Sunday, November 10, 2019

Molly SCN and Washington Crossing State Park

Today Molly and I ventured out in the freezing cold to play some more AKC Scent work. Today was only our second trial and the hosting club was offering: Handler Discrimination, Buried and Containers, two trials per day. I have not trained Handler Discrimination with Molly but I did enter both rounds of Containers and both of Buried.

This trial was run a little differently, and the dog did back-to-back searches. So, Trial 1 was our first search and Trial 2 was several moments later and a different search. We started with Containers. Molly and I have been focusing all of our Nosework training on polite alerts and respectful searching. No smashing the box, please. It all went out the window today. She flew off the start line of Trial #1 so fast I could barely keep up, sniffing the boxes at lightning speed and came to the hot box with a paw smack and I called alert! I thought, "okay! that was good, she didn't smash it hard, just a little bit. something sunk in."


We went to the next search which was on the dirt footing of the agility ring. Let that sink in. Ugh!! Insane doesn't even begin to cover it. The next search was an embarrassing bowling alley. Boxes flying, a false alert, a box put up on its side, spinning and springing and then finally annihilating the hot box faster than I could even think. We got a fault for all of the destruction but we did pass and that was her Novice Container title.

Next up was Buried. Same thing, back-to-back. The first search was pretty quick! She alerted on the first box on the right and I hesitated a moment but did call it. Sadly the screen/grate on the container of sand was crushed through from her "alert" of perching on it with her front paws. She has never done this when we practice Buried, and my screens are even flimsier. Anyway, the judge said if I had called it faster it would have been a two second search. Ha!

We went to Trial 2, on the dirt footing again.... And she did the exact same thing. Alerted on the first box on the right. Now, I was really nervous. What were the odds the hide was the same place in both trials? What were the odds shenanigans were happening out on the exciting dirt footing and scene of earlier debauchery?? I....asked her to search the rest. And she false alerted on the sixth container of sand, right before returning to the actual hot box. The one she had told me about in the first place. I really did feel terrible, like I let Molly down. On the other hand, I was so absolutely fried doing so many container-type searches in a row with Molly and I guess I just wasn't reading her fact vs. fiction as sharply as I usually can. Sigh.

I feel embarrassed with how destructive Molly is with containers. Doubly so when a judge seems completely disgusted by the whole thing. I know that they have to replace the hot box and reset the search area and I truly do feel bad and Molly and I work on this. I don't just carelessly enter trials and ignore her behavior. The first judge today seemed to truly enjoy Molly's enthusiastic spirit and antics. The second, not so much. All I can say is that Proper Perri balances out the universe when it comes to Containers, she is so dainty and respectful! And now that Molly is out of Novice, Perri will get a turn soon. Well, at least the containers in Advanced will be a little more sturdy than cardboard....

We shifted gears after the trial and visited a new PA State Park! Washington Crossing State Park was nearish, and I have not visited it before. It is another one that is rather close to me, but it was added after I made my goal to visit all then-120 PA State parks. The number is now 121 State parks and Washington Crossing makes #103/121.

The dogs and I walked along the canal trail, we explored some hiking trails on the NJ side and then Perri and I did a nine-step Virtual cache through the historic area back on the PA side to end our day there.

Delaware River

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Zorro Level 1 CPE Weekend!

This past weekend, Zorro and I played some CPE. I had originally not planned to do any CPE with Zorro, but CPE is perfectly set up to allow a team that is not quite ready for prime-time to get into the ring and run on some courses together. While I do feel this can invite teams to trial too soon, it can also greatly benefit new teams. It's all up to the handler.

CPE Level 1 offers Standard class and six different games classes, and none of them have weave poles or teeter required. Zorro has a fine teeter performance, but we have been taking much time polishing and perfecting his weaves.

After work last Friday we made our CPE-Wildcard-and-Standard debut! Wildcard was first and I was thrilled with Zorro's commitment to staying on a line of straight jumps. He is really showing independence as he matures, this used to be very challenging for him and we have worked hard on it.

Standard, we had two wrong courses. This is where I was proud of myself! I didn't yell his name to try to keep him away from the wrong course. I just accepted what I handled and "owned" where I not support  my young dog enough...and moved on.

The trial was offering five classes Saturday and Sunday each. When I first entered, I only entered Friday night. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do a full trial day with my boy and see how we felt. I entered the full day for Sunday: Jumpers, Snooker, Colors, Standard and Jackpot (Non Traditional.)

