Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday Noseworks class

Steeler loves this class! This week we ran through each exercise twice. Our first exercise was the standard box drill with 7 boxes in a straight line. I think the first time the food was in the first box and the second time it was in the last box. Lots of dogs completely bypass the first couple of boxes in their hurry to get through the line. When they start doing that you start putting the food closer to the front of the line until they start to get the idea that they should check all the boxes and not rush too much. This class is definitely a balance between getting the dogs to be excited about working (ie pulling to the line) and control - working the boxes in a methodical manner. The first time through Steeler was very excited and I didn't exert much control when he got to the end of the line and started back down the line. Scott stopped to say he had seen several dogs do this and that we should not have such a frantic behavior at the end of the line. Unfortunately I missed that on tape so I am not sure I am describing what Steeler did very well.

Our second exercise was much the same as the first, except we now had boxes on top of boxes. The idea being to get the dogs to search at different heights.

Our third exercise is what I think of as the most fun. We turn over chairs and get the food out of the box. The first time you can see in the video where Steeler catches the scent of the food. Then the second time he immediately went back to the same spot to make sure there wasn't anything there.

Friday, January 29, 2010


OK- the barking when I come home is starting to bother me again.  Susan Garrets blog has recently been discussing barking which started me thinking I should really work on the barking frenzy that Steeler has when I come home.  I have tried (and obviously not succeeded!) to make departures and arrivals non-events.  I have tried different set ups, crates in different areas, dogs separated and dogs together.  NOTHING seems to make it any better.  On the other hand nothing makes it any worse either.

I know I should try to not enter the house when they are barking - but Logan needs to go out as soon as I get home or she will pee in her crate.  She just drinks water like there is no tomorrow.  She's almost 12 - I just think that she shouldn't have to wait to go out.  And she is usually quiet once I get through the door.  Keegan is not too bad - he has a high pitched bark - but usually he is quiet when I ask.  Steeler though is a NUT.  Here is a video of what happens when I come home.

Here is what it looked like in January 2008 .....

And here it is in January 2010! Clearly we have not made much progress.

I know there is not going to be a magic answer - though I certainly wish someone could wave their magic wand and fix this. Katrin once suggested I try to drop cookies into their crates when I come in - that seems to have worked well for Logan. :-) I will happily entertain any other suggestions people have!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Surviving my worst fear...

OK - maybe not my worst fear - but definitely one that is high on my list.  I have been thinking about working in some runs at 24 inches for Steeler during our agility class.  So tonight before actually running the course we broke down a couple of sections to work on some handling skills.  Well the first one didn't look that bad so I thought I would try it at 24 inches.  Oh what a meltdown we had, Steeler and I.  I am not really sure just what was too much for his spotty brain - because I don't think that I was concerned about anything.  Steeler ran around and around and away from me and his favorite squeaky toy.  He would not take the jump in front of him to save my life!  He tried to play with Trixie at least twice.  And Trixie was such a good good girl to just ignore him.  She so wanted to join him for a run around the barn.  Well I got him back and put him on leash and took him over some jumps and rewarded his attention.  This is one of my biggest fears - that he will just run away from me at a trial and run up to the wrong dog and get himself in trouble.  But I survived this and nothing bad happened!  Here is the first handling section.

The next grouping that we that we worked we decided to run Steeler at 20 inches and see how he did as far as paying attention to me.  And he was fine - back in working mode.   Something about the first set up and the 24 inch jumps was just too much for his spotty brain.  Wish I knew what it was.

And here is the actual course that we ran.  The maps are probably close to the right spacing - but there could be some wiggle room in what we actually ran tonight.  For example - jump 6 to the tunnel was a pretty straight line.  It was a fun little course and Steeler actually handled some tricky pieces really well.  We are working on "collection" cues and tight turns.  Tonight we also worked on wrapping jumps.  So the first 4 jumps we kept the dogs on our left with a collection cue (using our right hand) before jump 2 and then picking them up on the left hand as they come over jump three to continue with jump 4, 5,6 and the tunnel.  Rear cross the tunnel to the double jump to the table.  So from the table - the jump to the poles was pretty straight forward.  Or so it seemed when I walked the course.  Steeler has developed a table fetish and he kept trying to head back to the table after the jump.  Once we got into the poles, jump 12, 13 was an easier wrap for Steeler to the teeter.  The end was kind of tricky for us.  Catie wanted us to try to front cross the teeter so the dogs are on our left to jump 15 and then rear cross jump 16 and call them back over 17.  We had a little bit of trouble with it - mostly my working out the correct timing for Steeler - but he did get it after a couple of trys!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Wednesday night agility class

