Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Master Performance Dog Molly!

Part of pandemic life is adapting. I have been so grateful for all dog competition venues who offer virtual options to keep me motivated, to keep the sense of community that I love about dog sports and to keep me happy! But #1 on my Grateful List is USDAA for their "USDAA @ Home!" program. They are offering weekly agility courses for at home titling. For each class, you must build two different modules and have clean rounds in each in order to qualify. I do not have a yard large enough for any more than two jumps at a time if that so while I appreciated the program when it began, I quickly accepted that it was not for me. I even felt a little stab of pain because I knew that if I had the yard space, I could have set up and tried to get that last dratted Standard Q for Molly's Master Performance Dog (MPD) title.

And then our agility club did exactly that for our weekly training class. Molly does not train at class anymore, Zorro has taken that over. Step aside, Zorro! I was not sure if my classmates would be willing to tweak the agility course in order to change over to the second module required for titling. My concerns turned out to be silly, not only were they willing but they also wanted to participate and possibly earn a Masters Standard Q for their own dogs!

All we had to do was get a clean round on each module...

And we did it! You can  do "re-dos" an only submit the clean run. Molly is an old girl so, I was not going to be grilling her again and again just to get a Q. Yes, this title is my last true agility goal for her. And I have left the goal go more than a few times. I could do it again!

Molly ran Module 2 first with a clean run. Module 1 was a little harder with some misfires of handling and of pitbull enthusiasm. We got our clean run before long but with my body entirely blocking video view of the A-frame contact. Ugh! Video titling is often like this, I went through many growing pains with Parkour video titling in particular!

But we got it! I uploaded the two videos to You Tube that evening and it took about a week after that particular Standard event ended for the two modules to be cleared. You get a "Y" next to your module if it has passed. Molly got two Ys and she is now a Master Performance Dog!

Was I disappointed we did not earn this title at a "real" trial? I am not. USDAA @ Home! is a wonderful opportunity for dogs with anxiety and stress issues, a true silver lining of the pandemic. Molly has competed with me for years despite her overarousal and low frustration threshold issues, and her frustration reactivity towards other dogs. We have worked hard through her issues and while those Big Feelings of hers have caused her humorous zooming, tunnel sucking and other "fun" naughty behaviors, there is no doubt that overexcitement stress has been a challenge for us. Molly "stresses up", but she still stresses. To finish our last big agility title together during an adaptation of the pandemic, "living our best pandemic lives"....that was cool. As with everything Molly-related, it took its time, we took many detours and ended up at our destination with big memories to last forever. My girl got to "go MAD!" at last, and it only took a global pandemic to get us there.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Covid Titles and the Wine and Weenies UKI Trial!

For better or for worse, "things are opening up" where I live, Covid-wise. My hospital is back to operating nearly at full steam elective procedure/surgery-wise. Zorro and I have had three in person agility classes now and it was absolutely wonderful to get back to it. My yard barely has room for a set of weave poles or two jumps at a time so I had to put agility on the mental shelf for a little while. Agility is my happy place, my stress relief - and so when work became more stressful than ever during the pandemic, I really missed having that outlet. Being able to focus my training and earn fun titles at home was a welcome replacement for our weekly agility lessons and I am so appreciative for the organizations that made at home titles a possibility.

We continued on with the AKC Trick Dog program, and earned Zorro's Trick Dog Advanced...

And I just got word that Zorro passed his Novice Parkour title!

We actually had to re-do one of our videos. Darn it, I thought I was good at following the rules! Our "Under" video did not pass. The dog has to go Under something at least shoulder height or lower. I did feel like we met the requirements there but I think we cut it too close. With Parkour, if the violation is "non safety" related, you can resubmit that one video for free. With our Under video resubmission, Zorro passed and earned his Novice Parkour title!

But speaking of agility, UKI Agility was rocking it by offering At Home trials! Every week you could enter in your choice of three different sized courses in many different classes, clear runs earning titling Qs. The smallest size offered is 30x30. I of course do not have even a 30x30 space so, UKI at Home was out for me. As time went along, UKI loosened the restrictions to allow competitors to do UKI At Home in places other than their own yard or building, as long as it was permitted by law. When our state opened to "yellow" phase, my agility trial buddy and I decided to get together and have our own little outdoor trial. We entered Speedstakes, and since we always get a grilled hot dog when we go to trials together, hot dogs would be on the menu. And of course, wine! The Wine and Weenies trial!

