Thursday, April 12, 2018

April USDAA Trial

Last Sunday was my training club's USDAA trial, so I entered Perri in both offered Intro classes (Gamblers and Standard) and I entered Molly in Standard only. Both classes were near to the end of the day, but we spent all day there volunteering.

The Intro classes were back to back, which is not a great set up for Perri and I was mild level fretting about it. We played Gamblers first. Perri was a bit flatter than she was last month when we did Intro. Leash removal went very smoothly and without notice from her. She was still very much playing with me, but with reluctance creeping in there. I was very happy when she had a moment of staring at me that she came right back into the game - that is a victory!

Standard was next. When I brought Perri back into the building she wanted water. I gave her a small amount, since she would be running soon. She became frustrated by this and kept nose and paw tapping the water jug. Then she became sort of sullen and staring into space, ignoring my treats and toys. Perri is a stress drinker so it's hard to say if she was truly very thirsty or just feeling some stress and needed to displace some of it. So with that behavior coupled with having to run so soon after she had already run, I was feeling like maybe I should scratch the run since I was allowing myself to become rattled by "what ifs" about Perri's run. I put on my big girl panties and got in there and tried to make a super flowy plan and I even spent some of our time on a toy throw (and subsequent poodle pouncing and keep away). I wanted to rescue our ring time and gear it totally towards: positive feelings! Right towards the end I asked for a tunnel that she runs by and I see her feeling weird about that but she comes right back and does some nice running (and a scary Aframe fly off). I am starting to not feel great about letting her run the Aframe as she jumps off so high and I don't want her to hurt herself. In any case, it was a nice run salvaged out of some stressy feelings on both of our ends and that is kind of the point!

I have made the decision to do another trial hiatus with Perri. Despite some nice successes on Sunday, I feel like Perri needs me to pull back for a little bit again. I don't want us to hit "rock bottom" of staring in the ring and stressing down completely and having an awful regression that makes me want to drink lots and lots of wine when I get home! We have had a nice month and done some good work, but we both need some time to retreat and think over what both of our needs are as far as trialing goes.

And Molly got to play too! We did only Standard, since she needs three Qs in that class for her MPD. We NQd immediately for a wrong course due to the filthy handler giving dreadfully late turning information again! So mad at myself! It felt like a little bit of a trainwreck after that and she wouldn't weave but overall looking at the video, she was a happy girl and I am truly in "just happy to be here" mode when it comes to getting to run agility with my girl! I did reset her weaves and the second time sort of did a sprint and turned my shoulders to her and clapped and she was like "NU-UH WE HAD A DEAL ABOUT THAT KIND OF NONSENSE FROM YOU, I'M NOT DOIN' IT!" 
Ps. She did weave in training class the next night when I behaved myself :)

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Molly's Birch and Anise ORTs

When I scheduled Molly's NACSW Odor Recognition Tests (ORTs) I kept thinking "I have plenty of time." And then I didn't. While Perri's best element in Nosework is containers, it is Molly's worst. We struggle and struggle with overarousal, frustration, criteria, staring at me. Molly gets frustrated, she smashes boxes, she walks over boxes, she is a Container Godzilla.

But it is not my first rodeo with Molly and her overarousal issues so we do regular box boot camps and we have had some nice progress. But then today's date arrived and I didn't feel like we had made quite enough progress. But I also wasn't going to scratch today's sixty dollar entry for the sake of wishing we were super duper ready.

Birch was first and Molly was like, "What? I am awesome at Containers."

So that was excellent! Birch was what I really wanted today, because now we can trial in NW1! If we didn't pass Anise, meh. NW2 is a long way off and we could try again another day.

I had the absolute fortune of being the very first dog on the run order of about forty more dogs, so we went for some breakfast and some geocache fun after our test. We found a very cool tower and the dogs had to be posed in it. It must be a full moon, both girls are looking straight at the camera for a change.

We returned to the trial site for our Anise test and this time Molly was the second dog. When I went to switch Molly's leash from her collar to her harness (this is part of our "start line" routine, so that Molly has an extra contextual cue that she will be searching for odor.), she did this spasmy splat into a down. Crazed. I have no idea why she did that.

