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I have decided to take a break from agility for a while.  I pulled my entries from all trials this spring.  I have been sort of depressed for a while now but I finally acknowledged it after the trial this past weekend.  Agility used to be a fun escape from my "real" life of work and bills but it hasn't been all that fun to me lately.  I have been trying to fake enthusiasm for Arwen but she wasn't buying it.  I think I've just become a little burnt out and I also have some personal issues to work on before I can be a good teammate for Arwen again.  Right now, I don't even feel like practicing.  I'm sure it won't take long for Arwen to get extremely bored, so we'll have to do something for entertainment but we'll find something to do.  I don't know when I'll feel like coming back to agility, it will probably be sooner than later, but this feels so right for me now.  I ready for a change of pace for a while. 

BRDTC, Winchester, VA 3/7/09-3/8/09


We trialed this past weekend at a soccer complex in Winchester, VA.  It was a three day trial but I only trialed two days because it has been a tough venue for Arwen in the past.  It has been three years since we trialed there because when the last time we were there, Arwen couldn't focus and began barking at the judge and ring crew, which was a new behavior at that point.  We've come a long way since then and thought it would be safe to try again.  It was unseasonably warm all weekend and the building doesn't cool very well, so it was hot.  We don't do so well in heat but at least it was indoors, out of direct sunlight. 

Saturday Standard-WE ACTUALLY Q'D...our first standard Q since the end of November.  She is much slower than I would like and I did waaaay to much cheerleading...do yourself a favor and turn the volume down because it is annoying....the dreaded "clap" even reared its ugly head in this run.  But, all in all, I think it is a pretty good run except for our fumble after the table.

Saturday JWW- She is stressed/distracted right from the beginning here...you see I have to really overwork jump #3 to get her over it.  She stayed with me from that point on but was slow and couldn't do the weaves.  Normally, I just shake that shit off and we go on but you can see the disappointment oozing out of me.  I saw no point in trying to get her to redo the weaves, which just compounds the stress.  Stressy dog/run is not fun =(

Sunday Standard-This was our best run of the weekend.  Ignore my nasty assed rear cross after the chute...I made a plan and stuck with it even though it sucked ;o)  Otherwise, I think it was a nice run.  She was moving faster than on Saturday and I didn't sound like a cheerleader on crack.  She didn't get into the weave poles until pole three or four, but she got in them and completed them so that is success in my book. 

You'll notice that I had to repeat obstacle commands to her ad nauseam all weekend...if I don't keep saying it to her when she is distracted, she will go around obstacles.  Since we didn't Q in Standard and JWW wasn't going to run until after 4:00, I decided to ditch JWW and get my three hour drive home over with and spend the rest of the day with Rob. 

This crappy stress/distraction stuff just sucks the life right out of me...I've been finding it hard to be motivated to train this week.  The forty minute drive to train doesn't help matters.  So, we played around with six weaves and the table at home yesterday evening.  We are trialing at our favorite venue in Providence, North Carolina this weekend.  This is where we finished up 2008 with 5 out of 6 Q's and some of our fastest times ever.  The weather is cooling down again for the weekend, which Arwen loves, so I am hoping to have my happy girl back this weekend!

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CAKC Charlottesville, VA 2/28/09-3/1/09

We had a fun two days of agility in Charlottesville, VA at the Virginia Polo Center this past weekend.  No video from the weekend because Sherry and I ran back to back every run.  We managed to Q in jumpers both days with nice runs.  I forgot to write down the yardage for yesterday's jww course, so I don't know what our YPS was but I think it has to be amongst our fastest to date.  The only issue that kept us from Q'ing in standard both days were weave poles.  She blew right past them on Saturday and I actually stopped and called her back to do them.  This is the total opposite of my mindset...I believe that the only way we got over our weave stress issues in the past was to just run on if she didn't do them.  It has been over two years since I've asked her to redo weaves at a trial.  But something in how she was running and the manner in which she blew past them caused me to as her for a retry.  She got in them and completed them beautifully.  Everything else about the run was awesome, she was fast, happy and responsive.  Then she did her weaves in JWW with no problem.  Sunday's standard course was the same story...fast, happy but no weaves, so once again I called her back to retry and she got them no problem.  At that point, I was really worrying that our old weave issues were cropping back up but I really think that she just needs more help from me.  After thinking about the runs, I believe that I have been thinking that they are easy weave entries and no reason why she can't get in them without much help from me.  But, when I really "worked" her poles in JWW both days, she had no problems.  Arwen still needs to me hang back at the weaves, catch her attention and give her two or three weave commands so that she can focus enough to do the weaves.  Over the past year or so, she didnt need that from me quite as much, so I think I've just gotten out of the habit.  Also, we concentrated on so many other issues, the weaves haven't gotten the special attention that they used to.  The only other issue from the weekend was her table performance on Saturday.  It was a sit on the table but she kept laying down.  The same thing happened at our last trial.  We have been playing around with an automatic down on the table, but for every down, I also ask for a sit, so she is getting just as rewarded for sits as she is for downs.  So, I definately need to work on her understanding of what I am asking for on the table.  That may be the only thing we get to work on this week, before our next trial this weekend, because of all the snow we got overnight.  But that's fine by me...I'm looking forward to just playing in the snow with them this afternoon!

