Chaos Crew

Chaos Crew

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Neverending Education

I wasn't really sure what to write about this quarter's Dog Agility Blogger event on "continuing education".  There are so many people teaching agility now - it really surprises me sometimes just how many of the people I run agility with on the weekends are also instructors.

So many of us are enrolled in weekly agility classes. At our facility, we have had some students consistently for years and years, with multiple dogs. We've watched them teach their dogs from puppy age, to their eventual retirement. If you hope to be successful at this sport, I think you NEED to continue your agility education with classes. It makes you accountable to someone with your training, gives you motivation to do some training away from class, and keeps you up-to-date with some of the latest challenges we see on the weekends.

It seems we constantly hear about seminar presenters coming in to the area, offering their expertise at a price - usually a steep price. This type of education can be great once in a while. You get a fresh set of eyes on you, and get the perspective of someone at the "top" of the sport. Every agility competitor can get something out of a seminar, but I think for the most part, they are geared toward the very competitive folks with the faster dogs.

I can't believe the explosive growth of "online" classes for agility now. Many of the "big name" people offer this, and lots of not-so-big names too. I think this can be a great option if you happen to live somewhere that is too far from a training center, and have to train on your own. You can at least get ideas on what to work on, and get some critiques on what you may be doing right or wrong. I do think though, that taking some online classes along with your regular weekly instructor lead classes could end with you confused and conflicted unless you are getting the exact same information from both sources. Ever hear the saying that the only thing two agility instructors can agree on is that the third instructor doesn't know what they are doing?

This leads me to another point - there are many people who take regular weekly classes from different instructors and facilities. To me, this has to be confusing to the handler, and ultimately the dog. On our local yahoo group, I also see many posts from people selling classes that they cannot attend. So I can just buy your class, show up with a dog the instructor doesn't know, with a handler they don't know, and I am supposed to just fit right into the class and not be a distraction? Just seems bizarre to me.

Our sport has been transforming over the years, with new and different challenges on course, and new handling moves or philosophies. To keep up, I believe you need to constantly educate yourself and decide if this new stuff is for you, or you would rather keep doing what you have always been doing. Ideally, when you do get out on course, the challenges you see are not going to be much different than what you practice every week and you will find yourself confident and prepared for whatever the judges can come up with!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Envy's First Trial!

I entered Envy in one day of the annual 3 day Thanksgiving weekend AKC trial at Latigo, which is the facility about 10 minutes from my house. I sat on the wait-list up until the very last day before the wait list closed and just made it into the show. I only entered Envy for this one, as it would be her debut and I wanted it to be all about her.

Her birthday is February 27th, which put her at 1 year and 9 months old. AKC will let you compete your dog as early as 1 year, 3 months old, but to me, that is too early. I felt that Envy was finally ready for a competition and I was very excited to see how she would do.

There were only about 10 dogs total entered in Novice at this trial - nearly everyone runs Masters. Her first run would be Standard. In typical novice fashion, the course was pretty straightforward.
Here is the course:

Envy did great! She had a little struggle finding the weaves, which surprised me a bit, but she got them finally. Her contacts were nice, her speed was nice and she ran happy and appeared to be having fun with no sign of stress. She gave me a nice leadout to start and read my cues very well. We ended with the tire, which she scooted under (ha!) but I brought her back and she took it to finish. We earned a Q with this run, though that was not my concern at all.

Envy first AKC Standard, November 30, 2014.

At the end of the day, almost literally, as we were the 2nd to last dog of the trial, we got to do our Jumpers run.
The course looked fun and had opportunity for some nice speed.
This is the map:

I made the mistake of not setting her up well for the first jump - I let her look off to the wrong direction and then just released her, causing her to come into me instead of heading to the weaves. After a quick reset, she hit the weaves and then I sent to the tunnel and took off fast. 
Well, with a less experienced dog, you have to remember to support all the obstacles! She flew out of the tunnel and sucked in toward me and didnt take the #4 jump. I put on the brakes and brought her back so we could run that fast line. She did it like a champ!
I put in a blind cross between #8 and 9 which she read perfectly. I had thought I would do another blind between #13 and #14 but chickened out of it and caused a mishandled rear cross at #14 instead. She then finished up over the double for another awesome Envy performance. 

I really couldn't be happier with our first runs! She has so much potential and I think we are off to a great start. 
I plan on debuting her in USDAA in January. Before that, I will work more weaves in sequence and getting her to recognize them in flow, and maybe I will put her through a tire or two again :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Skye's Retirement - 2014 USDAA Cynosports

Skye is my first agility dog - the whole reason I play this crazy sport and why I now have 3 dogs that follow me around the house.

