Sunday, May 30, 2010

Boiling Blood

Behavior modification aside (you know me -- fear issues = counterconditioning and desensitization), there are many different ways to train a dog.  It's not my intention here to tell you what methods you should use.  I have friends who use all different quadrants of operant conditioning. I have found the methods that work for me (positive reinforcement) and will recommend my choices when others ask me for advice.  However, I fully respect those who use any others, provided they love their dog, understand the science behind each method, and are not abusive of any training tool, be it positive or negative.

All that said..

Perhaps I'm behind on the times, but I've just discovered a Canadian man by the name of Brad Pattison who claims to be a dog trainer.  To say I am appalled would be a drastic understatement.  I'm no fan of Cesar Millan and I totally denounce dominance as an explanation for dog behavior or a viable means of training. However, this guy makes Cesar looks like a pussycat.  I wasn't aware that that was possible.

There is not much video out there of him in action.  (Apparently, he and his cronies made a big stink about the videos showing his brutal methods at his seminars and had them all taken down). But, I found this.

The video captions do a pretty good job of explaining what's going on.  The dog looked up at Pattison three times.  When the dog saw he was being ignored, he moved elsewhere. Isn't that what you would do if you were trying to communicate with someone and they weren't giving you any feedback? Pattison set the dog up to fail.

The magnitude of that leash correction was totally unfair as well.  The dog wasn't even pulling - it just got out in front (thought by some to mean that the dog is being "dominant" - not something I buy at all).

Here is another clip.

I watched a video of him teaching a dog to sit by holding it up by the leash so that its front legs dangled off of the ground.   There are various text testimonials from his seminars floating around on YouTube, but they don't actually show what happened.  One says he dragged a dog up and down the stairs.  Another says he punched a dog in the face.  If the descriptions are true, this Pattison guy is one really mean man.

Pattison claims that using treats for training is "bribery," which totally ignores the science of reinforcement.  Reinforcing a behavior makes it more likely the the behavior will happen again.  Some behaviors can be so reinforced that the dog will perform them even if they know you don't have a treat.   Using a variable reinforcement schedule AND using rewards other than treats also ensures that the dog is not working "only" for the food.

Personally, I don't mind carrying treats with me everywhere I go (and do so mainly because there are fear issues involved), but I don't need to use them all the time. Brad Pattison might be shocked to know of all the behaviors Marge knows and will perform without the use of constant treats.  I'd like to see him drag a dog around and use punishment to teach agility.  Something tells me that he wouldn't even be able to make the unchallenging Novice course times because his dog would trot around the course with its tail tucked under its legs.

I wrote him a strongly-worded e-mail.  I'm sure it will get no where, but I will share it on this blog so that perhaps someone out there who has been lulled into these very dangerous ideas can see another side to the story.
"I am absolutely appalled after watching your training videos and hearing your explanations of dog training. You are absolutely delusional if you believe that treat training is more injurious to a dog than your brutality is.

I understand that there is an old-school train of thought for training, but your methods far surpass it. They make no sense. We must vary our dogs' feeding time so that they don't become "dominant?" Yet, at the same time, you anthropomorphize dogs by saying they need different "flavors" of food? It seems like you've strewn random ideas together and have used them to prey upon the innocent public who need help training their dogs and don't know that they should run far, far away from your regimens.

You may be able to convince the average pet owner that your methods work, but that's because they do not see the avoidance and fear that you instill in their dogs. For someone like me, a knowledgeable person who is active in dog sports, punishment won't go very far. My dog must be HAPPY to work for me. Using treats has accomplished that. And no, I don't need to use them all the time.. they were a teaching tool. They made the behavior desirable for her to do (operant conditioning). Now, they have been so reinforced that she will sit, stay, stand, down, perform various tricks, recall, pay attention to me, walk on a loose leash, and RUN AN ENTIRE AGILITY COURSE without the use of treats. I'd really like to see you accomplish that using your barbaric leash-dragging, overbearing and unfair leash corrections, and delusional idea that dogs are dominant and want nothing more than to take over the world.

As a person who has successfully rehabilitated an extremely fearful dog using nothing but POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT (no, not bribery, but instead scientifically proven methods), I pray that God have mercy on any dog who falls into your web of training lies."
I really wonder how someone like this can snag their own TV show.  I also wonder who came up with this horrible, horrible idea that dogs are intrinsically evil, dominant beings.  So much for having a healthy relationship with your pets.

