Spirited Away

Wow, yeah, Haku has never had a worse obedience trial. I do think there were a lot of factors that played a part. I have had a lot going on recently, we have not been practicing at all and I was not mentally focused myself. I also think the lack of practicing whole routines played a part, which is something we used to do quite regularly, and never do these days – we just practice little parts and pieces. Haku does better with seeing the whole picture as it will look in competition. We haven’t been to a fun match in at least a year, probably longer – he really does need the exposure to new places. Finally, I got annoyed with him in the ring – and that really hasn’t happened before. I mean, it’s Haku, things happen, but the worse things got with EVERY exercise I was just giving him the “WTF?” look after every exercise, which only made him worse, which led to more WTF, and that’s a bad cycle to get into.

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After our two ridiculously bad runs today, we played around in the practice ring to fix some things that were obviously very broken and end on a better note, but I was disappointed to feel so out of sync with my boy – and felt terrible I got so frustrated with him in the ring. But to put a positive spin on it all, hey, look, lots of things to train!

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And then I watched the special theater release of Spirited Away, which Haku was named after, and everything was okay again. It is crazy that Haku even LOOKS like his namesake in the movie – and I named Haku before he was born. Love that movie, love that dog, it’s all good.

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So in a much better frame of mind, coming back with a plan of attack. First of all, no entering any trials until he’s had some successful matches. Which should be a no-brainer, but I’ll admit I’m like, “He’s been doing this for years, he should know this by now!” But, well, obviously not – as much as I would prefer that he did. We’re going to go back to looking at full exercises and routines. This might mean no more class for him for a while. Going to work with rewards off of me and only for successful full exercises. Which, once again, is the right choice for Haku, but not for every dog. He needs to go back to using his own impulse control and focus skills, not me helping him out. We’ll be using exercises for access to environmental rewards when he’s over the top. And all of this is actually what he really needs, I’ve gotten sloppy and let him slide, which means he’s not been using his brain which means he’s been practicing bad behaviors. Not necessarily in obedience, but in every day life – and that bleeds over. Haku really is happier and more relaxed when he has to use self control and problem solving skills. Otherwise he can regress into mindless OCD behaviors.

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So, yeah, a good learning experience over the weekend, we’ll see if we can improve before trying it again. And watch more Spirited Away, because it’s awesome. And so is Haku.

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Navarre got to come into the arena for a bit today, I didn’t even end up using the practice ring, he did well with heeling around the facility. Then he gave me one really nice, fast recall – so we jackpotted and called it good. If I can get Haku to some matches, Navarre is definitely coming along too.

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Now, Navarre and Bright are signed up for LOTS of agility while I give Bright one last attempt to qualify for nationals with these last two trials in November. Technically Navarre didn’t need to do all these runs as well, but as long as I’m there, why not. Knowing myself as I do, I’m going to give it my best NOT to wimp out and skip runs. We can do this, maybe not successfully, but I’d like to say we actually tried.

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Then we’re supposed to have yet another very cold winter this year, and we’ll probably be very ready for an agility break after November. Oh, and we may be getting a temporary puppy, which should keep us plenty busy.

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Nationals and Obedience

Haku’s first run in Utility this morning went about how I assumed it would. Well, maybe it was a bit worse. On our glove retrieve he didn’t even go to correct side of the ring, much less get the correct glove. And it was the ‘easiest’ glove for him, #1. And he auto-finished almost everything, forging and bumping like crazy, decimating the article piles, go-outs into the corners … yeah, it wasn’t pretty. But it was happy, and I’ll admit I assumed he was going to be nutty and didn’t have my serious obedience face on. And the judge was chatty, so we’re chatting about how fast Haku was and other such light conversation during the run, so I’m sure that also made it seem much less ‘official’.

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So we went straight from the Utility ring to the practice ring, where he was like, “Oooh, obedience, oh yeah, I know how to do this.” Dork. Open went much better, really happy with his heeling and his dumbbell pickups, well, happy with everything except for one finish on the judge’s command. A-hem. So, yes, we can do obedience sometimes! And there was lots of cookies and playing and snuggling and special Haku time.

