Steeler and I have been training the last several months. Mostly in obedience, but also some agility. Since our last update - Steeler got his second Beginner Novice leg with a 2nd place and a 195 at the Wampanoag Kennel Club in October. One of my friends got the video on her iPhone. :-) I was a little bit frazzled. I didn't think I was too nervous - but apparently I put Steeler in the car and left the house without anything else ... like cookies for my puppy???? Guess I was a little more nervous than I thought!
This run is MILES from where we were last March. I am just beyond pleased with my boy and how well he is doing.
Then in late October we had a freak snow storm here in New England that resulted in much of Massachusetts being without power for several days. Halloween was cancelled, work was no open due to the power being out. Thankfully it was not too cold during the day so the nights weren't too bad. But 5 nights of no electricity was getting to be a bit much! I hope this is not an indication of what winter is going to be like!
This weekend Steeler was entered in another CDSP trial on our home turf. I suspected that this might actually be tougher for Steeler rather than going to some other places. He is used to a certain "feel" to the building when we train and at class, and definitely the atmosphere is different at a trial. I able to squeeze in an obedience lesson on Friday and E asked me - Why are you entered in Novice C, why didn't you enter him in Open????? OPEN????? Me and Steeler? Well honestly when I entered I didn't think that his drop on recall or his go out was ready for the open ring. And I figured, any good experiences in the obedience ring at an actual trial would be a good thing. But I've been working on his drop on recall, and that is almost ready for prime time. So - just for giggles, we decided to see if we could teach him a "go out" during our lesson.
For the CDSP Open class - the last exercise is the "go out". The dog must travel half the distance of the ring and turn and sit within a 6 ft box. This is the first part of the directed jumping exercise in Utility. Steeler has been playing with this exercise for a while - purely as shaping games. So he can go out and sit in a hula hoop, and he has pretty strong targeting skills. He's done some targeting to a stantion and ring gating, but not in a really long time. So in an hour we had him going out about 20 feet or so and turning and sitting at the ring gate. What a brilliant boy! I wish I had some video of the lesson because it was a ton of fun!
So on Saturday I decided that I would do my first run in Novice C and my second run in Open A. His Novice C run was a little rough on the figure 8 - he was REALLY interested in one of the posts. But the rest of the run wasn't too bad. He was the only qualifying dog in Nov C - so we got to take home a blue ribbon! His open run was FABULOUS! He didn't get the go out - but the rest of it more than made up for not being able to do that under pressure. One of my Monday night classmates was kind enough to get it on video without telling me so I wouldn't get nervous about it.
His runs on Sunday were a little more stressy - we did Open first, and then because he was having a hard time I decided to leave him in Novice C for the last trial. In open, Steeler didn't want to go get his dumbbell for retrieve on the flat, and he didn't really want to drop so far away from me. I just went into training mode and tried to make things easy for him. In Novice C, he again had a bit of trouble with one of the posts, but otherwise had a nice run to finish up the weekend. I am super proud of my boy! He did a great job for me, and as a bonus he was quiet in his crate today during the show.
Back at home - Logan and Keegan got to spend some time with my folks this weekend. :-) Something they always enjoy. Logan's been coughing a little bit lately - so I need to call the vet on Monday.
What a weekend Steeler and I had! Steeler and I competed in the first CDSP Obedience trial in New England this weekend. 4 trials over 2 days! Steeler was entered in Novice B because we have Rally titles in AKC and APDT. The Novice A class is for DOGS (not handlers) that do not have any obedience or rally titles in other venues. Competitors can continue to compete in the Novice C class after they earn their title. If you qualify 10 times with scores of 185 or better you earn your Novice Championship (CD-CCH). I had a great time this weekend, and I think Steeler had fun too. He earned his CD-C in 3 straight efforts with scores of 197.5, 199, and 196.5. For the last trial I moved him to the Novice C class since he is not quite ready for the open class yet. In his Nov C class he scored a 198 - and earned High in Trial! Go Steeler!!!!! Needless to say I am still smiling when I think about how well he did this weekend.
This is the second trial!
Here is run #3
And his first Novice C run!
As you can see from the video's - CDSP is similar to AKC obedience with some changes. In Novice, the exercises are:
- heel on leash
- Figure 8 off leash
- Stand for exam
- Recall over the high jump
- Honor Stay (you choose Sit or Down for the next dogs heeling pattern)
Now I am more motivated to actually train the Open exercises more!
