a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: May 2005

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Puppy Goes to the Vet

Exploring the vet's office, hum de dum.
Our wonderful long-time vet, Dr. Kestler, checking Boost's heartbeat.
What a difference between Boost and Tika at the vet! When Boost has her temperature taken, she barely even notices. When Tika has her temperature taken, she shrieks and struggles. When the vet is checking Tika over, Tika pants and trembles and struggles. Boost just kind of looks around, stands or lies down, hangs out, whatever.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Planning Ahead

No time like the present to completely book oneself for the entire future. Didn't I say I was going to do less dog stuff and have more of a Real Life?
  • June: Well, gang, there is absolutely no agility within 2-3 hours of here all month. What am I going to do? OK, thanks for asking; I'll tell you. There's a rattlesnake avoidance clinic mid-June. After Tika cornered a rattlesnake in the back yard last summer, I'm going to go ahead and sign her up, and probably the puppy, too. It's $65 per dog, so I think I'll skip signing up Jake, seeing as how he's elderly and the odds of him encountering a rattlesnake seem slimmer for the rest of his life than for the other dogs. The instructor is actually the one who handles the dogs and the rattlesnakes to instill the Fear of Rattle in the canids. What hurts is that they recommend doing this training every year to keep the dog's reactions fresh and correct.
  • July: Well, there are two agility trials within 2-3 hours of here. But one is the weekend before my sister's wedding (here in my back yard) and so I'm not yet decided whether I'll go--although it's just up in Sunnyvale, and some fellow addicts have said that they can just give me a ring when my rounds look like they're coming up and I can zip up there, walk & run the courses, and come home again. We'll see whether that's really practical.

    The second one is on the same weekend as a USDAA judging and course design clinic. I've wanted to take one of those for years and years and there have never been any here in this area since I think my first year of agility. Now it's right up at my instructors' place. Turns out it's also danged expensive *and* is thursday thru sunday, so I'll miss some work, *and* it means I wouldn't get to do any agility for July, either. But I sent in my check. There's still a chance that it could get canceled for lack of interest. (Lack of publicity is the real problem.)
  • August through October: Suddenly at least one agility trial, often two, every bloody weekend. To top it off, I've signed up for a puppy motivation seminar (see, not *specifically* for agility) on the first Monday and Tuesday of August (more days off work).
  • USDAA Nationals in November in Scottsdale: I traveled last year with an agility friend who was an absolute delight to travel with. Her current dog isn't a National Championship kind of competitor, certainly not at his age, but she loves to go and hang out with all of her friends. Last year she also helped me manage 2 dogs (this year it'll be 3, I guess) and we shared hotel rooms and meals and we talked talked talked. I just asked whether she'd be interested in doing it again, and she is! So I'm set for November.
  • August 2006: Let's see, Boost will be 18 months on July 31 next year, so if she's ready, she can start competing!

Monday, May 23, 2005

After the Weekend

Puppy Don't Need No Stinking Fencing: I've been using the x-pen at agility trials because Boost does exercise in in--at least, moves around and actively plays--at times during the day. Also sleeps a lot. Saturday evening, after everyone was gone for the day, I took Jake and Tika to the fenced exercise yard to play some frisbee, leaving Boost in the x-pen. I had just barely thrown the first frisbees, when a puppy appeared outside the fence.

I tied her to the fence with a leash so she wouldn't get to play (reward) for getting out, then took her back to our set-up area later. She's very fond of Tika but is also aware of both dogs' presence; I figured that if I took just one dog with me, she'd be fine; also figured that she got out in an attempt to go where Tika went. AND the dogs were excited because I had the frisbees out.

So the next morning, a couple of hours after our original pottying and various other activities, I took Jake on leash calmy, no toys, out to the nearby lawn area to potty. Boost started leaping up the side of the x-pen, almost got a foothold once, but fell back. I waited a bit to see whether I could catch her in the act of going over and put her back, but she seemed to give up. So I wandered out of sight with Jake. Sure enough, a minute or so later, here came a puppy dashing across the lawn.

So I started putting her in her crate before each run with my dogs. If your extra dog runs onto the field while you're running and screws you up, they don't usually let you redo the run (which they would if it were someone else's dog). I apparently forgot one run, because as we headed back to our set-up afterwards, a lady came towards us with the puppy in her arms. Apparently caught her in the act, so fortunately she didn't get out to ruin a very nice run.

Are puppies fun? OK, she's cute, she learns quickly, she's pretty sweet. But I'm spending all of the spare time that I already didn't have monitoring her. Now I have to worry about not only all the random things in the yard that she shouldn't be getting into but could, including occasional wild mushrooms and Jake's face, but now she has decided that Tika's fresh poop is the tastiest thing. I have to go find some hot pepper sauce and try that cure--I'm not convinced (in thinking about it) how well it'll work--if the puppy doesn't like the taste or smell of the hot pepper sauce, will that deter her from eating Tika's poop or only poop with hot pepper sauce on it?

She needs lots of exercise and attention and I don't have that much time and energy--and it's certainly detracting from my time and energy spent on the other dogs, which was never enough before.

She's not having a lot of potty accidents, but they do happen, and they're always inconvenient, some more than others. It's not too bad to toss a washable mat into the laundry, wipe up the floor, and wipe it down with Nature's Miracle enzyme cleaner, but it does take more time than not having accidents. It is very inconvenient when she, say, projectile vomits half-digested poop all over the carpet in my office. I do have the tools and chemicals for cleaning it up, but it's not pleasant anyway and it takes about half an hour to deal with.

I'm trying to teach her to lie peacefully around the house, maybe chewing on or playing with a toy. This means that I have to pay attention to her and praise her when she does that, and then try to ignore her when she's engaging in annoying or potentially destructive activities without letting them become truly destructive. So it takes me a long time to do anything when she's not in her crate--and even then, I have to kind of keep an eye out for restless activity that might indicate potty time, and otherwise make sure she gets out regulary for potty and exercise.

I think a mostly-grown rescue dog is easier... sometimes...

CPE agility weekend: Tika did very well this weekend. My biggest goal was to get her reliable contacts back. On the first contact of the weekend, she hit the bottom and left the contact, but stopped when I stopped. I made her lie down and do a nose touch. On every other contact for the weekend, she stopped, and I had her do one or more nose touches and attempted to release her only while her head was down (so she'll associate that activity with being able to go again). She did very well at that, although she slowed way down on a couple of the down contacts. What a balancing act.

Tika Qed 7 out of 8 runs and took 1st 8 out of 8--the 8th one I overhandled *twice* for offcourses, sigh. But it was good enough to be in fourth place for the high-in-trial award at Level 5. Also-Ran *again*. (And although those first places were earned--nice runs and fast, too--most of our 24-inch top-level competitors weren't there this weekend.)