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Just love that dog, he will never be a precise dog, it’s not in his nature, but that enthusiasm is unmatched. He really does need the constant practice and going to matches if I want him to be able to reliably perform in competition. That’s just who he is, he’s never the type of dog to really ‘have it’, everything is a moving target with Haku. You can tell what we have worked on recently though, for the most part. And what we haven’t. Except go-outs, which we do EVERY SINGLE TIME we practice. And he still is like, “What?” Let it be said, he may have had terrible go-outs in terms of going into the corner, but he didn’t stop short and he got the correct jump even from WAY on the other side of the ring. THAT portion he technically qualified on! So, hey.

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Back tomorrow for another try, I’m assuming we’ll be a little less ridiculous in Utility, but I’m not holding my breath for qualifying. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually focus and practice for his next trial, whenever that might be. Actually, I think the obedience trial where they’re having two trials in one day is coming up, I might try that – see if he actually settles in after LOTS of obedience in one day. You never know unless you try.

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Still, our goal isn’t to qualify, but to have something we’re actively working on and doing together – and obedience is still our best option, even if I do find it not very interesting to work on at this point. One option Joan was talking about was doing the online Fenzi Team Titles, which I pretty much dismissed when they came out as they use a bunch of props and things that I don’t use in my training, and he does, THEORETICALLY, already know how to do all the obedience exercises. But it would give us something concrete to focus and work on …

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I do think I’ll bring Navarre tomorrow and give him a try in the practice ring, see what he does. He’s not anywhere near being able to trial, but he needs exposure. And I do think if I can get him to enjoy competing in obedience he’ll be SO MUCH EASIER than Haku. Navarre actually LEARNS things, and retains them. It’s novel. But he’ll probably just think obedience competitions are stupid and it will all be moot anyway. Training obedience is one thing, competing is another – obedience competitions are definitely not fun.

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In the meantime, I’ve given Bright the all clear with her leg as far as I can see. We did some agility on Thursday and she looked good, and a nice long hike on Friday – no issues or signs of lameness at all. So, knock on wood, she’s back in action. I had been considering the possibility of taking Bright to AKC nationals in Reno next year. Which would first and foremost involve actually qualifying for it. But we had trialed a lot more this year than we normally do as Navarre was a baby and it’s way more fun to trial with a baby. Of course, our idea of ‘a lot more’ is still not much considering our average is about 4-6 AKC trials a year. And Bright’s qualifying average has NOT been high, what with her whole ‘making it up as she goes along’ philosophy she had been rocking most of the year.

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Still, Mary is going and it’s not that far to drive and AKC nationals is probably the best event for little Brightness, really. I would like to take her to one big event at some point, and this is just convenient, being on this side of country. Still, the qualifications for AKC nationals are RIDICULOUS, 7 double Qs and 550 points. So I pulled Bright’s qualifications for this year, which ends Dec 1st. She has 5 double Qs and 350 points. It was the points that surprised me, I figured she may not have a lot of double Qs, but points we’d be okay with – still need 200! What with essentially skipping the trial last weekend, that leaves us 2 more local trials to qualify. One of the trials is down in Eugene, which is reasonable and I could actually do a Friday for that one. So 5 trial days to get 2 double Qs and 200 points – it’s theoretically doable, but the issues we have are usually stupid things.

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I leave it up to fate, I’ll enter the trials, we’ll see what happens – if she qualifies, I’ll think about taking her, if she doesn’t, I’m okay with that too. It’s doubtful we’ll ever get close to qualifying for nationals again, but you never know. And I don’t know if I would call us ‘close’. As close as we’ll ever be with the excessive requirements they have these days.  It would be nice to have a ‘Special Bright Vacation’ though, leave the other dogs here and just hang out with my girl.

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Extreme Oregon

So just like three weeks ago it was still 90 degrees, and then this weekend we have pouring down sideways rain stripping all the pretty Fall leaves from the trees. What the heck happened to Spring and Fall? We didn’t get either this year, and they’re my favorite seasons – and usually go on FOREVER. Winter and Summer are usually these tiny little pockets tucked in around a bunch of loveliness. I would like to go back to that. And as long as we’re asking for things that should be happening, where the hell is my flying car? I’ll even take a self driving car, I’m living in the future and I’m not impressed.

