Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Dog Centered Weekend

Last weekend we spent most of the day Saturday in Auburn at the Cascade Coursing Club hosted CAT (coursing ability test). I wanted to see how the border collies would do and although I was hesitant to run course Pax on the type of lure they use (continuous loop), I entered him too since he was there. The border collies both did well. They stayed with the lure the whole time and were fast until the end when they got tired. We didn't stay long enough to see the results, but we guessed that Pax won...which wasn't really fair because the test is supposed to be for non-sighthounds. We have to enter the border collies two more times to get the CAT title on them.

I enjoy this sport because it's really great conditioning for the dogs and requires no training. I did notice all my dogs slow down at the end, which means they need endurance work! We do something with them 6 days a week, but we need a new conditioning plan for them.

Here is what we do now:
Monday - chuck-it + free running at the field 45 minutes
Tuesday- day off
Wednesday- dog park free running 45 minutes + agility for Pax & Indigo
Thursday - dog park free running 30 minutes 
Friday - chuck-it + free running at the field 45 minutes
Saturday - usually dog park 1 hr
Sunday - herding for Goose and flyball for Indigo or Goose and Pax

We need to add more sessions and keep running them longer. We also need to add swimming and free running on the trails following the mountain bike. Some long hikes wouldn't hurt either. I usually run at the gym on the treadmill, but could start taking them with me and run outside.  I also need to get balance balls and start working on strengthening exercises. We have a swim appointment for the three of them on Thursday, so we are off to a good start on their new exercise plan!


Last weekend was especially dog activity filled! On Sunday morning I went herding with Goose and had a really good session. His natural talent is amazing. Diane surprised us with some light trial sheep to increase the challenge for us. Goose and I went in to work them and they all scattered and it was a huge mess. I was surprised since he always does so well. These sheep were so much harder! This made me realize that I need to work on his lie down and give him more instructions to keep a good enough distance from the sheep so they stay calm. After we worked a bit on widening his outrun and an immediate lie down (rather than 3 seconds later), we had those sheep totally under control. It was a very rewarding lesson.


The way it's been lately is that on Sunday, I rush home, grab my flyball stuff and run out to get to flyball practice in time. Last weekend was no different...I dropped Goose of and grabbed Pax and Indigo. Indigo doesn't really need practice anymore, but I do bring her to help with training and for lineup practice. Pax is getting so much better, although I need to start having other people run him because I need to see how his box turn and striding look. The work I've been doing with him has payed off. His times have come down a bit at practice. We was running all 3.7s and 3.6s at practice. We will see if that holds up at a tournament with no gutters.

Pax's passing and speed to the box Improved!

Speaking of gutters. I am proud to say that we finally fixed my most challenging gutter problem!

Georgias striding has been off for awhile, but everytime I put in the standard gutters that help most dogs, she jumps them! She needs to take three strides after hitting the box before jump 5 and to not take off so early for the box. Mission accomplished with lots of tweaking.

Georgias striding solution

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Spring Fever

We have been working on planning Spring events for the dogs. Here's what we've got so far..some of the dates are tentative

Feb 18th AKC coursing ability test in Auburn, WA
March 4th AFSA lure coursing Auburn, WA
March 24-25th NAFA tournament BC
April 7-8th UFLI Victoria, BC
April 28-29th UFLI Amana, IA
May 5-6th NAFA tournament Greenfield,MA
May 19-20th NAFA Seekonk, MA
June 22-23rd NAFA Coconut Classic  PA
July 7-8th Starkville, NY ASFA lure coursing
August 11th-12th UFLI Richmond ON
August 18th-19th Rocket Relay ON
 Oct 12-14th Indianapolis, IN CanAm

Ben is taking a break from agility until he finds a new trainer in Massachusetts and will probably just focus on Indigo and less on Pax. We are mostly doing flyball and lure coursing this year.

 We will be driving across the country in April. We will drop our daughter Finley in Reno with her grandparents and then Ben and I and our three dogs will drive across the country. We plan to stop at one flyball tournament that is on the way in Iowa. It's always fun to play flyball in a new place. Indigo and Goose will run on pickup teams.

 I've been going sheep herding a lot lately with Goose and feeling bad that I haven't taken him more. He is so good at it and it's been lots of fun. Our instructor, Diane from Deltabluez Stockdogs thinks that we have the potential to enter a novice trial. If we get sheep someday I'd like to be more serious with sheep herding, but now it seems very unachievable. Either way, Goose and I have fun on Sunday mornings going out to the farm together.  It's a pretty drive and I always treat myself to coffee and a scone from Caffe Ladro, my favorite coffee. They give out biscuits so Goose doesn't mind making the stop.

