Monday, November 17, 2014

Barn Hunt Open

Gilda and I attended a fabulous 2-trial Barn Hunt at Columbus All Breed this weekend. Gilda was entered in Open Trial 1 and Open Trial 2. Gilda had one prior attempt at an Open level course last month and she NQ'd for going over time. I was thrilled though because she worked and worked for the entire 2 minutes and 30 seconds.

{Gilda & Friend}

{Open Leg 1/3!}

For Trial 1, Gilda was wonderful in the pre-blind area, blowing my mind by acting like a pretty normal relaxed dog! When we entered the Blind however, she became very animated and started pulling on the leash for the first time all day. I thought, "Wow. she is so smart, she knows exactly what we are doing!" but I'm not so sure about that theory. She seemed fixated on something way across the building that I could not see. She was over threshold and wouldn't even take treats. The Old Gilda had returned :)

We were the fourth dog in the blind (out of 5) and when it was our turn, she was ready to go! She entered the ring (pulling the entire way from Blind to Ring) and waited for me to remove her leash and collar. On my release, she was off and working to find a rat. She spent some time with her nose down in the middle of some hay bales but she quickly came off of it and went to hunt other areas. When she returned to the same hay bale circle and once again dove into the center, I doubted my initial read thinking, "Hmmm... if she returned to it, maybe it is a rat..." and I called Rat! Sadly it was a litter tube and my lack of trust in her ended her fun early!

For Trial 2, I chose a seat in the Blind that had no view of the door and things went much better. We were the 5th dog in the blind for this round and when you have a dog like Gilda, 15 minutes can be an eternity!

Here is video of her Qualifying run. Apparently, she was determined to get our money's worth out of this run and she took 2:26.98 to find 2 Rats, Perform a Tunnel, and Perform a Climb. Nothing like taking it right down to the wire! Apparently not many Medium dogs qualified because her time earned her a beautiful 2nd place rosette in addition to a Qualifying Ribbon.

I was thrilled that Gilda took the Tunnel right off the bat. I've seen dogs complete the Rat Find and then NQ because their handlers could not convince them to take the Tunnel! You can see Gilda locate a few tubes. I try to be patient because she often takes a moment to examine the tube but will come off quickly once she realizes there is not a live Rat inside. You can see this clearly when she finds a tube on the Inside Rat Wrangler's right side (left on the screen). Also interesting, you can see Gilda actually go and sniff right in the area where the 2nd Rat was eventually found.
In Novice Level, I would just sort of follow Gilda around and (try to) watch her signals. In Open Level, I learned quickly that the area is bigger and that part of my job is keep track of where she has already looked and to direct her to areas that she hasn't searched. I am still always amazed when she follows my directives as we don't have a strong history of that :)

Monday, September 22, 2014

NYC: Everything's Moving (except for the dogs)

Mike & I took the train from Pittsburgh to NYC recently. The ride was peaceful and easy, complete with fully reclining seats and lots of legroom. The train left on time and arrived at each station right on time. The big windows gave us great views of the rolling fields and majestic mountains of Pennsylvania. We stopped in little PA hamlets where life looked idyllic...

{'World Famous' Horseshoe Curve Altoona, PA}

And then, like a big smack in the face, we were in the heart of New York City. The train doors opened and all serenity vaporized! People were everywhere. Every. Where. Moving quickly in all directions. I would have stopped to wonder how all of these people could be moving at once without bumping into each other but there is no stopping. Stopping gets you trampled in NYC...

As we made our way out of Penn Station and up onto the streets, it was much the same... People everywhere moving in all directions. Moving, moving, moving. Within minutes, I saw many things that aren't usually seen in Ohio: A 'bag' lady with a shopping car of god-knows-what, Police on horseback walking down the street, Pigeons narrowly escaping death. I also heard many things that aren't usually heard in Ohio: Horns. Honking Horns. It's not so much that we don't hear car horns here, it's just different in New York a) because it's constant and b) because no one pays attention to them! Machinery from the day and night construction was a constant background noise as was the constant traffic.