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Tug It!...it was fun while it lasted


Our Tug It! came in the mail last Saturday while we were all at my mom and dad's house frolicking in the sun.  So, Sunday evening I loaded the tug it up with potted meat and showed it to Arwen.  No wait, I actually didn't have to show it to her, she was on me like stink from the moment she saw the potted meat can.  She absolutely loved it and began tugging on it immediately.  It took some real effort to get her to drop it but I ended the session after just a couple of minutes and put it away, much to Arwen's dismay.  Same scenario on Monday evening but I used hot dogs instead of the potted meat.  I didn't get it back out until yesterday when we went to do some agility with kellie2</lj>.  Before we had even played ten minutes, I noticed that our Tug It! was developing a large hole.  By the time we finished, it had two enormous holes, one on both sides.  Now I realize that this thing wasn't meant to last forever, that is made out of mesh and that Arwen has a strong bite but come on...three measly training sessions is all I got out of it.  I didn't even have the opportunity to start reducing the food to make the transition to a "real" tug toy.  I would say that she tugged on it less than fifteen minutes total since I got it last weekend.  Sherry has a sewing machine so I asked her to go ahead and cut off the damaged portion at the end and restitch it.  The actual pocket portion of the Tug It! started out eight inches long and it is now four inches long.  At least I'll get a few more uses out of it before it is completely destroyed.  I emailed the company that makes it but haven't heard back from them yet.  I went ahead and repaired it because I knew I would never go to the trouble of shipping it back to them, even if they said they would replace it.  I am very interested to see what their response to my email will be. 

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Tugging & Transitions

I have tried to teach Arwen to tug on several different occasions.  I admit they were half hearted attempts that I gave up on rather quickly.  She likes to bring her stuffed babies to me for tugging, so I know she enjoys it, I've just never been able to build on it to the point where she will tug outside of the house.  She will tug on a food stuffed toy almost anywhere but she stops very quickly so that I will open the toy and give her food out of it.  I've gone back and forth in my mind about whether or not it is even that important and decided that food works well enough so we would just stick with it and forget about tugging.  Susan Garrett's blog post on Monday was about effective transitions ( susangarrett.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/effective-transitions/) which was an AHA! moment for me.  I think her post gives the most convincing reason to use tugging as a reward/break/transition that I've ever heard and really makes a lot of sense to me. 

"If you train with food only, this doesn’t mean that you areoff the hook” either. If you have somehow lost your dog’s drive to tug (they all have it at one point), you should still be breaking up your sessions with play but you may need to run back and forth to create the same level of excitement that the rest of us can generate with just tugging. This is more work for the ‘food-only’ trainer, so it sometimes times gets skipped and the dogs that should be having the shortest training sessions (lower drive dogs), often get the longest! I firmly believe this is a major contributing factor to the reason that most dogs that are trained exclusively with food are less driven in competition than dogs that are toy motivated."

I can totally see that this is a problem in my training.  This is probably ancient news to the rest of the dog training world, but her explanation is a new concept to me.  I always thought that food was just as good as tugging but now I think about the time I spend rewarding versus time spent training and our transition/break time is minimal, which leads to training too long.  I would love for Arwen to want to play and interact with me and see me as more than her treat dispenser.  So, I ordered the advanced Tug It! (www.nosetouch.com/tug_it.htm) this morning and we are going to give it a try.  I like the fact that you don't have to stop and open the toy to give treats and I think their method of moving on to a "real" tug sounds like a good one; they recommend wrapping a treat, such as a hotdog, in some craft store batting before putting it into the Tug It to make it feel more like a traditional tug toy.  So, well see how it goes.  I'm going to try to really build value for the toy and for tugging this time around and not rush the process. 