My wife had been teaching and competing in agility for many years before I decided to give it a try. We were fostering dogs for Rocky Mountain Border Collie Rescue (now defunct) and at some point we got Skye. He took an immediate liking to me, and would climb up in my lap while I was watching TV and lay upside down looking at me. Pretty hard to resist his tactics. We heard from the rescue org. that he was found abandoned, tied to a tree in a park. I guess someone thought that would be a way to get him a new home. We guessed his age to be around 1.5 yrs old, a real common age for border collies to find their way to rescues.
One of the first pictures of Skye after he arrived as a foster.
So sometime in 2006, I thought I might try doing some agility with Skye. It really was pretty fun and Skye caught on pretty quickly. We trained for a little more than a year before entering a competition.

Here is the earliest video I have - from our second trial in July 2007. It was a NADAC show - that is where we started, but didn't do too much of that venue after we reached the Elite level. It's hard to watch the video as I clearly didnt know what I was doing - but isnt that the case with our first agility partners?

Skye turned out to be just the right dog for me to start doing agility with. He was medium fast and really listened well.

Over time we competed in AKC and USDAA agility. Because of USDAA's jump height measurement cutoff, he ran in the Performance program his whole career so that he could jump 22" instead of 26". That was closer to the 20" height he had to jump in AKC.

Eventually we earned MACH2 in AKC and Performance ADCH Bronze in USDAA, and his Lifetime Achievement in USDAA.

His big accomplishment was getting to run in AKC Nationals Finals in 2013, finishing 18th out of over 400 dogs entered.

In the summer of 2014 Skye hurt himself chasing a rabbit. His back was really sore and he had a hard time getting around. I thought at that time that I probably would not get to do agility with him any longer. Fortunately he did heal with no ill effects. I thought a fitting retirement for him might be to enter the Veterans Showcase at USDAA Cynosport in Morgan Hill, CA in October 2014.

He did really well. We ran just 5 runs over 4 days, starting with a warmup run called Power and Speed, where you have a set time to complete the contacts and weaves, followed by the timed portion of the run which is jumps and tunnels. Skye got 1st place in his veterans group in this run.

The Veterans Showcase is like playing DAM team, but with only 1 dog on the team. Your 4 runs, Standard, Jumpers, Snooker and Gamblers are scored just like team, and the top 3 dogs in each height get to participate in a 'showcase' event before the Grand Prix finals.

Skye got two more 1st place scores - in Standard and in Gamblers. He did not do so well in Snooker as he popped out of his weaves and took out a jump in the opening, so no points for those, and then he knocked the #3 jump in the closing. Jumpers is what did us in though - after the weaves we had a threadle sequence that I mishandled. I was not in the proper position, and I caused Skye to take the wrong side of a jump, giving us an "E" and zero score for Jumpers. That kept us out of the running for top 3.
Still, I couldnt be happier with how he ran. He had a lot of fun, barking his fool head off before his runs, and was super eager to run from the start. I am so glad I got the opportunity to run him this last time in competition.
Here are his runs from Cynosport

Skye-boy will now get to spend his time sleeping next to me at my desk, and playing frisbee and ball in the front yard, along with the daily rabbit chasing that I cant get him to stop doing!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Your dog's last agility run - do you want to know?

Skye hurt himself somehow a bit more than a week ago. He's been to the vet and they didnt find anything specific, and he had a visit with the doggie chiropractor at a local trial 10 days ago. His back is sore, and he apparently tweaked his front right wrist too. He could have done it during one of his 100mph blasts chasing one of the many rabbits wandering the property this year. I really dont know what he did, but he is obviously sore. The vet prescribed Rimadyl after some bloodwork and that seems to help.

So, I got to thinking that at nearly 10 years old, maybe we have already had our last agility run together. Maybe he will bounce back and be just fine, and I would enter him in a run here and there as I've been doing over the last year, but maybe not.

Would you want to know that "this" is your last agility run with your dog?

I am torn on the subject. If I knew, then certainly there could be a huge celebration with lots of favorite treats at the end, and lots of hugs and probably some tears.

When you don't know, you are just out there playing the game that you and your teammate love together, just working the course and having a good time. I hope we can all appreciate every single run that our teammate gives us, no matter whether it was a disaster or a blue ribbon Q. You really never know if you just had your last run. 

Last July, my wife tore her hip labrum. This necessitated surgery after getting MRI's and dealing with a good deal of pain. The surgery had a minimum 6 month recovery time and everything was going great, until she then experienced a bulging disc in her lower spine - a likely result of trying to do some sit-ups to strengthen her core. The disc caused sciatic pain and numbness in her leg and foot. After trying to work through this for about 6 weeks, there was some complication with the nerves that caused extreme pain in her left foot, making it uncomfortable to wear socks or shoes or even have the bed sheets touch the foot. Now she has had numerous injections in her back and upper leg area trying to overcome the latest challenge.  So here we sit, nearly 1 year later from the original injury, and she still isnt back running agility. 
Granted, she has entered the ring a few times to try and see how things were, but she isnt running right and doesnt want to do the sport halfway.

