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