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SCCTC Salem, VA 2/13/09 - 2/15/09

So, we didn't have a very good weekend. I had a headache almost every day last week and just didn't feel "right" going into the weekend. I was physically fine but way off mentally. I still don't know why and because of our less than stellar weekend, I still don't feel good mentally. We ran on Max 200 matting for the first time and although visible slipping wasn't that noticable, Arwen was slower than normal and I think the venue was difficult for her.

Friday Standard:
This run was pretty good...we nq'd right off the bat because I should have layered the double to get her on the A-frame instead of the off course triple. We also spent too much time on the table because our judge, Judy Smotrel, was very particular about the down position. I didn't run full out like I like to and Arwen followed my lead.

Friday JWW:
This was another OK run. Arwen didn't do the weaves, which may have been partly my fault. I think I could have hung back a little more at the poles but she really just looks distracted so I don't know if it would have made a difference. Again, she is slow and I am a mile ahead of her.

Saturday Standard:
This was a pretty good run which I thought was going to be a Q but we were over time by 1.99 seconds. We spent way too much time at the table. It was a sit on the table and Arwen kept going into a down. I think she was distracted (notice she gets on the table with her back to me because she is looking at that side of the arena) but I also think the stupid hand signal I am giving her for "wait" is identical to my down hand signal....geez, what a schmuck :o(

Saturday JWW:
Another weave issue here...I think I should have hung back a little to help her get her entry but I think her stress/distraction was the bigger factor here.  I kept telling her to go, go, go, thinking she would get in the poles but it sent her out to the triple which caused a crash.  Then she misses the last tunnel but that is because I didn't support it. 

Sunday Standard:
This run was my breaking point.  I was very upset with myself after this run because I became frustrated with her on course, which I HATE to do.  But her behavior on course was taking us waaaaay back to training and trial behavior that I don't want to revisit.  First of all, she was very hesitant on the dogwalk, then she refuses the A-frame...then when I find myself at a dead standstill while she is on the teeter and she refuses the tunnel after the panel jump, I decide to end the run. 

I couldn't bring myself to watch the video then but I thought maybe she was trying to tell me that she couldn't do this today so I decided to scratch her from JWW.  I also had her checked out by Beverly, the massage therapist, and she found that Arwen had pain in her right shoulder and right rear.  So, I don't know if she was pain and just couldn't run normally or if it is a matter of stress and distraction.  I am actually very worried about her dogwalk behavior lately.  She doesn't seem to be getting her feet under her correctly as she gets on the dogwalk so she looks like she is just trying to hold on coming up the up ramp much of the time.  We've even noticed it in practice but haven't given it much thought because we thought maybe she just didn't get on at a good angle or something.  Now, I don't know...I've been noticing it more and more in trial.  Maybe she has been trying to tell me that something hurts for a while now and I've just not noticed it.  I really hope she isnt developing dogwalk fear now...I just don't think I have the mental energy to overcome it.

And btw, I don't think I will trial on matting again.

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PMS sucks

There are several days every month that I shouldn't do any dog training.  Today was one of those days.  Luckily, we didn't do much, just some Susan Salo jump work; the set point exercise and the bend work exercises.  It was about as exciting as watching paint dry or golf on TV....just plain boring.  I just didn't have the the energy to get Arwen jazzed and the exercises aren't exciting to begin with.  I couldn't even muster the energy to get out the camcorder, which turns out to be ok because it would have been a real snoozefest.  Oh well, she did fine and there was no harm done...just not how I like our training sessions to go.  We're going to my mom and dad's this weekend where they get to do nothing but run, run and run some more.  They'll be in heaven and we'll resume training next week when I'm not hormonal.

BRAC Fletcher, NC 1/23/09-1/25/09

Arwen is officially the JWW queen!  On the flip side, we can't seen to beg, borrow or steal a standard leg :o(  It is actually kind of funny because we have been working to improve our speed in JWW, so instead of focusing on qualifing, I have been focused on just running and giving her information quickly so that she is faster and jumping more confidently, which has translated to Q's.  We qualified in all three JWW runs this past weekend, bringing our running total to 9 JWW Q's in a row!  We are 0 for 6 in standard our last two trials but have had several that were close. 

Our first run on Friday was JWW.  It was a fun course and Arwen managed to run 4.94 yps, which is now our fastest JWW time ever!  She ran this course one hundredths of a second faster than her previous fastest time :o)  5 yps is so close I can taste it!

