Saturday, March 29, 2008

Last Agility ABC Class / More Ducks/ Meeting the Moose

Makin had her final agility class this week She picked a good evening to have a relaxed night. She didn't tense up on us like she had in the last couple of weeks and seemed to be excited. I was a little surprised by this because she typically gets nerved up by other dogs and there was a person from the other ABC class there with her huge black lab that had a booming bark. No response from Makin on this. Awesome.

A little side-bar on this lab. I am guessing he weighed about 100 pounds and was interested in seeing him do the obstacles. He was excited, fast, and seemed to be having a blast. I wish I could get Makin to be that excited.

This week we worked a chute where we had multiple jumps with the tire mixed in, the A frame, the teeter followed by a jump, and then the tunnel with our first attempt at the weave poles. Makin did great on the chute and exhibited her speediness as she was able to get out ahead of and finish the jumps without us by her side. We then worked the A frame. Makin does well on this obstacle as long as the silly human thinks about their body language. Lael worked Makin great while I had another brain fart! Right now we are using a "wait" on the contacts and as I got to the back side I slammed on the breaks instead of having a smooth transition. Frustrating! Next up was the teeter. Makin seems to enjoy anything that she has to run up/on. Finally we ended with a tunnel and the weave poles (set of six). As this was our first introduction to weaves we had the guides (x-pens) to help the dogs through. I was happy that Makin was not spooked running through as we start a weave pole class in a few weeks and will be spending time working this obstacle every day. We are looking forward to it.

Well there were more ducks at the park this week. While Makin must have remembered how cold the water was; a little goof ball named Tessa did not. That is her below swimming in the hopes of scoring a mallard! The other picture below is of Tessa on one of the trails we use. I liked it because she looks pretty strong for a wee lass.

Today, Saturday, we met our new friend Moose. This little guy is a 16 week old black lab. He is bigger and heavier than either of our girls and I think he is going to be a big boy. We met Moose and his parents (Lauren and Chris) at the park this morning. We normally like the park that we went to. Not today. Some crummy owners. Upon entering the field one of the dogs immediately went after Tessa. That was the end of the field for the day. I don't think the owner of this obnoxious little guy enjoyed how I broke up the little melee! Nobody got hurt though so I suppose you can say there was some success. The rest of the walk was fun and it was good to meet Moose as I am sure he will be playing with Tessa quite bit in the future. He is one sweet little pooch.

The other day Tessa got spooked by some loud noises. She ended up falling asleep on the couch in the awkward position below. Silly goose!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Now That, is a good "Wait"!

Lael took the ladies to the park this morning. She asked them to wait and this is what she got! Is that a point? Someone should have told Tessa to put her foot down and then wait!

Happy Birthday to Tessa. She is 1 year old today!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Sometimes a resident's hours can have its perks. Today, I had the morning/afternoon off so I was able to hang out with the girls. We snuggled on the couch, although I made the mistake of leaving my phone in the other room so I when it rang I lost valuable ground.

Then we headed to the park for some romping around. Tessa did her usual introduction to other dogs followed by the taunting sprint away- the other dogs always fall for it and the chase begins. One of the most valuable lessons I learned in Tessa's Good Manners class was the subtle nuances of recall. Timing your recall is key. I could stand there yelling, "Tessa Come!!" over and over again as she's sprinting away, like I used to, but that just puts me in a bad mood. Instead, I waited till she was sort of running towards me anyway, then I called for her, and like magic she came! And I looked like a calm, in-control person and Tessa looked like the best dog ever and we had everyone fooled! It was great!

And Good ole Makin did her usual thing of sitting on the other people's laps as they leaned down to pet her, hoping no dogs would mistake her for Tessa and start to playing with her.

It's a good day, too bad I have to go to work now.

On a completely different note, yesterday was The Match, which is one of the most exciting days in a medical student's life; it's the day you find out where you'll be spending the next 3-5 years of your life. I found out some great friends of mine are coming to my program, so I'm super excited!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hunting Ducks

It was 40 degrees at the park this morning. There were ducks at the park swimming in the water hole created by the spring thaw. Makin heard the ducks from about 100 yards away. She took off, and as she hit the edge of the water she took a leap, landing deep in the water. Tessa then realized what was going on and and ran around the hole to where the ducks were trying to exit. Makin swam across the hole and Tessa tries to intercept the ducks. She came within a few inches of catching one. The hunt was then on for the rest of the morning. Towards the end of the walk Makin found the ducks swimming in a smaller water hole. This time she stalked and pointed. The ducks were a little smarter this time and took off as soon as they saw her. It is funny that Makin hates going out in the rain and will not swim unless there is something to go after. She loves birds but bugs swimming in the water are just as exciting! Momo, one of Makin's puppies apparently hates the water. I guess this is one trait Makin failed to pass along!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dissapointment, Ugh!

