Monday, 30 January 2012

More updates

I saw this picture on Facebook.  I just couldn't resist saving it.  Our shelties already sleep on the bed, and Spryte will even sleep right on our pillows.  I'm sure this is what it will look like when we have four shelties.  Haha,  Sheltie bliss!

First update: I have approval to use Ch Shobna Ace of Spades CD RN CGN as the stud dog for Spryte's summer breeding.  I am very excited about this breeding. I have been lucky enough to meet several of his offspring and they are all very outgoing, confident and driven dogs.  Friends of mine own a bi blue son of Ace's and he is an amazing agility dog so far.  Flash is a little over a year and he is excelling in his training, he's confident on the equipment, and loving the handler focused moves. Flash just wants to go fast!  He is fun to watch and he is so much like Spryte in his personality.  I really am excited to see what Spryte and Ace produce!

here is Ace's page:

Second Update:  Spryte's running Aframe is going well. I still have the box on the aframe and I would say about 90% of the time she is striding right into the middle of the yellow before leaving the frame. I'm very pleased with it. My first few sessions I was just throwing the food to her ahead of the aframe after I clicked. This was causing her to look sideways sometimes and not driving ahead.

 I remembered that when I taught Strider's running contacts I always had a food bowl set out ahead of the equipment and sent him forward to that. The idea was to pattern him to move straight off the equipment, look forward and hopefully run lower and not jump early.  Well it worked with Strider so I started to do it with Spryte. I was much happier with the results from this and I will have to do it in every session from now on.  Below are some videos. The first video is me throwing the food the second is with the food bowl on the ground. (Notice how we have practically no snow! How lucky for us!)

Third Update:  I had Spryte's Hips and Elbows xrayed last Thursday to send off to OFA.  She is 20 months now and we plan to breed her just after her second birthday. So there was no way I would have OFA's done on her (they need to be 2 for the final grade) by the time she would be bred.  But I  noticed on the website that you can send xrays for preliminary grades.  And with her being 20 months, she is done growing and her joints are formed.  So I figured that whatever grade they give me for her preliminary will be her final grade.  So this way I can get it done before she is bred.  I think the only difference with the preliminaries is that she won't get a final grade and it might not be listed on the OFA website.  But at least I will have a professionals opinion on her hips and elbows. The xrays looked good, so here's hoping they come back at least rated "good".

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

scent hurdle update

I'm happy to report that tonight Spryte correctly found my dumbell out of a set of four dumbells that had another persons fresh scent on it.  AND the dumbells were not tied down to the board anymore.  She is deliberatly going from dumbbell to dumbbell smelling them and when she finds the right one she knows its correct right away. I think she has got this game figured out!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Scent Hurdle Stuff

I have joined yet another dog team with Spryte, this one is the Ready, Scent, Go! scent hurdle racing team.  Kelly had approached me in the fall, wanting to break away from our current team and form a new one.  I didn't want to switch Strider because our old team is small and they need him to run.  But I figured that for Spryte, a new team would be a great idea.  So here we are in January and our new team is formed!
We had our first practise on Sunday and it went pretty well.  We didn't have much of a plan since we had no idea who was where in their training.  After a few minutes it became pretty obvious that we have people at all different stages of training.  So we left most of the scent work for homework and worked on racing skills.  We did things like restrained recalls over the jumps (always a favourite of the dogs!), passing drills to get the dogs used to having another dog approach them at speed.  We did two lane recalls, to help the dogs get used to another dog running in the next lane.  It was all a great success and everyone left with big smiles on their faces.  I'm sure the next practise will be just as high energy for all the dogs and people.

Most of the scent work really has to been done at home. Its hard to incorporate the dumbbell work and the jumps until the dogs know how to find the right dumbbell.  So Spryte and I have been working on scent discrimination with 4 wooden dumbbells.  I have been using the tie down method because I find the dog doesn't become dependent on their owner for help.  With a lot of other methods the dogs are waiting for the owner to click or cheer when they approach the right dumbbell.  So the dogs are not smelling so much as just going from dumbbell to dumbbell waiting for the owner to acknowledge the correct one. 

Where with the tie down method, the owners shouldn't say a word.  Basically you let the dog smell the dumbbells (starting with two, one scented, one not and then working up to more dumbbells), and they will likely try and pick up the unscented one which is tied to the board.  When they realise they can't bring that one, they try the other one that is scented and because that one is loose they can retrieve it.  I just stand their quietly letting the dog think about why one can be retrieved and why one can't.  It doesn't take too long before the dog clues in that the one that smells like mom is the one that can be retrieved.  Then you will see the dogs actually smelling the dumbbells, instead of just randomly grabbing them. 

Sometimes you will get dogs that don't smell but instead just go from dumbbell to dumbbell bumping them to see which one is loose.  I believe this is just a phase that the dogs go through and with a bit of patience they start to use their noses.

So up until yesterday the dumbbells have been tied down for Spryte.  She would mouth/bump all of them while smelling, before choosing the correct one.  I was trying to figure out if she was actually smelling them or bumping them to find the loose one.  Well the only way to do that was to cut the strings and see what happens.  I am thrilled to say that with the four loose wooden dumbbells, 3 blanks and one scented, she found the right one every time. What a great girl! So she was in fact smelling them and working on scent discrimination.