Steeler had a great night!  And so did I....  We spent our hour working a single course this time.  I really should see if I can get the course maps to share.  I crated Steeler in the tack room (I think that is what it is called) It is warmer in there than it is in the barn  - I think it is heated a little bit at least.  And since the car is having heat issues (possibly a thermostat stuck open??) I didn't have the option of blasting the heat and working out of the car which I have been doing the last few weeks.  Steeler does not handle the cold very well if he is just sitting around in his crate.  The first time thru - we walked the course and then ran without any discussion.  The opening sequence was 2 jumps to the weave poles.  The jumps were angled and I was able to lead out to the 2nd jump.  From the weaves we reversed  direction into the shoot and then did a semi circle of jumps.  I chose to do a front cross after jump number seven. Then one more jump to the teeter. (now headed towards the front of the barn again).  From the teeter (A frame discrimination) to the tunnel to a jump facing the wall, and then reversing direction again to the A frame (A frame/tunnel discrimination).  From the A frame there was a series of three jumps down to the far end of the barn.  I am going to have to draw out the course I think!   At any rate - Catie said that she thought that was the smoothest she has seen Steeler and I run - and the run FELT good!!!!  We talked about where we were putting front crosses and we discussed how to tighten up the jump after the tunnel and then ran it again ... and again! Catie had us working to get our front cross in between 8 and 9 (instead of between 7 and 8) and then another front cross in before the teeter!  The second time through Steeler had a little bit of trouble sending from the tire to jump number 7 - I am still working out timing with him for things like that - and I know we will get there eventually. 

So one thing that I have been trying to work on (in addition to all the other stuff) is my attitude when we get ready to run.  I suspect that my attitude was better last night because the beginning of the course was at the far end of the barn - so Steeler and I ran to our starting position.  And even though I asked him for a stay at the start line - I was confident that the opening was something he could handle easily - and he did!  I have also been trying not to chatter at him while we run - I did that pretty well last night and discovered that he LIKES it when I talk to him in the weave poles - but other than that he prefers to only hear from me when it is important.  :-)  It was a good night!

OK I downloaded the trial version of course designer....  here is a rough estimation of the course to give you an idea.  the spacing is probably not quite right - but you get the idea.  :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sunday Show N Go! at Performance Plus in Taunton

Steeler ROCKS!  He was such a good boy today!  And I only had a minor little panic attack over stays.  :-)  Run thru's started at 10 AM and Steeler was in the second and third sets of 8.  We got there about 9:30.  A bunch of people that we train with were there already and had saved us crate space.  We were set up in front of the novice ring - so there were lots of dogs going past up to get to the open ring and the utility ring.  Steeler was quiet in his crate even with the crate cover up and just watched the world go by.  No whining at all until we were just about ready to leave, at which point he had been hanging out in the building for over 4 hours - even with breaks outside that is a long time in a busy noisy building for my spotted boy. 

His first run was pretty good considering that we haven't been to class in over 3 months and have only been doing a bit of training here and there.  I thought his heeling felt a little bit laggy - but people watching said no it wasn't that bad.  I've been working him on a long line so that he doesn't get the chance to make the mistake of just wandering away from me, and today I only had to step on it once when we were approaching a couple of stacked crates with a HUGE stuffed dog on top.  His figure 8 was pretty good too - just a little bit laggy on the outside turn.  Stand for exam just a little bit of foot movement .... and his recall was AWESOME!!!! 

The first set of stays I found a little bit nerve wracking.  There were 8 of us along the short wall - there was definitely about 4 ft between dogs - but for baby dogs it was a bit crowded.  I was a bit too nervous to drop the leash for the 1 minute sit, though I did let go of it about 40 seconds in.  I stayed close but stayed silent and calm I think.  I had trouble getting Steeler to drop into his down for the long down - so I did lure him into it.  But once he was down - he stayed down for the 3 minutes.  He did pop up as I started to walk around him - but I think that was just a timing thing with all the other people approaching - I decided to not fuss with it.

His second run thru was at least as good as or better than the first one.  His Stand for Exam was definitely better, only one tiny foot movement.  His recall was spot on again and his heeling felt a bit better.  And even better his Stays were good!  This time we set up against the longer wall so there was a little bit more space between the dogs.  I set Steeler up between Riley (who he has known thru class for almost 3 years) and Ellie who he hasn't seen in a while but wasn't a complete stranger to him.  This time I was able to get almost all the way across the ring from him on the sit stay - even with a dog barking in the crate that was directly behind him on the other side of the ring gate!  On the long down I did have to lure him down with a cookie - but he stayed down and I was able to get all the way across the ring.  We still had the barking dog and lots of activity going on behind him so I did a bit of walking in towards him when I thought he was getting too distracted.  And he was able to stay in the down as everyone was walking back to their dogs.  He really did a great job today!  GO STEELER!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Saturday Agility Match in Duxbury and catch up

So once again I am behind on stuff.  First Thanks to Kim for making my new header! 

This past week it has been pretty cold - so we haven't been doing much.  Wednesday nights agility class went well.  Though I think Steeler was cold.  We are also working on hard stuff and I think that I really should have upped my rate of reinforcement much more than I did.  BAD HANDLER!  But Steeler continues to do pretty well.