The house search continued this past weekend. Things were looking bleak; again. We then walked into this house that looked great. I must mention here that I do not have the handy man skills that others in my family have. Anyway, we loved this house, great layout, good space not too big, fenced, flat back yard, newer kitchen. We made an offer! The offer was accepted! We had a home inspection! We are now back to the search. It has been a tough couple of days. The offer process is scary. We were exchanging e-mails with our agent till about 4:00 am on Sunday night. Lael and I are both drained.

During the process the girls did not get as much exercises as usual. They have been crazy. Today at the park was full out mayhem. Makin was actually chasing Tessa! That never happens. And during the home inspection one of the little buggers snuck to the front of the car and helped themselves to a jelly doughnut. I didn't realize until today that there were actually two in the bag. Either the doughnuts were not very good or the second was too far down in the bag. I am voting on the latter because whoever did it wasn't thinking, "hey, I will save this one for those fools inside the house"!

On a positive note, I was playing the touch plate game with Tessa last night and was amazed at how much fun she thinks it is. Run to the plate, slam it with her foot and sprint back! She was having a blast. I am not sure if its ok to be touching it with feet or if I need to wait for her to hit it with her nose? I must remember to ask. She is great with hand touches and if I actually hold the plate she goes for it with her nose. I can also get her to weave through my legs using the plate. She is a fun little girl!

Not sure if anyone would like to throw a response out to this question. Tessa has not been eating with her normal tenacity. She will sometimes leave food in her bowl! That is a new one for us. She has been regular and acting normal in all other ways. It may be that the growing process has slowed and she is not as hungry? She can't resist a cookie so I am not alarmed. Is now an appropriate time to reduce food. We are still feeding puppy food and almost 3/4 of a cup more per day than what Makin gets. Thoughts?

We also need to watch Makin's intake a bit. She has added a bit of weight since the beginning of agility. This is a tough one due to the fact that she is famous for skipping meals. The bad part is that when she skips a meal she tends to get sick in the middle of the night. Probably a little bile build up. When she does skip, we give her a few cookies before bed hoping that they will absorb some of the fluids in her belly.

Thank goodness for Lael and the ladies, the last few days would have been impossible without them. I will steal a quote here. I am a lucky, lucky man!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Breakfast in bed

Is anybody else's dog this lazy? She's a smart dog, I suppose! If only I could convince somebody that I will only eat breakfast if it's brought to me in bed...

Friday, March 14, 2008

Our Visitor, Makin's ABC's Class and Our Kids/Dogs

This week we had a visitor; Kiley the aussie. I must admit I was a little nervous about how much more work it was going to be adding another pooch to my daily routine. Things went well however. Lael had a few easy days this week so she had the the girls for two days while I only had them for three. Our typical day consists of getting up, feeding and getting the girls to go out then taking off for the park. After a minimum of 30 minutes at the park we are off to day care (my parents house) where the girls are lucky enough to hang out while I am at work. I typically go home at lunch for a break and a little run and then back to work. I then pick the ladies up and head home. Our routine was not altered at all and Kiley was a pleasure. She did herd Tessa quite a bit and Tessa is now exhausted and sleeping on my lap as I type. Makin, well, she was herself and kept to herself as usual. The picture above is from this summer when Tessa was still a wee little thing.

Makin has only two agility classes remaining. She had a bit of tough week this week though. She was not as happy as she normally is in the barn. I am not sure if it was noises or if there was a different energy in the barn. When we tried to work a pinwheel (set of three jumps) we were trying to be very upbeat, to get her excited, but were not successful. Katrin suggested that we tone it down a bit and that seemed to help. Toward the end of class Makin started to perk up though. We did the dog walk well with a good wait at the contact. Makin was quick and confident on the walk almost as though she had done this before. We also did a sequence of four jumps in a chute and worked the teeter ending with a jump.

