Archive for September, 2009

Dash, and last night’s fun run

September 18, 2009

When Bud leaves me in charge of setting a course for our fun run night I generally have little training sets that are my favorites, and I incorporate them into sequences.

Last night I set a 20-obstacle course which included Bud’s opening line (see his blog from Tuesday) which was a bit of a dog-legged straight line.

From that opening line I had them go into the front cross minuet exercise. From the minuet we skipped and layered a jump on our way to the pause table. The layering was so obvious, and NOT layering so difficult, that everyone chose to layer the jump — successfully or not.

These skill sets were all nested in the course and were followed by a back-cross to the dogwalk exercise, a pre-cue-to-a-flip exercise, an a-frame contact with a tunnel between dog and handler exercise, and a run for the finish.

Students struggled a little bit with the front cross minuet, mostly because of poor handler movement or the use of advanced handling on less-than-advanced puppies.

There were two youngsters who disallowed the layering of the jump choosing, instead, to do all the work before them just in case it was right.

All in all I was pleased with everyone’s ability to walk and assess the challenges of the course.  Our new student, having trained elsewhere (and mostly on her own in her backyard), is missing some of the strategy we introduce in our intermediate class.

I decided to run my Dash on the course. Dash is my 9-1/2-year-old aussie, and the dog for whom the 2-Minute Training protocols were developed. He’s a non-confident, food-driven, low-motivation dog.

More importantly, Dash is OCD. He will repeat a skill in the manner to which he was first introduced to it — forever. Once he learns something he does it the same way every time. If I suddenly alter the way something is cued or presented he freezes, licking his lips, filled with self-doubt and anxiety — or jumps around barking.

By working through the 2-Minute Dog Training protocols with him I was forced to vary the presentation of obstacles, adding to his skill set. Do not, however, think for a moment that he is thinking outside the box and developing solutions on his own.

He’s simply digging into his reference library and asking himself, “what is Mom asking me to do this time? Oh yeah, that’s an optional presentation of a jump.”

He’s a fascinating, bright boy. I probably spent more time on foundation training with Dash than I have with any other dog I’ve trained.

His fear of new things is partly his nature but he lived with an idiot and her 2 young daughters from 8 weeks to 5 months, so Dash’s natural fear of new things was magnified 100 times by the time I rescued him.

Last night, when everyone was finished walking the course, I said, “I’m going to run Dash on this course. I haven’t practiced this course with him, and haven’t worked him much in the last couple of years. If we nail it I’ll expect all of you to nail it too.”   HAHAHA

Running a course with a trained, willing partner is poetry. It is the spiritual connection with a dog that brings us back to this sport again and again. When I thought I’d not be able to do agility again it was the loss of this magic that depressed me the most.

I ran Dash mostly silently. When I signaled, he followed. I didn’t have to tell him anything, just showed him the way and turned him loose. True, honest movement received his response of true, honest work. It was so sweet. He nailed all his contacts, never missed a beat in the minuet, was attentive and respectful on the pause table, and was the ultimate canine agility partner.

Trialing with Dash has been depressing in the past few years because the pace I’m able to set is overtime in AKC’s Excellent-level courses. Overtime by fractions of a second. Really depressing, over the course of a weekend, to have beautiful run after beautiful run busted by the time-keeper.

Watching Dash last evening sealed the deal for me — he’s moving to Preferred, jumping 16″, and continuing to enjoy the game wherever we can play it. He’s just too marvelous a partner to be left at home.

In other news — today I’m going to fire out a bunch of e-mails and see if I can’t build some interest in our fall 2009 agility camps.

September 29-October 2, 2009 — four-day teacup agility camp, followed by 2 days of agility trial, followed by our departure for the Petit Prix in Wisconsin.  We’ve got 4 spots filled in this camp (one by my Hazard) and, if I can’t add more dogs, we’re going to be exhausted at the end of 4 days. I’ve got a guestroom in the house and a whole cottage available to accommodate someone wanting a great little vacation for themselves and their teacup dog.