We did managed to pass our Speedstakes run. Not my best work, and definitely a different "feel". The course was tight at 30x30 with not much room for the dog to open up, especially a 20" dog but hey - it felt like heaven. And Zorro? That guy is just happy to do whatever makes me happy. Always. 

Monday, June 1, 2020

Molly's Grand Adventure, Goodbye to Everett, Tunnels, River swims and MORE!

I have been posting a lot about our online titles and training during the pandemic, but what we have mostly been doing is a lot of hiking. Saturday was one of the grandest adventures in a little while, and I brought Molly along for it! You see, our golden retriever friend, Cousin Everett passed away very suddenly from that sneaky cancer that happens in dogs. That, "they're fine and then suddenly they feel bad and the tests say the cancer is everywhere and you never even knew and now they're gone" kind of cancer. And so, I was feeling really raw and I had to bring Molly along for an adventure that would involve swimming. Because Everett taught Molly to swim.

Molly was afraid of the water until one day we were on a railroad tracks walk along the Susquehanna River. We threw Everett's ball into the River and Molly ran in after him and that was that. If her favorite cousin was going in, it must be fun, right? Molly never looked back and she was never afraid of swimming again.

And so, on a grand adventure geocaching near a different river, on a day when my mind was heavy with the loss of a golden retriever who helped shape my dog into who she is today...Molly had to be the one to come along. Zorro was our third wheel.

Our first stop was an abandoned railroad tunnel that I have been meaning to visit for literal years. Ooooooooh. I work near this spot, there is a geocache here, but it is not something I could tackle after work wearing scrubs and work clogs. And how true that decision turned out to be! I parked at the rail trail parking lot. It's about a .2 mile walk to a small creek. You might consider getting to the tunnel this way. There is chicken wire fencing off a nearby property and it goes through any access to the creek that would be a gentle slope downhill. Then the terrain starts to go sharply uphill. Go into the trailside weeds again and now there is no chicken wire blocking the creek/canal but it is a steep downhill fall into a soupy green mess of water that even I won't walk through (or, more importantly, won't let the dogs walk through and possibly drink). Continue uphill and now any hope of getting down to the tunnel from the northern side is gone, it is a straight 90 degree drop. I am a mountain goat but I'm not suicidal. 

I had already assessed this approach over a year ago. I thought, oh I'll wear Crocs and scale down into the "creek" and walk to the tunnel entrance. No. I should have considered the stagnant water would have deepened. This panoramic photo was taken in January 2019 while standing on top of the northern entrance to the tunnel. As you can see there is no going down the sides without climbing equipment. And the clearish water of January was nowhere to be found in almost-June.

Okay, so we will keep walking and find the southern tunnel entrance and walk through the tunnel. I don't really like tunnels, I'm a little weird about that especially when they get too deep and dark and I am by myself. But, I could at least "scout it out". The rail trail went uphill, crossed a road, leveled out and then there was a clearing. I explored. There was a muddy downhill. Steep but not impossible, and I could see the southern tunnel entrance. By now Molly is hot and completely over my shit. Going up a hill on a paved surface and going into the weeds and thorns multiple times. (Trying to find access for the other tunnel entrance) Unacceptable! It was an exciting downhill sprint thanks to the leashed Molly and I'm lucky I didn't fall. I definitely did a much-faster-than-I-was-comfortable-with skid downhill. I was wearing only Crocs because of all the walking in water I had anticipated. But there it was. The tunnel entrance. There was some swampy water yes, but there was a narrow muddy path that was easy enough to travel. And just then I realized. My keys were gone.

Unless I have my backpack, I always clip my keys to a carabiner on the leash loop. And they were gone. Where? In what section of weeds I bushwhacked through? What spot on the trail? Did they fall off when I untied a poop bag from the leash loop? When I pulled the leash because it was stuck on something? Lets just fast forward through about an hour of me searching the muddy hillside, and every off trail thorny bushwhack. Up and down the hot hillside, tearing myself to literal ribbons and trying to remain hopeful I would find my needle in a haystack. After a while I returned to the tunnel entrance and searched the downhill slope again for my keys. Could not find them. Molly was super hot and done by now and the railroad gorge was so nice and cool. What harm was there in exploring the tunnel and then searching for the keys a little more afterward?? After we all cool off? 