On a different note The Regal Vizsla had an interesting post regarding the humanization of our beloved creatures. I must admit that I often do see the girls as my kids and they are frequently the center of my world. They are my companions but at the same time we try to ensure that they have structure and boundaries. Yes, sometimes this is a difficult task when you live with dogs that are extremely content at being your 40 lb blanket. We do training and agility because it is fun but also because these dogs want to work and seem to be happier when they have something to do. I can run them for hours at the park but the relationship we have is strengthened through working together. The author, John Katz, is referenced in the post. I have read a few of his books and a number of his articles and enjoy his perspective. He is practical regarding his relationships with his animals. I am not sure if I can be as practical as he is but a lot of what he says makes sense. I think that I am better at not putting my feelings on the girls now and I am happier as a result. I don't think they ever exhibited the emotions I was feeling for them. Tessa does not mind spending hours in her crate, if she did she probably would not go there when she feels nervous or stressed. I guess the long and short of it is that we need to treat our dogs like they are our dogs. They are our responsibility and it is our task to give them what they need as dogs.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Rookie Blogger

As a new person in blog land I have run into a few problems. Formatting for one. Monitoring posts is something I have difficulties with as well. Initially I allowed all posts to go right to the site and as a result got some "spammy" posts. I didn't know how to delete them. So, I now moderate and have accidentally rejected a few posts, by accident, because I have tried to moderate via my phone and have "fat fingered" the buttons! If anyone has recommendations on how to deal with this, I am all ears!

My other big problem is my reliance on spell check. At work I can type things and not even think about spelling because I know it will be fixed automatically. I just need to slow down. Everything does not have to be done quickly!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Makin's Class 3/6/08

Makin was awesome last night. We worked many of the same things as last week but also introduced the chute and the tire jump. She did both of these new obstacles well. The best part of the night however was Makin's performance on the table. We did tunnel, jump, and table with a down. In prior weeks we had trouble with the down on the table. Makin was much quicker on the down and held her position, elbows on the table for the count of five. She was great! Very pleased with her performance all around. We also worked the contact board a lot. Last week Makin's butt would slide off the board when she waited because she was trying to face us. This week we started with a gate to keep her from doing that. It worked great. When we moved away from the board to get her to do the obstacle with us a few feet away she still started to slide off. We will have to work with the gate in place a little more. We also practiced our outs, and the teeter. Makin did great.

I have been thinking about the class a lot and started to figure out what I like about it so much. Agility is a sport just like any other. Like other sports there are three parts to the game. There is the before game part when you think about what you will do and try to visualize it to prepare so that when you actually have to perform you already have an idea of what you want to do. The second part of the game is the performance where you actually have to do the things you had practiced and thought about. The third part of the game is the post game wrap up where you have to evaluate your performance and think about the things you did well and what you need to work on. Practice is the best part of the sport. Working together and figuring things out. With other sports I have played you have to concentrate on your performance. Yes it is important to have the whole team working in sync but with agility you really have to focus on what the dog is thinking. You have to realize when they are eager to work, when they have had enough and need a break and what they need from you to be successful. This is the best part because it strengthens the relationship you have with your dog. I just hope Makin enjoys the work as much as Lael and I do. She is awesome!

Tessa is doing great also. Although she is not in a class right now we are working a lot with her. She is crazy for balls and chases them with reckless abandon. I am working on "waits" with her when we play with the ball. She really wants to take off when I throw it, but I am making her wait until I release her. I think this will pay dividends in a variety of ways in the future, whether it is in agility or keeping her from entering a dangerous situation. I am excited to start Canine Good Citizen class with her. Maybe some day she can be a therapy dog?!

I must say again that I am so happy we have found great people to work with. Katrin and Julie are so knowledgeable and positive they make all this so enjoyable. The people in class are also a lot of fun. It is great to be able to be with people who are as crazy about their dogs as we are!

Spring is still in the air - and the darn ticks are back too!