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Trial this weekend down in Salem, the open sided arena. This did not go well with the weather, the jumps were blowing over, the parking lot was a churned up mass of mud and rain, rain, rain. I actually don’t mind rain, and mud I can deal with – but I hate wind. And what with being nervous about running Bright with her leg anyway, I was not really invested in our runs today. So it was pretty much training in the ring day, I’ll take responsibility for not calling Navarre out of tunnel, so he went WAY off course in the other direction. But he had a lovely threadle rear off a running dogwalk, so that was fun. Bright knocked a bar in Premier, it happens. She also knocked the last bar of standard, which was a tunnel to triple – and it gave us a good excuse to skip jumpers. Navarre oddly didn’t threadle into a fairly straight forward tunnel pull TWICE, even with me standing there, so we worked contacts and pushed on his weaves. I am taking it for granted he’s going to be focused and with me these days! He has started running his teeter, he did at the USDAA trial and then in Premier, and so I really made sure to make it happen in standard today and he still came off four on. So something to work on.

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So scratched jumpers and unless it’s just lovely tomorrow (which it’s not supposed to be), we’re skipping tomorrow too. Three weekends of agility is hard, but add in this kind of weather, the open arena and my worries about Bright – yeah, we’ll pass. I should have gotten some video of Bright, she felt normal. I didn’t see anything, but I tried to run her normally. I feel like there is still some weakness in that back right, and during our last walk she did a big stretch of that leg back outwards, just the back right. I’m thinking it feels better, but not all the way.

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Meanwhile, Pixel headed back to Carol, things are a lot quieter around here. As expected, as Pixel settled in she got a lot more spunky! She certainly wasn’t a bad dog, but it makes me realize how mild manned my crew is. Haku wouldn’t come out of his crate in the car if she was around because she liked to jump on the border collies’ heads when they came out. She definitely got louder and crazier and more pyrshep-like – which is the Pixel I know and love. Navarre and her played quite a bit, but it was mostly Pixel doing all the work.

The border collies just didn’t quite know what to do with all that Pixel, so she pretty much just took over. She got a lot braver with the cats, and was soon sleeping right in prime position on the bed, next to cats and shoving any border collies out of the way. She got loud and demanding when out playing the dogs, which confused the BCs as she didn’t actually want the toy, but would hang on to them like a little tick, making it hard for THEM to get the toy, and they were way too polite to tell her stop it. Bright would tell her to knock it off in some instances, but she, too, is good at ignoring other dogs to an extreme degree when out playing. So I’m sure Carol’s Briards will remind her how to behave when she goes home.

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A lot more energy in the household with a pyrshep, Pixel is always so happy and excited, bouncing around and pinging off the furniture when I walk from one room to the other, which gets the bcs all riled up and then disappointed when I’m just WALKING INTO THE OTHER ROOM. BCs were confused at all this rambunctiousness for no apparent reason.

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Had a lot of fun training with Pixel, she’s a smart little thing that picks up things really quickly. No lack of enthusiasm and focus! We played with lots of little things, and she picked up holding an object pretty darn quick. Really fun to train with a highly food motivated dog. We tried playing with toys, and she would do it, but she clearly felt this was not how training should happen, so we stuck with food.

Did very much enjoy her, I love her enthusiasm and happy joyful love of life. She’s really fun to train and has such natural people focus. I do not care for the hair. I have learned to find her scruffiness cute, but the wet beard after drinking – ick. And sticks and things just get stuck in it – it serves no purpose. Very different personality from the BCs, not sure they really know what to do with her. Pyrsheps are still on the list, or, at least, a Pixel puppy if she has a little in another 3-4 years. I do love that little dog. Not as easy as a border collie though. 😉

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2017 Northwest Cup

OMG, USDAA can’t possibly squeeze any more classes into a day. They now have Intro and the Misc classes, which was an un-numbered standard course people could ‘train in the ring’ with a toy and a tunnelers course. Now, the tunnelers was fun and Haku got to play, but there are already so many classes in a day, it just seems silly to be adding even more.

I do wonder how exactly I was planning to run Bright in a bunch of classes and then also Navarre in a bunch in the other ring. And I was tired just running one dog – and Bright had originally been signed up for more runs than Navarre! When we only have so many USDAA trials, sometimes it SEEMS like a good idea to sign up for all these things … it rarely is.