We started with Jumpers and it was smokin' fast! I do not have a video of it and I so wish that I did, it was thrilling! Such confidence from my guy and the ending was a straight speed line with total commitment. The whole run was sub-20 seconds. Really exciting!

Snooker was next and I felt some hesitation after our second "color" but then he perked up as we started the closing! I took him out to the fenced in area outside for some fetch after that run. I am trying to be supportive of adjusting him to a longer trial day where he is the center of my focus.

Colors was next. Another one I have no video of, but I know it was a Q!

Standard was next and this time we did qualify! Such a bummer we did not Q on Friday night or we could have earned our Level 1 Standard title (And, completed Level 1 - with the Jackpot Q we earned later in the day.) Anyway, this run didn't feel great in a few areas but as I watch it again and much nice stuff! I was confused as to why he hesitated on the top of the second pass over the Aframe, but I think it was because I said his target word while he was up there. I think I confused him, saying that before he had begun descending. And I collected him too tight before we began the closing line. And just before the panel. I do not think he has ever experienced a MAD panel jump. Wall jump, yes! But not this type of panel jump. At first I thought the refusal (not scored in CPE) was because of handling, but the second approach and refusal was confusion at the solid panel obstacle. Third time was the charm and Zorro did nicely in the ending!

We ended the day with Jackpot. We had to do a tunnel-Aframe-tunnel with a small distance challenge of about 5 feet away from each Tunnel. This was worth 15-points, and then Zorro and I earned more than enough points in our opening to qualify (for our Level 1 Strategy title.) Zorro did get to do the teeter, twice, and I also asked him for weave poles. He missed the entry but weaved nicely. I stayed back from my original handling point instead of escorting him to the entry. He knows his entries, but he is green. I was very happy with him! I did not need to ask him to weave, but Jackpot was a good opportunity to do so. I was also pleased that Zorro did an automatic down on the table in both Jackpot and Snooker. In CPE the table is never used as a pause table, but as a "stop the clock" obstacle in certain games. The dog only needs to hit it to stop the clock. They can bounce on and off, they can stand, sit, down. You may ask them for a behavior but only one time and if they do not do it, you need to move on and leash your dog. This is an area where competing in CPE is not supportive of my goals for Zorro, but that is the game! Fortunately Zorro does not have any table training issues and remembered his job. Yay!

We finished the weekend one Standard Q shy of Level 1 completion, with his CL1-H and CL1-S titles and a Perfect Day 5/5 on Sunday. Not bad, baby dog! It was truly a dream weekend and I am absolutely thrilled for our future together! Zorro is so mature and runs agility at trials with such focus. I feel his young age shows in carefulness as the day goes on (rather than zoomies or other classic stress behaviors) and I will see more stamina and speed as we go on together, and as I continue to support him and look out for his needs. We are going to have so much fun together!

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Molly mock NW2 Trial

Last weekend Molly and I went to a super well run mock nosework trial in our area. And when I say in our area, I mean 20 minutes away. Heaven!

I entered us at the NW2 level as that is what we are preparing for. Molly still has some frustration issues with being asked to find multiple hides. I confess I have entered the random draw for two different trials and either pulled out or did not get in. We are not quite trial ready, but being entered in an event makes me focus my training.

The mock trial was different than a typical NACSW format, because we ran all four searches back to back. I thought this might be challenging stamina-wise for Molly.

We did Interiors first and I was thrilled with it. She found both hides, worked hard the whole time and she was funny. We did two different rooms. I also had to remember to call "Finish" after each search. You have to do that in NW2, but the judge can remind you if you forget. Unlike NW1 where the timer is stopped when the judge indicates "yes" to the handler calling Alert, in NW2 the handler calls Finish after their dog has found all hides in the search area (you always know the amount.) and that stops the clock.

Our Vehicle search was next. Two hides on four vehicles, four big vehicles. I was intimidated! Molly went past both hides and I've watched the video and I see none of her normal discernible change in behavior or acting as though she was in odor. I wonder if this was a stamina issue for her. She had just searched two rooms and found three hides and she was being silly and wasting energy blasting around. I am trying to decide what I think about the Vehicle search. The "judge" said she found the hides quickly and kept trying to offer me help but ... I'm not sure. Maybe Molly just needs more experience searching larger vehicles. However, the regular passenger van was not that large.
This search was very uncharacteristic of Molly's regular style of work and I am not sure what to think of it.

We went to Containers next. Molly's confusion from Vehicles bled into Containers in my opinion. I also should have rewarded her first container find much more than I did. Knowing her frustration issues with both containers and multiple hides, separately, I will be gearing my training sessions to reward her extensively at each container hide before asking her to find another hide. I would also like to do reminder sessions for not using he feet to indicate the correct container to me. We have some AKC trials coming up at the end of the year, hopefully Advanced, so I would really like to polish Molly in this area.

We ended strong in Exteriors. This was pleasing to me since we have failed to title in Level 1 Exterior trials twice now! The judge was a long time friend of ours and I told her we had just had some troubles and she said to ask Molly for some tricks to relax her. I said what she would really like is to roll in the grass. I asked Molly to roll over and she did and then I pet her belly until Molly let out a big contented sigh. I knew she was ready then. It was another good lesson for the "staging" area at trials.

Molly found the first hide right away. I asked her to search deeper into the search area and she found nothing. I knew there was the pathway to a door that was part of a doorway that she had not check so I asked her to look there. That "head whip" that I so love about nosework and she found the second hide. So nice!

So we are not trial ready but I have some guidance for sure and a good assessment of where we are. I feel there is a lot I can do with the information that we got about our Containers weaknesses. The Vehicle search...I am just not sure what to think of it. Molly is usually much stronger with Vehicles. Perhaps a fluke! We will keep working hard.

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Summer's End

After Perri earned her Coursing Ability title, we turned our attention to Fast CAT. This is a straight 100 yard, timed test. Whatever your dog's MPH is for each run is how many points they've earned. As I have said in posts past, Perri had some worrying issues with the Fast CAT. I figured out that as long as somebody else was releasing her and I was the one to catch her at the end of the 100 yards, she did not have any issues.

That "Perri policy" changed when we went to our next Fast CAT event in June and discovered a new challenge. "Continuous loop" system. The lure is on a closed pulley system, much like regular CAT, but since it is a Fast CAT the 100 yard strip is a narrow snow fenced bowling alley type area instead of a wide open field. (always the case with Fast CAT) Bottom line: with continuous loop, the line that the lure is attached to is always on the ground. Years and years ago when I first introduced Perri to coursing, she was afraid of that line and shut down. Over the years, her prey drive to chase has helped her to overcome that and in regular coursing / CAT events she can keep a bit of lateral distance while still coursing. She cannot do that in Fast CAT. The coursing line is directly on the ground in front of her and at this June event I saw a lot of conflict for Perri. It was a double trial so she did get to do two runs that day, but her first run was sub 20mph because she hesitated nearly at the end of the 100 yards and came through only when I encouraged her. The pause was not long but it was enough to affect her time as well as her enjoyment. Her second run that day I could see her running but there was a lot of conflict and concern about the line on the ground.

"Drag Lure" style Fast CAT
So, drag lure only for Perri. With drag lure, the lure is actually drug along the ground with a four wheeler/gold cart lateral to the fast CAT track and the dog only sees the lure racing up ahead of them. No line on the ground. I don't know the exact mechanics of how Drag Lure operates but I do know it is what Perri prefers! And the only club I have seen offer this style is nearly a two hour drive for us.  (it is more time consuming to run an event with drag lure style.) Thankfully, I love that trial site! We returned last weekend to earn the final points Perri needed for her "BCAT" title. 150 points earned at Fast CAT events and the first title opportunity. There are titles available to be earned at higher point levels but I am unsure if we will be pursuing those.

Perri had two nice runs in the low 20s mph and enjoyed herself, she earned her BCAT title on the first run. She only needed 13 points, I believe.

Overall, Perri enjoys the 600 yard CAT far more than the 100 yard Fast Cat. She likes the wide open field and the turns, she takes them with ease and she barks while she courses and is able to really "open up". We may do more coursing events in the future, as our travels take us to our beloved Freehold Fairgrounds. It has been long since I have been able to play agility there and I have missed it. It is one of the few opportunities to play agility outdoors as trials move more and more to indoor venues.

My favorite coursing photo of Perri! Looking mighty insane while earning her CA title earlier this year.
The closest that I got to agility was having Zorro's AKC measurement done! This will save me from having to show up super super early at his first AKC trial, whenever that may be. He will still need to have another measurement done when he turns two years old. Perhaps we will not even trial in AKC Agility until after he is two, but perhaps we will. That is all up to Zorro and how his training progresses. In any case, Zorro measured 18 3/8" and will be a 20 inch jumping dog in AKC, as I expected. The judge was wonderful and took much time with Zorro, letting him settle down into the measurement and trying to get him under 18". I appreciate judges who are patient and take their time with young dogs.

The last part of our day at Freehold was that the hosting club added dock diving to their cluster of events so Molly got to enjoy that! Two jumps in the Junior division. I had bought a new pack of chuckit balls for her as the Dock season began this year but that pack had been sitting unused due to Molly being on rest for her biceps injury. I couldn't bear the thought of using them for any of my dogs but Molly. We finally got to open the new pack up and I used one new ball for each Splash. Made us both happy!

We have had a fun summer for sure even if it was not entirely what I thought it would be! Not as much Dock but plenty of coursing and Scent Work fun. Zorro's first agility trials. And plenty of hiking. We end our summer trialing season with a sweet day at Freehold. Can't ask for more than that. Here is a final photo of me capturing Perri to get her off the lure. Not the most flattering one of me but I know that one day I will treasure every together photo I have of Perri and I, perfectly imperfect.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Zorro CPE Debut

Sunday Zorro had his debut in CPE and also did his first "for real" runs. This trial was sort of a last minute decision for me and a weeeee bit of a lapse of self control. (the plan was to do training runs only for a while!) The truth is that training runs in USDAA make me feel more secure, whereas in CPE I am a little more relaxed. And Zorro? He is just Mr Chill.

I was not sure how he would react to dirt footing, and I knew he would be seeing new-to-him equipment. He primarily sees and trains on Doggy Jumps jumps, with thick chunky bars. This trial had more traditional style jumps. A double jump he had never seen and a dog walk he has never seen. He has been trained on the double jump, but this piece of equipment can really vary in appearance by trial site.

Anyway! He was just....great. It kind of blew my mind. No zoomies in the dirt, no sniffing in the dirt, no getting "high" because of the dirt. Errors made were baby dog errors or handler confidence errors. I was so super happy with this guy! We played in Jumpers, Colors and Fullhouse - he qualified in all. Zorro earned his first agility title, CPE Level 1 Fun! (one Q each in Level 1 Jumpers and Fullhouse.)

Jumpers was first. A tough 90 degree turn after a speed line, we had a refusal (CPE does not score those). Everything else was great except me letting go of a rear cross just before he committed and another refusal. Disappointed in myself because I chickened out of a front cross and I had plenty of time to do one - I need to be braver! I was thrilled with Z pulling to the correct end of a tunnel discrimination. 

Colors was next, he ran it in 11 seconds and would have been faster if not for me getting hopelessly behind in the middle of the course! This boy has wings. In Colors you have your choice of two mini-courses. Zorro's Aframe training is not complete so I chose the course that did not contain the Aframe.

Fullhouse was last, always Molly's favorite! I was thinking of her when I ran. I didn't love the layout of this Fullhouse but we made it happen with 24 points. Zorro only needed 19 for his level. In Fullhouse you need three bar jumps, two 3-point obstacles (tunnel or panel jump), and a "joker". This course's Joker options were: Aframe, weaves, dog walk. We went with the dog walk because Zorro's weaves and Aframe are not ready for prime time. He was a little slower than normal on a different dog walk but he did well! I think, having my girls who never generalized very well, I am extremely appreciative to have a dog who is able to do so.

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Zorro's First Agility Trial

Big day today, Zorro's first agility trial! For USDAA Intro, dogs need to be 14 months old of age minimum. Zorro turns 16 months old tomorrow, and I felt he has become mature enough to begin experiencing the trial environment from inside of the ring. He has been coming to agility trials and the agility building since quite literally the day after I brought him home, which is a huge advantage for environmental acclimation.

Today's trial was perfect. It was a one ring trial, Starter/Advanced/Intro only. The entry was so light that the trial nearly cancelled, but that's not such a bad thing for a green dog! We started with Intro Jumpers. We had two jumps not properly supported by me but otherwise a great run! I feel a little bad I did not just keep running (I mean, it was FEO so it's not like we had to do every jump!) but I also don't feel like I stressed him out or yelled his name for going by. I 100% feel like he had a great time in the ring!

Intro Snooker was next up. I entered Snooker but was not sure what I would really do (do a "real snooker plan" or more freestyle approach). At the briefing the judge did say that Intro is not miscellaneous and that in Intro you do need to attempt the course. You can't just go in and work on anything you want to work on. That was good information to have! I made an opening plan and it went really nicely other than doing my tandem one stride too soon for Zorro and sending him around the second red (and then changing my handling plan on the fly, doing a backside and handling Z to the Aframe. OOPS) After that I was happy with myself until I crowded him on the last jump.

Get out of the dog's way!

Anyway, we survived and Zorro was so focused and steady and enjoyed himself. Makes me so happy! What an exciting future we have together.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Summer New Titles!

In the spirit of catching up, let's talk about this summer's new titles!

The last weekend in July we drove to New Jersey to play some Performance Scent Dogs. It has been over a year since we got to play any PSD and I was hoping to finish up Molly's Exterior title and Perri's Speed title. Spoiler alert: we did!

I entered Molly in Advanced Buildings, so she needed a Clove target odor test pass in order to be able to play in Advanced. We have a mock NW2 trial in the fall, so I wanted her to have some experience with multiple hides at a trial. Anyway, for the Clove "TOT" she got silly, spinning around and leaving the chairs (In a PSD Target Odor Test, there are 12 chairs, one has odor.). I took her back to the start line and reset her and she walked over and alerted immediately. Face. Palm. We passed at least! The judge said, "Wow, her style leaves much to be desired!" Perhaps somebody would be offended by that, but I thought it was funny!

Exteriors was next and Molly made lightning fast work of alerting on a mess kit laying on the ground. I actually waited for a second alert because I thought she might just be batting around the plates. I felt bad about that, but after the TOT I was a little skeptical. PSD-NE (Novice Exterior title!)

We had a long wait until Perri's Speed search, and Molly's Advance Building search. I timed all the afternoon classes as a volunteer. Ate lunch. Went out for a nearby geocache. And then it was Perri's turn.

People, we worked hard on Speed. Perri has such a hard time qualifying because she is slow. She catalogues (this means that she finds all of the hides but passes them. She knows where the hides are but does not alert on them.) This class is a challenge to Perri's confidence. We have been practicing. A lot. I reward her as soon as she gets to each hot box and make a huge fuss over her cleverness.
It is not often that hard work pays off for Perri at a trial. At most, she barely Qs and I'm grateful for what she could do. This time? Perri crushed it. She alerted on every hide the first time she got to the box. She was efficient and happy and it made me so happy. She even ended up in the ribbons with a third place. In Speed!! That was Perri's PSD-SN title, Novice Speed.

Molly did not qualify in Advanced Buildings. She did a good job working the search area. Alerted on one hide. The second hide was hidden under a plastic dog bowl. I saw her check it out a few times but she did not alert. Even when I showed it to her she gave a half hearted "haha okay." alert. That was strange.

I am not sure how much more PSD we will be doing. Last year there was quite a bit of trialing opportunities within an hour of me, but that seems to have diminished. There is another trial at this location in October. I would like to finish Perri's overall Novice title, and she needs two Exterior passes to do so. After that, with more AKC scentwork available more locally to us, we may be going that route.

Fast forward to the following weekend, and a different sport...World Cynosport Rally Obedience!

Molly attended for two rounds of Veterans but I'm sorry to say she wasn't at her best. Neither was I, since I had worked until midnight the night before. Molly was sluggish off the start line, I had to beg her along and then I missed a sign. Oops! We did better on our second Veterans round and qualified. We might revisit WCRL at some point to finish her RLV Championship title, but not this year.

Zorro was entered in two rounds of Level 1 and he was on. fire. He earned his RL1-Award of Excellence title with a 210 in the first trial, and earned a second place in the large and competitive Level 1B class with another 210. Another example of a lot of training time put in, and seeing it pay off. We lost no points on stands this time! Fool me once, shame on me.... There was no Moving Stand bonus this time to truly avenge my shame from the July trial. We had the food bowl figure 8 distractors, and the Left About turn. This video is about half of our run. My friend was in the run order near Zorro, so she could not really video.

Zorro and Zoe. Little Z and Big Z, celebrating their RL1-AOE titles!