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Monday, September 19, 2011

how disc changed everything

I haven't updated in a long while... this summer has been FULL of fun and training for the pups. I will more than likely be posting several updates in regards to different topics, but the biggest one of the summer has been canine disc.

I have competed in disc events for the past three years with Clementine, and maybe once or twice with TeeVee. We've never placed in the top 10, thanks to my terrible throwing technique. I'm happy to report at the end of this season, both my dogs tied for 9th place in Intermediate Toss and Catch at the Colorado Disc Dogs - Summerset Fest.

I have some sincere thank yous in order for the Disc Dog community..most notably Mike Hanson. (More on Mike and his awesome dog MaggEY later)...  In my years of dog sports, I have never met anyone so genuine and helpful in teaching newbies how to improve. The world of disc dogs has such an awesome, supportive community it is hard to not get addicted to this sport!

With more and more disc playdates and competitions this year... I've noticed a tremendous improvement in both my dogs.

Clementine has become more comfortable in new venues, and has found even more drive and enthusiasm than she has ever had. My 8 year old girl pulled off running flyball for 2 days, in 90 degree heat and sun. She ran some of her best times and had several 4.7 and 4.8 runs in the lineup! At a DOCNA agility trial last month, she had drive and speed for the first time outside of class..bringing home 3 Qs out of 5 runs. So much of this improvement in her is from me learning to c.h.i.l.l. o.u.t.!

TeeVee has learned to relax at competitive events and has become a lot less reactive with other dogs. I attribute this to the calm and positive atmosphere at disc events. No pinched-mouth snotty competitors here! Normally at flyball and agility events, his anxiety goes through the roof. I'm sure this is because I am also a lot more tense at those events (especially agility). Disc has taught me to relax, which transfers down the lead to him. We are a much happier team now and are starting to find our own communication strategy.  I still get nervous at the line, but having such a great group of people to hang out with during the day really helps me remember to calm down.

Disc has brought me back to what dog sports are all about..having FUN with your dogs. Keep it positive and genuine. And if your dogs screw up?  Whatevs!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making Progress

A few weeks into reinstating a stricter NILIF program in my household and I have seen much improvement! We will see how this translates to going back on to stock.

In any case.. our 2o2o contacts and start line stays are looking great - so at least it has been helping with that.

With a flyball tournament just 2 weeks away, I've been doing lots of exercises with the balance ball in an effort to help Clem's back and TeeVee's strength. Clem's running straighter and TeeVee's hindquarters are filling out nicely.

Current projects are:

          jumping through arm hoops
          strengthening lower back and flexibility
          more consistent releases in flyball
          pick up/put away  (toys in basket)
          2o2o contacts
          more consistent weaves and entries
         "in the suitcase"

         better recalls and focus
         jumping through arm hoops
         "in the suitcase"
         spin in other direction
         strengthening on balance bal
         speed in flyball
         some light box work  (his turn is looking great, just working on consistency and strength)

In two weeks my flyball club is hosting a big tournament. Clem and TeeVee are sharing a spot. I am running Clem a bit more than TeeVee at this point, because I want to focus on getting her ONYX and not stress my boy out too much. He still gets very overwhelmed at tourneys and I want to take it slow so he'll continue to be successful. Another reason is that Clem doesn't do well with racing at outdoor tourneys. She gets too hot, but the heat does not affect him nearly as much. Hopefully he will be able to handle racing fulltime in the outdoor tourneys this summer and Clem can just run Vets those days.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cattle Dogs!

This past weekend, I took the pack up to go herding again. TeeVee showed considerable more promise than he did during his instinct test. No eye, but he wasn't as afraid of the stock. I'm still not sure how much of him is herding and how much is just chasing...but he was more focused and interested in whatever he was doing.  He also had some nice downs and except for at the very end, I was able to call him off the stock.

Which brings me to Miss Clementine. As I've mentioned before, her drive on stock is unbelievable. This drive also brings out her full cattle-dogness. Bark. Bark. Bark. Chomp. Chomp. On Saturday, she refused to listen to me or our trainer. She broke every stay and pretty much just ran around grabbing hind legs whenever she could.

She's also been breaking her stays in agility class.. at trials, she's ok (so far), but since she is now comfortable in class, she thinks its FUN to not listen to me half the time. Don't believe a dog can give you the finger?  Yeah.. you need to spend more time with cattle dogs. She's also been just running around in class taking whatever obstacles she wants. Now, sometimes my cues might be off..  that is the obvious answer. But when my dog just decides to run off course and climb on equipment piled in the corner?  C'mon now!

I've decided to reinstate NILIF in my household in an effort to combat these problems.  Every time the dogs go outside, I make them wait while I open the door all the way, before giving the release word. Then they tear off to go chase squirrels (HANKS!). I'm upping the ante on this a bit. Instead of just opening the door.. I'm walking past them, halfway between the Hanks and the dogs before giving the release word.

We're also going to work a lot on our 2o2o contacts. It's time to make this more of a challenge so I can get to the point of running past Clem without her stepping off the contact. Hopefully, this will pay off when it comes to the stock as well.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Our Second Trial

About ten months ago, Clementine and I had our first agility trial. I wouldn't say it was a complete disaster...we had some nice moments, but no Qs. It definitely made me realize some of the things we would need to work on to be competitive. Our biggest issues were time and distance. Since I have a disability, and Clementine has always been a "velcro dog" - I knew this was going to be a challenge. I was truly afraid we would never be fast enough to be able to compete in NADAC. Now, every single one of my agility teachers has said that NADAC would be one of the hardest venues for us to compete in, because the courses are so spread out. Yet, I really like NADAC, because everyone is just so dang friendly and supportive. To be fair, NADAC is the only venue we have competed in at this point - but I have heard many agility folks voicing the same opinion.

So a few weeks ago, Clem and I had our second trial. We took 10 months to work on distance and building up her confidence..and also to finally get the hang of weaving. It paid off. We ended up getting 2 Qs for the weekend. Our first Q was in Novice Jumpers:

Even though in class Clementine often gets too excited to maintain her start line stays, she nailed every single one of them at the trial. It took a few rounds for her to find her confidence..but while having a bit of "ring nerves" kept her slower, she was also more focused on me. Our second Q was in Regular, which I was not expecting at all considering she has only been weaving for all of a week before the trial. I wish I had a video of that run!

So I walk away from this trial, knowing we CAN do this! I have an incredible dog who wants to please and most importantly - loves doing this. I know that we need to work on discriminations (between contacts and tunnels specifically) and me being able to call her off of obstacles ahead of her. I never in a million years thought that her having too much distance would ever be a problem. It is now!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Dog Sports Junkie

Alright, now that introductions are mostly out of the way - I figure I'll get started with what this blog will mostly be about.


I'll be the first to admit it, I'm a dog sports junkie. Is anyone else out there?

I've never won any sort of championships, I dont have the fastest dogs out there - I just like to have fun setting goals and achieving them. I will argue that Clementine is crazy smart beyond belief - but that's for another day.

This past weekend started out with flyball practice. We have a tournament next weekend and it will the the first tournament for many of our club's new dogs. It will only be TeeVee's second tournament. We worked a lot on passing this week, which is what TeeVee needs. He has crazy chase drive and it has taken nearly 2 years of training for him to even run in a lane against other dogs. The patience has paid off and now he does great, but will often want to chase the dogs in his team as they run past him. He is now passing some other big dogs WITHOUT lunging, but is developing a hard eye and creep until the dog has passed him, then he runs normally. This is not acceptable either, but it is better than it was. Whats a few more months of work?