Navarre did run almost all his runs over the weekend, we skipped Biathlon Jumpers this afternoon though. Which looked like a fun course, but it was the end of the day and we already had to run our Gamblers course twice due to timer malfunction. Running Gamblers twice is dumb, let me say. But guess which goofy puppy is now in Master Gamblers? Navarre likes to go OUT THERE. It’s kind of his thing.

Navarre also got his AD! Well, the performance equivalent. Which may be like P1 or something? So much easier to just call it ‘Performance Starters’, I never have gotten on board with the weird separate name thing. And, yes, the performance stigma is still there. I had no less than 4 people ask me why he was in Performance over the weekend. Like there was something wrong with him or else he’d obviously be running championship. Sigh. There are lots of great dogs in Performance, it’s not a ‘lesser’ program to me …

So we ran in Advanced (Uh, P2?) today and picked up a standard leg, his last advanced gamblers leg and a jumpers leg, which means he actually only needs a few more legs to be all in Masters. Why did it take 6 years to do that with Bright?

Navarre even won both rounds of Steeplechase! Navarre says Steeplechase and Gamblers are his favorite. So we made some money and had a lot of fun. Really, Navarre did great with almost everything. We imploded in Biathlon standard though, which was a hot mess. We had a gamblers run where I forgot to call my dog, so we messed up the gamble when he went straight instead, and he DID run around the last obstacle in his Starters standard run, because he likes to make me sweat about that kind of thing, but we fixed it. But, overall, puppy was trying super hard and doing such great things! We even came in 3rd for the NW Cup, which was pretty cool too – I tell you, stiff competition in Performance!

Oh, and Navarre really liked tunnelers! He definitely approved of that class. And so did Haku! His first agility in competition since we crashed that NADAC trial many years ago. I was a bit worried he would forget what the point was, but he did great. His ‘stay’ was hilarious though! Haku IS a good dog, he wouldn’t break his stay, but he was allowed to scoot in agility to gauge the first jump with his ETS. So he just scooted himself ALL the way to the first tunnel and put his head in it – but he waited (ever so briefly!)! Just love that dog, this really made his day. Agility is for being a DOG, he likes his obedience, but he can’t be that wild and crazy in obedience.

Not a super exciting weekend for Pixel, the trial days were long (SO MANY CLASSES). We’ve been working on tricks and she’s been getting more comfortable sassing at the border collies. But now that they think of her as ‘just Pixel’ they seem to have no response to when she’s barking and jumping on their heads. Even Bright seems to have filed her under, “Not worth snarking at.”

Speaking of Bright, she looks good, after getting to hang out in her crate all weekend I let her party with everyone since Heidi and Dove were here. She’s not 100%, but she looks good. I can secretly hope that she’ll just be magically better and can run in the trial next weekend, but I realize that’s a longshot. Still, I’m just grateful she’s doing so well and it’s not her knee, we’ll take off as long as it takes.

Lots of cute puppies at the trial! Always fun to play with them all, I love puppies. No Puppy Fever here though, it’s fun to play with them, but Navarre is still quite enough big dorky puppy for me. Been enjoying playing with Pixel while she’s here, as it’s always fun to train a different personality a bit, but it will be nice to get back to just my three – they are a wonderful group of dogs and get along so well.

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Living the PyrShep Lifestyle

Pixel is staying with us for a couple weeks, which I figured would be super easy, and it has been. She’s a good girl, very quiet and well behaved. Once again, perhaps a little too much so! She stayed with us for a couple days a while back and it kind of freaked me out how quiet she was, and I think she was having a hormonal downswing at that point. She is spunkier this time, but still just way more quiet than I anticipated! Not in a bad way, she seems comfortable and happy, but she is a very young and high energy girl, it’s just bizarre how chill she can be when she wants to.

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Pixel is SUPER FUN to train, she just loves it and is very operant and could just go all day.  She LOVES agility and running her is a blast, and very easy – Carol has done a great job with her. We’ve been playing with her weaves and contacts while she’s here, as she just learned those relatively recently and she’s still figuring out the details. She’s very keen to do so though, so that’s been a lot of fun. Very different than the border collies, I really enjoy her learning style and enthusiasm.