We finally saw dogs on our second day. They say New York is America's melting pot and it's true for the dogs too. We saw tiny Yorkies and Poodles, medium sized mixed breeds, and large Doodles and Goldens. Of all the dogs we saw, none of them were in 'agility shape'. Also, we saw most of the dogs early in the day with sleepy looking owners as though they had just rolled out of bed and wished their dogs would hurry up and 'take care of business' in the tiny little square of dirt that was a tree planter. I imagined that as soon as the dogs were done, they were shuffled back to their apartment to spend the day sleeping while the owners went to work. We did see one dog at night and it was a Pit Bull sleeping with what we presume was a homeless man. There, without benefit of treats, a clicker, a front-clip harness or a leash, that dog was, demonstrating the most incredible go-to-mat behavior I've seen (complete with the distractions that a few hundred people walking by can bring!)

I sure hope that my impression (formed over a 2.5 day stay) is inaccurate... it just seems like for all the hustle and bustle, the dogs barely get to walk let alone run...

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

K9 Parkour: Way Outside the Agility Ring

{This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Action Day: Outside the Ring. For More blogs on this and other topics, please click HERE}

When I reluctantly agreed to adopt Pico, he was supposed to be my cat-like lap dog. Gilda, after all, with all her behavioral needs, required all my attention, right? Oh so wrong...

{funny face}

With Gilda, training was grueling, painstaking, requiring every ounce of  patience I could muster (and I wasn't formerly known to have more than an iota of patience).  Gilda was so frustrating (for me as a novice trainer) that our instructor recommended bringing Pico along to Agility class. Her theory was that Pico could come out to play and this would motivate Gilda to want to work and play with me. When Pico was crated, we could work on his crating skills... Well, a bunch of stuff happened: Gilda was motivated, Pico, taught himself Agiltiy, and we are still working on Pico's crating skills!

Training and working with Gilda taught me patience and perseverance. Pico showed me that some dogs *love* to work and that dog training could be all f.u.n! He loved it so much that I no longer dreaded it! Thanks to Pico, I was able to see that part of Gilda's issues were her trainer (me!) and I was able to think outside the box and find the things that make Gilda happy too: Gilda's Happy Place

When we started Pico in Agility training, I truly believed that he was fearless and that nothing would stand in our way... and then he developed the dreaded Teeter Fear! To this day, he will not perform a Teeter in a trial, relegating us to CPE Standard Level 2 forever it seems (we are in Level 4 in all other CPE classes).

As an 'Outside the Ring' exercise, I started placing him on things and asking him to get up on things thinking that it would help him with height issues...

As it turned out, heights clearly weren't his issue with the Teeter! In true Pico fashion, he loved our new game (treats are involved after all).
I quickly learned that I could gauge his comfort level by his ears. If he held his ginormous ears upright, all was well in Picoland. If he dropped his ears to half-staff, he clearly wasn't comfortable with what I was asking so we would move on.

k9 Parkour quickly became a fun game and an integral part of our 3.5 mile walks...

The center pic was our first post attempt. As you can see, he quickly became proficient at Post Sitting and each post we have tried has its own challenges...

I found that K9 Parkour is a good 'Outside the Ring' activity in many ways: Increased confidence, Increased Core Strength, Increased Balance. All of these are great skills for Agility dogs!! Bonus!!

And so we kept it up...

K9 Parkour has made walks more fun for both of us and has generated many comments (and I'm guessing smiles) on FaceBook. I think K9 Parkour has also helped with our team work and has improved trust between us too... again, beneficial out there on the course in Agility.

Looking for another Sport for your Agility Dog? (Safely) Give Parkour a try and see where it takes you! The possibilities are literally endless.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Good, The Bad, & The Teeter

Pico and I attended a CPE trial at Medina Swarm on Sunday July 6, 2014. As a Medina Swarm member, I was able to take Pico to 'Open Gym' night a few times and he was doing the Teeter and Weaves there just fine :)

{Some of the AU Crew: Alicia & Marty, Alyssa & Harper, Sweetie's Owner (sorry)
 & Sweetie, Team Pico}

The first run for us was Snooker Level 3 and the course was:

My plan was to do Red 5, Red 6, Red 3 as our open for 17 points. We would then use our new Backside Jump skill (cue word 'Quick') on #2 and run 3-7c as our close for a total of 44 points.
While Pico did not have a good Start Line Stay, he did follow my plan beautifully including his beloved 'Quick' at Obstacle 2.
We finished with a Run Time of 36.87 (game time 50) and 44 points for our 3rd Qualifying Snooker 3 run. Thank you Judge Margaret for the Weave-less Snooker course!

