF she wasn't too freaked out to run and IF we ran well enough to qualify and IF we were lucky enough to place, I wanted a 2nd place red ribbon since we earned a 1st and 3rd place on Saturday.

Well, here are our THREE 2nd place runs that earned us our red ribbons ...

                   Oct. 30 Standard Level 1
I didn't even know if we could run this one, she was shaking with nerves right before, but I trust I know her well enough and that once she got going, she'd enjoy herself. I was right.
Break Down:
  1. ZERO start line stay. She wasn't comfortable enough to sit there with her back to the action and that's pretty common for a nervous nelly, so we went with plan B and ran together
  2. Good tunnel entrance discrimination
  3. Decent front cross at the middle blue jump
  4. Finished strong and relieved (both of us)

                   Oct 30. Jumpers Level 1 2
Above is another jumpers course that we both had fun with.
Break Down:
  1. Start line stay getting worse. That 'shake-off' is doggy body language indicating that she was really trying to calm her nerves and was NOT in a place mentally for a sit/wait - so away we ran!
  2. What's up with the size of my butt!??!?!
  3. I had a couple of decent front crosses around that middle area of jumps and it can be tough to get out in position to front cross an obstacle when your dog has a good stride, so yea for me!
  4. Another good finish!

                  Oct. 30 Colors Level 1 2
Do I really have to share this video?
Break Down:
  1. A complete refusal of start line stay, little miss thing went around it and no matter how many times I've read the 8,000 page rule book, my mind still went blank. What do I do? Is it an automatic disqualify? Should I call her out and end it there? WTF!? 
  2. RECOVER. I did the right thing. Get the dog (no touching), go back around the start jump (no back-jumping) and run with her since a start line re-position is not allowed at that point.
  3. Throw in a bad position at a rear cross jump, a distraction and bad cue at the tunnel, and a snafu at a basic jump and you've got some fun viewing!
  4. We finished it though and those last three jumps couldn't have made her happier! 

There's your wrap up of the trial. Patty has already talked us into our next trial which will be in the beginning of January in Elk Grove. Zainey and I have some work to do, primarily on her start line stays so I can get a decent lead out and also on her ability to 'go out' and take obstacles at my direction without me having to babysit each move. Those are two tough things to train as those issues are both rooted in her insecurity and need to be close to me, where she feels safest. We'll get there though, her confidence is already building and I believe it will continue to do so. I will of course be working on my own handling issues as well.

Yea for Patty for being there for me throughout the trial and our trainer Susanne who was there on Saturday and was a huge help in both reviewing the course maps and reminding me to breathe! The people at the trial couldn't have been nicer or more helpful and I hope I thanked them enough.

Considering the fact that my two goals going into the weekend were a.) get Zainey measured for her jump height by the judge without eating her face and b.) have Zainey at least run around a course or two without completely shutting down... I think it's fair to say we did pretty darn okay! ...
Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

One last thing, I'm really not going to make a habit of these long posts.
Who even reads posts this long anyway!?
Hello?!... You still awake?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Numero Uno!

I registered this blog well over two years ago. So, as far as projects go for me, I'm right about on schedule with the timing for post Numero Uno (and it's gonna be a long one, so get comfy). I will do something eventually to catch you up on life with Zainey over the past three years (maybe I'll sprinkle some retrospective/soap-opera-like flashback posts in with current events), but for now, here's your briefing of where we are in our journey together! ...

Zainey is officially a competition agility dog! That's right! You heard me correctly, the reactive dog who for so long couldn't handle close distances to other dogs and who, just eight months ago sat shaking with fear in the facility where class is held, now has five qualifying runs under her belt with one 3rd place, three 2nd place, and one 1st place ribbons! I can get teary-eyed thinking about all of the challenges we've faced along the long road we've travelled to get where we are, so instead I'd like to focus on acknowledging the dog that she is today. I'm not saying her issues have vanished as that will never happen. Zainey will always be more challenged in this life than most dogs, but with confidence building, training, and patience (nurture) we have been able to build a better foundation for her than what she was born with (nature).

I will not go into the fact that she's 'only' competing in CPE agility (the 'easier' organization to compete in) or that it's 'only' level one, because I am not going to diminish our accomplishments. So, without further ado, here she is in all her glory...

We ran 6 courses over 2 days (max is 5 per day, but I did not want to over do it), this was our first, and it was the only run where we did not qualify and place. In all honesty, it was not pretty...

Oct. 29 Standard Level 1 - Round 1
Guess what? It's my favorite run of the weekend because it shows what's really important for us which is working together as a team; trusting each other, even when we're both a little unsure. 

Let's break down this run:
  1. A decent start line stay (for us anyway) especially considering it was her first time in a real competition arena
  2. She passed right by the first jump in order to get to the dog walk since she loves contact obstacles
  3. She missed the third jump due to a combination of nerves/distraction and maybe not strong enough signals from me given the circumstances
  4. I got flustered and did not rear cross the A-frame which put me out of correct handling position.
  5. I was in the wrong position for the fourth jump, she knew that, and we got all wonky
  6. We finished on a good note and she came out of the tunnel with a big ol' doggy smile!
So, to sum up, the judge signaled one 'off-course' for all 4 paws hitting the contact on the dog walk out of sequence and another for back-jumping that third jump = NO qualify for you (I heard the soup Nazi in my head!!!) Awesome news for our training buddies though, Patty and Sophie qualified and took 2nd place!

In the next run we had this to look forward to ...

Oct. 29 Jumpers Level 1 2
We qualified with a first place blue ribbon and she wasn't even moving at her fastest! Woo-Hoo!

Breaking it down:
  1. Good start line stay
  2. A decent front cross coming out of the tunnel
  3. A bunch of basic circle work
  4. Finished with a smile!
Essentially an easy course for her and probably exactly what she needed to help ease her nerves.
Next up, our final run of the day...

Oct. 29 Standard Level 1 - Round 2
Much better than our first standard, we qualified with a third place yellow ribbon. She was getting more comfortable by the afternoon and showed it by tilting her fearful little head to look around a little as she came off the dog walk (I'm more than fine with that if it means she's a little more relaxed). 

Breaking it down:
  1. A slight falter at the start line
  2. Nice little twizzle at the front of the A-frame (she's a pro at sticking those contacts when I ask for it)
  3. Missed that darn corner jump on to the dog walk again
  4. Finished strong and happy!

There you have it, day one of our first trial. This is what we've been working toward for so many months with weekly classes, private training sessions, and lots of practices. The work to get us here started long before that though, it started when our shy little puppy turned out to be a reactive dog that was afraid of the world and didn't quite know how to cope. These videos show how far she has come and that she's not just coping, but some days she's even coming in first place! Numero Uno!

I warned you that this first post would be long. I wasn't kidding and guess what? Yup, you've still got day two of the trial to look forward to!
(I promise my posts will get shorter.)

The End!... (of day one anyway)