Sunday, July 31, 2011

"once in a lifetime dog"

I was going to post on the results of our Maple Ridge tournament and another new flyball drill, but I couldn't bring myself to do it this week. I'm too sad about the sudden death of a dog on my flyball team, Riker. Riker was Jeff's once in a lifetime dog and I've been meaning to post about this topic for awhile...

I don't even know if I believe in a “once in a lifetime” dog. I'm not the type to treat my dogs like humans. But since Indigo came into my life and every day I have with her, I can relate more and more to the idea of a dog soul mate. I know that of the 5 dogs I've had in my life, there is one that no other dog can compare to. Despite my intentions to see all my dogs equally, she tends to be held above the others. She is the dog that stole my heart.

I know when I lose her some day, there will be other dogs in my life and I hope that I don't compare them all to Indigo. What makes her my "heart dog"? She just gets it. She has been easy from the day we picked her up from the airport, learning everything we taught her with ease and trying to do the right thing. She never chewed anything she wasn't supposed to, tried to run away, or caused any trouble at all as a pup.

As an adult dog, she is an amazing dog around the house. She wants to cuddle, but isn't needy. She wants to play, but knows when it's time to settle down. When I got her I was looking for a dog that would excel in any performance event that I wanted to try and she has performed way beyond my expectation. She is one of the fastest, most solid flyball dogs that I know. She shows great potential in agility and is only limited by the amount of time we have to train her.

We formed a close bond when I took her with me to Massachusetts for a year. She was my companion for that year and I felt as if I was there with a close friend. We explored together and made friends together. I don't know if I would have made it without her.

When I'm stressed or upset, the first thing I do is put Indigo on a leash and go for a long walk. She is a calming force in my life and I am beyond blessed to have her.

I can only hope that I'll have other dogs like her in the future, but I have a feeling I won't. I still don't know for sure if I believe in a "heart dog", but I do know that she came to my life at the right time and she's my best friend in a fur coat.

Knowing the bond I have with her and the bond that Jeff had with Riker, I can't imagine what he is going through. It's a reminder to appreciate everyday I have with my girl.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

a new flyball dril

I'm always looking for new ideas for ways to improve box turns, speed, passing, drive etc. I have a list of drills that I use during practice. I try to cycle through them, repeating the ones that work really well and putting aside the ones that don't seem to help.

Every dog either needs to improve speed to the box or back. I like to time both and see which needs improvement. This drill I tried this week is especially for dogs that need to work on speed toward the box.

We put the box in the run back area, just slightly to the side of the mats. We did regular restrained recalls over jumps, but the handler ran full speed past the box. The box is supposed to serve as a visual to convince the dog that they can drive harder toward the box. It seemed to work really well. Perhaps I'll try putting the box in the lane the next time and have the dog get the ball and have a 2nd person ready to run back.

I'll try to get video next time.

conditioning in the city

We live in the city and have a 6000 square foot lot, which is pretty big for the city, but not nearly big enough to exercise 3 very active dogs. Luckily less than 1 mile away is a school yard that allows dogs when school is over/out for the year. If I'm home, I would ideally take the dogs to Marymoor dog park everyday. It's massive and beautiful and there is even a river for swimming. The only downside is that it's at least a 30 minute drive across the traffic laden 520 bridge. So...instead I often walk (ideal) or drive them to the schoolyard.

I spend the first 20 minutes walking laps around the field while they run around. They all enjoy running in no particular direction just for the fun of it. It's awesome to watch. During that I work on recalls. After this, I usually throw the chuck-it and work on "stay", pretty much until they clearly can't go anymore. To cool them down, I walk around a bit more until they aren't panting heavily.

We do this routine everyday, other than the day before a tournament and the day after. I think it makes a huge difference in my dogs performance and prevention of injuries.

I know it's hard to get them out everyday for many people, but it's so important if you have an active sport dog. I believe that it's really not fair to ask your dog to run the equivalent of a marathon with no physical training.

You can even teach your dogs to run on a treadmill while you watch TV!

Here are some clips of a typical exercise session

Saturday, July 16, 2011

upcoming plans & results

Last weekend we went to a flyball tournament in Salem, OR. They offered Friday night racing, which is rare for this region. It was perfect timing to get some practice for Pax and see what kind of times we could get for Indigo & Epic. They all did really well.

Pax spit his ball most of the time because I was more focused on getting a good time, then making sure he held his ball. He ran a best time of 3.70. I don't think he will be a 3.5 whippet, but I'm quite pleased with this. He is extremely focused and has room to speed up. I'm cursed with ball spitters...Indigo also spit her ball a few times, unfortunately when she ran a 3.70. I know she has a 3.6 in her! Epic has been running consistently in the low 3.8s, and ran one 3.80. His biggest area that needs work is his box turn. It's pretty could, but could be faster.

Indigo & Epic were on the same open team. We were seeded significantly faster than all the other open teams and won easily.

Upcoming Events

7/23-24 Flyball Tournament - Maple Ridge
7/13-14 UFLI Flyball Tournament - Vancouver Island
9/17-18 NAFA tournament - Longview, WA
9/24-25 UFLI tournament - Gridley, CA

I'm not sure when our next agility will be. We went to a NADAC trial for weavers & touchngo, but Indigo wasn't ready. She needs work on weaves on contacts. Hopefully her and Ben will be ready later this summer or fall. We are also thinking about doing some foundation work with Pax, so that Ben has two dogs to run in agility!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pax's Friday Night Racing Debut is This Week

We are very excited for Pax to get some practice in a tournament setting this weekend. He will be running in Friday night racing along with Indigo and Goose (who is Goose? that is Epics new name).

Negative Training in Flyball

Is is ever okay to use punishment for training? I'm not sure. I've definitely used it when I didn't want to take the time to use positive methods to teach Indigo to stop lunging at cars. She stopped quickly and hasn't considered chasing them again since.

We are still working on training a terrier in flyball with chasing issues. Desensitizing isn't working well or fast enough. We've been trying it for 2 years. Just when we think we have some progress, we have a set back and it feels like we are where we started. It seems like we could work under his threshold for several more years and maybe make some progress.

One thing we haven't tried is negative punishment: water gun, "come to jesus talks", e collar/vibration collar etc. We did try using a pool noodle and he just attacked it.

I am very hesitant to try this type of training because I know it can break the dog.

To be proactive with our new set of green dogs, I'm working on head to head training for everything. There is ALWAYS another dog working in the other lane. It obviously doesn't work to deal with all that later.