Saturday, February 28, 2009

What a Face!

Aurora has been here only two days, and she's been such a joy! Anna is really working with her foundation (impulse control, eye contact, proper leash walking). This translates into what we humans call "manners." It makes all the difference in the world. It makes a dog people want to be around.

I'm dog sitting this weekend while Anna is away and took out the camera to share "that face" with you. Here she is sitting, focused, beautiful concentration.

Here's her lovely, soft eyes and expression. What a cutie! She learns very quickly.

I was making dinner last night, so I was shaping her to get on this dog bed and stay there. She'd come off the bed, and I would ignore her. When she turned toward the bed, I'd throw a cookie on the bed. Then I upped the criteria to getting on the bed to earn a cookie. Finally, I gave her cookies only as she was resting on the bed. Here she is in early stages of learning to go to the dog bed (her choice). She wants to work; she has great attitude.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Suggestions

When I need to drive any distance—short or long—I would rather listen to an audiobook than music. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy music and have a iPod that has been a life saver at work sometimes. But for driving, I’d rather “read” and enjoy a good book.

And that brings me to my question: What book recommendations do you have?

I’ve read a number of Dean Koontz books and enjoy the suspense that he creates. But I like non-fiction as well as fiction. Love mysteries, comedies, and romance, but above all, a great story in any genre is essential. I use electronic services to get my books in mp3 format, and I need help finding books. What key words should I be using? If you don't know what to search for, it's difficult to conduct a search. =:O)

My favorite topic, of course, is dogs and anything about dog training, dog learning, and dog psychology. I own all the James Herriott books; they are my absolute favorites. I drag them out again and again, like favorite slippers, worn and comfortable. You know what’s coming but still laugh and cry at the same places.

I need some new books for the upcoming agility season. When I’m driving to a trial at 4 a.m., I want a good story to make the trip fun.

Thanks for any suggestions…

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Company's Coming

O Happy Day. Today's the day that my Anna is coming for a long visit. I'm as excited as a five-year-old child at Christmas.

My grandmother was from the coal regions of Pennsylvania. Part of the culture there was to put a possessive pronoun in front of any family member's name. Therefore, it wasn't Uncle Ken, it was our Ken. I knew my friend Janice was accepted when my grandmother referred to her as our Janice. She's family now! Anna is like that; she's not related to us, but she's our Anna.

She's bringing her Boston Terrier with her. What a lovely little dog--no trouble, well mannered, playful, sweet tempered. So you can see that I'm having a double-blast of fun when our Anna comes to visit. She told me that she'd like to begin some agility foundation work on her dog, and that got me to thinking about some of the fun exercises we do to prepare our dogs for working with us.

Here's one of my favorites. It's a game called Rule Outs. The "goal" of the game is to have the dog ignore what he wants (a fist full of treats) and give you his attention (eye contact) instead. It's great for teaching attention, impulse control, and is practical at an agility trial. People often feed dogs before they go into the ring, and sometimes the smell or litter of tidbits is everywhere. Instead of having Fido sniffing and scrounging for leftovers, you can play Rule Outs. My dog Mike is the master of the Rule Outs game.

Here's the process: Take a handful of small treats and sit in front of your dog. The dog's position is irrelevant--sit, stand, lie down, whatever. Present your *closed* fist to the dog. He'll sniff, perhaps paw at your hand. The bank of treats is closed. The key to open the bank it is to look at me. You are QUIET--not a peep. When he looks at you (sometimes as if to say, "Come on! Help me out here!), open your hand and give him one of the treats. If he comes towards you, simply close the bank (fist). He'll quickly learn that to look at you is the key. To up the criteria, keep your hand open and put it close to your dog, on the ground, anywhere. He'll ignore what's in your hand (it's ruled out) and look to you for a reward. NEVER let him eat the cookies from your hand. He only gets treats from you as you give them to him. Then you can put treats on the ground, on his paw, anywhere, and he'll ignore them. My agility instructor used this game to teach her dog to back up. She'd toss the cookie between his front paws. When he backed up, he got a second reward. Fun stuff!