Jake ran pretty fast and was very happy to be out doing agility. I'm still second-and-third-and-fourth guessing whether I should have tried to retire him. The other problem is that, despite my resolve, I *don't * pay as much attention to him when he's not running as I used to when he ran all the rounds--there's always so much to do (working at the trial, pottying dogs, whatever...).

And it was HOT, probably low 90s. But generally it was a good weekend.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Collie Ears and Freedom

Omigawd, the collie's ears are both starting to stand up like collie ears! It was only yesterday that one of them started; today they're both visibly doing so when at full attention. It's that quick! I don't know whether they'll go fully erect; I'm guessing probably not, but who knows.

Puppy has gained a lot of liberty this week in part because I just don't have the time to puppysit while working on an intense project and she needs a lot more activity than I can give her at the moment.

I've been working up to it--have a large furry pet mat (3x3?) that I put on the floor outside the x-pen, enclosed on 3 sides by desk, x-pen, wall, and have been letting her play there or lie there and chew on a rawhide or whatever, as long as she stays in that area. She seemed to like it quite a bit because it had the feeling of being free with one open side (the side in which I sit in my office chair, so it's not all that free).

One thing I boldly did yesterday afternoon: Unfolded the x-pen into a fence across half of my office and removed the plastic from underneath, so now she has an area about 5 feet by 10 feet, in which she can actually run back and forth in little spurts and fling toys around without immediately crashing into the 4x4 assembled x-pen walls. (Plus I've always had a crate or bed inside, which really cramped the space. The crate came out over a week ago when she started climbing on top and going out over the x-pen.)

I decided to watch very closely for potty-like behavior--but even so, one of the thousands of times I turned around within the first couple of hours, there was a puddle on my fireplace hearth, and I hadn't seen or heard any change in activity that would have alerted me. The problem with me always controlling when she goes out (because she's confined) might be that she's not learning a way to tell *me* when *she* needs to go out.

So I had to mop that up and pour enzyme cleaner all over that--I hope that removes any and all lingering organic matter and odor from the brick that it was absorbed into. Sigh. Not sure whether that was better than on my unprotected carpet...

I've been letting her wander loose a bunch, too. Jake is mostly good around her and anyway he likes to lie near me or under the desk, so I can keep an eye on him when the puppy is around and the cold war tensions get higher. It's exhausting, trying to keep an eye on her, though. She definitely still gets into things that puppies shouldn't get into.

It's amazing how well, though, she responds to "Not for dogs!" (I just have to be there to point that out; this is the main reason why she's not unsupervised.)

She's had diarrhea off and on the last 3 or 4 days. I don't know whether it's the rawhide that she chews on almost incessantly (can't get her to chew on anything else for more than a minute or so), or the orange peels and rotten orange bits that she picks up in the yard--although I don't think that's it--or something worse. Then the stool is normal a couple or 3 times, then diarrhea again.

What's a mother to do?

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Assorted Notes

Ears at full alert: Merle ear is standing up somewhat and black ear is still floppy.
This isn't that grouchy old dog you're talking about??
Puppy's ears are trying to stand up a bit. Lopsidedly, of course. Dang, I don't want another dog with lopsided ears! The merle ear seems to be a bit more erect than the black one, which is still floppy. But only in certain very alert poses. Did I mention that one of her sisters (Bette) already had completely erect ears a month ago?

Jake's attitude has generally become very iffy. Maybe it's because he's deaf. Maybe it's because he's old. Maybe it's because he's just basically a grouch. He's actually very good around the puppy most of the time now, but--for example--the other day I went to get Boost from upstairs where she had wandered, and she dashed downstairs ahead of me, and Jake came from seemingly out of nowhere and landed on her again, and I had to drag him off. Did he think she was attacking him?

This morning, he was snoozing behind my desk chair. I didn't notice and backed up into him or over his tail or whatever--jerked him awake to his feet, looking for trouble (which he has always done). He saw me, didn't try to lunge at me (way back when we first got him, he'd lunge at our feet if we accidentally nudged him while he was asleep), but saw Tika standing on the other side of the chair and lunged at her, which is unusual. She was able to step aside and I yelled or grabbed at him or something, and he didn't actually make contact.

This is going to be challenging if his health holds up and he gets older, deafer, and grouchier.

Tika's first championship getting closer: I suspect that she'll earn her C-ATCH (CPE Agility Trial Champion) long before she makes it to her USDAA ADCH--we can't even get a single masters gamblers and masters jumpers leg to get her MAD in USDAA. In CPE, she needs 1 standard, 4 jumpers, and 4 colors for her C-ATCH--she already has enough Jackpot, Wildcard, Full House, and Snooker legs. There are NO jumpers or colors this coming weekend, but there are 4 standards. Think we can finish that one Standard leg?

The future champion telling the S-words what for.
Training falls apart: Here I was, thinking how great we were doing with Boost waiting after her crate or xpen is opened for a "break" command. I was up to about 10 seconds, walking away from the pen and coming back, putting on her leash, dropping food, stuff like that. And then--all of a sudden the last couple of days--she's not waiting any more! Did I progress too fast? Did I do something inconsistent that I didn't realize? Argh! I hate when this happens.

Walkies: Our new strategy for walkies is this. Jake and I go for a brisk walk around a long block (probably slightly over half a mile) and I can encourage him to once again pay attention to me and to tugs on the leash; we've completely ruined him trying to walk & train Tika at the same time. He's much better already.

Then I take Tika out with goodies and clickers and try to get her to walk alongside on a loose leash and to not totally freak out when walking past yards with barking dogs. Year 3 and counting... I thought I had made progress with seeing other dogs out on leashes, but then the other day once again she went completely nuts, slathering and throwing herself around and making such ferocious noises that I undoubtedly convinced yet another unknown neighbor of her aggressive tendencies. I just couldn't get her attention or get her to relax, even with the calming/holding techniques I learned. So--we keep working. I don't get much walking done with her--only down the street, usually,l and back, and that takes 10-15 minutes.

Then I do a little bit of leash work with Boost. I'm not spending enough time on that (or on anything) but I do think it's showing signs of taking.

Boost's leash: The Booster loves her leash. I do sometimes play tug-of-war with the handle just like any other dangly toy, but try to discourage her from grabbing other places on the leash and holding it at other times. I don't think this is inconsistent. But she does like to get it into her mouth when I'm just walking her around the yard waiting for her to potty. (Don't do this all the time, just when I want her under control for some reason.) I can't leave the leash on the floor next to her crate, because when she's out loose, she's liable to make off with it and dash around the yard cheerfully with it trailing behind. Last thing I need is a dog who chews through leashes; there are friends' dogs who do that far too often.

