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.