Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Today was camp day for Cosi.


Today was a glorious spring day. Cosi was fortunate enough to spend it outside with his buddies. Here he is at camp playing his favorite game of "Chase me! Chase me!" with Gabe the Aussie. Is the lab the referee?


I love camp evenings. I get a very tired dog that is mentally and physically tired. He needs to run and just be a dog. Then when we're ready to work, he can focus.

Thank you, Coleen, for this wonderful opportunity for our dogs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rules, Boundaries & Limitations

Last night we hosted our quarterly social of "The Warwick Group." There are four couples and each quater a couple makes dinner reservations and then plans an activity afterwards. Over the years we've had a lot of fun with this--going for dinner and then to a semi-professional baseball game, going to Maryland for seafood and then going for a walk, or just having dinner locally and playing a card game or board game. Last night was our turn, and it turned out to be a wonderful affirmation for me for all the work I do with my dogs.

Not everyone in our group likes pets. I want them to meet and interact with the dogs if they like, but I don't want the dogs (and the hair) to bother people. We were going to play a board game after dinner at our large dining room table. Rather than crate the dogs I decided to let them out, but they could not cross the doorway between the kitchen (where their crates are located) and the dining room (where we were). I gave no command like "stay" but reinforced (treats) when they were in the kitchen and relaxing. They were glorious. They never came into the dining room even though people were coming and going. At one point they decided it was bed time and when I checked on them, they were asleep in their crates.

A Good Choice
I was so proud of Cosi. When new people come in the house and he's excited, he's invented the following game: take your pointy nose and poke people in the leg. If they don't play with you, nip at their pants legs. This is not a good game. I don't like it. Instead I've been working with him to learn the phrase "get a toy." When he brings a toy, I ask the person he previously tried to poke to play tug, throw it, and use the toy to interact with Cosi. Last night as the 6 guests came in the door, Cosi turned and went *immediately* to get a toy. Good choice, buddy.

Everyone works their dogs at activites like obedience, agility, fly ball, herding, etc. I work my dogs so they can be accepted and welcomed. I want them to have good manners. No one likes a bratty child; no one likes a bratty dog. I was so proud of my dogs last night. They could have won the National Good Manners championship. =:O)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

AKC Nationals

Starting tomorrow the American Kennel Club will hold its national agility championship competition in North Carolina. I consider this trial to be the *real* agility championship that the AKC sponsors. (The other competition--the one in Long Beach--is the invitational.) I like the fact that dogs earn points and QQ's to be able to compete at the nationals. There's no cut off by breed like there is for the invitational.

Brisco and I went to two national championship competitions. I cherish the Q ribbons I have from those events. I knew going into the event that we would not place. My enjoyment of the nationals was to see all the Big Guns there. To be able to see them run, up close and in person, was a thrill.

Unforatunately the television coverage of the nationals (both USDAA and AKC) is horrible. If--big if--they do cover it, the show only runs for one hour and focuses on the runs by the big dogs. I think every dog's run in the finals deserves to be shown. When you watch the finals in person, the wild card round that occurrs before the finals is edge-of-your-seat exciting. You make your best run, and you're either in the finals or eliminated. Can you say pressure?

Best wishes to all my buddies making the trek to North Carolina this weekend. I'll be eager to hear of your adventures at the next trial.

I wanted to share our nationals experience with these two photos. One is from the competition we attended in Tampa, Floria. The other is in Columbus, Ohio. Both were memorable because my best boy and I had a chance to run at nationals. They are memories I will always cherish.

At left, Brisco and I at the Tampa Convention Center in January, 2006.

Below, Brisco, Mike, Jenny and I at the Nationals in Columbus, OH, in 2007.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

HOT Agility Club

Our USDAA club--HOT Agility--is getting ready for our end-of-April trial. Tomorrow we will hold a members-only match to review all the jobs at a trial. I think this is the biggest benefit of being a club member: to learn and grow in your sport.

I only ever volunteered at trials to do "non-threatening" jobs like leash running or course worker. I was so scared I would ruin someone's run if I were the timer or scribe. Now there's a "safe" place to learn these jobs, and I am grateful. I find that I enjoy scribing very much. It's right up my alley--detail oriented, focused work.

Our trial is held in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Here's the link to our web site where you can get the premium for the trial: http://www.hotagility.com/.

Here's a picture of our trial site. It's wonderful with plenty of green space to exercise your dog.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Rainbow Bridge

Halle Joy Bradley went to the Bridge today. She will be missed. She was named Halle Joy for her wonderful, easy-going nature.

Her owner, Marilyn, writes this tribute to her sweet Sheltie:

When people say that they aren’t interested in having a “rescue” dog because of all of the baggage and problems that come with the dog…they should have met my Halle Joy. In her years with me, I can’t even think of one challenge, of one problem. She was only ever a JOY. I couldn’t have loved her more.

Hug your dogs tonight, people. Revel in the comfort and joy they give us every day.

We salute you, Halle Joy. You were a sweetie.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ah, Chute!

Have you ever seen a chute on an AKC JWW course? I never have--until today. I've seen tunnels, of course, but never a chute. And to top it off, it was the first obstacle! Wild!

