Archive for the ‘Alice’ Category

Alice Training

Sunday, February 17th, 2019

SO happy with how she is coming along. Various videos of coursework and weave pole work. Very happy with how her start line stay is coming, I need to remember to be very clear about actually handling the first obstacle for her though. I LOVE her attitude and sticktuitiveness, and how she’s starting to reallyy build speed.


Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

Today was Nina’s first practice since we worried we could lose her at New Year’s. She’s BACK!

Alice is coming along wonderfully (and is in season, hence the leopard print).


Alice coursework:

Alice weave work:


Sunday, January 27th, 2019

There it is! Alice’s first AKC Championship point! I skipped Saturday because of the weather and ironically the weather on Sunday was SUPPOSED to be ok, but instead Erie got a huge snowstorm and getting home was terrifying and Jim needed to give me on-the-fly navigation instructions to get around closed stretches of I-90. But we got home safely, met Kat Klein, who is awesome, and spent some time with Ruth, Jim and Orbit! So proud of my baby girl, she showed so well!

Some Thoughts About Novice Dogs

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

We all have to do what we feel is right for our dogs. We base our decisions about this on experience, education, research, opinions of those we trust, and (I would hope) science.

An agility dog, in addition to being a loved family member and pet, is a long-term project. You are never “done”, there are always tweaks and improvements and changes throughout a dog’s life.

I elected to start Alice using the OneMind Dogs methods. I have used many of their ideas and skills over the last few years, but she was the first dog I used their methods with from the start. I followed their puppy training methods in addition to my own things and (my training partner and friend) Sue’s suggestions.

One thing Sue suggested, which I did, was to start running Alice on modified courses from a VERY early age. I think she was sequencing at something like 3 months of age. No contacts, no bars or bars on the ground, no weaves. The real benefit of this is that sequencing and running with me and adapting to my changes in direction and speed are things she’s been doing for over a year now. It’s nothing new to her.

Now some folks feel quite strongly that you should wait to start trialing (and in some cases even training for agility) until the dog is older, fully mature, trained through Masters level, etc.

Again, we all have to do what feels right. For me, I like to get a dog out at a trial pretty early. Nothing replicates a trial environment. And nothing shows up the holes in your training like a trial. And even though my dogs start coming with me to trials as young puppies, and don’t find the environment AT a trial anything unusual, actually RUNNING is a different story. So Zhora started competing shortly after she turned 15 months, and now so has Alice (she’s three days shy of 16 months).

The important factors for me are:

  • keeping my expectations reasonable and limited (I am not looking for a Q or perfect performance, I am looking for the dog to get her feet wet and have a wonderful, exciting experience, and leave the ring wanting more)
  • keeping the dog safe (do a few simple obstacles and see where we’re at). I didn’t ask Alice to do the teeter (even though she has a very solid teeter performance in practice) or the weaves, just jumps, aframe (which she loves) and tunnels. Remember, the goal isn’t a Q or even a whole course, the goal is short, successful, and FUN.
  • keeping the experience high energy and fun (I want a dog who is screaming to go at the start line, who wants to go right back into the ring at the end of a run, who thinks playing agility with me is the Best. Thing. Ever.). So I didn’t ask Alice for a start line stay (I held her collar and then released her), I did only a few obstacles, I praised her the whole way around (“look at you! what a good dog! you’re a rock star!”). I really believe in that Linda Mecklenburg quote about how if you want a dog to be a champion you must treat him like he already is one.
  • do a proper warm-up and focus work beforehand (I do this with all my dogs before a run, and even a short baby run is still a run). So some brisk walking, a few practice jumps, leg weaving, chasing the Lotus Ball, motivational downs (repeated high energy down, release, reward), shadow handling, short on-leash recalls, nose touches, tugging.
  • set her up for success: I no longer say “jump” in practice, for example, but in a markedly different environment like a trial, I want to help as much as possible
  • DON’T FIX ANYTHING!!! When Sue and I were course building and thus having to stay until the end of the trial, we watched a lot of Novice and Open teams run. We noticed how you could tell the difference between Novice handlers with Novice dogs, and experienced handlers with Novice dogs. Most of the experienced (and successful) handlers didn’t fix anything, or fixed only one thing. Whereas the Novice handlers tended to try to fix EVERYTHING. One thing Melanie Miller told us at the seminar last summer is so very true: the fastest way to slow a green dog down is to fix everything. Fixing things too early erodes a dog’s confidence and makes agility a stop and start sport instead of a keep going sport. Fixing things may have a place, but the first few runs for a green dog is not that place.
  • MAKE IT MEMORABLE IN A POSITIVE WAY. My dogs’ special treat after a run is a few bites of a plain donut, or baby food, or canned puppy food (the Royal Canin starter mousse is their favorite). Alice had only had crumbs of these things before yesterday, but yesterday, for the first time, she got the same as the “real” agility dogs get. We did my usual post-run routine of leaving the ring, HUGE praise all the way back to the crate (“You’re amazing! What a rock star! Go get your cookie! You earned it! Go get it!”), and then the reward given in tiny bites by hand with huge praise with each bite (“oh my goodness you’re so smart! Look what you did! How awesome are you! Yeah eat that cookie! That’s your cookie! You’re amazing!”). I have a special extra-stupid voice I use for this reward-feeding routine, but it makes my dogs crazy-happy and that’s what it’s all about. Remember that one big bite is one opportunity for reward, whereas five or six little bites is five or six opportunities for reward!