As I have been reminded recently - I am way over due for a blog update. Life has been pretty busy - between classes with Steeler and work - I don't seem to have much time for anything else.
We've finished 6 more weeks of "advanced" control unleashed classes up at Nevin's Farm and the MSPCA in Methuen. It was a ton of fun and Steeler did really well with the class. I think there are plans to maybe take the next level outside. That should be a lot of fun.
In addition to our weekly obedience class we are taking a foundations class just for fun that a friend teaches in NH on Tuesday nights. It's always good to revisit foundation behaviors.
I finally got talked into actually entering Steeler into an agility trial. Well two agility trials since they were nearby. The first trial was a CPE trial - I only entered one day, which was a good thing because the following day tropical storm Irene came through.
I am not sure I really remember much from the trial .... it was kind of a gray drizzly day. Steeler had some nice moments and he did qualify in his first level one standard course. We also entered Full House, Wildcard and Snooker. By the time we got to snooker it was POURING! And Steeler is not a dog that likes to run in the rain! Here is his standard run.
Steeler had a bit of visiting to do with the ring crew, but considering we haven't been to agility class in 8 months and his last outdoor trial was last October, I was pretty pleased with his runs.
In addition to his first CPE trial - Steeler also entered his first USDAA Trial this past weekend. Since the trial was about 7 minutes from my house Steeler sent in entries for both days .... for everything that he thought would be fun. That included Performance Speed Jumping, Standard and Gamblers on Saturday and Standard, Gamblers, Snooker, and Jumpers on Sunday. I didn't get much on video - but overall I was pleased with his runs. On Saturday Performance Speed Jumping was first and his run was a big WAHOOOO! We did have some flashes of brilliance. I tried to keep moving and not worry about fixing things since I entered just for the ring experience. He nailed his contacts, got his weave poles the second time through and didn't leave the ring without me! He definitely was a bit distracted by being outside and having so much going on around him.
After PSJ there was a lot of down time. So we walked around, watched some runs and I was able to run home and let the older two dogs out. P1 Gamblers was up next. It was (for those of you agility folks) a 1, 3, 5,7 system. Steeler needed to collect 14 points in the opening and do the gamble to Q. Which he did - with 2nd place. Standard was the last run of the day and by that point I know I was tired! I think was had some moments of working together as a team and apparently we didn't miss any of the obstacles on the course because he took 3rd place. He was over time - due to ring crew visiting and not wanting to down on the table- but again he hit all his contacts, got his weave pole entry .....
On Sunday - our Standard run was first. I walked into the ring with the intention of trying to remember to run it like I would in class. And wow! What a difference. He did have to do a little bit of visiting with the ring crew - but he dropped on the table much quicker and was generally much more focused. I got his standard run on video but didn't get anything else. (which is ok with me!) Snooker was next and Steeler derailed my plan and ran out of the ring .... I of course panicked - but he did come back. Gamblers was after that and I think I had a good plan - but again he was just a bit distracted by the ring crew and what was going on outside the ring. I wasn't quite where I wanted to be when the whistle blew and I totally muffed the gamble. Jumpers was better - not as nice as the standard run - but definitely better than snooker and gamblers. This time I got distracted and sent him over the wrong jump and then totally got confused. hey - it was the end of the day and I was tired! Here is his standard run.
Stay tuned for more happenings with Steeler in September!
Well I started this blog with the hope that it would help me keep a record of Steeler's training life. I haven't been doing a very good job - that is for sure! I am not sure we have really been up to much since the National's other than our regular obedience class and a Control Unleashed Class that I have been taking up at Nevin's Farm. We are on round two of the Introduction class because there weren't enough dogs to run the Advanced class. As I am sure that many people know - The Control Unleashed class is based on Leslie McDevitt's book of the same name. I was lucky enough to attend one of her early seminar's in the Pittsburgh area a few years ago. I absolutely loved the concept - but had a lot of trouble trying to implement things on my own. So when I moved and there was a class starting near me I decided that I wanted to give it a try. I love our instructor! M is great at setting all of the dogs up for success.