In the meantime, her now 13 year old superstar dog "Baby", who needed just 1 more Double Q to earn a PACH and PAX to go along with all her other accomplishments, has been retired from agility due to failing vision and hearing.
I actually ran Baby for a weekend back in April to try and get that last double Q. On the first day of the show, she ran great and had a smoking 1st place standard run, followed by Jumpers with 2 knocked bars. She seemed a little sore that evening, so we scratched her from the second day. On the last day I ran her Jumpers first and she missed the weave entry, probably because she couldn't see it too well, so I elected to not run her in Standard.

It turns out, that was probably Baby's last ever agility run. I wish Katrina could have done that with her, and had a big celebration for all the awesomeness of Baby's career. Katrina did have Baby entered in a show in May, but elected to not run due to her own health issues.

You really never know.

This was the last run Skye gave me at the USDAA show in Pueblo. It was a very nice Q in Jumpers. If this was our last run, I am OK with that. He is a great agility teammate, and an even better "best friend".

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How do YOU measure your Success?

This time for agility blogger action day, people are writing about "Success" (

The subject is open to interpretation, and of course, success will mean something different for every person out there.

To me, in order to have success, you must have some goal that you are trying to reach, no matter how big or small that goal might be. In an agility run, I might have a goal that my dog will stay at the start line and let me lead out two jumps. He may knock every bar, miss every contact and have a couple off-courses, but if for that particular run, I set a goal for my dog to meet his startline criteria, and he did, then I can view that run as a success!

Ah-ha! So to me, success is indeed a measurement against your goals. The same could be said of failure, or not meeting a goal that you've set, but it's better for the human mind to focus on what it will take to meet your goal, and not dwell on the failures along the way.

A bit more than a month ago, it was time to start training Envy on her weaves. Previously I had introduced her to a 2x2 weave in an attempt to get her to understand how to find an entry. This went pretty well. I had decided that I wanted to train her actual weaves using the channel method, as I feel like it encourages speed through the weaves, vs. the 2x2 method which encourages thinking. Rip was trained just on 2x2's and though he has good entries, everything else about his weaves (footwork, speed, confidence) is really lacking, so I didnt want to go there again, but I digress....

So, I set the channel weaves fully open and brought Envy out to them for our first session of backchaining the open channel. She was really freaked out about this! She wanted nothing to do with these weaves and was really concerned about being near them, and I was just asking her to run through 3 open poles!
Ok, don't panic I am thinking to myself.

What the heck does this have to do with "success"? Well now my success is not going to be measured by "Can Envy weave 12 poles". No, not even close. My goal for the next session was: can I get Envy near the channel weaves without her getting freaked out by them! I went out with her to the channels and we played tug nearby, and then I got out some tasty treats and tossed them near the poles and she happily ate them, moving around the poles to eat those treats. That was it - then we went in the house. Success!

Your goals need to be broken down into the little bits and pieces that it takes to achieve your ultimate, bigger goal. I've always been of the mindset that you not only need goals, but need a plan on how you are going to achieve them. I could throw out a goal of "I am going to win the 20" class at AKC Nationals", but what good would that be without a plan to make that happen? Break your goals down into the smallest pieces you need to in order to have success along the way, and keep you striving toward your ultimate ending goal!

Where is that tennis ball???


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Envy agility training update.

I haven't written much about Envy's training. She attends a class once a week, but more importantly, I try to work with her a little bit nearly every day.

She has moved up to jumping either 16" or 20" jumps and is a very nice jumper and does not hit the bars.

About two or three weeks ago I started training her on some channel weaves. Prior to that, I had introduced her to weave entries using a 2x2 weave. She is doing really well after an initial period where she worried about them. Each day we practice them, I see more and more confidence.

Here is a short video of our weave practice last week:

We are also working on our teeter performance. I have been following a DVD by Jen Pinder on teeter training. This is coming along great.

As for the dogwalk and Aframe, I have decided to train a running contact. I initially thought about doing a solid 2on 2off performance, but I know myself and I would expect that the performance of 2o2o would deteriorate as I got into a trial atmosphere. I also am not a big fan of the stress that stopped contacts puts on the dog, especially the Aframe. I was hesitant on doing a running contact because of how unreliable they seem to be - at least with those people that I know who have trained it using Sylvia Trkman's method. They really seem like an effort in frustration, where it's beautiful when it works, but so difficult to fix when it doesnt work.  I am trying Dawn Weaver's running contact method. I will give further updates on this as we progress.

There is still a ton to work on, and I am in no hurry to get into the ring before we are completely ready. I would think that we would be ready before she is 2 years old (in February 2015), but we will see.

We've done all the obstacles, but of course spend most of our time with jumps and tunnels at this point.

She is a lot of fun to work with and loves to tug tug tug for her reward. She also likes the floppy disc frisbee's which work great as tug toys and throw/catch toys.  Envy is more of a 'thinker' than a 'doer' type dog. She does have a good work ethic though and doesnt shut down if we repeat a sequence multiple times. She just really seems to enjoy our training time together!

Monday, May 19, 2014

USDAA fun in Pueblo

This show is always our first outdoor show of the year and the weather can be crazy cold or steamy hot. This year was pretty nice with 70's and 80's and sunshine so there were lots of people sporting sunburns!