I never let Molly off leash anymore but with the high stone gorge walls, there was nowhere for her to take a naughty excursion to. She was overjoyed. She slopped around in the water and enjoyed snuffling everywhere and doing random leaps and zooms. I tried to leave Zorro loose too but he only instigated Molly into high speed chase. Molly is too big for Zorro to be running with, and Molly is too old to be able to handle that sort ripping aroundanymore. She actually fell on the ground and did a roll and so Zorro was put back on the leash again. We got to the tunnel entrance, and it was time to go in. Part of the ceiling had fallen down long ago in a huge pile of stone rubble that had to be climbed over to pass. There was ankle deep standing water through the whole thing. I needed my flashlight in the middle, but not for long. 

I mucked around, took a few pictures. I wish I had taken more and spent a little more time here. It would be fun to return without dogs and bring the SLR camera someday. I was feeling guilty for not sticking to the keys search and then something else happened. I stepped on a board with a nail. It went right through my croc and into my foot. I felt it as soon as I stepped down and quickly shifted weight to the opposite foot (a movement that my ankle still hurts from!) but the puncture happened. Now I had no keys and a puncture wound in my foot that is exposed to filthy water with trash soaking in it. Oh well, guess we were going to be stopping at an urgent care at some point today!

Back through the tunnel, back up the hill. I saw two people looking around, semi-lost. Heard them say tunnel. I explained this was how to get to the tunnel, we chatted about abandoned PA structures for a little bit. I mentioned I had lost my keys and now had to try to go find them, so we parted ways. I was walking back down the trail to go play in the thorns again when I heard "WE FOUND YOUR KEYS!!" I could have fallen on my knees and kissed their feet and sobbed. One of them fell on her butt on the downhill mud slide towards the tunnel, looked over and saw a set of keys laying on the ground. What luck! (For me!) I did remember squeezing and grabbing at the leashes while I was being yanked downhill and I must have engaged the clip open so they keys could fall onto the ground. I didn't remember hearing them fall but I was just trying to stay up on my two feet!
The adventure day was back on! Any sensible person would have gone home, bathed their dogs and showered and gone to the urgent care but I am a fool. Our next stop was a small park at the top of town with a few geocaches I have never found. They all seemed like too much of a hike for an after-work stroll (because, after an 8 hour work shift, I have dogs at home who would like to go potty and have their dinner. I try not to delay that.) First stop: a large-sized cache after a pleasant stroll through the woods. Next, through a field in the direct sun. Not cool. Found another geocache though with bad coordinates. Next was one that has been hidden for a "long" time, 3.5 terrain and it could have been more. Into the woods, into the shade, straight downhill towards the River again. My keys were in my POCKET and safe.

The dogs were hot again and they could see the River. We came down at a live railroad tunnel and the tracks came out from the tunnel and onto a railroad bridge and crossed the river. There were teenagers everywhere. On the railroad bridge, hanging out in the woods. All merrily enjoying a warm day. They were jumping off the bridge into the river, the stuff of nightmares! I let the dogs have a swim and Molly of course had to go swim out to the middle of the river with the teenagers, which surprised and then delighted them. Especially the ones still on the bridge laughing at their friends who were shocked to see what was clearly a brindle crocodile swimming towards them!

After the swim we headed upriver in the direction of the cache. And then we had to go back uphill, what a climb! Poor Molly! But she did it, with some help for me - why I love harnesses on the dogs! The spot where the geocache was hidden also had a group of teenagers hanging out on the lookout rock, so I decided to leave it for another day. The fun was certainly in the adventure! And I found a much less strenuous trail back to the car.

Our last stop was to make a doggie-toast to Everett with a game of fetch. I drove to the boat launch. It was very busy, but we found our own river shore spot and got to it. Balls in the water for your, Everett. Molly ran in fearless, just like you taught her to do. 💗

"If anybody wants to share a few words for Everett, please feel free to speak now"....

We even managed to steal some time on the dock. Zorro surprised me by jumping in with only some minor hesitation. Up until now he had been clinging to the side of the dock and screaming before jumping in, or running around and off of a dock. Cool! I have not been pushing him. There's no rush. Yes, I will love it if we can compete in dock diving, as many of his half siblings and one direct siblings have some very impressive dock skills. They also have experienced handlers. I am still learning my throws and dock skills. But one thing I am experienced with is to let the dog dictate how quickly their progress needs to go - that is what is most important. Confidence is everything with dock diving.