Our first session was before the national and in that class there was one Golden Retriever and 3 small dogs. So Steeler did really well in that class - there wasn't much there that pushed his threshold. This time around we have another golden, a large yellow lab, a large barky sheltie, a pug, and an Aussie that seems a bit timid. The Aussie is being handled by a very experienced handler - so I am sure I don't see the issues that led to her joining the CU class. All things considered - it is a good mix of dogs for Steeler. He is doing really well with the GR - which previously would have been a huge trigger for him. He is a bit bothered by the lab, but getting better, and the barking sheltie has been great practice for us - because barking dogs while he is working have sometimes been a problem. I am sure the sheltie's owner would like him not to bark, motion is a big trigger for this dog - he wants to control all the movement!
So we just finished week five! This week we played some new games - There's a dog in your face and Mat racing. For "There's a Dog in your Face" we had some ring gates set up with dogs behind them - and then dogs on the other side with space to approach the gate. Steeler was paired with the GR - and we were the approaching dog first. Steeler did AWESOME! No reaction to the GR even when we were running towards him. We even approached at a run and stopped at the gate with no issues for either dog. Then it was Steeler's turn to be the stationary dog. His new cue for there is a dog approaching is ..... "INCOMING" We worked up to the same type of things, the GR running towards us, stopping at the gate .... No reaction what so ever other than to look at me! Now I just need to work on translating that to "the real world". Steeler also got to work with the Sheltie - again with no issues at all. I was very very pleased!
As far as Mat Racing goes - this game makes me a little bit nervous because all the dogs are racing to their mats from across the room - and there is lots more motion, dogs moving ahead of us and chance for leashes to slip. But all the dogs did really well. We started all on the same side, then moved to every other on opposite sides of the room, and then some moving and some playing "look at that" on their mats. It was a very active class! But Steeler did really well as did all the dogs.
Now just for some fun - here is some video of Steeler trying to find a good place to hide his bone. At one point he actually jumps into the closet with it.
The plan for agility day .... get up and be out the door by 6:30. I am so not a morning person any more. However, we did manage to get out the door and over to Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a snack, and be on the highway by 6:40 I think. We got to the agility site around 7:15 in plenty of time for the first briefing and walk thru. Steeler had to be measured as well. This time he measured right at 22 inches so at least I didn't have to move him to the 24 inch class. Although, looking at the photos from the trial I really had no reason to be concerned. I am probably going to order some prints so I will have to see if I can scan them and post them.
First up for the day was Novice FAST. A general explanation of FAST is that you have a set amount of time and you make up your own course to accumulate points and somewhere in your plan you have to do a series of obstacles from behind a line before you run out of time. In Novice (20 inch) you have 32 seconds and you need 51 total points to qualify. You have to get the "send" and that gives you bonus points as well. So basically - for this course - Steeler needed to get 21 points and the Send. Well, he got 63 points in 26+ seconds! That got him a second place! Missed first place by a point. :-)
Next ... a lot of waiting. :-) We watched open FAST, Excellent FAST, Excellent Standard and Open Standard, and then we got to run again! We had a few handling errors in our Standard run - but overall I was pretty happy with our efforts. Our last class of the day was Novice Jumpers with Weaves. Steeler had a great run for another 2nd place and a Q.
All things considered - I was very very pleased with the spotty boy's performance in obedience and agility! Now we just took it easy for the next several days and played "kennel help" for my friend Dawn. There was the welcome party, the top twenty and the awards banquet to go to during the week.
I also managed to take some time to visit my great Auntie Berna in Cincinnati which was fun. I took Steeler with me and she had to knock on all her neighbors doors and introduce me and Steeler. I can only hope that when I am almost 90 years old I am in half the shape that she is in!
Wednesday night after the banquet we got most of the car packed up so we could leave bright and early Thursday morning. On Thursday we drove from Ft Mitchell to Afton NY to see one of Dawn's puppy owners. We got to NY around 4:30 and the dogs got to stretch their legs a bit. We got to sit down and visit and have dinner and then we let the dogs play. Steeler got to take turns playing with both puppies (8 months old) and he got to RUN. I don't think he has had much of a chance to do that since we moved in December. He definitely needed it. We got on the road again around 7:30 and the dogs were all silent for the next 4+ hours that it took to get home.