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My dogs have spent a lot of time around Pixel, and Pixel is super polite around the BCs, so they basically just ignore her. Occasionally Pixel gets spunky and chases and bites them, and they still just ignore her! Mostly it makes me realize how self exercising border collies are. We go to the park or the field and the border collies are doing giant outruns and running and moving … and Pixel is just trotting next to me, looking at them like they’re another species. She’ll chase them a little bit, but she doesn’t go far from me. Which I’m not complaining about, but I’m like, “Now is the time for running – GO RUN.” One-on-one Pixel is a bundle of energy and running and playing – out with the other dogs, totally sedate. I keep waiting to see if she’ll start joining in with their reindeer games, but, so far, no luck.

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Same thing in the house, my dogs are really chill in the house, and Pixel is too. She’s super quiet and very polite. Even Bright can’t find anything wrong with her. Pixel IS very cuddly and wants to be touching you ALL THE TIME. This is quite a change from the border collies, I’m like, “PERSONAL SPACE, please!” She want to sleep on my head, as she doesn’t want to be close to the cats that sleep more mid-bed. The head thing doesn’t fly though, so she alternates between wedging herself next to me as far from the cats as she can, or sleeping on the floor next to the bed. The cats, of course, ignore her completely, so it’s kind of funny she’s so keen to avoid them. That has been good for Dragon though, he tried hard to be horrified for a couple days, but he kept forgetting she was here, she’s so unobtrusive – now he ignores her.

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Enjoying my Pixel time, trying to do a lot of training with her, as that seems to really make her happy. Here she is doing a bit of sequencing yesterday – such an awesome little dog! I even think the scruffiness is kind of cute now 😉

In other news, Bright came up three legged on Wednesday night. The next day, more of the same, sometimes three legged, sometimes toe touching, sometimes putting more weight on it … yeah, I was sure it was her knee. Made an appointment for her today, already planning her surgery and how I was going to handle it. Naturally, this morning she’s bouncing around only slightly lame, but I know about knees, that doesn’t mean anything. In we went to the vet – and it wasn’t her knee! Oh, happy days! I have never been so happy to have my dog be just normally injured! Her hock was somewhat swollen, but her knees felt great, the vet felt she may have sprained the muscle there running in the field. I can’t tell you how relieved I am after feeling just about sure we were in for an expensive surgery, recovery and probably eventually the other knee. Bright is on metacam and rest, but she already looks so much better than she did on Wednesday.

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Hopefully this won’t be an ongoing issue, but something that heals up quickly. And the relief that it wasn’t a knee makes up for her missing the USDAA NW Cup this weekend, which is the trial I REALLY wanted to run in this month. Navarre will still be running, but Bright was in all the really fun stuff. Oh well – IT’S NOT A KNEE!

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Oh, and totally random as well tonight, Bright also made the Power 10 for 20″ Border Collies this quarter – that surprised the heck out of me. Seems like there should be a lot faster BCs than Bright, but it was fun to see her name on there – god I love that dog.

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Oh, and, yes, she is still SUPER DRAMATIC at the vet … but not as much as she used to be. And boy can she turn it on and turn it off when she wants to. So she had her exam where she pretended the vet wasn’t there and looked all sad and pathetic, and then as soon as she was done she’s bouncing around and rummaging on the counter demanding her after exam treats. Dramaqueen.

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Navarre may get out of Starters this weekend. Only because I finally broke down to see our results and bought their Competitors Services at the USDAA site for this year. And they have all sorts of Qs that I’m pretty sure we didn’t actually earn, but I can’t really complain at this point. So according to USDAA’s records, he just needs one Standard Q to move all to Advanced. And he needs one more Advanced Gamblers Q to get to Masters Gamblers – the boy is good at distance, he came by that one honestly. So we’ll see, though Starters Standard has been our nemesis …

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Haku’s obedience trial is coming up, I am looking forward to it. I was threatening that it may be our last, but we NEED to have things that are just about Haku and I. And we don’t have to do it often, but I do get more serious about our training and focusing on practicing when we have the occasional trial. And we’ll be goofy, and probably not qualify for silliness – but I think he’ll have fun. I think it’s important for me to have the occasional trial to keep me honest in making sure Haku gets just as much one-on-one time. I will admit, when we’re not actively working towards something I slack off. We may never get our UDX, or ever qualify again – but I don’t really care. Doesn’t mean we can’t just go and give it our best goofy shot now and again. Love my ever enthusiastic Haku.