Jumpers 4 was a nice, flowy course:

With my Rear Crosses still needing some timing work, I chose to start Pico on my Left for 1-2-3-4. I Front Crossed after 4 and kept him on my right for 5-6-7-8-9-19-11-12-13. I Front Crossed after 13 and sent him over 14 and 15 off of my Left, Rear Crossed him over 16 and picked him up on my Right for 17 and 18.
I made a few small bobbles along the way but I was happy with my FCs and Pico was focused and swift. H was so swift in fact, that at the end, he never stopped. He ran from the last obstacle, out the gate and straight to his crate! I was mortified and a little concerned that now we had a new problem to fix!
We ran the 44 second course in 36.22 and finished with a Clean Q for our first Level 4 Jumpers run!

A Non Traditional Jackpot was next. We were running Level 4 so we needed 24 points in our Open. The rules were:
'After the whistle, must complete 1,3, and 5 point obstacle (in any order) then go to the table. Jackpot (including table) is worth 2-4-6-8 for a total of 20 points.'

My plan was to start with the Tunnel (3) Jump (1) A-Frame (5) Tunnel (3) 5 Point Combo (5) Tunnel (3) Jump (1) Jump (1) Double (3) [This is where I thought the whistle might blow so that I could take the A-Frame, Jump, Tunnel, Table for our Jackpot]
We followed the plan perfectly... But there was no whistle so I took the Tunnel (3) Jump (1) Tunnel (3). We were heading for the Double Jump (3), The Whistle Blew, and Pico took the Double at which point Margaret called out "2!", I took the A-Frame and heard Margaret call out "4!", I took the Jump and she called out "6!" At this point, I was confused and thought I missed something but I sent Pico to the Table, heard Margaret call "8!" and figured we were okay. I was more than thrilled that this run ended with a Table because Pico is trained to perform a 'down' and he is pretty reliable. There was no quick exiting on this course. Phew!
We ended up with a 49 point, first place Qualifying Run and a new title: Strategy Games Level 3 :)

Last up was our Nemesis: Standard 2...

I started Pico on my Left and we ran 1-2-3... He got right onto the Teeter, ran about halfway up, and stopped. I tried to keep moving forward, I maintained eye contact with him, and try to be encouraging. I really thought he was going to do it but he bailed off. I sent him through 5 and I FCd to send him to the Weaves off of my Right. He had a good entry but failed to collect for the second pole. I restarted him twice trying to give him a good, straight-on entry but he did the same thing all three times. We moved on... He took 7-8-9-10-11-12-13 and then sailed wide Left around the A-Frame! We took the last 2 jumps and called it a day. To my relief, he waited to have his collar put on before going to his crate.There was no Chicken Baby Food after this run much to Pico's dismay...

Saturday, June 14, 2014

"Of Course You Struggle in Wildcard"

Today we ran at the Medina Swarm CPE-Style Practice Agility Trial. Bright and early this morning, I wondered if it was really in our best interest to enter such a thing on such a gorgeous day... Now, I am sure that it was.

Jackpot was first and it was an interesting Traditional/Non Traditional Jackpot. In the open, a completed A-Frame meant that the following obstacle value was doubled. Each obstacle could be taken twice for points. Jackpot A could be attempted at any time and in either direction and was worth 15 points. Jackpot B could be attempted after the first whistle was blown in one direction only, for 20 points.

Our plan was to take the starting Jump (1), the A Frame (5), the tunnel (doubled to 6), the A Frame (5), the tunnel (doubled to 6), Jump (1), Jump (1), Jackpot A (Jump-Tunnel-Jump for 15), Tire (3), then attempt Jackpot B.
All went well until we attempted Jackpot B. I got good speed going into the Jump, called 'Tunnel' and faced my body toward the Tunnel... and then I must have turned before Pico was committed to the Tunnel because at the very last second, he zigged left and took the A Frame! We completed the run with a Jump-Table and ended with a Jackpot, 43 points and a good time. Woo Hoo!

Next was our nemesis, Standard 2...