..... OK so here is the rest of the National story. I picked up Steeler's number for Beginner Novice. And yes I was my normal neurotic self. LOL. I am pretty sure that I watched 7 dogs compete before me but when I entered the ring I had no idea what the heeling patter was! In Beginner Novice the heeling pattern is done with Rally signs. His heeling wasn't pretty - or at least not as pretty as it can be when I am not nervous, but it was TONS better than it was the first time we entered the obedience ring. It got a little bit better with the figure 8 exercise as well. I think I need to work on my attitude entering the ring - when we are just practicing things seem SO much easier! Steeler's sit for exam, and his stay were solid! His recall however - well he came, with a LOT more speed than usual. I was pretty sure that I had NQ'd here - not that I was worried about whether we qualified or not. But since that was the last exercise I was on my way out of the building to spend some time outside with Steeler when everyone asked where I was going .... "you qualified ... come back!" Who knew! Out of 9 dogs that were entered and the 8 that competed, there were three qualifying runs. Steeler came in third with a 181. I entered the ring knowing that I wasn't there to worry about a great score - I was going to tell Steeler to sit if he needed the reminder, and I was going to double command if I needed to. So I know I lost a lot of points for things like that.
We were also entered in Advanced Rally, which didn't go so well. We pretty much went from the obedience ring to the Rally ring. Steeler got his nose stuck on a spot on the floor. So I ended up walking him out of the ring. So many people came after me to tell me it wasn't his fault that someone's dog had pee'd in the ring. Which was fine- I wasn't mad at Steeler. Part of our new program is keeping things as black and white as we can. If he chooses not to work with me (and clearly dog pee at that moment in time was more interesting than a stressed out Momma) that is fine but he is not going to get rewarded for it.
After all my obedience and rally stuff was finished we hung out and watched and chatted with friends for a while. Then we headed over to the agility venue for run thru's. The training club has hosted run thru's the night before our agility trials when the nationals have been in KY. It's a nice facility, indoors and air conditioned! There is not a lot of shade around - but we were lucky to have cool days so it was easy to crate out of the car for the run thru's. We hadn't been to agility class in a month, and the last set of run thrus that we went to were not all that successful. So I wasn't really sure what to expect. I decided that since there was no food in the ring (toys were ok) I would start away from the ring gate for my first run. I was sufficiently nervous that I decided to leave Steeler on leash and ask him to do the dog walk and offer him the toy to see if he wanted to play. WELL - he did want to play! OMG!!!! :-) So I took the leash off and we did our own thing and played tug with his stuffed sheepie. Our second run I was more confident and we started at an actual start line near the ring gate. Steeler was great!!! Of course I had to pick up stuffing along the way - but just the fact that he was willing to play with me in a new place with lots of people around - well that is awesome!!!! After our runs Dawn and I packed up the pups and headed back towards the hotel, picking up dinner along the way. I think both of us were exhausted, and Saturday was going to be an early morning!
So..... D and I left for Fort Mitchel KY later than planned with less stuff than planned. We had planned to take the car top carrier to put extra crates for the room and stuff in it, but we were driving into tornado warnings and bad storms and D's jeep didn't have the cross bars that my carried needed to attach properly. To say that our departure was a bit chaotic might be an understatement. I didn't help matters by being later than I thought I would be. So we got a late start and we were both a bit stressed out. We did manage to get all three dogs in the car and all the stuff we HAD to have.
We made it to Scranton PA before deciding to find a hotel for the night. We had pulled off the highway to get gas, and the attendant said that we were driving into tornado warnings. FUN! So we stayed at a Days Inn. And remember, there is no more pulling in Steeler's world. EVER, and that means in a downpour there is still no pulling. I don't think either one of us were happy with how wet we got. And then we had to do it all over in the morning. We had a few hours of tough weather driving wise, but once we got through the remainder of the storms the roads were fine.
We pulled into the Drawbridge Inn sometime between 5 and 6. Checked in, moved the crates around, and got the dogs in. I managed to get in touch with Lisa and join her group for dinner. I got to hear about the road trial and had a great time.
Got to bed around 10 PM, and didn't set the alarm since I had decided last week that I wasn't going to show Steeler in Obedience. So I didn't need to be at the show ring at 8AM.
So we got up, went to breakfast and then Steeler and I wandered over to see what was going on in the obedience rings. Steeler settled pretty well and we hung out and watched for a while, exchanged some text messages with E and eventually ended up on the phone talking. After some discussion about the pros and cons we decided that if I felt like I wanted to I should go ahead and pick up Steeler's number for beginner novice.