And then we had shenanigans. A fly by false alert on the first box. Some box sniffing and another false alert, a little more committed but I could tell it was a false. When Molly is in odor on a box she gets sort of lower and won't use her feet initially. She lowers and gets real sniffy and then uses her foot if I don't get in right away. Her overarousal false alerts are feet first not nose first. This is stuff I am learning.

I chose to go back to the start line and do some neck stroking on Molly. This, folks, is where we remind ourselves that three minutes is a long time. Don't panic, dont' feel frenzied. There is time. And there was. This time Molly did alert on the hot box, but I did not trust her. I almost called alert because she did get low and sniff but then she got frustrated with me and flipped the box away from where it had been sitting. That sort of box flipping and displacement is something she often does when she is high and just falsing for...Molly reasons. To her credit she sniffs boxes for me and does no more false alerts. She also passes the hot box twice, no doubt demotivated by my lack of response. We ultimately went back to the start line. More neck stroking. And then I send her into the search again. I felt that the second box on the right was the hot box and decided that if she gave it any attention, I would call it. Molly gives a mighty shake, throwing her stress away and alerts on the hot box and I called alert fast and rewarded her.


While the Birch test felt great and sexy and fast....the Anise test was where the true victory was. I always let myself get rattled but today I did not. I kept my cool and was logical about the clock ticking away and did what my dog needed. I read her body language. We found our way back to the same page where we could communicate effectively with each other. We got through it, we passed. Really cool.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018


I keep having to pinch myself and get my head out of the clouds after Sunday's AKC agility trial with Miss Perri! Entering Perri was quite honestly something I did because I wanted to go spend the day at a favorite trial site with good friends of ours. Entering the Excellent level is completely out of the question for Perri, but fortunately you are allowed to start at Novice again if you drop your dog to Preferred. I made that decision last year, but have done exactly one AKC trial with Perri since then, and she only qualified in FAST. Regular titling classes still in play for a drop to Novice.

And Novice would be perfect. Simpler courses for us would allow me to work hard at staying connected with Perri and putting into play the changes that I need to make about myself for Perri's sake. And bonus: since we were playing AKC, she could wear a collar and eliminate all of the issues that come with equipment being put on and off of her body. Regardless, I was terrified. Perri used to absolutely adore this trial site. But last year she was incapable of doing more than a few obstacles the last time we were there, and she was obsessed with worry about a door in the back of one of the rings.

We arrived bright and early for JWW, oh the joys of Novice! We were in the "ring with the evil door", but thankfully it was early morning and there was no harsh sunlight coming in (that was the trigger the last time.) It was not long after arrival that I was walking the course and then taking Perri into the ring. I chose to do a start line stay. I focused so hard on maintaining connection, being cheerful. And we did a really really awesome job, Perri was absolutely flying and I was handling her nicely! And then we had an oops. I didn't realize until I watched my video what exactly happened. Perri has a delicate throat and if she is stressed she will either have a sneezing fit or a coughing fit. During our run I pushed a little too hard on her line and she ran for a wrong course tunnel. I called her with an upbeat tone but she knew it wasn't right and started coughing ("hackerdoodling", we call it!). And of course the weaves were the next obstacle. I decided to just forget about it and let her run out the last three jumps, a nice straight line, and she took the first one but blew past the last two. Residual stress.

I felt disappointed in my behavior and my mistake. I did feel better when I saw the video, because there was a clear cause for her behavior and a way for me to improve so that she doesn't feel this way again. I thought that the weave poles had triggered the coughing, but it was actually the error of running for the tunnel. (my fault!) Regardless, we had a phenomenal time on most of the course and I did not expect perfection!

And then it was the loooooooong wait until the end of the day for Novice Standard. Oh the joys of Novice! I was hoping that we would not have an enthusiasm crash for the second run of the day, that is a thing that could happen. The opening of the course was a two straight jump with a sharp 90 degree turn. There were lots of curvy lines of jumps. As much as the JWW course was a Perri-friendly course, the Standard one was not a confidence builder. I chose to lead out just a little bit and then tried a front cross in front of jump #2. I was not miserably late with the front cross but I could have been clearer, and Perri ran right behind me, took a wrong course jump, and headed towards the A-frame. I did not even say a word but when I turned to her, she was frozen. She looked at the Aframe and then started looking around the ring and looking at me. A staring fit. My worst effing nightmare. I tried to do the claw hands and jazz her out of it. No. Then I did another new thing I have been trying in class. Our instructor told me when she shuts down I should ask her for a nose touch or a trick, something quick and easy to make her feel successful and re-engage her with me. I've actually been doing a down and have had a lot of success with that. I've even been working downs into the start line. It's rather strange because downs used to be very unnerving for Perri, but I don't question it! I think somewhere in our fold back down nerd training and the table down value building, she has begun to enjoy the position.