I was thrilled with how Alice handled her first run. She was happy and focused and this was by far the best first run I’ve had with a dog!

Admiral Perry AKC Agility Trial

Friday, January 18th, 2019

With severe storm warnings for Saturday/Sunday, I decided to make the drive today for just one day. Sure was worth it! Zhora Triple Q’d (she is so awesome) and her daughter Alice made her trial debut (I had a sentimental/superstitious need to have Alice make her debut under our dear friend and favorite judge Sherry Jefferson). My goal was simply to have her get her feet wet, maybe do some obstacles, hopefully mostly stay with me, so I came up with a simple FAST course, just jumps and tunnel and the aframe (which she loves), I didn’t ask for a startline stay, just wanted to keep it up and high energy and fun. HOLY MOLY! She was a ROCK STAR, ran amazingly well, COMPLETELY ignored Judge Sherry (who is also her beloved Aunt Sherry, and even Zhora had to give Sherry the “hey Aunt Sherry!” eye), stayed focused and happy and completely unfazed and the icing on the cake was that she QUALIFIED! She’s never run on turf, she’s never run in a match or a trial…no worries. I had zero expectations of her (and I still don’t, my only goal at this stage is for her to learn how fun and exciting this is), but holy moly was I impressed. She’s the first dog I did OneMind Dogs methods with from the start, and I do think it made a huge difference, she understands so much more at this stage than I ever hoped she would, plus she has that awesome temperament, she doesn’t worry, she doesn’t fret, she takes her job seriously, she is a working dog and exactly what I hoped for from this litter. Zhora and Bert, you did good!

Zhora Standard (part 1 of QQ # 93/TQ, 32 points, 4.097 YPS):

Zhora FAST (QQQ, first place):

Alice Novice FAST (FIRST RUN, FIRST Q!):

Zhora Jumpers (part 2 of QQ #93/TQ, 19 points, 4.769 YPS):

Alice Training

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

Alice’s first trial will be next month under Sherry Jefferson (Aunt Sherry). I am THRILLED with how Alice is doing at this point. She is amazing me every time we practice.

Alice Agility

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2018

Other than fluency with weave poles, and the “mojo” that comes with experience running together, Alice is just about ready to trial! She has all her equipment (need to review the broad jump), she sequences, she listens pretty well. I am really thrilled with where she’s at at 13 months of age! And she is starting to get some speed too! Plus a start line stay!

I started training a turn away to a tunnel today, she picked it up on the flat very quickly so, following the OMD way of thinking, I put it into practice with a tunnel off the aframe right away. She stopped, thought, and then DID IT! I just LOVE how much of a difference I can see this time around, having used their methods pretty much exclusively.