November 15-18, 2009 — four-day standard agility camp, these dates were moved forward a bit to accommodate Bud’s acceptance of a last-minute judging assignment. Campers will arrive on Saturday, November 14, and camp will run Sunday through Wednesday. Group meals will be provided all 4 days, and you have 6 hours a day of instruction. Campers may work on equipment before camp starts, during our mid-day break, and after dinner. I have 2 guestrooms in the house and a whole cottage available for someone wanting a cool-weather training experience. This is our last camp of the year and we’re always blessed with beautiful weather in mid-November.

Advertisements

2 Minute Training sets

September 16, 2009

In a brief training session yesterday afternoon I walked a course Bud had set up for Vicki and Jackie, our regular Tuesday and Thursday night students, and my partners in the Strategic Teams game in Wisconsin in a couple of weeks.

The lesson for Tuesday night had to do with straight lines created by judges who run with dogs uninterested in moving ahead of the handler. These straight lines are killers to those of us who have encouraged our dogs to run ahead and faster than us.

I walked the course, noticed several options, and ran Hazard on all three of my options. She was keen to work, speedy, barking, and having a great time. And she nailed the course all three times, with all different options.

At the end of Jackie and Vicki’s lesson we broke one of the awkward sequences into a strategic-team lesson. With other dogs on the course, running around her, and handlers shouting at their dogs, Hazard completely shut down.

Handling her over 3 jumps in a little sequence became nearly impossible as she tried to get away by taking jumps without being cued or released to do so.

We switched strategies, putting Hazard’s bit of the course out of the way of our teammates, and she was able to function much better. We’ll need to remember this when it comes time to chop up the strategic-team course in Wisconsin — “Hazard needs to work along edges and in corners of the course.”

In other news … One of my blog readers sent me a link to video of Jon Gosselin (why on earth does he talk to papparazzi as if they are friends?) as the German Shepherd pups got loaded into crates and returned to the breeder. It would have been an indication that someone in this group was thinking clearly if the BREEDER had come to get the dogs.

Instead, Jon got to use the return of the dogs to the breeder as an opportunity to jab and poke at Kate, who was using the dogs as a tool to irritate Jon. Dogs caught in the middle of divorce are often used to create pain for the other spouse.

Fortunately dogs aren’t probably as cognizant of being used this way as children are. My heart goes out to the adults these Gosselin children will become. They will probably all require therapy and I can only hope that one or both parents are tending to that.

In the meantime, Jon and Kate are an embarrassment. I’m ashamed to say I used to enjoy their show.

Having been divorced I absolutely understand the desire to hurt the “ex” and the desire to gather supporters by stating one’s side over and over. But I did this in private, one-on-one, with my friends.

Jon has developed a relationship with the photographers who exist outside his fence. Kate has developed relationships with interviewers who will pay for her opinion. It’s gross. They both look foolish.

In other news …. Bud heads out to Springfield, IL, tomorrow for a day of teacup seminar, followed by 2 days of showing Hazard, followed by 3 days of standard agility training. This event was set up with us by Deb (Richey) Auel. Deb has been a friend and supporter for as long as I can remember. She was our teacup judge at the trial where Bogie earned his TACh.

I’m going to be interested to hear how Hazard does, running for Bud, in a strange place with a new judge. I’d love to see this Sheltie-Ranch girl come out of her weird phase.

News from the 2-Minute dog trainer

September 7, 2009

This is Hazard’s time to shine. My hope is that, after training and trialing with me for a few weeks, she’ll turn back on to agility and be more confident. And my hope is that Hazard will run for Bud at the Petit Prix, at least some of the time.

This week I’m beginning little teacup sessions with Hazard. Our training will include narrower jumps (instead of 4-foot jump bars we’ll work on 2-foot wide jump bars), weavepole motivation and speed, but not a lot of contacts. Hazard’s 2o2o contacts have transitioned naturally to lovely running contacts and I’m not messing with that. We’ll also be doing some distance training.

In other news, I found a fiberglass double utility tub at a yard sale for $10 and Missy Holmes (formerly Richards) plumbed it for me last week in exchange for private agility lessons for her cattledogs, Gracie and Gunner.