A circumpect puppy is a safe puppy. Or so the Boostie believes. She provides an interesting view of the world. I wouldn't classify her as a scaredy-dog, but she doesn't rush boldly into new situations. When her environment changes, she is hyperaware of it.

Some examples.

There was an empty 10" flowerpot sitting by a tree. Sat there for quite a while. One day, dogs rushing around knocked the pot over and it rolled onto its side about 4 feet away. The next morning, as Boost and I walked in that direction, she suddenly stopped, froze, went into the "what is that?" crouch and alternately stretched her neck, took tentative steps forward, tentative steps backwards, raised and lowered her head to get a better view. The Startled Cautious Dog. All for the same pot that had been there--but in a different spot--since she first came home.

One day while I was following her in her explorations around the yard, I discovered a largish rock (6" across?) that I had apparently unburied at some point in an obscure corner of the yard and left there. While she nosed around, I picked it up and later deposited it in a flower bed, mostly hidden among the taller plants. Sometime later, perhaps the next day, as we approached the flower bed together--the flower bed that I've attempted to discourage her from entering but with which she has had plenty of experience entering--suddenly The Startled Cautious Dog. It took me a moment to realize that that thang didn't used to be there!

I have these little wooden tables that have been folded up, leaning against the hot tub while Yard Construction goes on. Yesterday evening I unfolded one (in the same location it's been) to put drinks on. Later, she came out the sliding glass door--and became The Startled Cautious Dog. Once again, my over-generalizing adult human brain took a few seconds to catch up to her-- that thang didn't used to be there!

Your local tunnel flattening service.
Why are my tunnels getting mysterious flatter? I couldn't figure out why the cheaper one in the back corner was always half flat in the middle. (See yellow tunnel in background in previous photo.) Now I know.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Puppy Progress

There's so much to work on, and so little time! It seems as if I spend most of my puppy time monitoring rather than interacting in any way, whether it's playing or training. Jake makes it much harder, because not only do I worry about her getting into something dangerous in the yard (or house) if she were unsupervised, but I worry about whether Jake would in fact hurt her if I weren't there to yank him off when he decides she has transgressed. I can hardly wait until she's big enough for me to feel that she can stand up for herself the way Tika did right off (at 11 months old). Tika never fought, but snapped back in self defense long enough to get out of the way.

Tika is being SO good with the puppy. She snarfs at Boost occasionally, but this evening, out in the yard, Boost was leaping and hanging all over Tika's face and head--wish I'd had a camera--without Tika batting an eye. And they do play together some, when Tika's in the mood. More often, Tika wants to play with me when I'm out there, which I am grateful for but it does also suck up my limited attention hours.

ANYway--We've been working on:
  • Down: Using Rachel's method of holding food low and saying Down when the puppy goes to the floor, she's doing great and we're at the point where I can hold the food higher than her head, she goes down, and I slip a finger into her collar while I move the food away and then back again. We'd be much farther along if I worked on it for a minute or two 2 or 3 times a day instead of once every couple or 3 days.
  • Sit: Again, using Rachel's controlled sit method, we've just started. Worked on it only twice, just barely getting to where she doesn't resist forever when I work on placing her into a sit.
  • Hand touch: Greg started her on this before I got her, but she was very tentative at it--I think mostly because puppy eye-brain-body coordination wasn't all that good yet at 12 weeks. Now she's getting noticeably faster, moving quickly from one hand to the other as I raise them.
  • Watch: She has great eye contact. I've been working on putting a command to it because she makes contact and holds it so well already.
  • Sitting for her food: I want her to sit on her own (no command) before I put the food bowl down, then look at me while I praise and not go for it until I release ("Break!") her while she's looking at me. This is more good practice for start-line stays. :-) She's pretty good but not completely reliable--every meal I have to pick up the bowl at least once, but she does go into the sit immediately and is holding eye contact longer and longer rather than staring a hole into the bowl and then making a break for it.
  • Come: I've been adding the "Come!" command when she responds to "Boost!" and runs towards me, which she often does full-speed. On the other hand, if there's something else more interesting--say, some tasty orange peel bits dropped by squirrels or roofrats or whatever's eating them, or, say, she's got a rawhide in her mouth and she wants to make a game of it--then I get no response. Ditto if the other dogs are moving around in an interesting way; her ears don't even twitch when I call her name. At the trial last weekend, they had some mowed areas in a big field and I let her loose completely a few times to run and sniff. When I called her name, she came running back to me full speed every time. I also gave her a good pull-toy when she came back sometimes rather than food. I was very pleased.
  • Walking on leash: Just started concentrating on getting her to walk alongside me rather than going every which way (which is what she did/does while attached to my belt; she settles when I stop, but when I move she yanks out in front of me).
  • Get In and Break commands for crate, x-pen, etc.: My standards are that she go directly inside and not come back out; when I put my hand on the gate, she sit and wait for the "Break". Excellent, really. Goes right in in most cases, although she doesn't *race* in, which I'd like. In fact, she goes out of her way to go in (sometimes turns right around after coming out) in hopes of more treats. At this point, I've made being inside more desireable than coming out; I'd like the Break to have her racing out to me (as she might when released at the start line). So I'm starting to try to do more fun or rewarding things when she comes out--play, toys, extra food, lots of fondling & happy talk, whatever.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Get Them Toenails

Dogs' toenails grow. (Duh.) If they get too long, they can become painful to the dog when running or--for agility dogs--for things like descending a steep A-frame, jumping, and so on. Too-long nails are more likely to catch on things and possibly bruise the toe or even tear.

Remington and Jake never needed their toenails clipped at the Hacienda House. I thank our super-long asphalt driveway for that; we played fetch and did agility stuff like going through tunnels on the driveway, a lot, all the time, and that, I believe, kept the toenails down.

After we left there, however, the toenails started becoming obviously long. I hate using the various nail-clipping tools. No matter what kind of adjustment they provide, I often end up clipping down to the quick in the toenail (think of cutting or ripping your fingernail into the area where it's attached to the skin). It hurts them. It bleeds, although styptic (?) power seems to stop the bleeding quickly.

Friends introduced me to using a Dremel tool to sand away the toenails, and I like that, because I can go in increments and it's much harder to damage the quick. It didn't take long for Jake and Remington to accept the Dremel--I just gave them goodies as I brought it closer and closer to them and briefly touched their toenails and so on. Tika took slightly longer, being a little less accepting of touching her assorted personal parts (that would be any part of her, really...)

Boost has not been agreeable about getting gradually used to it. It worked fine up to where I actually touched it to her toenails, at which point she'd go nuts. After several days of trying to get past this point, and getting periodically scratched by her needle-pointed nails, last time I just settled her in my lap, held her firmly, and just did it. She struggled mightily and I just kept working at it. Every time I managed to get a bit of grinding done on a toenail (and we're talking maybe half a second to a second--it doesn't take much for toenails that tiny), I'd give her a goodie or two and praise and pet and snuggle. She held quite still for that part.