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Navarre is coming along in obedience as well, and he is the poster child for having faith that it will come together eventually. It was never the behaviors that I was worried about in obedience, but Navarre’s enthusiasm for the sport. Let it be said, Navarre actually runs with enthusiasm to get that dumbbell now! That was one long road, including taking time off and trying all sorts of different methods and training ideas to see what would bring out that enthusiasm. Little steps, tiny sessions, one throw and party, and letting him make the decision if he wanted to play obedience (and a lot of the time the answer was no!). Now, he’ll never have Haku’s enthusiasm for obedience … but I’m pretty sure Navarre doesn’t have Haku’s level of enthusiasm for ANYTHING. Navarre is having a good time though, he’s got the sparkle to him in obedience now … sometimes. This week I added the turn over the broadjump and he was like, “This is STUPID, why would I run when I’m just going to turn?” And then he would do the exercise at a walk. Which he could, because he’s one athletic dog – but, yeah, we’ll get there. Eventually.

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His heeling is looking much better, amazing what can happen if you work on it. Which we have quite a bit while waiting to go into the ring at agility trials. Because then he doesn’t bark! We went through a phase where he really thought heel position was one foot in front of me. And we still don’t have a ‘fast’, but only because I’ve worked really, really hard to get him RUNNING in the fast – and now he just explodes and runs like 5 feet in front of me. We’ll fix that eventually … but, yeah, his slow is beautiful, naturally. 😉 We’ve introduced all the exercises in obedience, but some need a lot more work than others. I think I’ve been deliberately avoiding progressing on his go-out as I’m still traumatized by my experience with Haku. So not entirely sure what I want to do with Navarre, but I know he RUNS to a target with a food … so that’s all we’ve done. Just going with the flow, maybe if he continues like he is, possibly trying Novice when he’s three. But probably four. Good thing we’ve got agility to keep us busy!

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Heather is a Dork

Oh, I was not a great handler today, but we all had fun though, so it’s all good. Bright and I had a great Premier Standard course, I liked the course, it was really fun … and I just totally forgot a jump at the end. Whoops. Still, in my mind it was a perfectly lovely run, complete with a nice running dogwalk from Miss Brightness. Which, uh, got us into trouble in standard as I let her run again and she was like, “Wheee!” and did not see my tunnel threadle cue off the exit. Oh well, she had a great time, and our made-up course was fun too. We were sort of doing our own thing today. In jumpers we REALLY did our own thing as I just sort of forgot where the jumps were in space and ran her right by jump number 4, and then started just trying to make shit up for the fun of it – and forgot the rest. There is a theme here, which is Heather was just being goofy.

Someone said to blame her High in Trial (kind of) . We were some fraction of a second off of Mynx for HIT, so Robin kindly offered us the HIT chair (as they already have so many!). Hey, free chair, we’ll take it. Still, pretty cool little Brightypants is honorary high in trial. We did have a good day yesterday, and today I was just not focused, I freely admit it.

Guess who did pretty well despite that? Baby Navarre! His first day of all Masters classes, and he ALMOST double Qd (triple, actually!)! He took my ‘go-on’ in an unexpected direction, AWAY from me, and added an extra jump. Whoops. Still, so much good stuff! He still looks stiff in the weaves to me, but better than he did yesterday. Navarre DID get the tunnel threadle cue in standard with his running dogwalk and actually won Masters standard – with some very questionable handling by Heather before the weaves.

He also had a fun T2B run as well, perhaps not the tightest lines in the whole world, but no lack of enthusiasm!

Lots of fun with both dogs, I feel very lucky to have such fabulous teammates on course, they just bring such joy. And their tables are marginally better! We may be slightly less terrible with our tables for the USDAA trial next weekend. Maybe. The dogs are doing great at holding up their end of the team, need to make sure I do the same.

And Haku got to come in and play some obedience. But mostly I just let him watch agility – he LOVES to watch agility. He gets to run in tunnelers next weekend! I think he’ll have a blast. But then, it’s Haku, he usually does.

Tomorrow we’ll pick up our little scruffy houseguest, which should be fun!

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I Love Fall

Fall and Spring, the two best seasons. Fall may be a little bit my favorite though, as I REALLY like it when Summer finally fades away. We’ve had some just perfect days, October is a magical month. The leaves in the forest are just starting to change, the crisp evenings, the beautiful skies. Makes me happy.