I got down on the ground, real quick and talked silly talk with her and asked her to down. She bowed, she wagged her tail and she dropped and just looked into my eyes and I ran away from her and asked her to come with me. For a half second she just lay there and I thought, "Well. That's that!" But then she absolutely exploded up and did the next three jumps! (And promptly skipped the tire and the weaves but we just kept running!) Then it was the pause table and well you bet I asked her for a down again! She was flying high after that, running as fast as she is capable of, blowing her contacts and finished the whole course over a curved line finish. Whoah!! I was floored by her! It was a royal NQ (Just take note in the video of the judge signalling mad faults!) but we don't care, it was so much fun!!!!!!

I am over the moon with this girl and I'm just gonna brag that I am proud of me. I went into this year feeling absolutely powerless on how to reach Perri, feeling like it was all over. I got over feeling jaded about agility classes and found an instructor that saw exactly where I was failing Perri. I am forever grateful. If there was a single thing in my power to help this dog, I would crash into it and attack it. And I did. We did. I am so afraid of everything crashing down again on us, afraid of making too many handling mistakes and setting her back. I keep thinking "but she won't weave but she blows her contacts but but but but"...but I think everything is going to fall right into place when our confidence soars back where it belongs.

"'Scuse me while I kiss the sky!"

Saturday, March 17, 2018

March CPE Agility

Day one of agility fun weekend! Today was for CPE agility, first trial of the year back at our favorite trial site....Flexible Flyers on the dirt! (Bonus that one of my favorite judges was judging this weekend!)

It was originally going to be an Ein only day: Jackpot, Snooker and Wildcard. When I saw the map for the non traditional Jackpot, it contained three gambles that I knew Ein was not capable of. One contained the Aframe, and Ein has been clear that he does not want to do the Aframe. One contained weaves and Ein does not weave. One had a serpentine but I felt that it was very likely Ein would be able to push out past the plane of the second jump. I made the decision to scratch him. He might have been able to do it, but I did not feel that he was prepared for that kind of challenge and I did not want to diminish his confidence in the agility ring.

However....after Molly's visit to VOSM I had scratched her runs on this trial day. But mid-week last week I sent a last minute e-mail to the trial secretary asking if I could pretty please re-add in a Jackpot run for Molly. Dropped down to Veteran class, 12". And we were in business! I might have been taking "let her start doing hard exercise in two weeks" too literally but Molly has been stir crazy, I miss my girl in the ring, and Molly has always been a dog happy to bend the rules right along with me. (And hey, we are almost four weeks past that appointment after all.)

And it was glorious. Q number one for the C-ATCH4. Another decision I made for this year was that in CPE, Molly would go back to Level 5 (and out of Level C.) I like having that fault leeway when we're chillin' in CPE. Molly is like the phoenix, once again she rises from the ashes of something that could take her down and out and she is back in the ring by my side, lips flying. If today's run was her last ever, it was a perfect one.

It was a long wait until Ein's Snooker Level 1 run and I was really happy with him! Some reluctance on the tunnels and a judge check-out but overall a really great run for Einey! Wildcard was a bit naughty, literally running behind me to do the wrong entrance of the tunnel, I was shocked! I had Ein on my right side and I usually have to do room service to get Ein to go into a tunnel. For some reason Ein stopped in mid run, cut straight behind my back and took the wrong side of the tunnel. !!!! I would admit if my handling was to blame, I am always happy to do so! He also ran around the last jump which is not unusual for him when he is feeling insecure. In any case, it was overall a nice run for Ein and a great day! Here is Ein's Snooker run:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Product Review Honest Kitchen Base Mix "Kindly"

Honest Kitchen's base mixes are known in my mind as my "raw training wheels" or "raw for dummies". Using a base mix took a lot of the guesswork and anxiety out of feeding raw for me. Yes, I said it. Anxiety. Many raw feeding groups and message boards are full of knowledgeable members who have their raw feeding groove down but also give off this impression of "lol it's not that hard." Guess what. When you start out, it is that hard. Last summer when I tried raw I could not sleep right and two out of three dogs had issues with the transition. It's easy to get scared right back to safe, clean kibble.