They moved the location from the University of Colorado campus to a bit further south from us as apparently the university is replacing the grass in the soccer field that we usually use with artificial turf and the work is still in progress.

I had to laugh because the club president told us that we may not go back to that location after the turf is in because the turf can get too hot. This is funny because we are almost done putting in some nice used turf on our outdoor arena. We cant wait to have turf outdoors to run on!

I had entered Rip in everything except the Master Challenge courses, and Skye was entered in Jumpers, Snooker and Gamblers each day.

Saturday was a bust for Rip with no Q's in his 6 runs. The rundown is this -

  • Gamblers - it was a distance turn from a tunnel under the AFrame, onto the frame then to a tire. He came out of the tunnel and came to me instead of going up the frame.
  • Standard - decent, kinda slow, but he dropped a bar and ended up running around the chute.
  • Jumpers - didnt get video'd, and was a nice run, but he hit one bar.
  • Steeplechase - two handling errors caused a lot of wasted time. We were clean but did not make the cutoff.
  • Pairs - not our fault - Rip ran his side well, but our teammate had a run-by on the aframe which cost a lot of time plus the 5 second penalty put us less than 1 second over time.
  • Snooker - had a good plan going in the opening but tweaked my knee and couldnt get where I needed, which caused him to backjump a red.
Skye on the other hand was a superstar on Saturday, going 3/3. 
In Championship, there was only 1 dog that got that gamble. In performance, 4 dogs actually got it, with Skye being one of them. He's really done well on gambles lately.
In Snooker, he ran great and got all the way through the closing.
Jumpers was nice too - just good ol Skyeboy.  All his runs were either 1st or 2nd place.

Sunday had 5 runs for Rip. This turned out to be a way better day. 
  • Standard - Rip ran well, decently fast, but I rushed him and he came out of the weaves early.
  • Grand Prix - I ran it trying to get some speed out of Rip but wow he was slow in his weaves, slow on his teeter and really slow on his dogwalk. In the rest of the run, I did a number of blind crosses to keep moving and he did great on that, and we ended up clean with a Q. Only 5 22" dogs Q'd this course (out of 22 I think), and we were 5th.
  • Gamblers - So close - he did the gamble correctly, but it involved a dogwalk and he missed the contact. This was the only contact he missed all weekend!
  • Snooker - I ran Skye in this first and used the same plan for Rip, but the run order put me back-to-back in running this, as Skye was the last Performance dog, and Rip was the first Championship dog. Though I was totally out of breath, I did 4 reds and got through 6 in the closing, and ended up getting a Super Q!  I am sure we would have finished the 7 if I could have actually run. I gotta get in better shape!
  • Jumpers - The last run of the weekend was Jumpers and it was a pretty challenging course. Rip was in a mood to run well and he ran clean for 3rd place!
On Sunday, Skye again did really well going 2/3. He missed getting a Q in gamblers as he had run past the first jump of the gamble earning a refusal, but he did the gamble correctly. He did get all the way through the closing in Snooker for 2nd place and ran a nice Jumpers run for 1st in his group.

Overall, pretty successful, with getting that last Grand Prix Q that Rip needs for nationals. We still need 1 more stinking Steeplechase Q as I keep finding a way to screw that up. We have another USDAA trial coming up early in June, so maybe there.

Envy had a great time hanging out and being a border collie. 

Here is Rip's jumpers from Sunday

Skye's Snooker from Sunday:

Monday, March 17, 2014 Treats Review

I was asked by to review one of their treat products. We selected the Nutri Source Soft & Tender Lamb treats.

I like that these are made in USA (I will not buy any treats that are made outside the USA) and they contain NO wheat, soy, artificial colors or flavors. The first ingredient is Lamb, as it should be on a Lamb treat!

My dogs have all lined up next to me when they hear the package crinkling. The treats are dogbone shaped and are soft - easy to break in half if you want. Everyone has loved them, so they get 4 paws up!!

The package is 6 ounces and has a resealable top - make sure to reseal them so they dont dry out on you.

The package very reasonably priced too, under $4.
Order yours here

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Raiders Of The Lost Q!

Rip and Skye played USDAA this past weekend. Rip was entered in Friday's DAM team day. Our team name was "Raiders of the Lost Q". There was a pretty healthy entry for team this year with 17 total teams. Our team ended up in 3rd place! Norm and his golden Race'n had a "E" in Team Jumpers, but other than that, we had no other E's and each did well in Gamblers and Snooker too.

Here we are :)

At some point on Friday, Rip hurt his paw or wrist I believe and wasn't running 100%. He wasn't limping, but I could see him favoring his front left foot. On Saturday I scratched him from half his runs, and on Sunday I left him home completely so he could rest.

Skye was not playing team, but I did enter him in 2 runs each day Saturday and Sunday. 