I’ve had a terrific time in the last few days, washing 1-3 dogs a day, getting their shedding hair out and removing months’ worth of grime and grease. Aussie and Shelties don’t require much bathing as a general rule, and I know at least one sheltie person who claimed to have never bathed her dog — just brushing and trimming — because shelties really don’t get a lot of oil or smell in their coats.

A major transformation happened on Saturday when I spent 2 hours with Ringer, our 11+ year old rescue with the MAJOR black tri coat. I thinned, I de-matted, I clipped, I trimmed, I hacked away at this horrible over-the-top aussie coat. Then, when all the excess hair was gone, I bathed this boy for (probably) the third time in his whole life.

Ringer lived the first 3-5 years of his life in the bottom of a stack of crates at a puppy miller’s torture chamber. He was one of 150 or so dogs to come out of a puppy mill raided in Spencer, OH, many years ago. We fostered him and then adopted him.

Ringer was a mess when we got him though rescuers had already bathed him a couple of times. The smell of urine and feces didn’t go away for many weeks. In order to save herself work the puppy miller had removed the steel trays from the crates that sat on top of Ringer’s, so all the upstairs neighbors pooped and peed on him. To this day the slightest sprinkle of rain sends him running indoors. <g>

Ringer is undoubtably the most “grateful” dog we’ve ever had. He has several behaviors to express this gratitude including coming to give me a little kiss on the hand after every meal, visiting each of us once each evening for his hug (he’s the only dog I know who actually craves hugs — the tighter you hold him the more he delights in the contact). Puppy mills are an abomination and should be outlawed.

Today I got Banner’s toenails trimmed (a major achievement since she’s deaf and mostly blind and tends to panic attacks when her arthritic feet are touched) and I’m off to comb and bath Bogie and Birdie, Bud’s 13-year-old shelties.

I’m hoping all this grooming will relieve my house of some of the dirt and hair plaguing us this summer.

Bud’s been on a cleaning frenzy, starting with the installation of the washtub that required movement of some stuff in the basement. This led to a clean-up of the whole basement, hauling tools and tables to the green shed where they will reside from here on out, and organizing the green shed.

In between cleaning episodes, Bud’s digging down through 40 years’ worth of stacked building materials at the lower cottage. My Dad loved to save old bricks, cinder block, stones, fencing, lumber and wire. Unfortunately it was mostly stacked under some trees in the woods adjacent to the cottage.

After 40 years it takes a minor excavation to reveal exactly what sort of pile you’ll find. So far Bud’s found rotten wood piles (great, soft soil which he added to his garden to break up the red clay), brick, chain-link fencing, and field stone.

All have been dug up, hauled up to the house, and stored for future use. Hopefully we won’t need to excavate it again in 20 years. <g>

My Mom, Sister, and I drove yesterday to central WV to visit some really beautiful state parks. We started by checking out Hawk’s Nest, overlooking the New River, then drove on to Babcock State Park and the gristmill there. On our way home we stopped at Hawk’s Nest for lunch, and Glen Ferris for pictures of the lovely falls.

The lousy economy means lots of folks are doing “staycations,” but the state park system still shows signs of financial woes. But Bud and I own about 20 acres of woods and I know the battle between tame and wild that occurs whenever you try to carve civilization out of wild woods. So I guess the state of WV is doing an okay job. I wish the owner or manager of the dining room at Hawk’s Nest was a little more of a perfectionist.

An interesting thing about being judged

September 3, 2009

Once you reconcile to the fact that you will be judged, to your face and behind your back, then the only questions become,  1) is the person doing the judging cognizant of all the facts? and  2) is the person doing the judging a peer to whom I must answer?

I wanted to record here, for posterity, an e-mail I received from a total stranger. In an attempt to judge me behind my back, Lori accidentally posted the comment to my e-mail address only. Ohhhh the horrors of e-mail. Can’t snatch ’em back, can’t delete them, they’re out there forever. And, once a message is sent to an address, the recipient owns it.