Today we were at the barn for an agility match and Steeler was GREAT!  Usually I am so nervous at these events that I end up doing restrained recalls with Steeler across the barn and then working in the back corner away from all the people and dogs.  Well I didn't feel to nervous (that doesn't always mean much) and I started at the begining of the novice course.  I didn't fuss too much since the first obstacle was a tunnel, and damn if Steeler didn't just do the course for me.  Of course I completely messed up the novice course the first time through and ended up just making my own course.  I don't think that Steeler realized I was lost though.  :-)  The second run I tried the harder course (It could have been an excellent or open level course) since we had been working on that opening sequence in class on Wednesday.  That was a bit too much for Steeler though.  Not sure if it was the people and dogs behind him or me ... I went back to running with him and we did get through the opening sequence (4 jumps to the tunnel which was the first novice obstacle) and then we just continued with the novice course.  The first two courses I ran at 20 inches then ran the last one at 24 inches.  Since I was changing the jump height I decided to go back to the novice course once again.  And I have to say I was really pleased with how well we did today.  He hit all his contacts and had really nice weave poles!  Not to mention that his behavior was just wonderful!  Now how much of that was related to me not panicing every time a dog went by and generally being more comfortable with the people around me now that I know them from classes and stuff and how much was related to Steeler  growing up..... who knows!  LOL it is probably a combination of things.  But it was really nice to be so calm instead of worrying about every possible encounter. 

Catie had things set up so that the small dogs (8 and 12) ran all of their runs first and then the big dogs were scheduled to start at 11:45.  So I took Logan over at 9:30 to help set up.  The barn is about 10 minutes from my house and I figured that doing something was better than getting worked up (however subconsiously) about the run thru's waiting for our turn.  Logan got to come in and play with one of Catie's border collie's while we were setting up.  I am glad that she could - she has been really moping around the house lately.  It's been too cold to take her with me when I take Steeler to class.  But today we had a New England heat wave (I think it got into the mid 40's or maybe even up to 50 degrees today) so even if she couldn't have come in to play at least she would have gotten out of the house.  Plus we stopped at my favorite pet store to say hi and check out Dianes new puppy (what a cutie!)

So that is what has been going on today for Steeler.  His favorite liver pal Jenna from Maine got her last three points at the breed show in Fitchburg today as well so Congratulations to Dawn and Jenna!!!!

Tomorrow we are off to an Obedience Show N Go.  Oh boy!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Tuesday night agility

Tuesday night I went back to agility class after taking a couple of weeks off.  It was rather crazy around the holidays and there was just too much going on.  So at class last night we were working short sequences that involved rear crosses and to some extent pulling and pushing our dogs.  I also raised the jump heights on Steeler.  He hasn't been measure in a while and I am pretty sure that if I do any USDAA that he is going to have to jump 26 inches (unless I put him in Performance to jump 22 inches - which is an option).  For USDAA a dog over 21 inches at the withers must jump 26, for AKC if the dog is under 22 inches they can jump 20 inches, over 22 inches they jump 24.  NADAC has a class for those that measure over 20 inches, but they only have to jump 20 inches.  So the last time I had Steeler measured he was under 22 inches, but over 21.  So I think he can jump 20 inches for AKC but for USDAA he will either have to jump 26" or 22" in performance.

Ok - I got a bit distracted.  On Tuesday we tried raising the jumps to a mix of 24 and 26".  Up until we moved to the barn he had been jumping 24 in quite well.  I don't know if the courses were a bit more difficult for him than I thought, and raising the jump heights made him a bit anxious, or he was cold.  He seemed a bit distracted(sniffing and just wandering off as opposed to racing off to investigate) and didn't really seem to want to work.  I thought maybe he had to poop.  But I had him out before we went into the barn, and I took him out after we ran for 5 minutes and he didn't do anything!  His second run was better.  He had a great 2 on 2 off on the a frame!  And he actually started to go into an automatic down on the table!  And on the third run I ran him at 20 inches and that was probably his best run.  So we ended on a successfull note which is very important to me.  We do need to work on taking the first jump when I release him.  For the sequences we were working on we were setting the dogs up at an angle at the first jump, and Steeler went around it several times.  I thought at first that it was the higher height, but he did it again on the last run.  So it was probably my fault.  :-)  And that we haven't practiced that much. 

Monday, January 4, 2010

Happy 2010!

Holy Cow .... how on earth did it get to be 2010???? It seems like only a year or two ago that we were saying - Wow can you believe it is the year 2000? I had the last two weeks of the year off this year and I didn't do half or even a quarter of what I thought I would get done. I did get in an obedience lesson for Steeler and some training time with our friends Karen and Ruffi. Other than that I spent some time with Family, took my niece to see a movie and out for dessert at the Melting Pot for her birthday. My brother was kind enough to load my snow blower (that my dad was kind enough and smart enough to fix!) into his truck and bring it back to my house. Good thing too because we got a lot of snow Sat/Sun! The spotty dogs are not that thrilled with the snow, especially Logan. Keegan though is perfectly happy to be hanging outside.

I think I need to decide on some training goals for the Steeler pup this year and try to make a plan of how I want to get to where ever it is that I decide to go! (how's that for convoluted!)

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and here's to a happy and healthy 2010!

Here's a couple of snowy pictures - Kim do these make you feel any warmer?????  I'll have to get some current snaps so you can see how much snow we have now!  :-)