Trialing is so much more fun in the Fall as well! No more struggling to run in the heat, and the dogs love it too. We have a busy October planned, but it’s easy to relax and enjoy it all in the Fall. Today we had AKC, and the courses were very, well, AKC. But it’s not like I expect otherwise, we enjoyed ourselves.

So much goodness from the dogs! I barely know what to do with this Bright these days. No more weird freestyling, she’s back to her very consistent self – but better. Today was an epic day for Bright, there was a little girl running leashes for her first run and the girl tries coming up and HANDING the leash to me at the end of the run. And what did Bright do? She just ran up to the child, grabbed the leash out of her hands and brought it to me, like it was no big deal. Like she never used to try and run out of the ring if there was a child watching. I was just so happy to see her suddenly deciding not to be a dramaqueen about it all, there was much celebrating after that run – mostly just because of that moment!

Wasn’t even a fluke, check out this video and the kid standing RIGHT BEHIND Bright at the startline – and she didn’t even care!

So that just made my day right there. And Bright ended up qualifying in 3 out of 4 runs, we bobbled on a serp in Premier Jumpers, but other than that she was Little Miss Perfect. Even had two nice independent stopped dogwalks. I liked the schedule today, which started with the two premier classes. Which means they’ll probably never do it again.

And lots of good with Navarre too, I don’t think he did any sightseeing that I remember. He seemed a bit off in the weaves, kind of awkward and not driving like he can. I thought he missed a pole in jumpers, but the judge didn’t seem to think so – who am I to argue? He was trying really hard! He had his last T2B class for a while, it’s a great class for babies, but he’s now officially in Masters – we’re moving to Premier instead! Navarre finished off his AXJ today, he’s officially no longer a baby dog in AKC. Oh, and he beat Bright in jumpers, not by much, but he did – and Bright was her normal very efficient self.

The agility Navarre was doing well, but he was sort of acting weird otherwise. Admittedly, I expect him to act weird when I do a raspberry at him, but he was just being SUPER DRAMATIC. It’s his weird thing, normally a pretty solid guy, he just hates it if anyone does a even a tiny raspberry sound. But we have  been working on it, as I have been using it all the time with him, and he barely acknowledges it anymore … but this was different, apparently. He wouldn’t even look at me, he was being so dramatic he could have been a girl.

Also, before the raspberry incident, we were out walking with Carol’s dogs and Navarre had been right with us the whole time, nothing out of the ordinary. I stopped to take my camera out and the dogs are milling around and we hear someone way down in the ravine. Carol’s like, “Do we have all the dogs?” and I’m like, “yeah, they’re right here” – and they were … except for Navarre. He had gone way down into this forested area and I call and he finally comes running back … being chased by this GIANT intact mastiff, probably 140 pounds. And Navarre is like, “Holy shit!” as he runs back behind us. Demi to the rescue, Briards are ready to take on any giant mastiffs that come running up to them. Luckily the mastiff was reasonable and had no interest in tangling with Demi, went back to his owner and his other dog, a giant St. Bernard mix. Who had been innocently walking on the path down there before MY dog went and harassed them. A-hem. Yes, I was one of THOSE owners, I felt terrible – and it certainly could have gone very badly.

So after much apologizing we went back on our way, and suddenly Navarre was just on a mission, he just kept running off into the distance for no apparent reason, looking for god knows what. He’s normally so good, I had no idea where this sudden change of behavior came from. And he would come back when I called, but where he thought he was going, I have no idea. Of course, once we got back apparently there was a coyote spotted hanging out in that area. Maybe he thought after the mastiff he’d try taking on a coyote too. Hmmm. And he’s been, um, frisky with the cats and he started looking really pervy with a puppy he met as well. He may be having some Male Moments.

A fun day with the pups, though Haku thought there should be more Haku Time. Not to worry, Haku, your trial is coming up …

FCI Championships

There are so many ‘world championships’ these days that the FCI event isn’t quite the exciting highlight that it used to be. Didn’t even hear much about it leading up to this weekend, which is probably for the best, the folks that are doing the livestream have done a poor job in the past, which made it easy to decide not to watch it. That’s okay, with FB and such you get to see the highlights pretty much instantly.