Sunday, February 22, 2009


I took advantage of an ugly day outside and stayed inside to bathe my three shelties. My poodle went to the groomer's on Saturday, so my entire pack is shampooed, fluffed, and gorgeous. Here is a before picture. I bathed Cosi (left) Brisco (center), and Mike (right). They are still wet and looking like drowned pups and not the spectacular shelties that they are. For my birthday one year my Mom bought me Hair Force One dog hair dryer. It's fantastic. They dry in minutes instead of hours.

My grooming process is quite involved, and the hair is *everywhere*! My dream is to have a grooming room with all the amenities. As it is, I groom on the glassed-in porch we have. When I'm done, all I can say is thank goodness for Swiffer pads. Here's just some of the hair I got from brushing and combing. Anyone want to spin it into doggie yarn? =:O)

I trimmed ears and shaped the hair so that they don't have that wild look. Then I trimmed up feet, hocks, and shaved bellies. I use all Chris Christensen products on their coats. The end result is a fluffy soft and sweet dog that I can't stop kissing.

Here's their after picture. Even Jenny got in the act as she was groomed and beau-ti-sum too. Cosi (left) is 3, Jenny the Poodle is 7, Brisco is 10, and Mike (right) will be 5 in April. What a great looking pack, eh? My husband says we should name our agility team GROOM 'N' ZOOM. Love it!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Looking Forward

Today as the wind howls at 30 mph, I got to thinking about the upcoming agility season. Beginning in March Cosi and I will embark on a full year of trials in three venues. My husband and I were talking and he asked me, "What's your goal for this year?"

My immediate response was that I want to get Cosi into Excellent B class (the highest class in AKC agility). We laughed, and I continued. What I want more than anything else is to run *with* Cosi, to be a team and dance together on the agility course.

I'm really enjoying the challenge of having to handle Cosi on course. With Brisco I could be well ahead of my dog, and I drove him with front crosses. Cosi is a whole different kind of dog on course. I find myself steering him from behind, and I like it very much. When I walk a course, I'm seeing a new picture than I used to see.

Brisco and I trained in my little back yard. If I got out all the equipment, it made for some very tight turns. This held us in good steed as the AKC courses got tighter and tighter. As we'd be walking a course and exhibitors were loudly complaining that it was too tight, I'd be grinning ear to ear. Brisco and I always qualified on those courses; it was just like practicing at home.

I'm re-working Cosi's weaves this spring. We used the 2x2 method of training weaves. I didn't feel as solid as I wanted when I first learned this method. So I'm going back and making sure I'm training it correctly. We're having a lot of fun. This shaping training is a blast.

Well, it will be windy all stinkin' weekend. Bundle up, lads. It's time for a walk...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

And The Answer Is...

The holey roller! This is the bestest toy in the whole world, according to Cosi. It's actually one of my favorites as well because it's a ball and a tug toy all in one.

I wasn't fast enough with the camera to get the actual pounce, but he posed nicely after he selected his favorite. You deserve it, Buddy.

My Favorite Things

Let's all sing, "These are a few of my fav-or-ite things..." OK. Let's not.

When you train dogs, you need to know what rings their bell.

Here's picture of Cosi with his favorite toys. They are a holey roller ball, a Kong (which I've renamed Tug-a-lee), a milk toy (actually used to milk a cow), and a Wubba.

Now for the quiz. Which toy did Cosi go for *immediately* upon his release command?

Stay tuned for the answer.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

New Venue - New Opportunities

I'm working on my trial schedule for 2009. With Brisco I limited myself to only AKC trials. Now with Cosi I have new worlds to explore. I've shown him in AKC and DOCNA over the past half-year. Now in 2009 we will be adding USDAA to our trial schedule.

At first I was unsure of showing in USDAA. However, I've taken advantage of our club's matches and instructional seminars to learn more about the games and rules for running in USDAA trials. It's starting to make sense. When I first watched a USDAA trial, it looked like mayhem to me, disorganized and out of sync with what I was used to. There's the key: what I was used to. It's time for me to expand my horizons now that I have a high-drive, capable dog.

I'm going to try a USDAA trial in April and another in May. I'm going to run Cosi in the Performance level, not the Competition level. One thing at a time, folks! Let this ol' lady get her act together before I throw caution to the wind.