I planned to lead out to the tire with Pico on my right for 1-2-3-4 (all went well). Then, I would Rear Cross him into the Tunnel at 5 and keep moving so that I was on the other side of 6 when he exited. My error was that I didn't wait for him to get far enough through the Tunnel. He saw me moving, and popped out of the Tunnel Entrance on both attempts. He Jumped 6 off of my right and I was very careful to keep moving laterally until Pico was lined up with the A-Frame. Then I turned and cued the A-Frame (and it worked!) I Front Crossed him into the Tunnel at 8 and then kept him on my left for 9 (yay Weaves) 10-11-12-13. He sailed left of the Dog Walk twice which was interesting... After 14, I just passed the Teeter to see what would happen (no hand or verbal) and he hopped on so I reached over and pushed it down for him and he completed 15 and 16!

Last, we ran Wildcard 3. A few weeks ago, Linda set up a Wildcard course for us in class. I told her that Pico and really struggled with WC and it perplexed me. "Of course you struggle in Wildcard" she replied. "It's all about handler lines at the Obstacle Discriminations". It was a light bulb moment for me. Wildcard 'looks' easy but when you're a dog faced with side by side obstacles, you really need some timely and clear information about which one to take!

For Level 3, we need to take 2 B obstacles and 1 A obstacle. My decision was made easier by the fact that I wanted to Weave as few times as possible :) I chose 2B A-Frame, 7B Double Jump, and 10A Tunnel. I liked this course because I knew that we only needed one tunnel so it would be a little easier to formulate my alternate plan if something went awry along the way.
I angled Pico toward the A-Frame in a SLS and did a lead out with him on my right. I thought about starting him on my left in an effort to block the Tunnel but thought that I would then get myself stuck  in front of the Tunnel. It worked like a charm. He took 3-4-5 off of my right and then I decelerated and did a Forward send over 6 so that he knew to Collect for 7B instead of jumping in extension to go through 7A. That worked beautifully too and we completed the Pinwheel of 8-9. I Rear Crossed him into 10 and cued the Tire from my Left and we had quite possibly our first clean Wildcard 3 course!

Best of all, Pico was a pretty happy guy the whole time. At the end of each run, he would stop and come back to me to have his collar put on and then he'd run like gangbusters to his crate to enjoy his chicken baby food. I think he has really started to 'get' the whole trialing thing and that is truly exciting!

High Five Pico!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sweet Smell of Success... (who knew it smelled like Rats?)

[*This post is part of  Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day (DABAD) on the topic "Success". See more posts on Success here: Dog Agility Blog Events: Success*]

Our very athletic, high-energy, smart-as-a-whip rescue dog, Emily Litella's Little Nevermind 'Gilda' seemed to be a total Agility-type dog...
Despite being all of those things, she is also fearful and reactive with a dual diagnosis of OCD and GAD. (you can read her story here: Gilda's Story)

When Gilda enters an Agility building (other than our training building, The Agility Underground), she is visibly anxious and timid. If there is a trial in progress, she can most likely be found quivering in a corner flat as a pancake. Clearly, competing in Agility is not her favorite activity so we chose to not put her in that situation anymore...

To everyone's amazement, Gilda successfully passed her Delta Society/Pet Partners Therapy Dog test at the Complex Level (a pretty big deal in the TD world) and she happily visited kids at the Local Children's Hospital.
That all ended a year later when a 2 year old picked up a flip flop and swatted her face with it (referred to now as the Terrible Toddler Incident). At the time of the incident, she handled the situation well. On subsequent visits to the hospital though she  became a little jumpy and animated when small kids would move toward her (and young kids naturally gravitate toward the Doggie Brigade dogs!) So that ended that activity...

And so we tried Herding. Once.  We found that the instant she was corrected with a slight line tap, she just stopped. Not for a second, or a minute, I mean, she just stopped. She dropped to her belly, wouldn't look at us or the sheep and that was it. The instructor said that she saw no natural herding instinct like we (and the local deer) do. Since we don't own sheep and/or a pasture to work on training ourselves, we chose to move on...

We took a Treibball class. Gilda seemed to really  like Treibball and actually showed some promise.  To this day she will happily push balls with her nose on cue. However, there has never been another class or a trial anywhere near us...

Recently, we tried Lure Coursing and while she was a little overwhelmed about the unfamiliar high-energy surroundings, she did have a few good spurts of chasing the lure. Most likely we could train this as she truly loves to chase a moving target (just ask the local deer, squirrels, rabbits, groundhogs, muskrats)...

Dock Diving is clearly out. After one dive (of her own free will), the look of total shock and panic in her eyes told us that she was probably never going to jump into water again. And she hasn't! She will swim all day long and would play pond fetch for hours if only she could (we don't have a pond)...