Rip had a good day in Team with placing 3rd in Gamblers out of the 36 dogs in the 22" group, and then placing 5th in Jumpers. In snooker we got 33 points, and ran clean in Standard, but not fast enough for a placement.

Team Gamblers is always interesting because it's not typically a distance challenge and is instead a strategy / time challenge. That was the case this time too - when you heard the buzzer for the close, you could only accumulate points by taking tunnels, with the first tunnel worth 2 points, and each one after that worth 1 more point than the previous. My plan was to get 4 tunnels in the close and we were successful.

On Saturday, Rip ran Jumpers clean first thing in the morning, though he wasn't quite as fast as he should have been. That contributed to scratching him from his next 2 runs. I later ran him in Steeplechase and he was clean, though really slow in his weaves and not driving. We missed the cutoff for a Q and round 2 by 1/2 second.
I also ran him in Grand Prix, and he ran it clean and slow (I didnt have any Grand Prix Q's yet for this qualifying year). He took 5th place of the 34 dogs. After his slow Grand Prix I decided to leave him home for Sunday.

Skye's runs on Saturday were good - he was clean in Jumpers for 3rd place, and got 28 points in Snooker as I messed him up in the close by forgetting what I had planned!

Skye's two runs on Sunday were great with a Q and 2nd place in Gamblers, which is always nice to get since Skye doesnt do distance challenges very well. He would have had first place but he missed his dogwalk contact in the opening so we didnt get those 3 points.

Skye then ran a nice smooth plan in Snooker and got through the finish for 2nd place and a Super Q!

Envy came along all three days and had a great time saying hi to people and playing with other puppies.

Here are a couple of Rip and Skye's runs:

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Giving Your Puppy a Great Start.

I am writing this as part of Blog Action Day on "Starting Your Puppy". My last post was about Envy turning 1 year old, so I have just gone through a year of getting her started.

There are so many things to address with a new puppy, it's impossible to come up with a definitive list. Add to that the extra training you want to do for puppies that are destined for agility and it seems like an overwhelming task.

Don't compare your progress to someone else's progress as no two dogs are the same, and no two trainers are going to have the same plan.

Here are a few of the training tasks I undertook with Envy in no particular order:

Crate Training - agility dogs will need to spend time in a crate, and do it without complaining. Also, unless you are planning to watch your puppy 100% of the time, having a crate will give you piece of mind when you have to leave the house, or go to bed, or just need a break from crazy puppy time. You can watch 'Crate Games' or just logically make a crate a happy place - feed them in the crate, make it a safe place, and never a punishment place.

Toys / Tug - get your puppy interested in toys and especially tugging with you early on. It will help bring a bond, and teach puppy that life is more fun when interacting with you. Make it a game of keep-away, but let them get it plenty of times too. Use their prey drive and drag it along the ground and get them to attack it. Play with plenty of different toys too - you don't want them to only want to play with just one toy.

Leave Them Wanting More - puppies' attention spans are short, so don't let them be the one to end any game you play with them. You want to be the one to end it and leave them wanting to play more. This will help build a good work ethic and focus on you.

Tricks - teaching tricks is great for both the puppy and the owner. It teaches the puppy to be more inquisitive with their environment and more adventurous. It also teaches you patience. There are 100's of tricks you can train, and endless resources out there, including youtube. As they say, it teaches your puppy how to learn.

Chase Game - its a good idea early on to get your puppy to chase you. This can be a fun game and brings out their natural drive. You want your dog to run after you when they see you run. You can introduce a 'ready.... ready... GO' with this game too.

Bond - to have a successful agility dog, you need a good bond with them. They should want to be doing whatever you are doing - be the most interesting thing in their lives. This is a lot of work! You really dont want your other dogs to be occupying the majority of your puppies' time. Some of the other tips I am giving help to build a good strong bond with your dog. I live on 40 acres and think nothing of letting my dogs out with me off-leash. None of them want to leave and go exploring - they are always within about 100 feet of me waiting to see what we might be doing next.

Hand Feeding - early on, take advantage of your dog's desire to eat and hand feed them. Its a perfect time to do a little training, and shows them that good things come from you.

Explore Places and Surfaces - take your puppy to many different places and explore! You want them to walk on sand, grass, rocks, leaves, concrete, hardwood floors, metal grates, etc. etc. Get them use to seeing new places. Climb a hill, go down into a pit, go in a forest. Whatever you can think of - expose them to it!

Noises - you want your puppy confident no matter what noises are present in their environment. It can help if your breeder exposed your puppy to a variety of noises before you got them, but definitely let them hear all the loud and weird sounds of the world. You can take treats with you when you go places, and when you hear a weird sound, give puppy a treat. For example, go to Lowes and you might hear a loud saw, a beeping forklift, moving doors, trucks, etc.

Things that move - agility dogs will need to be comfortable on the teeter. To start that, you want your puppy to be OK with things that move under their feet. Wobble boards are great for this, as are the exercise balls and 'peanuts' or a skateboard. Put them on many things that can move and let them get comfortable with it.