Did I mention I like to follow rules, stay in the lines, and plan ahead? (grin)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big Day Ahead

Tomorrow marks my 30th wedding anniversary. For our 25th anniversary my in-laws threw a lovely party for us. This year, however, will be a quiet celebration with us going to dinner at a favorite haunt.

In reflecting on our time together, here's the top 10 reasons why my sweetie is so special:

#10 He spoils me.
#9 He really likes me, not just loves me, but likes me too.
#8 He intelligent and very insightful.
#7 He complements me; where I'm lacking, he's abudant.
#6 He's easy going. It takes a lot to get him angry.
#5 He's softhearted for all creatures great and small.
#4 He's committed to us and our family.
#3 He loves my doing agility and supports us wholeheartedly.
#2 He needs me.
and the #1 reason is he makes me laugh.

Happy Anniversary, Darlin'.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

I go these AWESOME tea towels from my good buddy Joy for Valentine's day. What a great way to brighten up the kitchen. Just had to share...

Cosi Goes Swimming

I try to do a lot of activities with Cosi. He's young and energetic, and I like to see that energy channeled in as many ways as possible. In the summer we go lure coursing. We walk all year round. And, of course, we have agility and obedience work. A new plus has come in to our lives: My agility instructor has an indoor pool *just for exercising dogs*! How cool is that!?

I wanted to get Cosi used to swimming (Shelties are not known for their swimming abilities) as an alternative way to exercise. It uses his muscles in a whole different way. Last summer Coleen opened the pool for students to use. At first I got in the water with Cosi, which I loved. I'm an ol' water bug, love to swim. I wanted to do the swimming with him at the beginning, graduating to his swimming by himself. Today with temps in the 30's and winds at 25-30 mph, getting into a bathing suit and getting wet was not attractive. Today was Cosi's turn to get wet, not mine.

I put his life vest on because when that coat gets wet, Shelties tend to sink, not float. Thanks goodness Coleen has all the amenities at the pool, including toys that float, life vests in various sizes, and water heated to 80 degrees.

Here are some pictures of Cosi in his vest, posing next to the pool. I didn't get any of him swimming as I was by myself. When he was in the water, I was next to him on the walkway. No way was he going in without me 100 percent on Life Guard duty!

We had a great 30 minutes of swimming. He was a very tired pup when he left and earned a rawhide chew (a rare treat) on the way home. I figured he needed an extra special reward for working at something I wanted him to do. He didn't enjoy the activity, but he did it with heart. Just for me.

I love this dog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A New Adventure?

I been reading a lot about it, and I think I would like to try Rally Obedience. I'm hoping this sport will engage Brisco in working (something he *loves*). I read that he will not have to jump a very tall jump, and that makes me very happy. I know he'll take to it just fine.

I'm also hoping that this could be an experience for Cosi, something totally different from running full blast like in agility. Imagine having to go to an event and be under control! Dare to dream.

Finally, if I get really good at training the foundation for Rally, I'm thinking both Jenny and Mike may enjoy it. In the Novice class you have your dog on leash. Perfect for Mike. Again, since no jumping (strenuous work) is involved, Miss Princess may deign to participate.

I'll keep you posted. If anyone knows of good venues in the central Pennsylvania area, I'd love to know about it. Thanks.

Westminster - Part 2

The second night of Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was a bit disappointing--at least in my book. I only watched the Toy Group and the Sporting Group and was surprised by the two wins: a Brussels Griffon and a Sussex Spaniel. These are not what I call breeds that capture the interest of John Q. Public.

When I saw this morning that the Sussex Spaniel won, I thought of the difference between last year's winner--Uno, the Beagle--and Stump, the Sussex Spaniel. One thing about dog shows is that the diversity is surely there. There's something for everyone!

Here's the link to the results:

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


The Westminster Kennel Club dog show was on last night. The hound, terrier, non-sporting, and herding groups were judged. I enjoy watching conformation shows. I play a game called let’s shop for breeds. “If you could have any dog, what would it be?” Kind of like the “What would you do if you won the lottery?” game. Here are my thoughts and comments on last night’s groups. Remember: I’m no expert, just a fan. I’m sure Cadie can offer better insights.