Oh my! How on earth did it go from January to MAY!!! LOL Well I must say I thought I was back to my training blog in January, but that was apparently not the case. Now that winter has come and gone, the house is rented, and my stress level has finally decreased - things are finally calming down. Steeler and I have been working on agility and obedience between January and the end of March, with the goal of competing at the Dalmatian National in Fort Michell, KY at the end of April. Well as a warm up, I entered Steeler in a Beginner Novice run at a real actual trial. UGH! What a disaster. I don't know what the problem was, my nerves? Steeler's anxiety? But he literally pulled me from sign to sign on the heeling pattern. We do a lot of Rally. The sign's really should not have been interesting to him at all, or so I thought. There is always something to learn as Steeler has reminded me time and time again. So after viewing the video, and a lesson with my obedience instructor (E), we devised a plan. This is going to sound so incredibly simple, but really it's not. In the discussion with E - she reminded me that really the last couple of years we haven't really been doing a lot of training, yes we go to class every week, we occasionally go to run thru's or show n go's but really how much time have I spent training outside that environment. The reality is that really I wasn't doing any real consistent training.
I don't really remember how we arrived at this idea - but it was a relatively simple thing - no more pulling on leash EVER!!!! No more getting cookies for just sitting around, no more Mom being a Pez dispenser. It sounds like such a simple thing. But really it was and is HARD!!!! But what a change. I worked hard for the month between our decision to give this a try and the national. 25 out of the next 30 days there had to be some sort of training if I were to consider showing at the national. We dropped just about everything else as far as training went. No working on heeling or retrieves etc. Everywhere we went, you will walk right here with me .... you don't get to pull me to the next bush to pee. You don't get to pull me over to friends to say hi. Those things became "real life rewards".
Steeler didn't really think this change in "The Rules" was such a good thing at first. We were entered in an APDT Rally trial the following weekend, and after some discussion I decided that I was going to go and give Steeler the opportunity to decided whether he wanted to work with me or not. The Saturday trial was not pretty! We walked into the ring, got the slowest sit ever, and when I asked him if he was ready he wouldn't even look at me. LOL oh that was hard. I said thank you to the judge and walked out of the ring and put Steeler in his crate, no words and he had to walk through a crowd of kids saying LOOK IT'S a Dalmatian. We did that twice on Saturday. Sunday was a bit better, I got more attention and was able to do a couple of signs and have a big party in the ring.
The following weekend we were again entered in another APDT Rally trial. Thankfully close to home. Huge change in attitude during the week. We were able to do the whole courses with lots of reinforcement for choosing to work in the ring. So after three plus weeks of working I was still undecided about whether to even bother going to the National. E didn't think that we were actually ready to go in the ring just yet, but at the very least, it would be a week where I could concentrate on working on our program. So we went......
So the move is over. I still have a garage full of stuff to unpack and find a home for, but other than that things are settling down. Logan is still a little bit stressed, but hopefully will start to feel better soon. Meanwhile, amidst the chaos of moving Steeler has been catching most of his obedience classes and a few of his agility classes. We were at least able to catch run thrus a couple of weekends ago at the barn. We also took a ride out to Fitchburg to catch a show and meet my friend Dawn's new puppy.
I also signed him up for a class at Nevins Farm. It's just a "Beyond Manners" class on Saturday afternoons, but I thought it would be good to expose him to some new environments and new dogs. We had our first class last Saturday, and while it was pretty basic stuff it was good for Steeler. There were two Swiss Mountain Dogs and a Maltese in the class with us. We worked on loose leash walking, recalls with distractions, and the Look at That game. We also worked on a new trick. I've never actually taught Steeler how to "wave" or "shake" so that is what I was going to work on. I started with trying to shape just lifting a paw up. It's tough! Steeler is very quick and if I am not quick he starts going into his repertoire of tricks to try to get me to click. I really need to put some more of his tricks on cue!
I also took Logan and Steeler snow shoeing and Steeler got to meet my friend's year old whippet, Poppy for the first time. Steeler had a blast! He was very good with Ms. Poppy, even with her jumping on his head several times. However I think that Logan's snow shoeing days are over. At least when there is a lot of snow. It's hard for me to believe that she is going to be 13 soon.
We are also starting to think about going to the DCA National. I was debating signing him up for his first Novice Obedience run, but instead I think we are going to do pre-novice, and advanced rally. And agility of course! Steeler and I will go with my friend Dawn and her dogs. I can't wait!