Other dogs - my puppy doesnt have to be friends with all the other dogs out there, but I want them confident enough that they are not afraid of other dogs. Find out from friends if they have dogs that 'love puppies' and spend some time with them. Not all dogs like puppies, and you dont want to have a bad experience at a young age, so do this with care in a controlled environment. Usually puppies of the same age and size will get along well.

Other People - my breed of choice, the Border Collie, is not a real 'people dog' and as such, I make sure to introduce my puppy to as many different people as I can. Here it's important to carry treats with you so that you can give some to strangers to feed to your puppy. You want puppy to think that all people are great. Try to get a variety of people too - men, women, big people with big hats, little screamy kids, black and white, etc. My dog Rip did not get enough socializing with people before I got him and as such he is not at all confident around strangers.

Eating Near Other Dogs - we have too many dogs to have any of them be food aggressive. Early on, puppy needs to learn that they can eat right next to another dog and that the other dog will not steal their food. There is to be no growling or guarding allowed. I can be hand feeding Envy a piece of raw chicken, and any other dog can be licking up the juices that might fall to the floor while she is eating and she does not care. This is VERY important to avoid fights within the pack!

Leash walking - unless you like to be dragged around, teach your puppy how to walk nicely on a leash while they are still tiny!

Take Tons of Pictures - they grow so fast, you need to take pictures all the time. Posed and candid. You dont want to have them reach a year old and wish you took more puppy pictures!

Introduce Water / Baths - at some point, puppy is going to need a bath. Also, as an agility dog, its nice to have them enjoy water because it can get them nice and cool during a hot outdoor trial. My Rip dog hates water - thinks its a punishment. I made sure to introduce Envy to water as something fun.

Brushing - some dogs like to be brushed and some dont. Make sure puppy gets brushed enough times so they know its OK and not something to worry about.

Nail Trimming - same thing goes for nail trimming - since this will need to happen periodically, introduce them to it early.

Picking Her Up - teach puppy that it's fun to get picked up. Again, treats will be your friend here. You want your dog comfortable with you picking them up and carrying them a bit.

I could probably go on with 20 more things very easily, but that is a good list to get a puppy started. I have the advantage of working from home, so can spend a lot more time throughout the day with them than someone who has to be away for work all day.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Envy has her first birthday!

On February 27th, Envy turned 1 year old!

She has fit in perfectly as part of the Chaos Crew and is learning to be an agility superstar. You could say she is the perfect puppy! She is a ton of fun to work with - she has a great work ethic and loves to play tug with most any toy you offer.

Now that she's a year, I am going to begin her 2x2 weaves. This time I plan on using the Mary Ellen Barry variant of the Susan Garrett method.

Here are a few pictures from the past year of Envy growing up. I miss the little puppy Envy but so look forward to working with the more grown up Envy!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

MACH Rip!!

MACH Victory Lap

I attended two days of the big 4 day AKC "Rocky Mountain Cluster" show which includes confirmation, rally, and obedience as well as agility. It's held in a big arena with three rings running concurrently. I skipped this show last year because of a number of reasons, but decided to do Saturday and Sunday this year.

As it turned out, going into this show Rip still needed two Double Qs to complete his first MACH. Over our past 2 AKC shows, we have not had the best luck and didn't manage a single Double Q, so I really didnt have high expectations that we would have a perfect weekend here. 

Well obviously based on the title of this post, we DID have a perfect weekend (at least as far as JWW and Standard are concerned!). Rip ran well on Saturday, though not as fast as usual, but still clean at least and he kept all the bars up - something that had been plaguing us over the last couple trials.
I have also been working on Rip's running AFrame, the failure of which contributed to us not getting any Standard Qs over the last couple trials. Though I was not happy that his striding on the frame wasn't correct as we have been practicing, he was at least hitting all of the contacts, including in the FAST class as well.

So after Saturday, we were sitting at 19 Double Qs. Skye has managed to earn 2 MACHs, but in both cases, we were not successful in getting that last Double Q on the first try. Sunday would be Rip's first try at it!

Rip tends to Q Jumpers courses more frequently than Standard courses, so when I saw that we were running Standard first again, I thought that if we could Q that, we would have a pretty good chance. He did have a nice run in Standard, though probably about 4 seconds slower than usual, based on our average number of MACH points that we get on a Standard run. He wasnt really driving through the course and I was wondering if he might be stressed because of the 'hugeness' of this show - it can be overwhelming and I have a friend who doesnt do this show anymore because her dogs stress too much here.

A short while after our run, after videoing a friend, Rip actually tried to potty in the arena - something he has never done before, so we ran outside and he went right away. He obviously wasnt feeling 100%, but what a good boy to keep running for me.

We had a long wait before our Jumpers run, and Rip did seem to be feeling better. The course seemed pretty straightforward for us - just make sure to support the jumps and cue the turns in time. Rip ran great and as he headed for the last obstacle - a tunnel - I knew we had it!