She is a very game little dog, she has suddenly become snuggly after 12-13 months of not being very cuddly at all. Better late than never! I can really feel the bond developing, she is for sure a dog who bonds easiest through working.

Various videos from today:

Turn tunnel (note that she knows a “turn” cue from work on the flat, and she knows a “tunnel” cue from, well, tunnels):

Alice Agility (12 Weave Poles!)

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Alice is ten days away from being a year old (already!). So I have started jumping her at 8″ and today she did 12 weave poles on Sue’s new offset poles (they’re offset by 1″ which helps with speed and training, the older dogs loved them). For the tiny amount of agility she does each week, this is fine.

One of the many reasons I’m glad Sue and I are training puppies together is that we can check each other (are we doing too much? STOP FIXING THINGS! Quit while you’re ahead. etc.).

Some technical difficulties with video (and my STUPID PHONE that will be replaced next month), but here they are:

Alice Agility

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018

I was feeling pretty rough this morning (being 50 has many wonderful aspects, but feeling like a sulky, emotional, insomniac teenager with no control over your body temperature isn’t one of them). I am so glad I have a great friend in Sue and so grateful for her generosity in being my training partner. There is NOTHING better for me than getting out, running around, working with my dogs, and getting sweaty from exercise instead of hot flashes!

First, and most importantly, Nina is BACK! She hasn’t done agility in 8 weeks, other than one tiny baby course that I let her run once. Today she got to play properly and BOY was she happy about it! Biting my shoes, nipping my ankles, barking, spinning, and running like a lunatic. Sometimes we all need a reminder that this is about our connection with our dogs, our love for our dogs, and our open-minded and open-hearted understanding of our dogs, and what THEIR quality of life is all about. Nina was INSANELY happy to play her favorite game again. And, for me, that’s all that matters. This really made me recalibrate things, I am just so happy that I get to play with my beloved Ninabean, my first real agility partner, the dog who showed me just how much a dog can love this game. I don’t care if we ever get another QQ (not much, anyway), as long as we get to play this together for as long as she wants to and can.

Second, Alice did a full height teeter! And she ran a small course with jumps at 8″ (she will jump 8″ whether she measures into 8″ Regular or Preferred, at least to start). She knocked one because of a tricky line and a handling issue, but otherwise she managed really well! She’s really coming along, she works really hard, she doesn’t quit, even when I don’t reward when I should, she keeps going. She is a very game little dog, and very tough in her mind and body. Exactly what I was hoping for. I feel very lucky.

Third, Zhora is just three QQ”s from MACH4! She is wonderful She worked really hard today too, and I can tell the difference between her and Nina when it comes to understanding many things, Zhora understands collection and deceleration very well, and works well with both acceleration and deceleration. Nina thinks collection is for suckers.

I am so lucky to have these wonderful, willing, resilient and forgiving dogs.

These videos are just some noodling around with coursework. I love videoing my training, even though I hate watching myself, because I can see what I need to be doing differently, and what is working. You can see Zhora in a crate in the background wagging like crazy and screaming because it’s not her turn. I know many folks hate when their dogs bark like this (so mute the video if you’re one of them), but I don’t mind it. I don’t enjoy barking, but under these circumstances…meh. They can see other dogs working and they want to work. Plus it really helps our dogs not care about dogs barking in a trial situation, and that sure happens!

Alice Agility

Saturday, August 25th, 2018

Sue and I had a puppy training morning. It’s a good idea to get the puppies out on their own, away from the big dogs occasionally.

We worked a jump grid and a course Sue picked up at a Theresa Rector seminar. I need to remember to be crisp and clear with my handling. I tend to do things slower than I need to, and muddier than I should. We’re a work in progress!


Jump Grid:

Focus Forward:

Jump Grid:

Jump Grid:

Theresa Rector Course (in which she forgives a VERY late blind cross! She is a very forgiving dog to work with):

Tunnel Call Off (this is huge, since switching between handler focus and obstacle focus is most definitely a work in progress, especially if the obstacle is a tunnel!);

Connection work: