Monday, March 26, 2012

Maybe it's all clicking?

Or maybe my promise to my dogs has really paid off, for Psyche, at least?

Psyche (and Simi) and I piled into Mom's car (thanks to Momma for coming with us and supplying her car) for another fun match, three hours away. Simi was just tagging along, of course, but Psyche was entered to run Standard, Steeplechase and Jumpers. All at masters levels, since that's all they offered. This was also an exciting weekend because I'd ordered Psyche a whole case of her favourite toy, which is a latex chicken ball thing. Sadly, when we got there, the company hadn't been making those anymore, so we got these instead:

But the good news is that she loves these just as much as the chickens, so we're all good. I did put one into a holee roller, which is what her old toy was, but she didn't like that as much as just one on it's own, so for out runs we did just the ball, and she really loved it. Before each run she chased the ball, played hardcore, offered tricks and all around just really focused on me, even when we walked into the ring, through people, past dogs and up to our start line. She was just so happy.

Her standard run was a real surprise. We did a start line and she broke it, so I took her back and set her back up and there was a little bit of stress, but not much. I was expecting so much more stress, but I think even the little amount I got was due to me being stressed out about her startlines. That's usually where our run falls apart so I think she was picking up on me a little. But on Saturday there was very little stress on her start line. A little bit of change in her body, but it's hard to tell if that was a "I'm getting ready to run" change or a starting to stress change. Usually we get a little looking back, sniffing, etc., but none of that this time. She kept her head looking at me, no dropping her nose down to sniff, none of that. Just a slight tail drop and head lower. She did break her start line just as I was getting ready to release, but I didn't worry about it too much this time around. From there we had a tunnel under and a-frame that she was supposed to go tunnel, around then flip out to the right onto the a-frame, she didn't get it the first time around, but after our initial run, I went back and tried it, and she nailed it the first try. It was my fault, because I wasn't where I needed to be to signal our get out. Her contacts were really nice though -- I think she only blew one all weekend! And she did her table, then her weaves (each time) and stuck with me and never dropped her nose. Overall she was so happy. I could tell, running her, that she was HAPPY and that's such a huge thing for us.

Steeplechase was great -- her weaves were amazing. A little confusion with which tunnel mouth, but again, my fault. So pleased with her.

Jumpers was a hot mess, but it was because she was going faster than I expected and so there were issues in my handling, but not her problems. It was a good, fun course, and she loved it and so did it.

This weekend really felt like a lot of things just clicked into place. She was really happy and it was clear. And the best thing, besides her being so happy, was when people commented on how much happier she looked. I'm glad it wasn't all in my head. We've got another fun match in the same spot on April 28th and if things keep going well, we may enter a trial in June with just one run each day. We shall see.

Oh, and if you're interested, here's her video:

A terrific birthday present to me... my dog finally happy doing agility out and about, when I know she loves it so much at home/training.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Obedience Adventure

Simi started her obedience class ... hmm, 4 weeks ago, I believe? I haven't written about it yet because it's really been nothing special. She's been a puppy with a short attention span in a room full of other puppies also with short attention spans. So really, nothing to write home about.

She's been rather stressed out in classes, even. She just prefers to sit and watch the class and take in what everyone is doing. She has had a little bark fit, one night, at the Shar-pei puppy who was staring her down as well as the Bernese Mountain Dog that was trying to come in on her space. Both of these were the same night, and it was the week before last. Last week she had no issues with any of the dogs and was doing a lot better with looking back at me.

In the slow spots of the class I've been allowing Simi to watch the other dogs, but I've only been rewarding for looking back at me and lots of it, at that! She did really well with this last week.

Eye contact has been fun with her. She does really well with it, but she's still kind of stressed out so I wasn't getting long periods of it. Last week at class though, she was doing really well. Even going so far as to make eye contact with me through the mirror, SEVERAL times. We were in the spot beside the floor length mirror and don't get me wrong, Simi has seen her reflection before, but she thought it was a lot of fun to look into the mirror, find my eyes through the mirror and maintain eye contact that way for as long as I've ever seen her do it. She did this several times throughout the night. It was tricky; I didn't know if I should be rewarding that or not, and I had to stop myself from busting out laughing several times. She's too smart sometimes.

We also started perch work in class and she did pretty well with that, but at one point was laying down with her from paws on the stool. *rolls eyes* We need to do lots more shaping sessions.

Our trainer would like to see me enter her in competitive obedience someday, so that's a sort-of goal for us. Even though I don't think it would be very fun. And agility will always be our main sport.

And just to make this thread worth reading, here's my big girl:

Friday, March 9, 2012

A promise to my dogs.

My promise to my dogs for the next however-long-it-takes is to let them be who they are, love what they love, and enjoy life how they choose.

This has all stemmed from Psyche's trial issues. She's a soft dog. She always will be. She may never be a hardcore dog who gets so amped up she's stupid and that's not a bad thing, because I love Psyche how she is. For the first while I had her I tried so desperately to get her to like toys. More specific, tug toys. I bought anything I could that I thought she might like, made new ones, tried combining things, and never gave up. But really, it was there in plain sight. Psyche liked toys. She liked balls. And sticks. It wasn't hard. She'd do anything for a stick and just as much for a tennis ball. Added to that select few was a rubber chicken ball thing. Even when I realized her love for the chicken ball thing, I still wanted her to tug, so I built a tug (chicken + holee roller + braided fleece tug = Chicken in a Cage) and don't get me wrong, she likes it a lot, but more often than not, she wants me to throw it, not drop it for her to tug with... And that's okay.

It has taken me way too long to figure this out. Way too long. Zoey will never be a toy dog. Psyche doesn't love to tug. The verdict is still out on Crash. Don't get me wrong, I'm still going to try tugs with my dogs, but if that's not what they love, that doesn't have to be their training toy.

And so I've decided that this summer, if Psyche wants to chase a ball instead of tug, we'll do that. How can I expect her to love the sport like I know she does if her reward is only her second favorite thing? So if we use a chicken ball instead of the caged chicken, so be it. It won't make or break our agility career if she tugs or doesn't. And heck, at this point, maybe I've even been holding her agility career back by insisting she tug?

So with Crash, as training starts and goes on, if he likes balls, okay. If he likes treats, okay. If he likes verbal praise, okay. And the same goes to Simi (though I think it's pretty clear there that that brat likes tugs!). I can't make my dogs like things if they don't. And it's not fair to try, just because I've fallen under the illusion that you have to like tugs to be a good agility competitor.

And ultimately, this decision will stand if it comes to agility. If I truly begin to feel that Psyche doesn't enjoy the sport, or she tells me so, we'll stop. Because my dogs are my loved ones and I want nothing more than for them to be happy.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Crash meets agility?

Crash has done a very small amount of agility. Like, very small amount. We did a little work with offering a jump and then some one jump work at 4 inches back when I first got him (it's been since at least June since we've done that) and I took him out today thinking I could do some jump grids with him and he just wasn't ready for that. I think his brain was rusty, maybe.

So I went back to offering one jump, then some lead outs with that one jump and he started to get it. We need a lot of work yet, because everytime I verbally praised him with more than a "yes!" (so what I often say is "good boy" or "nice man!") he was getting really wound and nipping at me. So we need to work on that.

Circle work went well. He was really responsive and only nipped me a couple of times (only on the right side, so clearly I need to work the right side more).

At least I know now what I need to work on. He's gonna get a session or two a day for the next little while. He's entered in a fun match (haha!) on the 24th of this month, so ideally I'd like him to be able to handle doing some start lines and maybe a short jump tunnel sequence.

We shall see.

No video today. I'll try for tomorrow.