Sunday we took a trip up to Valdemar Farms to have TeeVee's herding instinct test and for Clem to have a lesson. Clementine and I took herding lessons for a little over a year, but that was two years ago. Life got in the way for a bit. Here's the thing... out of everything I do with my dogs, working Clem on livestock is by far my favorite. I never see my dog happier than when she is working stock. Our instructor (Cathy Balliu) says that she is like a Turbo Charged PT Cruiser... she has only two speeds. Stop and GO! Because Clem is more Cattle Dog than Border Collie, she doesn't have much of an eye. Instead - she paces quickly to get the stock where they need to go. We took a break from herding in order to start agility, which Cathy thought would help her off lead obedience. As you can see in the (long) video, she has some nice downs and distance most of the time.. but every once in a while (notably around 5:40 and 6:30) she has a real temper tantrum. I ended up getting in a shouting match with her and we really butt heads. Cathy told me to just ignore her and let her work through her arousal level. BEST ADVICE OF THE YEAR. If you watch the whole video, you can see a noticeable difference.

Clem shows drive with the stock that she doesn't show with anything else. Yes, she loves flyball, disc and agility...but it's not the same. She eventually gets bored or tired and thats it. She'll even work stock in thunderstorms, despite normally being severely thunderphobic.

When we left off with lessons two years ago, she was up to herding a flock of about 10 sheep at a time, doing outruns at about 50 yards and starting to drive the sheep through gates. We're going to back up a bit in an attempt to get a bit more control since she is such a hot head.

Lesson of the weekend: Sometimes you just need to shut up and let your dog work some things out on their own.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Finding the Training Addiction

So remember in that first post how I mentioned that the shelter said that Clementine was low energy and sweet? That all got thrown out the window after the first day I had her. She is smart, feisty, full of energy and not a fan of cuddles. When I first got her she was also terrified of everything. Every noise, she would flatten on the floor and pee herself. I lived on a very busy street here in Denver and it was a bear to potty train her because she was afraid of the traffic too.

I attempted to crate train her and I'd come home and find her in the crate, 15 feet over from where I left her. The whole apartment would smell of fear and she'd be shaking and shivering. I stopped trying to crate her once I got her house trained. The solution that worked for us was me keeping her tied to me with a leash at ALL TIMES unless she went potty outside. Once I figured that trick out - it took all of two days to have a house-trained dog.

Her separation anxiety then turned towards chewing and getting in the trash. I thought I would cleverly outsmart her by getting one of those step lid trash cans. I had that thing home for all of two minutes before I found her with one paw on the step and her head buried in coffee grounds and paper towels.

It was right then I realized I didn't have an average dog on my hands. I vigilantly researched everything I could about the breed and joined online chat groups. I read website after website on what to do with a fearful cattle dog. EXPOSURE, EXERCISE AND TRAINING - LOTS OF TRAINING.

I thought back to what my horse trainer always told me - to be calm, to not react. I began by taking Clementine everywhere I could. Don't like car rides? Too bad, get in. Don't like that other dog? Too bad, keep walking. Don't like loud noises? Yeah, you get the picture.

My dogs may be spoiled rotten, but I will say they are not babied and they are not sheltered. I understand they are dogs and they are not perfect. All I can do is try to make them the best dogs they can be.

It has taken years of this exposure level with Clem to get where we are today, but it has paid off. I now have a dog who used to be afraid of everything, to only being mildly upset over car rides, thunderstorms and fireworks. She trusts me and even though we often butt heads - we have a partnership that is beyond rewarding.

Turn on the TeeVee

As I continue writing this blog; I'll get more into what all I do with both of my dogs.
I'd like this to overall be a bit of a training diary for me. A place where I can share some of the things that I've learned over the years - as well as communicate with other dog lovers and trainers.

While I can go on for years about my dear Clementine - I can't go too far without mentioning her adoptive-brother, TeeVee. TeeVee was adopted from Western Border Collie Rescue ( in November of 2008. Those who know Clem, know that she isn't the most playful with other dogs. Yet, over the years I realized she really had a "thing" for smooth coat Border Collie boys. I fostered for other rescues in the past and she did well with most young male dogs, but smoothies? My tuff tomboy becomes an instant flirt!

Once I met TeeVee, I knew they would be buddies for life. Within five minutes of meeting him, they were scampering all over the yard. Play bowing, wrestling, nipping. She loves to chase and he loves to BE chased. I left his foster mom's houses telling her I'd think about it and get back to her. I made it halfway around the block before going back.