Saturday, July 27, 2013

One year!

Happy first birthday to Micfriends Chimera Monstra! Today was also moving day for us. Cai was very excited to run around the new place (with yard!) and get into ALL my stuff. He got a nap midday when I left to do a training gig, but even so, in the evening he was tired enough to put himself to bed in his crate while I brushed my teeth. That is very rare indeed.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Agility 4.6 summary, Petco trip

Guess who is now weaving 4 poles?!

He needed some extra steps to be able to link to the two sets of poles together. My instructor had me stand onside between the two sets, and rotate as he entered the first pair to direct him toward the second. I believe that Chimera interpreted the shoulder rotation as a 180 cue and would come through the second pair of poles backwards. He did this so consistently that I knew that I had to change the set up or he wouldn't figure out what to do before he totally lost drive and confidence in the first pair of poles.

The first thing I did was rotate the second pair a little bit (as my instructor suggests keeping them lined up from the beginning unless the dog has trouble). No go. So then I broke protocol and decided to backchain the exercise. I positioned Cai right before the second pair, rewarded him for going through a few times, and then positioned him as if he were leaving the first pair and sent him forward. This was the missing link. After some practice starting from the left side of the second pole, I was able to get rid of the rotation on the second pair, and then get him started from the entrance to the poles. At this point the two pairs are lined up like competition poles and he is consistently going through when started onside, and we're rotating farther into offside.

The other things we've been doing in class is longer sequences of jumps and tunnels, using pulls (lots of 180s and 270s lately), threadles, and serpentines. It is so fun to be running with the dog! I have to make sure to give my cues early (as most novice handlers do, I wait too long because I'm watching my dog!).

Next week we are starting session 5, which is contacts. At this point, my plan is to have Chimera do a modified running contact by lying down immediately after getting off the a-frame and dog walk. I have been using a rectangular piece of yoga mat as his target. Early on, I made the mistake of allowing him to go to the mat and turn to face me as he lay down on it. SO BAD. I should have taught him from the beginning to run to it and lie down in the same direction as he was running. So lately I have been making a chute from a wall and an xpen and using that to force him to lie down in the correct direction. He will do it if I am ahead, next to him, or in front and laterally to the side. I need to still work on it with me behind him. I have also started putting a contact trainer flat on the floor in the chute.

I am a bit nervous to start teeter work since my last dog, Dragon, had trouble with the teeter despite an excellent wobble board foundation. (I could put my foot down on the high end of the board and toss him up into the air, and he would give me the "where's my treat?" look.) He taught me that it's important to have LOTS of various interactions with the teeter rather than just focusing on building the end behavior. For example, the thing that helped him get past the pivot point the most was having me and another person on opposide ends of a lowered teeter, and calling him back and forth across it. He didn't have to do anything besides run along it and get used to the pivot point at speed. My previous instructor made a face when she saw this, but I was convinced that it was an important foundation game. By the time we get to competition, the dog will have had lots of practice doing a final, correct teeter behavior which has been proofed against any temptation to run back along the teeter, and will be following my handling to the next obstacle.

In other news, on Wednesday I took Chimera to a Petco to work on his reactivity. He's at the point now where, if I'm ready to stuff chicken in his face at that initial sighting (or sound of) another dog, we can practice BAT in a large store. There were no dogs the whole time we were there! So we practiced his tricks in this new, distracting environment. He did very well! Sounds would distract him a lot, like someone going through the employee door, or a squeaky toy, or footsteps behind us. But we practiced heeling (pivots and outside turns), fronts, stays with me going just out of sight in another aisle, waving, backing up, and (once we were in the parking lot), barking on cue.

I've been using "beep beep" for backing up and "speak" for barking, but he started to confuse them and then combine them. So I switched to "woof" for barking, and he recognized it right away. Now I just need to get rid of the barking while backing up. I may end up switching that cue to "back".

Thursday, July 11, 2013


When I started doing collar grabs with Chimera for the weave poles, he initially responded well by increasing his drive forward. However after a short while I saw his intensity decrease, and then he started subtly shying away from it. On Tuesday of last week, he opened his mouth and put his teeth on my wrist when I reached for his collar. I didn't know whether this was because I had accidentally pulled on his fur, or he was getting intimidated by the handling, or he had some physical ailment. I stopped doing the collar grabs and scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor for this morning.

The doctor was gentle and calm with him, and Chimera handled it really well. He mostly hung out on my lap during the adjustment and was relaxed. There were just a couple of moments when he lip licked or turned his head away as stress signals. I was pleasantly surprised by how well he handled this new, strange situation. All the handling work I've been doing is paying off!

The doctor said that he did have a disc out of alignment. He also said that I could retry the collar grabs after a couple of days and see whether the adjustment fixed the problem. However I think that I'll just avoid them completely. We've been making very good progress with the weaves, and everything else, without it.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fireworks, hiking photos

The sounds of firecrackers and gunshots are pretty common where I live, so Chimera has grown up with them and never showed sensitivity to them before. He also didn't worry during New Year's Eve. However the fireworks are much more intense on July 4th. I had the early evening free to do intense gardening for a couple of hours, so I put Cai on a tie out with me and kept an eye on him. He chewed on a bully stick for a while, walked around, and then stretched out on a welcome mat and fell asleep. It was amazing. The fireworks are now exploding non-stop, including ones on the street right outside my window, and he's falling asleep again on my bed. Occassionally he does swivel his ears or look around, but it's curiosity/confusion and not stress. I am beyond impressed.

Here are a couple of pictures from our hike this afternoon. This fallen tree was about three feet up in the air. Too bad the camera didn't focus on his face. Click on either picture to see it pop up in a bigger size.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Agility 4.4 video and summary

This is a recording from our Beginner Agility Class. We just learned the threadle, and this is a "long" sequence to us (6 obstacles!). I was so proud of how well we did! Of course, there is always room for improvement. The most glaring handler error is taking so many steps along jump #2, after the threadle. I should have just taken one step and then started the pull. The skill I need to work on most with Chimera is lateral distance and sends to obstacles (which would improve the timing and position of the front cross after the second tunnel).

We also worked on 2x2 weaves. Cai is fairly solid on all angles of on-side entrances. We're now working on going from 7 toward 9 o'clock. Just keep practicing...