It was a mighty struggle, although eventually she relaxed and let me do the last several toenails without a struggle at all.

So I figured we had it figured out, right? Ha ha ha. It is to laugh. This morning I did Jake's and Tika's nails right in front of her crate, giving them and her goodies after each nail. Then I settled her into my lap, gripped her firmly, touched the Dremel to her toenail--and she went ballistic. It probably took 10 minutes of trying to hold her still long enough in a way that wouldn't hurt her but that still allowed me to make progress on her nails. And every nail she fought fought fought.

To her credit, she never bit at me. I'm quite pleased about that. However, because I was wearing my bathrobe, I ended up with dozens of scratches from sharp toenails all over the inside of my leg. Yowtch. Time to plan on not sweating for a while... And then, finally, for the last four or five nails, she waited quietly while I did them, and then was reasonably quiet while I went back and touched up some that I had done a bad job on while attempting to hold a wildly wiggling 20-pound pup firmly.

So has she accepted it yet? Next time shall tell...

I'm definitely thankful, however, that all of Boost's toenails are clear (white), so that I can see where the quick is inside! 16 of Jake's 18 are black; what a challenge.

Monday, May 09, 2005

The Puppy Is OK

I took her out an hour or two later and she was still favoring her right rear leg. Still couldn't figure out what it might be. I had a midafternoon appointment, so pottied her and left her in her (small) crate for 3 hours. When I got home, her leg seemed just fine. Now it's bed time, and she just got done racing full speed around the back yard for about 10 minutes, so I guess it was a temporary abberation. Thank goodness.

Crap crap crap

Boost just got up from her nap--and is limping! I can't find anything wrong with her leg or foot. She walked around for about 10 minutes and I gave her goodies and we played very gently, but she doesn't want to put much weight on it. Crap crap crap. I can't think of anything that happened this morning that might have done anything, although just before she went into the Xpen Jake tried to land on her again (for absolutely no reason that I could see this time) and I made another flying leap to catch him and tell him what for. Did I step on the puppy in the process and not realize it? Did he grab her leg and I didn't realize it, thinking I got him before he really got to her? Crap crap crap.

Nancy's Sheltie puppy has been in a cast for weeks because he broke his leg playing with the big dogs. I really don't want that to happen with my puppy! Crap.

A Pretty Good CPE Weekend

Saturday was a lovely day; a little overcast, which kept it cool for the dogs. We competed in two rings: One outdoors on a beautifully refurbished grass field and one under cover in an ex-horse arena on dirt. I arrived later than planned Saturday morning (could not drag myself quickly out of bed at 4 a.m. For some reason.) and ended having to set up my canopy et al at the absolute farthest distance that one can set it for this site. That's good in terms of whether I want to get more exercise walking back and forth, but bad in terms of whether I want to spend my whole weekend walking back and forth.

Saturday evening, lots of people left (Mothers Day Sunday, I guess, prompted many people to depart), leaving big gaps for me to walk by. I briefly considered uprooting everything and moving it down 50 or 80 feet, but that's a lot of work, so I stayed where I was. I set up my tent there, too, and it sure looked to me like it was going to rain at any moment (although forecasts all said rain late afternoon on *Sunday*).

Sure enough, it drizzled some around 1:30 a.m. that night but stopped; started drizzling again about 6:15 and the host club disassembled the entire course from the grass field and crammed it inside in the same dirt ring with the other judge's courses. So neither would be very wide-open, fast courses because the space was just too small. I'm thinking that the smaller of the two indoor rings wasn't more than maybe 40-50 ft by 70-80. That's smaller than my back yard.

Most dogs don't care one way or another about dirt or grass. But everything gets dirty in that arena. By mid-morning, everyone except me and one other person had dismantled their outdoor set-ups and had found nooks and crannies under the arena cover in which to crate their dogs. I just kept walking back and forth, getting wet, getting tired. But it's so NOISY under that cover--every barking dog and the rain pounding on the metal roof reverberated through the arena. It was so much more peaceful to be outside.

My right shoulder has been bothering me more and more all week. I don't know what I've done to it; maybe picking up the puppy, although I didn't think I'd been doing it all that often. Saturday night it was painful enough to wake me up periodically. Sunday packing up was more painful than Saturday setup had been, and about halfway through something popped in my arm and then it verged on excruciating. Last night it woke me up repeatedly, every time I changed positions in the night. It's OK if the upper arm hangs straight down at my side and only my lower arm moves.

That's kind of limiting.

I don't know what I'm going to do--apparently I can type OK but it's going to be tough for me to keep working on the painting and yardwork that need to get done for my sister's late-July wedding. I've been icing and heating and taking drugs. Fortunately it's another 2 weeks until the next agility trial, so I don't have to do more setup or teardown until then. I hope that's enough time.

Agility Varieties

Currently, I'm competing only in two varieties of agility: CPE and USDAA. I used to do NADAC, but their rules and the owner have gotten stranger and stranger over time and I'm no longer interested. AKC requires that the dog be registerable with AKC, which none of my dogs (until now Boost) have been eligible for.

Some comparisons

USDAA is probably the most challenging. It is also the oldest variety in the USA. One thing that makes it challenging is that you almost always have to run clean to earn Qualifying scores; NADAC and AKC allow some faults in some cases; CPE allows quite a few faults in many cases. The level of difficulty varies by venue, also. USDAA courses tend to be handling courses that also require decent speed; NADAC courses tend to require high speed; CPE courses are more on the handling side, but they don't fault errors commonly caused by mishandling, such as runouts (going past the next obstacle before taking it correctly) or refusals (turning away from the next obstacle before taking it) (nor does NADAC), whereas USDAA and AKC do.

I don't know whether any organization has a specific written goal for what percentage of dogs should earn qualifying scores in any class (if they do, I haven't seen them), but they all have at least unwritten guidelines; judges must design courses to try to fit that goal. For USDAA, it's probably something like 15 to 25%; for CPE it's 50% or more—the owner of CPE says she wouldn't object if all dogs Qed all the time but they do design higher-level courses with quite sufficient challenges.

It is probably easiest to Q in CPE classes. Still, it's not a cakewalk: We and other clubs often offer High In Trial awards or Perfect Weekend awards, and it's unusual to have more than one or two dogs in an entire weekend earn Qs in all their classes. I don't think that I've ever done it, although I've certainly earned 7 of 8 or 9 of 10 a very few times.

On the other hand, most of the top dogs and handlers in the area concentrate on USDAA and AKC agility--both are challenging and both provide international championship opportunities against the best teams in the world. So you don't see many of them at CPE trials; if more of them came, we'd probably see an increase in Perfect Weekends.

This Weekend at CPE

Goals for Tika for this weekend (entered in 10 runs):
  • Earn one Jumpers Q and one Colors Q at level 4; these are our last legs needed to be all in Level 5 or C. (When you're all finished will all Level 5, that's your CPE championship!)
  • Earn our first Qualifying score at the Championship level (besides Jumpers and Colors, we're still in Level 5 in 3 classes, but have moved up to C level in the remaining 2).
  • Bonus: Earn our last Level 5 leg in Snooker and 2 Level 5 legs in Wildcard so we can move up to Level C in those classes.
Ongoing goals: Stay in a sit at the start line. Don't knock bars. Don't do any stupid handler things. Hit all contacts 2-on-2-off and wait for "OK" release. Goals for Jake (entered in 2 runs): Have a good time. Give him a chance to run fast and stay on course so neither of us get frustrated by his deafness.
  • Sat Gamblers: Tika had a spectacular opening sequence; we worked very well together, she did everything I asked, except she'd hit the teeter end and then leave immediately--that might be why we ran out of obstacles before the first whistle blew. And then she didn't even make it into the first obstacle in the gamble. We were doing good for a while on gambling but I seem consistently to be picking the wrong approach for her. So--no Q right off the bat.
  • Full House: It's almost impossible to NOT Q in this class; Tika historically earns many many points and whups everyone's butts. We twice bobbled wraps from the Aframe into a tunnel underneath--another basic move that we haven't practiced in a while and has gone south--and she wasn't really sticking her Aframe contacts. Still, e Qed. We earned many points. But there's a superfast little sheltie with running contacts whose turns are very tight and who didn't waste time bobbling Aframe-to-tunnel turns who beat Tika by 2 points. (Different height, though, so we took first.) And--Wahoo! our first C-level qualifying score!
  • Snooker: Tika and Jake have both turned out to be excellent Snooker dogs. Very fast, very responsive, don't get confused by running *past* obstacles to get to higher-scoring ones. The highest possible score in basic Snooker is 51 points; in CPE, we need only 32 to Q. Tika had a lovely run and earned 51 points; only 2 other dogs out of about 50 on the same course came close, and one apparently popped out of the weaves early so missed one 7-pointer, and another knocked a bar in the wrong place so had to take a lower-point obstacle instead of a 7. It's not that I'm competitive or anything... But now we're in Level C in Snooker!
  • Jumpers: So far we're good on bars--one bar down in the gambler opening which doesnt' count against us. We have a very nice, smooth, flowing, pretty fast run, although she just ran Snooker about 10 minutes before so hasn't rested and I think she didn't drive as much as normal. And we knocked a bar. Fortunately, in CPE, at non-C levels you can knock a bar and still Q, so Wahoo! we're now out of Level 4 Jumpers. As a bonus, there's only one of about 50 dogs on the course who beats our time--who happens to be in the same Level and Height that we are, so Tika gets a 2nd!
  • Jake Jumpers: I manage to lose him somehow three times on this course so that he veers off in other directions--fortunately there are no offcourse opportunities in any of those directions, so he eventually rejoins me each time and amazingly enough (because CPE times are so generous) we still come in half a second under time and earn a Q.
  • Wild card: A lovely, fast, flawless run. Once again, only one dog of the whole crowd is faster--a different dog--but, guess what, same Level and Height, so again we're in 2nd. But that's one of our 2 level 5 wildcards down--one more to Level C.
  • Colors:We're on a very tiny indoor ring, and I'm not sure that Tika has enough room for a full stride before getting the first jump and I'm worried about knocking the bar--but she zooms through the whole thing flawlessly and Wahooo! we're now completely out of Level 4!
  • Gamblers: A different kind of gamble: This time there are 3 possible gambles and you can take them all at any time. We not only get all of them, but we get a zillion other high-point obstacles as well, for a total of 84 points. We rock! -- although Tika's contacts are *not* sticky (hits them but leaves immediately). But I mishandled the very last obstacle and get one point instead of 5, so we could've had 88. But one of our competitors had 89 and another little fast sheltie had 84?! Sometimes when I see that big a difference, I go back and check the scribe sheets to be sure they added correctly, but I don't do it this time. Not sure what course she chose for it, but that's a wayyyyy lot of points.
  • Full House: Once again, an easy Q with a lot of points--although she doesn't stick her Aframe the first time and the second time actually flies off it, so we miss 5 points in our score. We end up with 44 points along with a couple of other dogs out of the whole group; Chance the little fast sheltie had 46 but that missed 5 points of ours would have had us way out in front. But it's well more than a Q.
  • Jake in Full House: We start out great, fast, smooth. Then I bobble an Aframe entry and have to take him away from it and reapproach, wasting a whole lot of time--and then he pops the contact! But we get the next 2 Afame attempts, and Q easily with 37 points, but if we hadn't spend all that time screwing around on the Aframe, we might have gotten in a couple of tunnels for another 6 points and beenvery close to Tika's score.
  • Snooker: The 7-point obstacle is an Aframe, so if I pick an aggressive course and don't knock any bars (or make stupid handling errors), we can practice getting her to stop on the down contact FOUR TIMES. The first time, she hits and goes--I make her lie down, then continue. The second time, she hits and goes--I make her lie down. We continue. The third time she hits, hesitates slightly, and goes--I make her lie down. We continue. I don't know whether I'll get through the whole course under time, because it was an aggressive course, but the whistle remains quiet. We hit the Aframe for the fourth time--last obstacle of the course--and she hits the contact and sticks it! Yay! And as I release her, the whistle blows, meaning we've succeeded under time. This time 8 of 51 dogs got 51 points, and Tika's time was the slowest of that bunch--but consider that she had to lie down three times during the course and still made it.
  • Wildcard: A short, quick course with some challenging turns that we manage flawlessless. She's flying ahead of me and steering effortlessly. She is far faster than any other dog this time, but all of our fast competitors have gone home by now. But--another goal reached--we're now in Level C in Wildcard, too!

So, for the weekend, Tika 9 Qs out of 10! Stayed at the start line every time, although once (and only once) I had to remind her to sit back up as she started to lie down. Hopefully hasn't ruined her contacts. Knocked only 2 bars for the weekend, I believe. Seven firsts, two seconds, and a third in the one she didnt' Q in. I'm pretty pleased.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Gate photos

I added photos to the baby gate discussion from the other day. Be sure to go see those teeth--

Head 'em up, Move 'em out... Rawhide!

