Thursday, 23 February 2012

First Flyball Tournament

This past weekend the shelties and I headed up to Edmonton for my first flyball tournament in 7 years and Spryte's first flyball tournament ever.  It has been a long time since I have been to a tournament and I had definitely forgotten what it was like!

The first thing that hits you is the incredible noise! Wow, it's like every dog in the building is barking all at once.  The dogs are so pumped to play and they have to let everyone know.  The next thing I noticed was how close the racing lanes are to one another.  During practise our lanes are really close, but I honestly thought the lanes would be farther apart at the competition.  Between the noise distraction, the crazy dogs all over the place and the lanes being really close together, I was starting to worry about how Spryte would handle this new game.  She is young and not experienced like Strider.  I can take Strider anywhere, do any sport and he automatically knows what to do and performs like he is supposed to.  Spryte is still a young, inexperienced competition dog and is more likely to be affected by the distractions of a busy dog show.

So  how did Spryte do? Well not bad considering all that was going on.  Her first round was perfect.  It was just like practise. She ran up to the box, grabbed her ball and ran back. No issues, no flaws.  Then the second round, she realised she was "racing".  This was a huge distraction for her.  She would run up to the second last jump and then watch the dog in the other lane run up and back.  You could just see her mind spinning, trying to figure out what was going on. "Why was that dog running so fast? Where is he running to? and Why doesn't he want to play with me???"  So we had a few runs were she was too busy watching the other dogs to retrieve her ball.  Then we wizened up and had the box loader call her all the way up the line.  That was enough to keep her mind on the job, and she had a couple of runs that were perfect again.

Well on Sunday Spryte had figured out what flyball was all about. Its about getting REALLY excited and having a great time.  Well that was her interpretation anyway.  She was barking like crazy on the start line, trying to pull away from me, eager for her turn. She was so excited that she started dropping her ball before crossing the finish line.  A little discouraging for me and the team, but its a common green dog error and will fix itself with time.

 My solution was to have her put the ball in my hands. This is something that we have to do with Strider. Strider LOVES flyball and goes absolutely crazy for the game. He also wants his cookie as fast as he can get it.  So he will drop the ball early to get the cookie.  That's the thing about shelties. Most are not natural retrievers, so the act of bringing the ball back is not reinforcing in itself. So the shelties need to be taught that the job is to put the ball in my hand and then you get your reward.  This way there is no chance of them dropping the ball early, because the criteria is crystal clear to them.  Ball in my hand = cookie, no ball in hand = no cookie.  So this method has fixed Strider's problem of dropping the ball early, and it will fix Spryte's too. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time at the tournament for Spryte to really figure this out. She had a few successes, then she would get over excited and drop the ball again.  Oh well, it was her first time out and you can't expect perfection from a young dog.  But I'm confident that we just need a little more practise and she will have it all figured out by the next tournament.

In the end Spryte ended up earning her first two flyball titles, FD and FDX, which was my goal for her debut at flyball. Strider was flawless and had a great time.  He ran as hard as he did 7 years ago and never gave up. What a good boy he is :)

The rest of the team did really well too. There were 3 other green dogs on our team debuting for the first time at this tournament and all did really well.  They all amazed me by running clean and reliably all weekend.  All the green dogs earned at least their FDX and several earned their FDCH.  We have a great team with wonderful dogs and handlers.  I really enjoyed watching and cheering on our teammates this weekend and it was fun hanging out with other doggie people.  All in all it was a nice weekend out.

Here is video of our team Go All Out this past weekend:

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Wahoo I officially have a kennel name!

Today I got the official certificate from the CKC with my approved kennel name: HyperHounds.  It's happening, I am actually going to be a dog breeder. I have always wanted to breed dogs, but it just never seemed to work out for me.  It seemed like a hard thing to get into if you wanted to do it right and it appeared like you really needed to know the right people.

I had tried a few years ago to find a foundation sheltie bitch.  Every breeder that I emailed said they would give me a performance dog in a heartbeat, but they all hesitated when I mentioned a breeding female, because they didn't know me personally. It was frustrating and I eventually gave up.  So when Spryte's litter was born I wanted the boy. I had made the decision that I wasn't going to breed and I just wanted another great dog like Strider that I could do my dog sports with.

Well fate stepped in and the boy was the pick puppy and went to Leane's sister.  Leane really liked Spryte's sibling for herself and Spryte for me. So now I had a girl, and the wheels started turning.  Leane had mentioned that Spryte could get her championship if I was interested.  So I said I would love to try and then casually asked if I could breed her if she got her championship. To my surprise she agreed! This was a huge shock after all the negative responses I had gotten from breeders across the country.  And Leane not only agreed, but said when the time came she would help find me a stud, help with the breeding if necessary, help with the whelping and help assess the litter.  I couldn't ask for a better mentor for my first litter, I was so overwhelmed and happy that my dream might finally be coming true.  Since then Leane has helped me learn the conformation world, has helped me learn more about sheltie structure and breeding practises, and patiently answers all my newbie questions.  It is a whole new world for me and I am loving it!

So thank you to Strider and our great accomplishments, it helped show Leane that I am serious about my dogs and when it was time to get Spryte I was not a stranger to Leane, but instead a repeat client.   And thanks to fate for putting everything into place for me and not allowing me to give up on my dream of breeding wonderful dogs. This summer should be the beginning of the HyperHounds kennel.  A small breeding kennel that I hope gains a reputation for producing dogs with great structure, temperament and drive.  Dogs that excel in performance events, are wonderful companions and pretty too.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

What a day!