My friend Kenette ran out and handed me the MACH bar and ribbon and we went for our victory lap. Unfortunately Kenette's husband who was filming us didnt keep the video running after our run to catch the lap, but another friend did snap a bunch of pictures.

Here is a video I put together of our final Double Q.

Here is the Standard course - after the AFrame, I ran up to do a front cross between jump 3 and 4 and almost lost Rip to the wrong end of the tunnel. A number of people choose to keep the dog on their right after the tunnel for the 6-7-8 sequence and had their dogs actually run around the #8 tire. It was easy enough for me to go in for a front between 7 and 8 and shape the line which worked much better.
Everything else was pretty straightforward, though the finish from the weaves was a long run and if I get behind, sometimes Rip will look at me over his shoulder and drop a bar so I had to hustle up to avoid that.

The JWW course didnt have any specific challenge area to worry about. The jumps were a little offset from 6 to 7, and again from 8 to 9. I did chicken-out of my planned blind cross between 9 and 10 and instead held up to do a rear cross. I should have done it, but I was apparently doing MACH handling and being more conservative than usual. When I ran Skye on this course, I did do the blind and Skye actually ended up running almost a second faster than Rip did.
Anyway, the only real choice I had to make was which way to wrap the #16 jump. I decided to let Rip take the slightly longer way that presented a better line to the finish. Asking Rip for a full 360 degree wrap is usually much slower than the longer distance wrapping the other way.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Retraining :: Running Aframe for Rip

Rip has been competing for a little over 4 years now. When we first started training, I wanted to teach him running contacts, and that is what we trained exclusively. I spent the vast majority of our contact training time concentrating on the dogwalk. When I took his training to competition, I was getting major launches, mostly on the dogwalk, but sometimes on the AFrame too. After quite a bit of frustration early on, maybe close to a year??, I came to the conclusion that I had to teach Rip a stopped contact.

While he did pretty well in practice with his stopped contacts, I get a different dog in competition - one that is amped way higher than the dog I ever see in practice. This leads to more missed contacts - he just doesnt give me a 2o2o in competition, and given that he is such a soft dog, I will not correct him in the ring as that likely would shut him down too much. I started to see this when I would loudly tell him to TOUCH on his aframes and I ended up with a dog who would creep slowly down from the apex.
I've experimented with not telling him anything, doing a lot of blinds or not crossing at all in front of the frame, and other things to get him more comfortable with it. I was getting a lot of misses, where he would stride over the yellow leaving just an inch or two above the contact, unless I overmanaged the contact and got a slow one.

This past November we had a seminar at our place with Loretta Mueller. One of the things I told her that I wanted to work on with Rip was his AFrame. She really thought that he needed a true running aframe, and I agreed. I began by watching the Rachel Sander's DVD about using the 'box' method for training a running aframe. I watched the DVD twice and made some notes and started training the groundwork part, teaching value for the box and then the jumps to the box.

I recently put the box on the AFrame itself and did some videoing to see how it was coming along. I started with a fullheight frame and was not at all happy with the results, as Rip was adding extra steps/strides on the down portion.

I then lowered the frame and have added a noodle at the top of the frame as a stride regulator, to encourage the correct footwork. This is critical in the success of the running AFrame - two strides up, two strides down, always in the yellow. Rip responded really well to the lowered frame, so that is where we are for now.

Rachel mentions that you can still compete while re-training this, but you cannot ask for any stops. I am using the 'hit-it' command in competition and no longer saying Touch.

Here is a short video of what I was getting on the frame this week:

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

January USDAA fun.

I went to the USDAA trial in Longmont, CO this past weekend with my daughter and her 2 dogs. This was the first time that she and I have gone to a trial and stayed overnight in a hotel together - she just recently started running her young border collie Carbon, and this was only her second show.

I entered Skye in 2 runs a day, while Rip was entered in everything. This trial did start on Friday but we were not entered. Saturday ended up being a REALLY long day as there were well over 400 runs in a one-ring trial, and I finished my Master Pairs run with Rip at 6:45pm. We've had a few trials that have gone later, but it's definitely not typical.

The weekend started with Master Jumpers and Skye ran it first. He did a really nice job, very efficient, and finished clean with 1st place! This was great since I havent entered Skye in any trial for a few months. The (now) 20" performance group has grown quite a bit, as we used to be lucky to have 5 or 6 dogs entered, but this weekend we had 11 dogs.

I ran Rip on the same course and he did great - I, however, did not do as great and did not support an 'out' jump, pulling him off of it and giving us an NQ. I was happy with Rip's running though - his time was pretty competitive.

Rip was entered in Steeplechase next, and it was a 2-weave course. I have been trying to get more speed out of his weaves, as it's a big weakness of his - his footwork is just terrible and he does not have a consistent pattern. I never have high expectations when I see 2 sets of weaves in Steeplechase as we will often not make round 2 even when clean, but he did OK and didnt have any faults, getting us into round 2 with even a few seconds to spare on the cutoff.