Here's another trick I've heard over the years. If you have three dogs, put out four identical toys, four identical chews, four identical bowls of food, and so on; this allegedly stymies jealousy, resource guarding, and fighting. With Jake and Remington, it didn't matter much: They fought regardless, and usually (we suspect) over me--and although I'd often like there to be multiple versions of me, there usually aren't. There have been a couple of pressed-rawhide chew toys lying around for a while, which Tika and Jake have periodically worked at, but not continuously.

Well, apparently, as far as Jake is concerned, Puppy is a major threat to the rawhide security of this nation. All of the last 3 times that he has landed on the puppy (I think it's 5 times so far in 2 weeks) have been because he thought she was trying to abscond with "his" rawhide. The last time, she was actually trying to get *around* him without going near him, because I mistakenly thought that Jake was following me when in fact he had sat himself down right in the passageway between me and Puppy. When I turned around to try to get him to move, he saw the puppy behind him and Bam! he went for her and I did a flying tackle on him but he already had her bowled over and shrieking. Poor puppy has been pretty much terrified of him for three days since then--over what was, to her, an unprovoked and undeserved attack. I'm a little worried about what this is going to develop into as Puppy grows up. I'm not comforting and petting the puppy; I don't want her to think she's being praised for being terrified. I am certainly trying hard to manage the space between the two of them.

Jake: Looking innocent (or perhaps ever-vigilant) with his hoard of rawhide chews.
Anyway, so I put out *six* pressed-rawhide toys to try to knock that pressure down a bit. Did this help? In a word--carnfounditno. Remember, if there is a national security threat towards the rawhide supply, one must hoard all the rawhide and stand guard over it to ensure the public good. I have to periodically empty Jake's cache and redistribute the bits around the house. The other option, I suppose, would be to pick them all up and have none around the house. But, hey, where some moms of human toddlers use TV as a babysitter, I'm not too proud to use rawhide chews as doggiesitters.

Soooooo cuuuuuute Boost in her pre-wet-and-muddy days.


Yes, yes, when training a puppy, one must *always* discourage behavior that one doesn't want a big dog to partake of. For example, lick the nipping and the jumping issues in the bud while the bud is still tiny and malleable. So, for example, if the puppy crawls into the laundry basket full of clean laundry and is sooooo cuuuuute, don't let it get to you, don't run and get your camera and start taking photos and making cooing "isn't that cute" noises, because you just know that the next day it'll be pouring rain and the puppy will be sopping wet and muddy the next time that you go into the laundry room with the puppy behind you-- Not that I have any reason for mentioning that possibility--

Tubie Thing™ gets a few nanoseconds of puppy attention.
One is also always supposed to have an approved-for-puppy toy at hand to substitute and praise for whenever the puppy gets into something on the F-list. For example, if every time you throw lint or a used dryer sheet into the wastebasket in the laundry, and the puppy sticks her head into the wastebasket to grab it and pull it out, give a firm "No!", remove the bits of lint and doghair from the dog's mouth, and quickly produce an Official Tubie Thing™ Dog Toy and encourage the puppy to play with it. Repeat forty-eight times because everyone knows that extremely intelligent Border Collies find the texture of lint more appealing than that of Tubie Thing.

Work Update

Nope, not going to Alameda, either. Have been trying to update my official company resume. I hate working on my resume. It's mentally and physically exhausting. I have to take many breaks to clear my head and to relax.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

News on the Job Front

It's looking like the 5-days-a-week gig in Foster City won't happen after all ("they don't have their act together yet") and it might be replaced by a contract that requires perhaps a day a week up at Alameda. That looks pretty good compared to 5 days way out of town. Amazing how a good scare can change your perspective. I still have to figure out what to do with the puppy while I'm gone. With the Foster City site, I might have been able to drop off the puppy with a kindly co-worker in Mt. View, but Alameda is in entirely the opposite direction.

There was no shade anywhere near the Foster City site, so no chance of me taking the dog with me and taking frequent breaks to run her around. If I remember the Alameda site correctly, there is in fact shade, so that's a possibility--leave her in the car in her crate in the shade and take her out every 2 or 3 hours. I mean, she sleeps through the night so she's capable of being in for much longer, I think.

This isn't definite yet, either, but they think they'll know perhaps later today or tomorrow.

More on Puppy Restraint

For years I've been reading about leashing a puppy to you as you go about your day as a method of training. Teaches the dog to be aware of you and what you're doing, to go with you as you move and to stay out from under your feet. It always sounded like a real pain. However, I've done quite a bit of that with Boost and it's not so bad. The puppy is also exposed to all kinds of noises and activities around the house, and doesn't feel left out, and I don't have to keep an eye on what she's doing in her x-pen or worry about her being too confined in her crate. She gets a bit more exercise by moving around with me and also a bit more mental stimulation than being confined with even interesting toys.

It works best when I'm up and around doing things—laundry, dishes, putting things away, cleaning, brushing my teeth, whatever. It's not so cool when I'm just sitting in one place. She gets bored and usually when I'm sitting there are things around me that are not appropriate puppy exploration material.

I bought a light-weight 6-foot nylon leash that's easy to tie. When I walk her around the yard under control--for example, to be sure she's going potty instead of getting distracted by other things, or certainly the first week or so to keep her with me and to be able to watch what she was putting in her mouth--I just hold the handle of the leash at its full length.

When I've got her on leash at my side, I double over one end of the leash and tie a simple knot in that so that I have a loop on what's basically a 4-foot lead. Then I have a caribiner (just a basic lightweight one from Payless or somewhere similar) to which I can hook the loop. That gives her about 2 feet of roaming distance from me and enough slack to lie down, too.

The only bad thing is that, with Jake so hostile, I can't have Jake come up to me, although what I try to do is to pet him on one side of me while petting the puppy on the other side. Then Tika wants in, too, and I have only 2 hands.

Baby gate into kitchen with Boost protesting.
Babies got pointy teeths.

Then there are baby gates. I have one that expands and contracts in diamond shapes that I use across the entrance to the living room to keep the dogs out on a general basis. I know that these are bad because small children (and, I see, puppies) can put their heads through them, possibly get caught, and strangle themselves. That's assuming that they're unsupervised—so I wouldn't want the puppy to be roaming around unsupervised while she's still inclined to stick her head through the openings. I'd use something else, but I haven't found any baby or dog gate type things that will fit across the 6-foot door opening. (Hmm, maybe only 5 feet?) Its other advantage is that it folds up very small when I want it out of the way.

I have another one that's a wood frame with plastic strings woven across it as the barrier; it has an adjustable arm that allows it to snap snugly into place in various sizes of door frames. I've been using that to confine her to the kitchen part of the kitchen/dinenette area while I'm working in the kitchen or sitting at the table in the dinette. That's for a couple of reasons: One is that there's nothing in that room that the puppy can easily get into and damage (hmmm, except the stash of paper bags between the fridge and the cabinets, which she desperately keeps trying to dig out and occasionally succeeding, and I really don't want her to get into the habit of tearing apart paper bags that she finds, AND I really can't think of another convenient place to stash those bags (which I use for kitchen trash)). The second reason is that it allows Jake and Tika the run of the house and some time when they can be near me without the puppy there.