Cosi was high as a kite today and tried to say that weaving only 10 poles was good enough. Not so, mister. We re-tried, but again he did only 10. He was carried off course. Up until then, we had a GREAT run going. Here's the link to the YouTube.com video of Cosi in Open JWW (and chutes!): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jnyHtTubtwg

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Jumpers Q

Good news! We Q'd in Open jumpers with weaves today. Click here to watch the run.

I know. We should have gotten a refusal. The Agility Fates were kind today.

Keep your paws crossed for us tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Signs of Spring

Let's play a game of Where's Waldo?

Look very closely at this photo of our yard. (Don't look too closely. You may see doggie doo!) Can you find the sign of spring?

How about now?

Isn't it glorious? Each year this tiny bunch of crocuses comes up in the middle of the yard. We try very hard not to step on them. It's such a welcome sight.

Agility Trial Coming =:O)

This weekend Cosi and I will be at an AKC trial. It's a great site in that the surface is our favorite: packed dirt. I love it as a handler because it gives me good traction. Cosi loves it because he can dig in and run f-a-s-t.

We were at this site last fall. Click here to view our Novice FAST class run. Keep your paws crossed for us this Saturday and Sunday.

Monday, March 9, 2009

That Smell

Brisco at one of his early trials. Here he is in Novice Jumpes With Weaves. He placed first and QQ'd that day.

They say that smell is the strongest memory trigger of all of the senses. I find that to be so true.

I was home on a vacation day, and--as I love to do when I'm home--I took the dogs for a very long walk around 6:30 a.m. And I smelled it. That wet grass, early morning, mud, earthy smell. That always reminds me of outdoor agility trials. I can clearly remember driving with Kathy to trials (back in the day!) when most of them were held outdoors. We'd put up our tent and live there for the weekend. That early morning smell is forever connected to those wonderful trips and my early agility experience.

Thanks for the good memories, Kathy. Brisco and I really enjoyed those days. =:O)

Sunday, March 8, 2009


Two On. Two Off. Here's a picture of Mike demonstrating the correct position that I have named "spot," as in hit your spot.

I require that my dogs perform a 2o2o position on the teeter and dog walk. I've always had Brisco do a running contact on the A-frame. I think the slamming into the ground would cause him injury to his shoulders. He just didn't have the strength in his back end to mitigate damages.

Cosi is a different story. He's so fast that I'm worried he will launch himself off the A-frame if I don't require a bottom position. Right now he's required to do a 2o2o. I'm re-thinking this criteria and may change him to either a stop or a down at bottom of the frame.

Which do you require?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Wobble Board

Today Anna and I will be going to the airport to pick up her friend Kelly. She's coming for the weekend; she lives in Toronto. I have not met her yet. I hope she likes my dogs!

Anna says that Kelly is thinking about getting a dog. Has she come to the right place or what!? I have an arsenol of information to share on the subject, including my own biases toward herding breeds. I'm sure we can find a good fit for her.

Last night in agility class Aurora got an introduction to a wobble board. I'm often asked, "What's the most difficult obstacle to teach in agility?" Many think it's the weaves. Pice of cake. Actually, it's the teeter. It's the only obstacle that moves...and that can be quite the frightening experience for the dog. Thus, you start the dog out with the wobble board, getting them used to the sensation. Aurora worked the board, not liking it much. Most dogs don't.

The funny side effect was that when we got home, Aurora totally konked out. She was asleep in Anna's lap and snoring so loudly that we had to shout to be able to talk to each other. =:O)

Sometimes we forget that dog training is also a mental exercise and can be tiring.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Foundation Work

We had great session last evening with Aurora. Thankfully, I had started a notebook when Cosi began agility classes two years ago. Either during class (if I had the time) or right after class I would write—in detail—the exercises we did and the goal of the exercise. Anna is eager to begin working with Aurora in agility, and it was fun to read the notebook and share this information with her.

The other funny piece of this activity was my four dogs all trying to get into the act! There would be Anna trying to get Aurora to touch a target. Next thing you know, there are four pointed noses (three shelties and a poodle) poking at the same target (a clear lid I got off a peanut can). We laughed at the differences in muzzles. There was Aurora’s lack of a nose on her little pushed-in face and my dogs’ long pointy noses.

I learned a valuable lesson here: Keep working the foundation games. Just because you went through them once doesn’t mean you’re finished. I’d forgotten what enjoyment the dogs get from these simple games. I’m definitely going to put them back in my regime of games to play even while waiting in line at a trial.

Here are some of the games we worked last night:

Touch a target - hand touches or touch an object like a lid or a pantry door knob

Perch work – Aurora was so small, we used a very thick Yellow Pages phone book. To up the difficulty we put a yard stick in the book so she would have to step up over it. This game helps build body awareness. Aurora has to use only her back feet to move around the perch.

Plank work – I have a plank that is about 4 feet long. First we worked on getting Aurora onto the plank with all four feet. Next we’ll use it to teach a 2o2o position.

Go out – We used the laundry basket to have her leave Anna’s side and go out around the basket. I reminded Anna she can use any number of items on the walk (a tree, a hydrant, a flower pot). This is fun stuff to work at the park.

People often think beginning agility work means jumping and working with obstacles. These foundation games are the building blocks that make the obstacle work that much easier for the dogs. Plus with winter (and snow today!) here, these are easy games to play indoors with not many props.