I let Friday's standard course by Scott Chamberlain really shake my confidence.  There were a couple of challeges that I wasn't sure how to handle and with only an eight minute walk through, I didnt feel prepared to run the course and it shows almost immediately.  Our run falls apart after the aframe.  I was a mess mentally going into this run and I was really frustrated with myself after the run.  Arwen did her best with what I gave her and she left the ring happy, so I had to let my frustration go and concentrate on not losing control of my mental game the rest of the weekend.

I didn't let Scott Chamberlain get me again on Saturday!  His JWW course was a lot of fun and I knew we had all the tools to be successful.  We were not as fast as I would have liked, but still much faster than just two months ago.  I am very happy with this run.

Saturday's standard course was another really nice, fun course.  Unfortunately, I was babysitting the weaves instead of getting into my front cross position, which caused a hard call off.  I think the call off must have stressed Arwen a bit because three obstacles later, we got a refusal at the table.  You will see her even come up to one of the legal, correct sides of the table, pause like she is going to jump up and then she turns her attention to the next ring and she drifts to the back side of the table.  We havent had a refusal at the table since the novice class, I think.  But again, she leaves happy and all in all, it was a good run, so I consider it a success!

We started Sunday back in standard again and it was another awesome course.  We were smokin it and I thought we had it in the bag....until Arwen went around the final jump....what a HEARTBREAKER!!!  I told her to go right before the next to last jump and the two jumps were in a straight line so I just assumed she would follow my forward motion and take the last jump.  You can hear me squeal as she goes around the last jump and I proceed to collapse into the fence in disbelief :o)   You can hear Sherry laughing at me once she realizes I collapsed on purpose, not because I broke my ankle!  Arwen just wonders what in the hell I'm doing :o)  Luckily, I'm a screamer/squealer in practice and that kind of behavior from me isnt unusual for Arwen so I don't think it was upsetting to her.  Another competitor came by later and told me that several people felt that the last jump blended in with the arena fencing and that maybe she didnt even realize there was a jump there.  I don't know...she doesnt look like she realizes there was a jump there to me and from across the arena, you couldnt tell the jump was there, it did just blended into the background.  Oh well, this run was just another lesson for me to work every obstacle...even the last jump.

I was feeling really tired before Sunday's JWW run and I think Arwen was a little pooped mentally.  She got bitchy with another dog a few minutes before our run, so I had to do calm warm up exercises instead of hyping her up.  So, she starts out slower than I would like but picks up the pace about half way into the run.  I also didnt push myself like I like to do but I was feeling zonked.  But, it ended up being a very nice run and I am very happy with my handling decisions. 

We were so close to two more double Q's this weekend but I guess they will just have to wait :o)  I am VERY pleased with Arwen's jumping...it is amazing how much improved she looks with just two weeks worth of Susan Salo jump work.  We are going to continue to use her methods, as we've barely even touched the surface.  Our next trial is in three weeks and is a local trial at the Salem Civic Center.  This will be our first experience running on mats, so we've signed up for the Thursday night match to get our bearings on the mats.  I made a personal goal at the beginning of the year to get a QQ at ever trial this year...we are two QQ's behind now which means we have to have a perfect weekend in Salem!  I think we are up for it!!!

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Its an Immodium kind of day

Ruger was up at least five times last night with diarrhea, on what was our coldest night in years, I think.  He has a sensitive stomach and gets sick fairly often, without much cause.  He had beef heart and turkey necks to eat yesterday, along with a little bit of a cheese stick....all very normal food for him.  So, since he had to go like four times when we went out this morning, I decided to stay home with him so that he isn't forced to poop in the basement, which isn't pleasant for anyone. 

I set out some Susan Salo jump grids for Arwen yesterday afternoon, as well as propping my contact board up on the table for some 2o/2o work.  She did awesome on the jump grids and the 2o/2o work was going swimmingly until she tried to jump up on the plank from the side...she slipped off and really scratched and bruised her inner thigh and leg...sigh.  She didn't mind and got right back on but I hate when stuff like that happens.  So, I've been dosing her with Arnica and Apis every few hours since and she is doctoring herself a lot also. 

Set point exercise

I set up the Susan Salo set point exercise yesterday evening.  I am very pleased with Arwen's form in this exercise.  Sherry pointed out that I probably should put the target plate a little further away. Oh, and I was supposed to move the height back down after 24" but I forgot.