One problem is that the puppy can get her teeth around the plastic mesh. This is not a gate that can be used unsupervised for puppies. Another problem is that I either have to remove the gate and replace it each time I want to get in or out of the kitchen or else streeeetch on tiptoes to swing my legs over the gate— hard enough normally but particularly trying when I'm already tired at the end of a long day. And then there are the times when the puppy just wants out and starts throwing herself at the gate and biting at the plastic. It's tight enough at the moment that it doesn't pop out when she hits it, but I don't know how long that will last.

Her original home had metal swinging gates installed in key doorways for dog control. They really need those, with 5 large dogs in a small house. But they're not particularly attractive and there's no quick and easy way to get them out of the way when you want them gone.

So I try to balance various methods—puppy off leash and running free in the yard with me supervising; puppy off leash in the house when she's calmer and willing to lie in one spot and chew on a rawhide, for example; puppy behind the gate in the kitchen or in the x-pen in my office; puppy in the crate when I need to leave her unsupervised for longer periods of time or when she's otherwise being a pill and I need to have some time not supervising; puppy on leash on my belt when I'm puttering around.

Fortunately she sleeps a lot. Even so, I spend a lot of my time dog monitoring.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Puppy Updates

Puppy was very busy over the weekend. Lots of things to see, lots of people to meet (we worked very hard on getting people to wait until she sat before petting her; she responded well but it's a long way to go), her assorted siblings to play with. She slept exhaustedly a good portion of the weekend, which i was grateful for.

Note to self: Invite lots of people over to come visit so we can practice having her greet house visitors properly.

Here's a funny thing. Two of my agility friends have puppies from the same litter. Mine is Boost, one is Bette, and the third is Beck. Where'd all those B names come from?

Boost has pretty much figured out the dog door, O The Horror. For most of her time here, she has simply jumped up at the sliding glass door after she watches Tika go through the dog door next to it, probably because she can *see* through the glass and hadn't figured out how Tika was managing to jump through it. Once she fell accidentally through the doggie door, but I saw no repeat for a few days. On Saturday, when she started jumping, she jumped exactly where Tika had gone through, and she went right through. I waited to see whether it was another accident, but last night she immediately jumped up in the general area of the dog door rather than the glass, and eventually went through.

This morning, she just went right through after Tika like a near-expert. Tika, who had probably gone through to escape the puppy, came back into the house, leaving the puppy looking at us bemusedly from the outside. I called her name several times encouragingly, and with only one or two tries, she managed to come back through the door into the house. Oh, well, there goes that barrier.

I am so worried about her picking up something bad and eating it. But I'll have to get back to the leash-and-gate confinement discussions later.

Another USDAA Weekend

The big goals for the weekend were:
  • Qualify in the Grand Prix, which would finish our requirements for all 3 events for the November National/International Championships in Scottsdale.
  • Qualify in one Standard run, one Jumpers run, and one Gamblers run to earn her Master Agility Dog title (all-around title at the masters level--usually the first title one earns at the Masters level).
Bonus goals would be:
  • Qualify for round 2 of the Steeplechase.
  • Earn a Super-Q (top 15%) in Snooker, which she'll need eventually for her championship.
  • Earn placement ribbons (as well as Qs) in any of the masters-level events.
Basic ongoing performance goals would be:
  • Don't knock bars.
  • Hit and stick all her contacts (that is, wait for the "OK" release).
  • Stay at the start line (wait for the "OK" release AND don't scootch forward).
  • Stay in a sit (not lying down) at the start line.
  • Don't do any stupid handler things.
  • Don't bite my feet after the finish line. (That would be a Tika goal--I don't usually bite my own feet even after a bad run).
Masters Pairs, first thing Saturday. We teamed with Indy, a Cattle Dog with an interesting history. Found with massive body and head injuries and no owner, the clinic figured he was badly injured enough that recovery would be difficult and expensive and he'd never really be normal; without someone to pay for or care for him, he might as well be put to sleep. But Anne—who worked at the clinic and didn't have her own dog—found something appealing about this little dog and said she'd be his owner. Now, a few years later, he's a fast, happy, talented little agility dog. His only flaw is a tendency to get the "zoomies" on course—running in wild patterns full speed, taking no direction from Anne. This is not the only dog with this challenge. But I had wanted to team with Indy for a while; I believe that Tika and Indy earned an Advanced Pairs leg together before getting to Masters. If both dogs stayed on course, we could easily have the speed to place in addition to Qualifying.

Tika went first. The nice thing about pairs is that the score is time plus faults—so if you're really fast, you can make up for, say, 5 faults for a knocked bar. Tika went really fast. She stayed at the start line. She knocked a bar. She stayed on course. At the end, although she lunged and snarfed at me, she did not grab my feet, which enabled me to cross the wide baton-exchange area without tripping and hand Anne the baton. Indy did not get the zoomies. Unfortunately, he popped out of the weaves one pole too soon and then took the next obstacle, which becomes an offcourse (didn't complete weaves before doing the next obstacle). Which is an E(limination). Oh, well, we'll try again some other weekend.

Masters Standard was up next. You have to be completely clean in Standard. It was a tough course with some challenging twists and turns, which can cause more knocked bars and offcourses than usual. Tika stayed at the start line. She was leaving her contacts a little early, but at least once she stuck it while I said "good girl" and then released. The last wild series of jumps we clung to by the tips of our toenails—it was not a pretty sequence, but we stayed on course and kept all of our bars up, so we were clean. Turns out that the course ate up 26 of the 31 26" dogs (Tika's jump height) with faults or offcourses, so Tika was one of only 5 dogs who Qed—AND took 4th! Mom is happy--that's the last Standard she needs towards her MAD.

Masters Gamblers followed. OK, this was an *easy* gamble. You don't get much easier than this in Masters Gamblers. In fact, you could tell, because the judge assigned it only a 10-point value rather than the usual 20. All we had to do was get there with some forward momentum and we'd be fine. In the opening, she knocked a bar, then later when I tried to turn her 270 degrees from the Aframe into a tunnel underneath on the opposite side, I bobbled it and she bounced around, back and forth, trying to figure out where to go, wasting probably several seconds. I didn't adjust my opening to account for that, so when the whistle blew, I was in the middle of the weave poles, further away from the gamble than I wanted to be, and I hate pulling her out of the weaves (and in fact it's tough to do so because I've worked hard at training her to stay in!). So then instead of executing the 2-jump lead-in to the gamble that I had planned, I decided that I would take a shortcut and wrap her around me over one jump instead of sending her ahead of me. Well--duh--guess what, she lost her forward momentum and kept wrapping back in towards me instead of going out and doing the gamble. Argh! So we were the opposite of standard--one of only about 12 dogs who did NOT get the gamble and the Q. Mom is very annoyed with herself. I *always* do this (change my approach plan on course) and I *always* regret it!