We have been enjoying the lovely weather in the morning this week. I have not been enjoying the ticks. I picked no fewer than 15 off of the girls this morning! I tried spraying them with apple cider vinegar this morning and that didn't do a thing. It was not organic, so I will buy some of that and see if it makes a difference. I will be going to a new park in the mornings though. I really hate putting the chemicals on them but if that is what needs to happen, then so be it. Hopefully a switch in venue will do the trick!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Spring is in the Air

It was a nice warm, muddy, sloppy morning at the park. Makin's second joy in life, with her first being pheasants and similar birds, is clearing a field of Canadian Geese. We saw some at the park this morning. When spotted they were approximately 200 yards away. To reach them required splashing through a chest deep stream, or at least I thought Makin would have to touch the water. Nope, Makin cleared the stream and the field of birds in just a few minutes. These are the days I wish I had a little more of the "hunter" in me. I know for some, Makin is probably not the ideal hunting dog but she certainly does love to work the fields and woods looking for them. Tessa is starting to look for them a lot more often although she is just as likely to point the snow man as she is to point a bird!

Flyball is something that I read about on the Regal Vizsla. We had seen a demo on this at a VCCNE fun day but had not considered it because Makin is not into chasing balls a whole lot. I do think that Tessa may be good at this. She loves tennis balls, soccer balls, basketballs...etc. She is also very good with the touch plate. Last evening after a little work on the touch plate I had them follow me into the bedroom. Tessa disappeared and then reappeared 30 seconds later with the plate. (I stupidly didn't pick it up) Seems like she decided that if I wasn't going to watch her touch it, then she was going to bring it to me so she could get her cookie. Silly girl!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Brave Little Tessa

Tessa completely surprised me today. We were at the park this morning. Near the entrance to the park the temporary fence made of chicken wire had fallen down. As Makin ran in she did everything in her power to avoid touching it. I assumed there was no way Tessa was going to make it past this obstacle. Well, she certainly proved me wrong. She didn't try to jump it, she ran over it while it made all sorts of noise and actually ran back to me as I stood staring in amazement. I know that it seems like a small accomplishment but little things have spooked Tessa in the house and she has completely shut down. I am very happy with her bravery.

We also bumped into another V at the park and the three dogs and two people went for a nice hour + run. Tessa is definitely aware of the birds these days. Not sure if she is following Makin's lead but she is looking for them.

Tessa was also introduced to dogs best friend, the cat. Tessa can be very social and I have been wary of this at the park because we are often there early in the morning when the coyotes are more likely than not finishing up their rounds. I wasn't sure if Tessa would try to play with one if she saw it. Tessa's reaction to the cat made me think that she is smart enough to realize when someone does not want to play. She just stared in amazement at this black furball that hissed at her. She heeded my request to leave it, and off we went. Good girl!

We also did a bit of house shopping today. The thought of making this investment is totally overwhelming. Deciding on a size is also very difficult. How much house is too much? Do we want to do some work or do we want to move in and be all set. I don't know the answers to these questions but wish I did. Its challenging enough to keep my impulsive nature at bay and be realistic about what I am actually seeing. We had seen a place last week that we thought we loved. We went back this week and discovered it was not all that it appeared. Aesthetically it was nice, but it was lacking in a variety of different ways. I think it is going to be a difficult sale for this family. Very sad.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Invisible Wall

Until I read Julie's post I had totally forgotten about the invisible wall. Both Lael and I had difficulties. On the tunnel, jump, box sequence Katrin had drawn a "line in the sand" that we were not supposed to go past. We were trying to get the pooch to go to the box without us. Lael went first and she was funny. I will give her a pass though because she had been working the night before and was a little sleepy! So, props to her for even making the effort to come to class. She hit that line and it was as though someone had anchored her feet. We had a nice laugh about that last night. Well, I had read Julie's blog that day so had forewarning about transitioning, but still acted like an idiot. I ran with Makin and then slammed on the breaks. What did I think was going to happen? I got what I asked for, Makin totally confused on what to do. Jeesh.

We have decided that Makin will be doing the weave pole class next. Now I just have to buy some. I looked quickly at prices last night and they are certainly not cheap. But, I have spent a lot more on stupid, whimsical things and this is a commitment to train the girls. Worth every red cent in my opinion.

I had posted a comment to Katrin yesterday with a number of questions. Let me just say that I did get a response via e-mail and that it was thoughtful, informative, and made me think a lot about my behaviors with Makin and Tessa. I have read the note a number of times to make sure I get what Katrin was saying. I have some work to do.

It's snowing again today. I am so tired of winter and ready for spring and some longer days. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy the winter, but am ready to be able to spend more time outside. My bike is loneley and I miss it and I think I want to lie in the grass and soak in some warm sun. But I think the ladies and I are going to take advantage of the weather and go do some x-country skiing with Caera and Adam. Lael is working: bummer.