Hound Group
I only like one hound—the PBGV. Love that face, that coat, and that happy-happy temperament. Brisco and I followed a PBGV in agility for a number of trials. Libby is a great example of the breed, happy as the day is long.

Terrier Group
Here I’m more of an experienced commentator as we had numerous terriers in my childhood. My mom is definitely a terrier person. As soon as the Scottie was on the table, I was under his spell. What a glorious example with his attitude bristling out of every pore. My grandfather had a Scottie named Sir Wellington Woof, Woofie for short. There’s a story in our family that Woofie tried to corral a horse in a field. The horse kicked him in the head, and Woofie had to have stitches. When grandpa brought him home, he ran out and bit that horse. Woofie was my grandpa’s dog and would give no one else the time of day. My mom adored him. I was glad a Scottie won.

Non-Sporting Group
Why don’t they just say, “The Poodle Group” because that’s all that ever wins this group. I’m not angry or prejudiced; I’m just being realistic. Yes is a beautiful Standard Poodle and deserved the win. However, I’m sure the other handlers are saying, “Aw, come on!”

Herding Group
Now you’re talking! This is my favorite group as I love the look, attitude, and work ethic of these dogs. I must say, though, I was *not* impressed with the Sheltie. He didn’t have any pizzazz; he was flat. The Terv, however, was glorious and showed his heart out. I was so disappointed when the Puli won. Ick. The Terv was 10 times more showy. Well, from my vantage point, anyway. =:O)

Tonight we get to see the Sporting, Toy, and Working groups and, of course, Best In Show. Speaking of Best In Show, have you ever seen the movie? Hilarious.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tease, Tease, Tease

Mother Nature is a Tease
What a weekend! The weather was 50 then 60 degrees F on Saturday and Sunday. I kept finding excuses to stay outside. The dogs and I had glorious hour-long walks twice a day both days. I'm thinking that today they're saying, "Thank goodness she went to work. Now we can rest!"

Now the next bout of cold weather or snow will be doubly hard to deal with since we've had this taste of spring. I worked Cosi in the yard on jumping on Saturday. He was a giant mud ball by the time we were done. I've devised a new clean-up method. Instead of just wiping paws when they come in, I fill a low bucket with warm water. Paws must be dunked, swished, and wiped before coming in. Of course, one is paid the sum of One Huge Dog Biscuit for this work.

An Intersting Site
A friend of mine went to a museum featuring the works of various portrait artists. Here's a web site she shared with me showing photographs by Yousuf Karsh:

I found it quite intriguing. Enjoy.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Normal Days

Some of my co-workers are dealing with some very serious health issues. As I was talking to my husand about this, he said something that resonated with me. "Let's enjoy our normal days." I keep thinking about that and totally agree. We often blast through our days, eager to get to the weekend, the holiday, the agility trial (!), the next big event without stopping to appreciate today.

Stop and smell the roses, folks...even though they may be covered with snow and ice. =:O)

Your homework assignment is to tell someone today that you appreciate them. And yes, spelling counts!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Agility On TV

This Saturday Animal Planet channel will run a one-hour program on the AKC Invitational agility championship that took place back in December. If you'd like to see some agility runs, be sure to watch this coverage at 8 p.m.

Golf has a channel.
Fishing (!?) has a channel.
Football has a channel.
Cooking has a channel.
Craft making has a channel.
Every imaginable hobby/interest/sport has a channel.

So why is there no 24/7 agility channel? There could be tons of different shows, everything from foundation training to international competitions. Come on, TV execs. Get with it.

How about Monday Night Agility? Are you ready for some dog walks?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brisco's Big Day

Today I went to Westminster, Maryland, for a 7 a.m. agility practice. Of course, Cosi, was all set to go, but for some reason this morning, Brisco was very excited about going along too. On a whim I decided to take him. Now Brisco has been retired for 2 years, but I still do little things with him in agility, like jumping a low jump. I need to be mindful of his back right leg which is getting weaker and weaker.

He had such a blast! He was "talking trash" and enjoying himself thoroughly! Here are two short video clips that Jack took of us practicing. Nothing's perfect; it's just a dog enjoying working. I love this little guy. I hope this video makes you smile. I can't stop.