And our day came to a close with a milkshake for me, chewies for the dogs and a trip to the urgent care for myself. The amazing staff even let the dogs come inside because they were worried about the vehicle temperature. (I had the windows open and my sun screens on but having the dogs inside was a real relief and very "above and beyond" from the staff.)

What a day!!!!

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Perri Novice Parkour PKD-N!

Perri and I successfully "avenged" our Novice Parkour NQ! And I think now I have the hang of the Parkour association rules.

We did quite a bit of this title at home. You are required to do only three of the fifteen required behaviors "outside with naturally occurring obstacles". (Not placed for the purpose of the title.) We certainly did that with more than three but it was nice to be able to work on this at home. Creativity is the only limit - you start to look at everything and think "How could I use that for Parkour??" 

For Perri's title I started working on it when we drove out to our raw co-op pick up location at the beginning of the month. I saw the cool bench with the two wooden labradors en route and did our "10 Second Wait" on that. We did a nice walk at a park that was loaded with too many people. (And Ein wanted to come along for the ride but he got overwhelmed on our walk. That seems to happen with him sometimes with his aging/cognitive issues.) After our pick up we kept encountering lots of people out enjoying their day, so it was nice to be able to retreat to my quiet back yard and work on our title. What I am saying is, I like that you can do a whole lot of the Novice title at home. Especially with a dog who has environmental and dog reactivity issues, like Perri.

The rest of the title was done at a small local park with a nice walking loop. It is not terribly popular, though people definitely do go to it. I brought Molly along each time since it is smooth walking for her. You can hear her screeching with frustration in the background of some of the videos. <Smile>

This video is all of our behaviors except for "Creativity" and "Three Obstacle Sequence". The "dog getting off obstacle" and "5 second wait times" shortened for the sake of length. The dog getting onto and off of every obstacle is required, and the wait times on the obstacle are listed in the rules. 


Three Obstacle Sequence:

I do not do much training with Perri anymore, other than Nosework. It was a little strange to come back to her pace and remember to respect her time limits and confidence drops. But I also found that I enjoyed working with her, laughing with her and revisiting a goal that we worked on in the past together. We have both come far over the years. There were a few times that a set up did not work for Perri. I am able to recognize that so much faster than I used to. I am able to set up success for her and keep her feeling proud of herself. She has taught me well.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Zorro Quarantine COVID Parkour Title!

It has been four years since I have attempted any Parkour titling with my dogs. Perri and I failed Novice years ago due to my own inability to follow the rules, more on that later. International Dog Parkour Association released a limited edition Quarantine COVID title this year , with three available titling levels and I have been eyeing it up since then. Last week I decided to get to work with Zorro and earn that title!

I was rather nervous about breaking rules. Here's what I learned:
The dog does not have to be wearing a harness for ground level or low obstacles. But if you want to, or need to, use a leash it must NEVER be attached to the dog's collar.

Take the time to set up good video angles with both hands in clear view. The dog must be shown getting on and off of every obstacle. No cookies in your hands. Don't do anything that could appear as luring. I got in the habit of making my hands flat like target hands.

Overall Zorro and I had fun putting this title together. There were seven categories. You had to submit 15 behaviors from the seven categories, and at least one behavior from each category.
There was
"Four Paws On": Hard, Soft, Moves, Plastic, Wood (grooming tub grate, dog bed, toilet, wooden wall art.)
"Two Paws On": Hard, Soft, MetalPlasticWood (pot from the kitchen, coffee canister with plastic lid, wooden stool.)
"Back Up": We certainly strengthened his Back Up behavior! Your Back Up could be: Narrow, Tall (I don't honestly know what that means!), Over, Under or Through. I took videos for Over (the one I submitted - back up over an object, I chose a slip leash.), Under and Through. I got too anxious about not passing for some reason that I submitted the "safest" one. And poor Zorro worked hard the whole time to get the ideal video - and lots of treats! I was so pleased by "Under" especially having Perri lurking on top of her groom table supervising the whole thing but I kept fretting it wasn't enough steps, or I was not in the frame enough.



"Balance": Narrow​, Uneven, Wide, Wobbles, Soft​​ - We only did one from this category. Wide, on an antique firewood storage box handed down through Vince's family.

"Under": Solid, Moves, Long, Low, Raised - Again, only one. Run under a chair.

"Around": Short ,Wide, Two objects before returning, Long, Tight fit - we did a lot in this category and Zorro was pleased as ever to do so. I was strangely obsessed with his running around objects when he was a puppy and the work we did in our foundation paid off big time! We did a small piece of firewood for Short, our two wood buckets for "two objects", and a big potted plant for "Wide."

"Control", demonstration two different behaviors on one object. 2on vs 4on, Around vs 4on, Under vs 4on, Under vs Around, 2on vs Under (We did Around a Cooler vs Four Feet On the cooler.)

Here is the full video of our submission. I got the great news today that Zorro passed! I actually managed to follow all of the rules! Zorro is a good boy. Me? Room for improvement! This video is shortened a bit in many places. Dogs have to remain on obstacles for 5 seconds and be shown getting on and off, the dog has to go around the "around" objects twice. But for the sake of a shorter video, I clipped things down a little tighter.

Next venture: avenge Perri's Novice Parkour title! We are already hard at work.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Happy 2nd Birthday, Zorro!

Wow it's a record! A quick post to wish a Happy 2nd Birthday to Zorro. (yesterday)

I ordered a Birthday Goody Box from Chewy.com and as long time Chewy lovers, we were completely thrilled with the nice mix of quality goodies. The box came with an "It's My Birthday" bandana, a squeaky bone, a crinkly plush birthday cake, a filled hoof and two bags of Chewy exclusive treats. (Soft Bakes and freeze dried Salmon.) Shipping took a little longer than normal due to the pandemic, so I ordered earlier than necessary and received the Goody Box in plenty of time.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

COVID-19 Trick Dog Titles! Zorro TKI and Molly TKN

Something that has been bringing me a lot of joy lately was the reminder from AKC that Trick Dog titles can be done through video. A friend was offering evaluations so I got to work!

Zorro has his Novice title, we earned that on a beautiful trial day last fall at an outdoor trial when he was still a puppy. (I actually had never sent his paperwork in to AKC, we will see how much of a delay they tolerate!) And so, we got working on his Intermediate title. What was important to me right now was not just to earn a title, but to have some fun training some new skills and bonding with Zorro.

I certainly buffered the new tricks with skills that Zorro already has, those were:

Catch (a ball), 

Manipulate interactive canine game (Zorro eats his breakfast out of his puzzle ball every day and night.),

Go to your place (from 10 feet) - I did spend a little bit of time working at this with Zorro as the distance did not come as easily to him as I thought.

Heeling with Automatic Sit

Leg Weave is probably a grey area, we did spend some time on improving Zorro's understanding on this one. I originally taught it bent over with hand targets so we kept practicing so that I could actually be standing up and with less of a visible hand target lure for each weave. I started using a cue word of "weave" but I'm not sure that he needs it - my hand signals are pretty clear for him.

And our two Handlers Choice tricks were "Give Kisses" and "Shake". It was not too long ago that I taught Zorro to shake paw, and I did it simply because it is Vince's favorite trick. He was so thrilled when I finally taught that to Zorro.

New tricks that we worked on:

Head Down was not entirely new. I free shaped the beginnings of this a few months ago but we did spend some time sharpening his understanding of the criteria and getting the behavior on cue.

Roll Over was a trick on this list that I said, "I am not submitting for this title without teaching this trick!" We had a lot of fun working on this, Zorro had some very silly ideas during our shaping sessions. The funniest thing he did was shuffle backwards while in a sphinx down and I thought, "I will have to get that on cue!"

Shell Game was placing a treat under 1 of 3 cups and the dog has to target or knock over the cup that has the treat under it. We had not done this before. This was not too difficult for food motivated Zorro but we had to work through some t-rex demolition issues that reminded me very much of Molly!

Speaking of Molly, I submitted for her Novice Trick Dog title! We won't go any further, but we were out hiking and I thought, "I'll put together a video of 5 tricks right here and now!"
We did: Shake, Roll Over, Spin, Hand Target and Fetch It. Our video was interrupted by some target shooting in the distance. That made doing tricks very un-fun for Molly. I video'd her Fetch It clip at a park we stopped at on our way home from the hike.

Almost all of the dog training that I am doing right now is tricks training. Zorro and I are certainly working on some agility skills, but we are having a rainy spring and the yard takes about two days to dry out after heavy rains. It is disappointing but I think it also helps me pace our training. I am still currently working full time since I am a hospital (x-ray tech) worker, so training isn't so much out of boredom and excessive free time for me as it is a way to relax and unwind. Zorro and I are working on our Advanced Trick Dog title next. My "must have" trick on that list is Backwards Circles Around Handler. Fun!