Rip then got to run Grand Prix - it was a pretty straightforward course as far as Grand Prix courses go. He ran it pretty well, a little slower than I'd like to see, but jeeze when he did the dogwalk, I looked at him and said touch and he stopped about 3 inches above the yellow, and took 5 seconds to come down into the contact!! I released him and it was just tire then jump to finish, and he looked back over his shoulder at me over the last jump and dropped the damn last bar. Would have been a clean run - we still dont have any Grand Prix Qs for this qualifying period.

We then ran Standard and Rip ran it clean, though really pretty slow. Not a lot of dogs ran clean in Standard.

Next Skye got to run Snooker first and he did really well in the opening, getting our plan of  7+6+6 (only 3 red allowed). In the closing, he was heading for the wrong end of the #3 tunnel and I called him off of it too late, causing him to go BEHIND the tunnel and then hop himself up sideways on the dogwalk - it was pretty funny but not good for a Q!

Rip ran the same plan and after a painfully slow set of weaves, he got the 7+6+6 opening as well, and I got him into the correct end of the #3 tunnel and then proceeded to send him offcourse instead of the #4 jump, which was very far away from the tunnel. Ah well, no Q for Rip in snooker either.

We stuck around late for the Pairs run, and were running with the very fast dog Rookie. They ran first, and Jen was concerned about the offcourse tire sitting after the last jump in her half so she over-called Rookie and he dropped his last bar. Rip then got to go and did really well on his half running clean. Our 5 point fault put us in 3rd but our time was less than 1 second off the fastest time.

Sunday opened with Standard and Rip dropped the first bar, so it turned into a practice run. Silly boy ran past the chute as well, but it didnt really matter at that point.

Skye ran an awesome Standard run, though he did drop 1 bar on a sharp turn. His time was the fastest in our group.

Snooker was up next with both dogs entered. Rip got to go first, and my plan was 3 6's, as the 7 involved an Aframe / tunnel discrimination that I didnt want to mess with. Rip dropped the third red, causing a scramble to get into the closing but he listened and did it. We got through the 6 in the closing and then I over-worried the discrimination and sent him right into the offcourse tunnel, so no Q because of dropping that bar in the opening.
Skye then got to run and he did awesome. He got the 3 6's and again got to the 7 in the close, where I did the exact same thing and blew the discrimination. Skye got the Q though.

Rip got to run Steeplechase finals, this time with 2 AFrames which is better for us. He did OK, though again pretty slow compared to his potential - maybe he was tired or sore, though he didnt show it before the run. We did end up in 3rd place, earning $10, though mostly that was because other dogs went off course - not because he was faster than anybody. Still, I'll take it ;)

I had also entered Rip in the Master Challenge Jumpers. This turned out to be a mistake since he really was not in any mood to run anymore. He refused to take the backside of #2, so we got a refusal right there (here's your NQ), and I continued up to the weaves which were #5 and he walked them and wandered out at pole 10, so I ended our run there. I wish clubs would not leave the most challenging courses for the last run of the trial.

I left Envy at home for this trial as I didnt want to chance her pottying in the hotel room, and I knew I would not have a lot of downtime during the trial to do much with her.

Here are some videos from the boys:

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The new blog name

Now that I am back, I have decided to rename my blog from 'Gregs Dog Blog blah blah' to 'The Chaos Crew'

The name comes from what my wife says about my dogs - I always bring chaos into a room, or if at a trial, when I bring them up into the stands and such. We are the chaos crew - can't settle, get intertwined with each other, want to say hi to everyone, etc. Her dogs lie down and behave, sometimes so much that you dont know they are there.

Well, not my dogs - we bring a little chaos where we go!

I'm Back!

Welcome 2014!
I have been an awful blogger and stopped posting right as things got interesting - I had picked my puppy from the litter I wrote about back in March 2013, and have spent the next 8 months with my fabulous Envy puppy, who is now 10 months old.
She is learning agility and doing great. I plan on keeping up with my blog this year. I had been putting regular updates on Facebook, but those really just disappear and get lost in the shuffle.

Rather than a big long description to catch up, I've just included a bunch of pictures from the past 10 months or so. I hope there are still a few people who might have a look at my blog!


Pretty 'frosting' on the trees to start winter

Here is Envy at 10 months old. She's a beauty.

Envy 'dancing' for her Christmas picture.

Rip giving me a goofy look for his Christmas picture.

Skye and Envy hanging out in the heat of summer.

Envy helping replace the flooring in our bedroom.

Handsome Rip boy.

Skye had these tires for sale on Craigslist.

Replaced a couple old wood windows with new vinyl in the bedroom.

Envy at about 5 months.

Skye checking to see where the rabbit went.

Rip practicing a different kind of agility.

Skye chilling out in the shade.

Envy loves to catch weeds and run with them.

Late spring snow gave Skye something to play in.

Awful Black Forest fire that took 500+ homes was too close for comfort.

Envy loves to steal the frisbee from Skye. You can see she started this very young!