Lori’s accidental post to me read, “Why is Marsha still on HSOV   I think a Anyone that DUMPS their own dog at the shelter should have their name reMoved. Sent from my iPhone”

When I let her know her post had come just to me, and informed her that the adoption agreement I signed with HSOV 2 years ago stated that Blue must be returned to HSOV if she didn’t work out in my home, I received this judgement from Lori ….

“Marsha, I’ve not met you, you’re correct in you don’t know me. I did know who the email was from, it was obvious from your blatant advertisement regarding agility training at the bottom of it. What I didn’t realize was that you were the ONLY person I was replying to in the email.

I’d like to clarify what it is that bothers me.  I know what the contract says and you’re right…you did as the adoption contract requires, for that I applaud you. However, I also know that EVERY animal that comes out of that shelter is hoping to find it’s “FOREVER’ home, not a home that will keep it until ‘something better’ comes along as in the case of the dog you returned.

I have had dogs that fight, I have been bitten numerous times by dogs I foster or my own when they were in a fight. They still have forever homes, I would no sooner ‘return’ or give up one of my dogs than I would a child that has ‘issues’.  I take the time, and have the patience to work through the issues unless they are ‘unworkable’ (I’ve had only one that was unworkable and it was a foster that ate it’s 9 week old babies and tried to attack me when I went in to remove the last living baby). 

As a trainer, I would have thought you would have been willing to work through whatever issue you felt Blue had and if you couldn’t then you should have sought the help of a trainer that had the experience to work through it. If I were looking for a trainer for my dogs (I’m not, I already have an excellent one) I would not use one that I knew returned their own dog because they couldn’t or wouldn’t work with it.  I had heard that Blue had many certificates in agility which also makes me wonder even more why he was ‘returned’ as he obviously is a very intelligent dog.

Again, it’s just my opinion, I speak only for myself.  But I don’t feel that someone who adopts and then returns an animal to a shelter is stable enough to adopt again, nor be associated with the group they represent and returned their dog to at the same time.  If your association with the shelter is monetary, I’m sure they’re grateful for your donation, if you spend hours volunteering, I’m sure they’re grateful for your help. Please continue both donation and hours as the HSOV needs that kind of help.

 Shelters and rescues need the animals to go to forever homes, not have a revolving door back to them…it’s too expensive in emotional commitments and money and time to not have adopters you can count on for forever homes.

Just for my own closure I’m going to respond to a few of Lori’s points in this blog posting. I hope to address some of my disagreements with commonly-held beliefs, and also some of the social graces lacking in today’s youth. To repeat Lori’s letter, interrupted with my insertions this time …

“Marsha, I’ve not met you, you’re correct in you don’t know me. I did know who the email was from, it was obvious from your blatant advertisement regarding agility training at the bottom of it. What I didn’t realize was that you were the ONLY person I was replying to in the email.

Time to get out the directions for that Blackberry, huh?   Yes, advertising is blatant. And I’m guilty of advertising. We run a business.

I’d like to clarify what it is that bothers me.  I know what the contract says and you’re right…you did as the adoption contract requires, for that I applaud you. However, I also know that EVERY animal that comes out of that shelter is hoping to find it’s “FOREVER’ home, not a home that will keep it until ‘something better’ comes along as in the case of the dog you returned.

Anthropomorphism at it’s finest. Dogs hoping for forever homes. The resting place of the purist. Well, sorry, but my 13-year-olds were hoping to get to retire without being beat up every day. My dogs were hoping to not have Blue’s teethmarks on their muzzles.  Most troubling in this is Lori’s contention that I kept Blue until “something better” came along. She’s ignorant of the fact that Blue was going to be my agility and obedience dog. That no one could replace her. I’ve no idea what other dog came along to displace Blue. Right now I’m without a performance dog.

I have had dogs that fight, I have been bitten numerous times by dogs I foster or my own when they were in a fight. They still have forever homes, I would no sooner ‘return’ or give up one of my dogs than I would a child that has ‘issues’.  I take the time, and have the patience to work through the issues unless they are ‘unworkable’ (I’ve had only one that was unworkable and it was a foster that ate it’s 9 week old babies and tried to attack me when I went in to remove the last living baby). 