Masters Jumpers. Suffice it to say that she had a nice, fast, flowing, smooth run and knocked a bar, which prevented us from Qing.

Jake ran in P3 Jumpers, which is the "veterans" equivalent of Masters Jumpers. It's always challenging with him, now, because if he gets ahead of me, I can't call him on sharp turns, so I often have to do some extra really fast running and challenging front crosses to keep in his view. To my surprise and delight, we made it all the way through the course for a Q and a 3rd place--the dogs who beat him are both former national champions, so I feel good about that.

Steeplechase Round 1 was, as usual, a fast course; this time it had 2 Aframes rather than 2 sets of weaves. The first time down the Aframe, I released her very quickly; the second time down, she released herself and I was stuck standing still, so she spun to face me and start telling me that she wanted to know what to do next. This was a problem because what she needed to do next was the jump directly behind her, with her directly between me and it. I finally got her turned around and over it, but we wasted probably 3 or 4 seconds at that. And then—she later knocked a bar. Steeplechase, like the Relay, is time plus faults. Once again, her time was fast enough to make it to the 2nd round, but the knocked bar *plus* the wasted time dropped her out of the running. If she hadn't dropped the bar, we'd have still made it; I'm guessing but don't know for sure that if we hadn't had the bobble, we'd have made it despite the dropped bar. SOOOOOO we need to work on our contacts again.

Sunday starts with another Jumpers round. A chance to redeem ourselves. Tika is very excited and runs supremely fast, although twice I apparently give her conflicting info and she turns the wrong way after a jump, wasting a second or so each time to turn her, and the 2nd one is over a triple-jump, resulting in a knocked bar. Once again, no Q. I am somewhat gratified to see that, among the other 5-fault dogs, Aiko and Tala (Boost's mom) who are among the fastest around have times that are slower than Tika's by tenths of a second. I know we're in there competitively speed-wise--but can't keep our bars up!

So there goes our last chance to earn a needed leg for our MAD.

Jake is in P3 Jumpers again, and once again I throw in a couple of extra front crosses and we're great up until the last 2 obstacles--when he thinks that the previous jump was the last jump because it's sort of heading towards the side of the ring, and he slows and veers off. By the time I get his attention back, he has crossed the plane of the next obstacle for a 5-point runout fault, so no Q for him. And the stupid handler thing was that not only did I never even consider that as a possible problem, but I should have, and if I had, there was a very simple handling front cross that I could have done to solve it. Argh. But he has fun running, and that's really the main reason we're doing this for him.

Masters Standard. Well, she's been staying at her start line all weekend although she keeps wanting to lie down when I start to walk away; I am *insisting* that she sit up, even returning to the start line to tell her to get up. In fact--she does! (A bit to my surprise but it shows that some training pays off--used to be, once she was in a Down, she wouldn't go up into a Sit no matter what. When I finally decided to practice at home, I realized that we had never practiced or trained this, and she didn't really know how to do it. So we practiced it!) But, all weekend she has also been leaving her contacts earlier and earlier, it seems. In this run, she makes some challenging wraps and turns beautifully, but goes over the up contact on the dogwalk for a fault, so we're now not going to Q. She stops on the dogwalk contact, but the instant I start "Good...", she bounces off. On the teeter, she stops, but the instant I start "Good...", she bounces off. On the Aframe, she doesn't even stop, so I just walk her off the course.

Masters Snooker will be a challenge. It requires four red jumps in the opening, which are scattered around the field; the 7-pointer is 3 challenging jumps, and the 6-pointer is a teeter. Since Tika has problems knocking bars, I'm a little worried about doing all those twisty turny jumps *plus* a long lead-out to get to the first 7-pointer. But, watching all the 22" dogs do the course, it requires two 7s and two 6s in the opening (along with the reds) to get the Super-Q. So I do the long lead-out. She stays at the start, does *not* knock the first bar, sails effortlessly into the 3-jump 7-pointer, and we're on our way. We negotiate the technically challenging opening like it's nothing. We blast into the closing, which requires a couple of tough calls, and she responds like an old pro. We get through 2 and 3 and 4 and the tunnel part of #5--and she knocks the bar part of #5 as she blasts onto the teeter of #6, so we're done without earning points beyond #4. We had 8 seconds left on our point accumulation time *after* we crossed the finish line, so we had plenty of time left to get through the 7-pointer, but alas, although this earns us a basic Q, it is not a Super-Q.

Grand Prix. OK, we have successfully knocked one bar in every round so far except yesterday's Standard. In Grand Prix, you can have up to 7 faults, and a bar is only 5. But of course I'd rather not knock any--and there are beautiful placement ribbons if you manage to place. Requires fast and accurate, but my goal is simply to Q, so I'm not going to push it. On the first three jumps, she already knocks a bar (I think--don't remember where exacty we knocked it), so the rest of the course has to be clean. On the Aframe, I do a very fast front-cross/push, releasing her almost immediately, so I'm not sure what'll happen on the teeter or dogwalk. She holds the teeter briefly and I release her fairly quickly so she doesn't have the chance to mess up. No refusals or bobbles anywhere, and it's a tough course in places. The up on the dogwalks is the only other worry, so my peripheral vision is always checking the judge's hands as she blasts over it--and the judge's hand stays down! Then, on the downramp, she goes into "I'd better not make a mistake so I'm going to slow to a complete crawl getting to the bottom" mode. Argh! I don't thinks she's going to be over time, but with the knocked bar, all we could afford would be 2 seconds of faults. So, when she gets there, I release her, and she sails over the last jump and HOORAY! We've qualified in the Grand Prix!

So--to work on:
  • Not knocking bars. It's back to jumping drills--if I can manage it, dozens of jumps a day, both individually and in sequences.
  • WOrking on contacts--I want more drive than I've got even when she's excited, but I want her to *wait* when she drives to the bottom!
  • Start line. Hmm, I've been thinking for a while about the one trainer who said that she just figures out what her dog likes to do at the start line and then uses that as their position; Tika likes to lie down, so maybe I should just start doing that all the time, positioning her farther out from the first jump each time so she has more room to come erect and leap. So very many handlers who want their dogs to start in a sit spend so much time fighting and training their dogs to stay in the sit. But I still haven't decided. If I do decide, we need to start doing billions of practices from a lying start.