When I made the decision to try a base mix, I went no further than Honest Kitchen. There are other base mixes but I have had such a good experience with HK's products that I knew I would be happy with their base mixes. Honest Kitchen offers two base mixes, we used Kindly, now called "Veggie, Nut and Seed Base Mix". (Honest Kitchen recently renamed all of their products and to be honest I thought it was more user friendly when it was just called "Kindly".)

I chose to start small with just one dog this time, the dog who did not have an issue with raw the last time: Perri. I was also curious to see if Perri would enjoy more behavioral benefits from a fresher diet since whether by coincidence or not, she brightened up when salmon oil was added to her diet. Oh and also? Perri has never really liked kibble in the first place and she has bowels of steel, she would not be likely to get diarrhea.

With the base mix, you do not need to feed or figure out the ratios of bone and organ required for a DIY raw diet. You simply need measure out and add water to the proper amount of HK base mix and then add the indicated amount of muscle meat into the mixture. You can use raw or cooked meat, I chose to use all raw. The base mix rehydrates easily and quickly and mixes well with the meat. And Perri loves it. Perri has not refused her food since we started on the base mix about a month and a half ago. She has tolerated a rotation of different meats as well as raw eggs mixed into her food. The only downside is that I do notice the carrots and flax seed seem seem to pass right through to her poop, which makes me wonder how much benefit vs. filler those ingredients are. 

During the time we used the base mix, I became a lot more comfortable with sourcing, measuring and feeding raw meat. Using the base mix was the transition that I needed and I am very grateful that products like this exist and I would recommend it to anybody who is nervous to start raw. It's a really user friendly push in the right direction with assurance that your dog is still getting all of the nutrients they need while you learn! 

Saturday, March 10, 2018

March Performance Scent Dogs trial

I am loving all of the opportunities we are getting to play nosework with Performance Scent Dogs! We did a repeat of last month's trial: Molly in Buildings only (no container potential.) and Perri in Buildings, Speed, Distance and Containers.

Molly's Novice group ran first for her Building search, and since I volunteered to steward the ring, we got to be the first dog in our group to go. Molly made pretty quick work of it! She sources within seconds but doesn't stick, though she quickly returns to the hide and insists a bit better. I'm proud of her keeping her brain and launching into the search right off the start line. No antics, no staring at me and way better obedience to odor. Good Moo!

When it was Perri's group's turn, the first search area was divided into the Container search first and then the Distance search to follow. Containers was a bunch of St Patrick's Day themed leprechaun hats on the ground. Perri had a moment of being lost in hypervigilance at the start line and I gave her a few seconds and interrupted her and asked if she was "ready?". I always let Perri make the choice to re-engage with me but we were at a trial. Her behavior did not surprise me as she has had beyond-her-normal stress issues at this trial site in the past - that was for agility trials, I was unsure how she would feel if it was nosework. She responded very well to my gentle reminder and went off the start line quite happily and indicated on a container within 12 seconds. Very good for Perri! And then she actually pulled me to the start line for Distance after that. Great!

Distance was nearly the same situation as we saw last month. Some containers on the ground and some hanging off the wall. Perri sourced pretty quickly on a paper lantern hanging on the wall but would not indicate. I felt pretty certain that she was at source based on her body language, but Perri is very meticulous in her inspection of containers and I could not be sure that she wasn't giving the odd hanging lantern some extra attention. Perri left the lantern and followed the wall to the ground and out of the search area, but then quickly doubled back and nosed around a container on the ground. Hmmmm. Not this time Perri. I knew she was conflicted. The hot container was hanging but she has a stronger reward history for ground containers and also she does not care for hanging containers. I waited her out and she left the ground container and gave a lot more attention to the hanging lantern and this time I called Alert and we got it!