Our goal for our beloved Gilda is to help her to be as content as she can be in her doghood. So we take her on long solo hikes (she reacts to other dogs if brother Pico comes along). We take her for pond swims and pond fetch sessions at friends' swimmin' holes. We take her to Agility practice in the Agility Building that she loves. We get the big exercise balls out and do Treibball drills. We teach her tricks. Lots of tricks...

And that's kind of how we thought things would stay... we'd just keep doing the things that made her happy and we would work to avoid the things that make her shut down. Maintain the Status quo if you will...

And then, everything changed when Barn Hunt came along! Our little Gilda (medium actually according to Barn Hunt rules), it turns out, is a natural-born vermin finder! After attending 3 Practice Hunts locally with good success, we had the opportunity recently to attend our first Sanctioned Barn Hunt trial at Anything Goes For Dogs! in Marysville, OH.

{RATI Qualifying Ribbon}
First up was the Instinct Test (RAT I). Using a Novice course with a straw bale tunnel, three PVC tubes are laid out in the open. One tube is empty, one tube contains used rat litter, and one tube contains a live rat. The dog is required to find the tube containing the live rat and mark it.  The handler is required to Call the tube which requires some understanding of your dog's body language. Being new and somewhat thick-headed, I thought that Gilda needed to complete a Tunnel and a Climb (more on that to follow) in addition to marking the tube. As it turns out, all she needed to do for her Instinct Test was to clearly Mark the tube with the rat in it! We (I) wasted lots of time until the kind judge told us  to find the rat. Luckily, the Instinct test is simply a pass/fail qualification test. Despite my misunderstanding, Gilda easily qualified by finding the live rat and Marking it clearly (see if you can guess what her 'tell' is) so, she earned her RAT-I title!!

Next up was her first official Novice Leg (RAT N). The course was similar to the RATI course except that all 3 tubes were buried somewhere in the straw out on the course. In the Novice level, the dog is required to perform a full Tunnel (entering one end and exiting the other), perform a Climb (four paws on top of a straw bale) and Mark the tube containing the Live Rat. The handler is required to clearly Call the correct tube (I raise my hand and say "RAT!")

For the first time since we tested for our Pet Partners therapy dog certificate in 2011, we were once again 'Team Gilda' and it felt great.

As we exited the Start Box together, I signaled Tunnel, and she shot through! (#1). Next she hopped onto a straw bale to hunt (#2). She then quickly jumped down and Marked a tube by (did you figure out her Mark?) pawing at the tube (#3).  I raised my hand and announced "RAT!" to call it (#4). When the judge said, "Yes", I knew we had qualified. When I learned that Gilda earned a First Place Blue Ribbon out of 22 medium dogs, I nearly cried! If any dog deserves a Blue Ribbon, it's our ever-trying, always improving Gilda!

{Patiently waiting for Round 2}

{Found it!}

{Pico is proud of his sister... Okay, he is just photobombing as usual}
But Ribbons and Titles aren't what makes me happiest about this new dog sport... It's the changes that it brings to Gilda.

Somehow, Barn Hunt makes Gilda a 'normal' dog (for lack of a better term). She relaxes more at Barn Hunt Trials than anywhere else (even home!) She is able to truly work with me when we are in the ring. She is the leader in the ring but is still able to follow my cues. She is able to sit fairly patiently in the Blind with 4 other Dog/Handler teams while we wait for our turn to hunt.  Best of all, she is so excited when it is her turn but not over-the-top like she gets when reacting. She just *loves* to do this!

{Typical Gilda: Worried eyes, Tense paws, body and face}

{Barn Hunt Gilda: Soft Eyes and relaxed mouth and body}

I think it would do us all good to follow Gilda's lead and keep on trying new things. She proves that there is success out there for all of us... You just have to keep sniffing around until you find it!

[After this post, Gilda went on to quickly earn her RATN (Novice Barn Hunt Title) and RATO (Open Barn Hunt Title) She is now working toward her RATS (Senior title )and she loves hunting for 4 Rats!]

{Gilda with her Novice Title Ribbons}

{Gilda with her Open Title Ribbons}
{Gilda with her Senior Title Ribbons}

For more info about Barn Hunt, see Barn Hunt Association's website