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The team competition is almost done and they’re getting ready to start individual. I’ve never really been a fan of the team competition, agility for me will always be an individual sport, it’s something that should be just you and your dog trying to do your best for one another. But, just by the nature of the event, there is a lot of pressure for those that go to the FCI event to do well. The pressure of ‘representing your country’ is not one I would find at all comfortable. I always want to be able to be happy with whatever happens – or, at least, try to. Hate to put pressure on the dogs – or on myself.

So, yeah, not that there was any danger of it, but I still have no interest in being on a world team event. It’s possible I may take Navarre to WT tryouts someday, as it is a fun event, but I have no goals in that direction. And I like Navarre at 20 inches, especially when I see those dogs contort themselves to get over all the backside jumps. You don’t notice it much with the smaller dogs, but the big dogs jumping high – hard to watch some of them. Doesn’t help that so many dogs are just throwing their bodies around – and not because they were trained that way, necessarily, that’s just who they are.

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The reasons I do agility haven’t changed much since I started – which was, what, almost 17 years ago? I like playing with my dog, I love training dogs, I love the challenge of seeing if we can do a course together. My goal on course is for my dog to always know where they’re going and to be having a good time. I want my dogs to have self preservation, I don’t want to have to worry about them hurting themselves. I think if a dog is having a good time, they’ll go reasonably fast – but I’d much rather my dog put in the extra stride, slow down a little and be thoughtful. I’m not worried about being the fastest, I’m looking for that wonderful sense of teamwork and flow that comes from working together.

And that’s what I like to teach, is that amazing feeling of communication and partnership that agility can be – just smiling and running with each other. It’s a relationship I don’t see in any other dog sport. In agility dogs get to really be DOGS, barking, driving, running – but they’re also right there with us the whole time. So many sports the dog is off doing the things while we watch, dock diving, barn hunt, flyball – still very fun, but it’s not the same partnership to me. And there are sports like obedience and herding, which are also very much a partnership – but not the same level of ‘fun’ that agility can be. Herding is closer, but herding is also a lot about pressure and release, and the drives are different. I have yet to find another sport I like more than agility, I do think it’s a magical sport in my mind.

So it’s been fun to watch the Team event in … where are they this year? The Czech Republic. Large jumping course was kind of disappointing, I must admit. It was a speed course, very flowing, but not terribly interesting. Naturally, the standard course made up for it, that was a fun one to watch. And the mediums and smalls always seem to have fun courses. So many cute little dogs!

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Agility has really changed, and I think just in the last few years as trained cues have become more popular. The amazing things people are able to do now with these phenomenally fast dogs, love seeing them just send and go and the dogs look so confident – they know where they’re going and the handler has so much more freedom to get ahead. And a lot more running contacts, and, more importantly, a lot more GOOD contacts of all types. It would always amaze me that a dog could make it the world championships with creepy slow contacts. I don’t think you can really get away with it anymore. Though, to be fair, once again, I didn’t watch ALL the dogs, so maybe I just didn’t see the bad contacts! A well trained dog and a confident handler is just a pleasure to watch, and there was a lot of goodness to watch so far.

Always very inspiring, fun to follow along. We’re heading off to an AKC trial this weekend. The contrast will be pretty amusing, I’m sure. I like the schedule though, they’re doing both premier classes in the morning, hoping for some fun courses. Navarre isn’t entered in premier this weekend, but he is later this month! Puppy is growing up.

Not a super exciting week for dogs, had a lot going on, so I owe them some action. We had some good agility practice, less so in the obedience department. Probably because I entered Haku in a trial he’s all over the place. Such a good boy though, so easy to bring him anywhere, he’s at that perfect age, I never want him to get any older.

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Oh, yeah, and guess who DID get on a world team? DareDevil, Bright’s puppy! How awesome is that? Laura has done such a nice job with him, I believe he was an alternate on one team and a member going to … Spain? I think. So excited for them. I know that we had nothing to do with their success, but I’m super proud anyway. I must admit I had no plans that Bright’s puppies would end up on the world team! Of course, I thought they would be sweet and easy like Bright. And, uh, they were not. But they’re fun and talented and awesome. Love my Sparklepuppies!

Here they are at WTT tryouts earlier this year:

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