Wow what a day!  I have been out with Spryte since 9:30 this morning, and arriving home at 5 pm tonight. It was a day full of doggie stuff and hanging out with friends.  The perfect way to spend a Sunday!

 Our day started with a scent hurdle practise at 10am.  I would love to say this went well, but that is far from the truth.  We had too many variables stacked up against us at this practise, and for a green dog it was just too much.

For one, when we arrived our team captain handed me a new, freshly painted (and very pretty in purple and pink) set of dumbbells.  Next the dumbbells were placed in the scent hurdle box,  a first for Spryte, AND we were at a new building that she had never been to before. 

So ultimately Spryte just wouldn't scent discriminate and seemed very confused.  I'm pretty sure she just didn't recognise the new dumbbells as "hers".  She has been very successful finding her original dumbbell out of a set of 4 dumbbells scented by other people at home in our building.  She was even having success with this when her arousal level rose, when adding jumps to the equation.  But when I brought her to a new building, placed the dumbbells on the box and asked her to find brand new dumbbells that she had never used before, well I was setting her up to fail.  When she couldn't find "her" original dumbbell she became very confused and started grabbing any dumbbell as if to say "is this it?" "no?" "ok, what about this one" "no again???" "well were is MY dumbbell then!!!!"  She just isn't experienced enough to find the one that smells like me no matter the other variables, she was just trying to find "her" dumbbell and it wasn't there. 

So what did I learn from all of this? Well first, I wont stress about her not finding the correct dumbbell, we'll work with the new ones and before long she will know that they are the ones I want her to find.  Next I need to start elevating her dumbbells on something to simulate the box. Third, like anything else in dog training, I need to take the show on the road.

So after that, I killed some time in the city and then off to try herding for Spryte's first time!  Herding is something that I really have no intentions of doing with my dogs. It takes a lot of dedication and time to train successfully in this sport, and I just don't have that much time for another doggie thing.  But some friends were going, so I thought "what the hell, it could be fun".

And it was fun!  Spryte completely shocked me by being very calm and under control.  I really thought she would just rush them barking, with her flag (tail) high in the air.  We have lived beside horses for 5 month now and she STILL rushes them at the fence barking and freaking out. I thought she would do the same with the sheep. Instead she followed them calmly, keeping them moving in a circle.  She only barked once or twice when  they got going a little fast. If I needed her to stop, she willingly listened to her down and waited until I released her back to the sheep.  Her pace was always appropriate to keep them moving at a decent speed, and she didn't get bored and she didn't give up. It was a pleasant surprise.  Will I go again?  I think so.  She had fun and so did I, so why not.

So now I am home and tired after a busy day, but happy to have spent it with dogs and friends, outside on a beautiful February day.  Life is good :)

A short video of Spryte's first time on sheep.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

New RE for Spryte!

I went down to the dog show last Friday to watch all the shelties in conformation and to run Spryte in a round of Rally Excellent.  We arrived there at 9:30 in the morning  and we didn't go in the ring until 4:00 in the afternoon.  That was waaayyy too long for Spryte to spend doing nothing.  I took her out and walked her around the show a few times, but that was about it.  So by the time we showed she was full of excess energy and she needed some way to express  it!  Well as it usually goes with shelties, her idea of expending some of that energy was by barking happily beside me during the majority of her round.  She sure looked like she was enjoying her work, and lucky for me the judge didn't mind barking shelties.  She had a beautiful round and she got a score of 100.  She also finished off her Rally Excellent title, so I was pleased about that too.

We continue to work on her running aframe.  I have now faded out most of the box, the only thing left is a bar at the top of the yellow zone.  During our practise today I did a couple of reps with the bowl out in front and then I took it away and started working on sequencing obstacles before and after the Aframe. I wanted to see if she would hit her contact zone without the lure out front and with a little more excitement.  We only got to do it a couple of times and then she split a nail open and started limping. But the few rounds we did, she hit the zone very nicely.  I am starting to feel more confident that the new behaviour will carry over into the ring.  She is starting to pattern very nicely and I haven't seen a "superman" leap in a long time.  I really think she is much happier running her aframe than doing the two on two off behaviour.

I heard a really sad story this week.  A few friends who were at the show on the weekend in rally witnessed a lady abuse her Giant Schnauzer when it left the ring during its rally round.  The lady left the ring after her round and violently leash popped the dog three times and then kneed it in the face. When confronted about her abusive behaviour the lady would only say that she was so mad at the dog and the dog deserved it.

 How very upsetting!  It amazes me how seriously people take these dogs sports, and how they will stop at nothing for a ribbon or a title.  It is supposed to be a GAME that we play with our dogs, its not life or death, it's not world peace, its not the end of hunger.  Its Rally-O!  (or obedience, or retriever work, or whatever)

I'm sure we all got into these sports initially because we enjoy spending time with our dogs and we enjoy the relationship that forms during training and play.  It seems some people loose sight of this and can only see the ribbons or the titles.  Nothing else matters anymore, but their reputations.  And the dog only suffers for all of this.  The trainer is no longer focused on building a positive relationship with their dog.  They are no longer concerned with how stressed the dog might be, how he might not be ready for the proofing or the showing, they don't care that the dog isn't having fun or that their chosen sport might not be their dogs chosen sport.  They only care about that perfect score or that blue ribbon to hang on their walls.

It makes me really sad to see these people and their dogs.  If they could just let go of the goal of winning or that OTCH, they might start to have fun with their dogs again.  Maybe then they will remember why they got into dog sports in the first place.