The next step will be to have them scented by other people and have them loose. Will she be able to discriminate my scent out of other fresh scents?  Right now she is  mostly finding the fresh scent, not necessarily my scent. So that will be our next step. I'm looking forward to seeing how she does with this new challenge!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Running A frames

Last weekend was the Training Troops AAC agility trial.  I had a great time with Strider and Spryte and Spryte even earned her Advanced Agility dog title (AADC) and got a Q in Master standard.  I was thrilled with how well my young dog handled the challenging courses.  She didn't even hesitate with the Masters course challenges and would have had two masters Q's but she missed a weave pole entry. Pretty minor error that's for sure!

 However I was once again frustrated with Spryte's Aframe contact.  She was pretty good about hitting her Dogwalk and teeter, but she really struggles with the Aframe. I hate how she has to slow down so much  and does this jarring motion as she comes down and tries to hit her position. She would far rather jump through the aframe.  So after A LOT of consideration and talking with other agility people I have decided to switch Spryte to a running Aframe.

 I do have some concerns switching her. One being if she thinks she doesn't have to stop on the Aframe, will she think that she no longer has to stop on the dogwalk?  Also will she be confused now that I am asking for a completely different criteria on her Aframe.  I'm pretty sure for the first little while it might all fall apart in competition, but I think in the long run this will be the best solution for Spryte and what she prefers to do naturally.

So I have decided to try the Rachel Sanders Running Aframe method using a pvc box.  So far Spryte can jump in and out of the box, mostly doing a nice pounce. I'm not getting too picky, as long as all four feet end up in the box.  That was going well so then we progressed to the jump grid into the box, to get her patterned to take the appropriate number of strides.  This is also going well. So now we are ready to add the box to an Aframe. Problem is its too cold to go outside and play with the Aframe right now. So maybe tomorrow I can sneak a few minutes in before our flyball practise.

Below are short videos of the first two steps of the Sanders method that I mentioned above.

Here is the initial box work, I am trying to vary my starting position and have been adding motion too.

Here is the box with the grid added first.  She looks back at me on the last repetition, so she knocks the box, but I'm not too worried about this.  She seems to get the concept of entering the box with all four paws and that is what I am most concerned with right now.

Here is an Advanced run of Spryte's from Saturday.  You will see me stop after her Aframe deciding if I should "correct" it by having her sit or move on and finish the course. At this point I was already thinking about changing to a running aframe, so I decided just to go on.

And because Strider can't be left out, here is a Steeplechase run of his from the Dec 28th trial.  He was a good boy :)

Friday, 13 January 2012

More on blindcrosses

I just wanted to post a little video on Blindcrosses that someone else posted on Facebook.  Since I am considering using this handling technique I am trying to gather as much information before I actually try it with my dog.  The video is great, showing how nice it can work with an experienced dog and handler, then how to use it, but it also shows what can go wrong.  And it's this part that interests me the most because mostly people comment that blind crosses can confuse your dog and you will end up with a bunch of off courses.  I think it is hard to do well, and most people probably don't put enough time into training and conditioning the skill first before using it on course.

Onto another topic, the stud dog that the breeder picked out for Spryte's breeding has been producing lousy temperaments.  So we won't be using him.  So now I am back to searching for another stud. I have a bi-black boy in mind but I have to discuss it with the breeder first.  So hopefully there will be an update soon saying that I have permission to use him this summer.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

New Year Goals

So here we are in a new year, and each new year I set goals for me and my dogs.  So here are my goals for 2012.

For myself I want to learn more about the Mecklenburg handling system.  It looks interesting, and when its done right it looks so smooth. Like a dance with your dog. I'm not sure yet if I will switch to this handling system, but I think its worth learning more about. So I will be ordering the Mecklenburg video set from Clean run next week and I will see what its all about.  I would like to challenge myself to be a better handler in agility. I want tighter lines, more efficient handling and I might even explore blind crosses!  I know, I know, blind crosses are a taboo in the local agility community. But they look like fun and I can't improve as a handler if I don't challenge myself to try new things.

I also want to try Canine Nose work with the shelties.  It looks like a great sport that the dogs would love to do and the best part is you can do it in your home.  So for me it will be a great thing to work on when the weather is too cold to go outside or I don't feel like hauling agility equipment around. I think its neat to watch a dog use their nose to find objects.  I used to dabble in tracking, but I found it way to time consuming and you constantly need to find fields to track in.  With Nose work I can do it at home and we both still get the joy of searching for something hidden.  The only problem with Canine Nose work is that it isn't in Canada yet. I have no idea if it will come here, so we may never compete in it. But it will be a fun skill to teach the dogs anyway. I just have to get the scents, but I'm having trouble finding it here. So I'll likely have to order it from the U.S.

I usually set goals for my competing dogs too.  For Strider I want to earn his CKC Agility Master Champion title this year.  I am only 2 jumpers legs away, but I'm 11 standard legs away.  So that is alot of  standard legs (I would have needed the same as my jumpers Q's but the CKC took my agility excellent title away from me due to clerical errors, so we had to start again) and it will take me the majority of the year to complete this.  Especially since there are so few CKC agility trials in this area.  But it is the last big title that he can earn and it would be a great accomplishment for 2012.

For Spryte I want to earn some titles in agility, flyball and scent hurdle racing. But mostly for her I just want to raise a wonderful litter of puppies.  I want to watch a small little helpless puppy be nurtured and loved by her mom and then when they are old enough I want to do as much early education as I can to start the puppies off right.  I want to know that I did my best at raising the most confident, outgoing, playful and intelligent sheltie puppies I could.  I think this will be the highlight of my 2012.