Perri got a short break of about 15 minutes before we returned to do our other two runs. We started with Buildings. It was an area with a table some other furniture/objects that I can't remember. Perri spent some time at the bottom of an I-Beam support on the wall. She did one more sweep of the search area and then indicated at the base of the I-Beam. Perri earned her first nose work title with this search, Novice Buildings (SD-NB)!

We went straight to Speed after that. Perri was not as confident as she was last month. She searched all of the sets of boxes and did not indicate, but was happy to do so on the second pass. The judge wrote "You are so patient" on our score sheet. Ha ha ha! She also gave me some pointers for helping Perri's confidence to indicate as soon as she gets to source instead of just "cataloging" where the hide is and telling me later. Perri Q'd in Speed though, with one second and some change to spare. Whew!

Perri also earned PSD's Iron Nose award, awarded to teams who are entered in and qualify in every class of the day. Wow! It was an honor to get that with Perri. And of course, she had to be posed with some perfectly foolish decorations from the St Patrick's Day themed trial to celebrate!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Happy 13th Birthday Ein! (And Perri plays Intro USDAA!)

Today was an awesome!!day because today Einey turned thirteen years old. A teenager! It is hard to believe that Ein is 13 years old and it is so exciting that he is in such excellent health and still so physically mobile and active. I have noticed that Ein's hearing is definitely going the way of the dinosaur, especially within the last half year. If he is sleeping downstairs or upstairs when I come home from work, he does not hear me and keeps sleeping until I come find him. And when hiking, if he is too far away he does not hear me calling. Other than that, it's business as usual for Ein.

We celebrated first with a big birthday cookie from the local dog bakery.

Then we went up to the local training center for the USDAA trial! Ein was pushing down the door wanting to come along, so I brought him with us since I wanted to take him on a short hike for his birthday and it would be helpful to not have to drive back home. I also brought his cake to share with the agility dogs at the trial (Knowing a ton would still be leftover for a dinnertime treat.)

I made the decision to enter Perri in Intro class and FEO. I wanted to be able to take a toy into the ring or have the freedom to work on start line attitude or whatever else I felt could be of value with our time. I have really been analyzing and tackling Perri's issues in the ring and I feel that the start line as well as whatever collar/leash I am removing from her as well as my own behavior are make or break issues. Asking her for stopped or "managed" contacts is an issue - I feel I will need to encourage running contacts for Perri. I need to not care if she flies off of her contacts in the mean time. I do not think it will be a big training project so much as "I'm happy if you just keep running fast on this obstacle." Today's criteria was extension and movement. Today's criteria was "please for the love of all things good and holy, do not stop and stare at me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" We achieved this goal!

This is Gamblers! She blows both of her contacts but she is moving at a speed I love and does not stress down when I re-collect her for the gamble. She did play some naughty keep away after I threw her toy down! But she is allowed to do that in class as a reward to her so I couldn't be surprised she did it with a toy at a trial. I was pleased that she did this Gamble as she had to stay on her line a bit away from me and then not run wide around the final jump. I made the decision to leave the ring without her collar and leash, as I new she would continue holding onto her tug toy and stay with me on our way to the crate. Putting on any collar or leash of any kind after a run is very aversive to Perri and I am still brainstorming a work around.

It was quite a wait until Intro Pairs. I gave Perri a chewie to enjoy in her crate and then put her out in the car for the remainder of the time she would be waiting, to recharge. Her energy seemed decreased from what it had been in the morning and it made me anticipate a less motivated run. I tried to be confident and not "think that way." As it turned out, Perri was running very fast, read a rear cross I did beautifully and ran straight out the extension line at the end. Awesome! It was a perfect course for her and I. Am. Thrilled!! Bonus was that our friend Donna accidently threw the baton on the ground along with her leash - I swear Perri used her martian intergalactic mind control powers to will D to do so! She hates that baton since it is clearly used for poodle beating!

We left the trial with enough daylight for a very windy and muddy hike at the local reservoir park. I love windy hikes (muddy? not so much.) and sunset-near-lake hikes. With the wind and the cold, nobody else was in the parking lot so the dogs got to enjoy being off leash on what is normally a very popular trail. So peaceful and so what each dog deserved. Ein was in his glory marking trees and trotting out ahead of me. I am so grateful we could go on a hike for his birthday, it was always one of his favorite things to do.

Great birthday, great agility trial. Beautiful day!