Sunday, August 5, 2012


Pico and I made our trial debut at a CPE trial held at Medina Swarm in Wadsworth, OH!

{We are official!}

Pico did very well being measured, not once, but twice and now has his official CPE measurement of 11.75" which means that his jumps are set at 8". This is a good thing for Pico right now and should decrease the chances that he'll knock a bar (he would probably jump 16 if we asked him to!)  We need all the help we can get at this stage!

I was really touched by all the moral and technical support I received both from my Agility Underground friends and from people I had just met (Especially Melinda, my crate neighbor, who taught me so much during the day!)  Sue and Toni both gave me great pep talks on the importance of keeping it fun for Pico above all else. I was a little concerned about Pico since it was his first day in this atmosphere so I stayed close to him most of the day. I hope when he's more comfortable to be able to repay the kindness I was shown!

Our first run was in Novice Standard and the course was a nice, flowy, seemingly easy, 13 obstacle run:

I purposely planned to send Pico into the tunnel (6) off of my right and run behind the tunnel keeping him off of my right, so that I wouldn't have to RC him into the tunnel as RCs are new to him. [Running behind the tunnel is not technically correct] My theory was that we'd have more success this way by...

As it turns out, when you are a novice, the easy course on paper, doesn't always translate to an easy course in real life with adrenalin flowing and a real, live dog!

I crated Pico for the briefing and walk-through. To my surprise, as soon as the walk-through was over, I heard the gate-steward say, "As soon as Pico gets here, we can start"! Poor Pico got no warm-up time and to make matters worse, I managed to step on his tiny paw as we made our way to the start. I think Pico was very unsure of what exactly we were doing out there and he wasn't sure why there was people sitting around inside the ring! We stumbled through the first 3 obstacles and then were able to string a few together once the light popped on for Pico (it was as if he said, "oh! agility! let's go!")
It wasn't pretty but my little teammate was willing to try really hard to stay with me through the entire course. We ended with a good time but had 30 faults so we NQ'd.
[I now know that Running Order is available online prior to the trial! Learning, Learning!]

I was shocked to find so many friends at the finish! I honestly didn't expect anyone to watch us except for Sally who graciously offered to film our debut! I am telling you, their support and encouragement made it a great experience! (For Pico,  the baby food jackpot that made it great)

Our second run was Jumpers Level 1:

When I first looked at this course, I thought, "There is no way I can memorize this!" No one else seems to struggle with this fear so I channeled Jessica and Linda, and was able to! I even impressed Marilyn when I was able to recite the course without looking at the paper! (Thanks Jessica!). This time, I planned to RC Pico into the Tunnel (4) so that he'd be on my left for 5,6,7 and 8. My plan was to 'book it' (as Jessica says) after sending him to 7 so that I could FC and send him to 9 off of my right. He would then take the rest of the course off of my right. Easy right?! Theoretically, yes. In practice, Notsomuch...

After the walk-through, I felt pretty good about my plan. I was able to get Pico out for a few jumps and some good attention work since we were fourth this time. I would say that this was a big improvement over our first run but we stumbled right where I thought we would. My FC somehow ended up at the right side upright of jump 9 and I think that's the jump that Pico totally missed. Hey, at least he did his RC beautifully! We ended up with good time and 15 faults so we NQ'd again.

I think that we could have also entered Colors Level 1 but I didn't realize this when I entered the trial. I am looking forward to adding this at the next CPE trial.

Overall, I was thrilled! Pico handled being crated very well and was nice to lots of people. He struggles a bit with dogs near his crate but settles quickly. I am most excited about the fact that he really seems to love running and jumping with me. He is a really great dog and I think we have lots of fun to look forward to!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Good Dog/Bad Dog...

After a rough start to Agility practice last night (think tasmanian devil), Pico had a fantastic Agility lesson this morning!
Jessica helped us work on our Rear Crosses on the Flat and then we worked a 13 obstacle Jumpers course in preparation for our first trial this weekend.

{demon dog}

Except for some handling issues (of course), Pico was quite willing to run fast and perform the obstacles that I did cue correctly without treats! At this point, he seems to find running a course very reinforcing which is fantastic and fun for me as well.
I talked to Jessica about how to 'jackpot' a dog who is just starting to trial since no treats are allowed in or near the ring. Jessica recommended stashing a jar of baby food near the exit and I think that's a great idea. Jarred chicken baby food, unlike traditional dog treats, is safe from other pups who are in the area and is a high-value reward. Always good to have a plan!

I am excited about finally busting onto the trial scene! I'm slightly concerned about memorizing the course and slightly concerned about my handling... now I am hugely concerned about Pico's inner devil rearing its ugly head! It seems there's always something we're working on...

{Blowing Bubbles!}

Since Gilda is no longer involved in Dog School Day, I took her for a nice, long pond swim today (without the spotted satan) and she was thrilled!
Swimming is extremely reinforcing to Gilda and I tried to use that to my advantage in working on some impulse control with her.
On hot days, Mike lets Gilda swim during walks as a way to keep her cool. He reports that lately she is refusing to come out to continue the walk. We theorized that each time he calls her out, her swim time ends and since she'd much rather swim than walk at heel, she stays swimming and ignores his request. After all, dogs do nothing out of spite. They do everything out of what works best for them!
To help with this, I insisted that she walk at heel to the pond. Please note that this was neither fast nor fun for either of us!!! Once at the pond, Gilda had to sit before being released to 'go swim'. (She will not take treats when near the pond so I use 'go swim' as her reward).
Frequently, I'd call her out of the pond and to me (not easy) and then reward her by letting her swim. Sometimes I'd call her to me and hold her collar before releasing her. Other times I'd hook her leash on before releasing her, and sometimes I'd hook her leash on, take a few steps toward the car and then release her to swim.
The more we work on this, the more she'll be willing to come to us I'm hoping. This is the closest we've come to the Premack Principle with Gilda as nothing else is quite so valuable to her.
The pond is where I was able to teach Gilda that she must bring the ball to us (okay, near us) in order to fetch it again. Her 'drop' was non-existent before this!
When we got home from swimming, the UPS guy arrived instantly reminding me that there truly is always something to work on with dogs! IF only UPS delivered to the pond...