Sometimes I'll take Indigo for the ride. She knows the farm and has no interest in working the sheep. She is a true performance bred border collie. She runs out of the car, past the gate that leads to the fields, finds a stick and brings it to me to throw and crouches, waiting for it. This usually involves the pond and me throwing the stick into the pond. I did bring Pax once, but quickly realized that whippets and small farm animals aren't the best combination. Lets just say I can tell he would be a good hunter!

 We finished our recallers class and I actually really enjoyed it and found it to be extremely valuable. I plan to continue to use lots of Susan Garretts games and may even take the her online puppy class. I'll keep taking her courses, but I draw the line at a certain amount of money. I certainly wouldn't pay $5000 for any training class.

This weekend we are going to attempt to go to the AKC CAT with the three dogs...even though it's kind of a joke for Pax to do this type of lure coursing. I really want to do it with the border collies and I can't just leave him at home! On Sunday we will hopefully go herding and to flyball practice.

Speaking of flyball, I have a new favorite drill! It's something I've done a lot with Pax, but I need to do it more.... I'm going to try to do it at every practice until the next tournament in March. The things he needs work on are passing into another dog, speed TO the box, tighter, more controlled turn. This drill accomplishes everything I need to work on. Here is a video of us working on it last week at practice  .  The first dog does a full run and then I have someone release Pax from where I would normally pass him, but I am standing up at the box and calling him. Because I am calling him, he is focusing less on the pass and is running faster to me/the box. As he hits the box and run into the middle of the lane and pull him off quickly, not giving him an opportunity to go wide. I can really see the difference in this video. After March, I plan to run him in singles a few times but not on a team until he gets used to his new teammates and figures out his striding.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

ball obsession - my challenge

I enjoy taking dogs for training. I find that I have the most success when I can do 2-3 sessions everyday, especially when working on big problems. Right now we have Jitter, a ball obsessed border collie. He pretty much has no off switch unless he is in his crate and is very antsy. He came to me with not a lot of self control, but is well socialized and willing to work. He is actually fun to train and training him became more enjoyable when he realized that he can't get away with cheap shots! He has started to trust me and is way more focused than when we started. It's fun to watch his border collie mind work!

 This arrangement works out well for both his owners and me, as I needed to test some of the new ball obsession games on him. We are making progress, but it's slow. Very slow. And we have setbacks. He is extremely ball obsessed. The worst I've ever seen. I've had him for about a week and a half and I've been focusing on the following:

-  impulse control with everything in life including balls
- recall, my ultimate goal is to recall him past tennis balls on the ground
- ball to hand. I'm working on the "hand" command.
- I will throw a ball while he stays, if he gets up during my throw I go and pick up the ball and start over. He isn't allowed to get his ball until I say "get your ball". Before I release him to get his ball, he has to tug and then when he gets the ball he has to put it in my hand immediately.
- I made up another game, which I really like. First I play some tug with him. Then I have him stay and put a ball and a tug about equal distance from him on the ground. Then I say "go get your tug!" He obviously has two choices at this point. If he picks the ball, I pick up both toys and the whole game starts over. If he does immediately go for the tug, I pick it up and play with him and then sometimes I'll while we are tugging I'll say "get your ball", which then immediately HAS to be put in my hand for a click/treat.
- Premack!!!  I'll put a ball on the ground and then offer him either the ball or the cheese in my hand. If he does well with that, I'll wait longer and longer before giving him the cheese (lower the rate of reinforcement). This game has been advanced to choosing to wait for a cheese reward while being released to go chase a rolling ball. I've also done this with a tug instead of cheese. I'll put a ball on the ground nearby and then play really exciting tug and while we are tugging I'll say "OK go get your ball". If he doesn't go for his ball, the tug game gets even more exciting.

The challenges are when he steals the ball because I trusted him too much and then chomps on it. When this happens, I feel like we take a few steps backward. Also I can't get him to immediately come to me with the ball without relying on a leash about 1/2 the time. I STILL cannot get him to spit the ball for a tug, regardless of how crazy rabid pony I am. He just stands there chomping on the ball, which is extremely frustrating. I only have him for a few more days before I take my next dog for board/train and my focus will be RECALL, ball to hand, and hopefully get some ball tug exchange. 

I also have realized that Jitter would really benefit from some mat work. When left loose in the house he paces, looking for tennis balls. I think he would be a lot less obsessive if he learned how to relax.