Lori doesn’t get real specific here about just what happens to her foster dogs (must assume she doesn’t keep every foster) or dogs that eat their own babies. Either she does work through every issue or she does not. It sounds as if, at some point on the continuum of behavior, Lori chooses to cut her losses and remove the dog from her home. If she fosters she may even choose her own pack over the foster dog, putting the good of the many over the good of the one. We’re left with more questions than answers.

As a trainer, I would have thought you would have been willing to work through whatever issue you felt Blue had and if you couldn’t then you should have sought the help of a trainer that had the experience to work through it. If I were looking for a trainer for my dogs (I’m not, I already have an excellent one) I would not use one that I knew returned their own dog because they couldn’t or wouldn’t work with it.  I had heard that Blue had many certificates in agility which also makes me wonder even more why he was ‘returned’ as he obviously is a very intelligent dog.

Blue was a “she,” so I’m even more convinced than ever that Lori has never met Blue and is making a blanket judgement on me without getting all the facts. Dog trainers are no different from other dog people. Just because we train dogs doesn’t mean we’re more able to maintain a stable of fractious, dangerous dogs. My belief is that Blue’s perfect, “forever,” home is waiting out there for her. Keeping Blue put my pack at risk and kept her from ever finding the perfect home. Whether Lori feels I’m a poor dog trainer is of no consequence to me. In my heart I know I do what I can, more than most folks, to ensure that dogs are healthy, cared-for, loved, and cherished — whether they’re in my home or in a student’s home.

Again, it’s just my opinion, I speak only for myself.  But I don’t feel that someone who adopts and then returns an animal to a shelter is stable enough to adopt again, nor be associated with the group they represent and returned their dog to at the same time.  If your association with the shelter is monetary, I’m sure they’re grateful for your donation, if you spend hours volunteering, I’m sure they’re grateful for your help. Please continue both donation and hours as the HSOV needs that kind of help.

An interesting bit of adoption information is that “open adoptions,” as practiced by many shelters including HSOV, are designed to eliminate just this sort of judgement on adopters. The rule of thumb for shelters is this — you adopt a dog or cat and, if it works out that’s perfect — if it doesn’t work out please return it to us so we can try again. The most important lesson I’ve learned in the last 20 years (and clearly a lesson Lori has yet to learn) is that there is no home that is perfect for all dogs, and that there is no dog that is perfect for my home. There are project dogs, there are lovely dogs, and there are dangerous dogs. Each relies on a situation to create either bad news or good news.

Open adoptions are designed to ensure that dogs are not dumped on back roads, shot in the head, or confined to a pen for eternity. Open adoptions allow people to give a dog another chance, in another environment, in  another home, without being labeled “unstable.”

So Lori considers me unstable, though is willing to back-pedal and accept, on behalf of the organization for whom she clearly does not speak, my donations of time and money.

 Shelters and rescues need the animals to go to forever homes, not have a revolving door back to them…it’s too expensive in emotional commitments and money and time to not have adopters you can count on for forever homes.

Again with the blanket statements. All warm and fuzzy, with no real content. Blue went to the Ohio Cell Dog program, to be trained by an inmate who may have a life-changing experience with this brilliant little girl. This inmate may decide that his or her life is worthwhile, that improvement is possible, and that the future holds promise. The people who adopt Blue from the program may provide her with the one-on-one home life Blue so needs. Blue’s brilliant obedience and agility behaviors may influence them to continue her training, thus moving them into the world of “dog people.” Hopefully all this will happen without the judgements of the ignorant and/or pure.

The final message with which I’d like to leave the Lori’s of the world is this … before you judge someone  1) put yourself in their shoes,  2) decide if you’re really qualified to judge them,  3) examine your own life,  4) determine if this is how you would wish to be treated, and  5) be as kind to people as you would be to an animal.

In the end we’ll all be judged on how we treated others in our lives. Were we kind?  Did we do unto others as we would have them do unto us?  Were we encouraging, or did our holier-than-thou attitudes create a sense of anger or inferiority in others?