You'll have to excuse me for now.  My dog is being dominant.. she's asking to go lay out in the sun for the umpteenth time this morning.  I must see to this issue!!!.. by granting her what her little fuzzy butt wants.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


You might have noticed that MargeBlog has gotten a new look!  I've been putting this off for a long time, but finally sat down today to get it done.

Couple of things to point out:

  1. Our Favorite Blogs: I don't like to use my followed blogs as my blog roll because some blogs that I read aren't hosted on Blogger.  So, I've added a few new blogs to it.  If I missed yours and you would like to be on there, don't be shy about letting me know.  Since I do it this way, it's pretty easy to accidentally leave someone out.
  2. The Latest News: I added this a while ago but never brought any attention to it.  It's a feed from my Twitter.  I don't really follow any one on Twitter and I just really use it for small updates on days when I don't blog, but feel free to follow me if you'd like (as long as you don't mind getting occasional notices about creepy tweets I leave on Tom Hanks' Twitter Pics) and I'll gladly reciprocate.
  3. Various other little updates: Changed my blog subtitle, changed my "About Me", and added Marge's full name to the "About Marge" section.
Eventually, I plan on making separate pages for, well, something .. just haven't figured out what yet.  In the mean time, I think this all looks pretty nice.

Please let me know if something isn't working right.  I know many people have had comment issues when switching to a new template, so, if you can't leave a comment and need to let me know, my e-mail address is

That's all for today - I'll leave you with this video I took of Marge listening to Layla the Malamute as she sang for YouTube.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Training 33

FINALLY, A TRAINING UPDATE! I think I could just gush forever about tonight's agility class. Really. Her performance was awesome and her behavior was even better.

Louie tagged along, so there is video to go along with my elation. This is actually a video of Marge and me running the whole course after class during my private lesson. On a totally unrelated side note, I love the sounds of the crickets chirping at the beginning of the video. Watch the video for that, if for nothing else!

  • One of the biggest lead-outs I've done to date. I did this for a reason. I could have handled this with a simple back cross through the 180, but our back crosses are so solid that it made more sense to practice something different (especially since it's this sort of thing that ALWAYS throws me off in Jumpers). Had a little trouble the first time because I didn't turn my shoulders enough so she went for the table.
  • She had a couple of times where she got up while on the table. I think it's my fault. I haven't proofed me walking away from her while she's on the table enough. Something to work on in our spare time. Her sends to the table were nice, though, and I'm happy she's doing her automatic down after we had two table sits during our last trial.
  • The A-Frame I'll talk more about later, as we dedicated 5 or 10 minutes to working on the contact for it alone.
  • I was pretty happy with the jump-tire-tunnel bit. The front cross after the tire wasn't hard, but it was tricky to get yourself in the right spot so that the dog took the tunnel.
  • AWESOME weaves tonight. Really. Gorgeous entrances and I faded back a bit as she finished up so I could put myself in a better position for the offside tunnel entry. She pulled out of the weaves once towards the end when I was just fooling around with her, but a) she was a little unconfident because we had just finished up working on the frame contact b) she was tired and c) I turned my body to face her after running all the way to the end and that threw her off. So, no concern there.
  • I blind crossed after the tunnel purposely. I never blind cross, but I think it can be a useful tool after tunnels instead of spinning all the way in a circle like a post turn.
  • The angle to the tire was tricky but she did it. She knocked the jump before the teeter on one run, but Marisa said I was over handling it by yelling out to her too much. It was probably something I did. I NEVER get upset over knocked bars, anyway, since I know Marge really wants to keep them up.
  • Nice teeter tonight. I tried not to babysit it as much and the results were good. I did do some babysitting of it just for fun to really motivate her in between runs. I'm still not requiring a 2o2o contact on the teeter.. I think that I might not at all. The jump after the teeter was the end of the course.
As usual, please, agility friends, critique all you want!

Marge has been doing so well in class. Tonight, her behavior matched the agility, too. She played a bit with Papillon friend Holly and PWD friend Star. She sniffed big Max, the super-sweet Cane Corso, but then proceeded to mount him so I pulled her away. Not one single snark the whole night, though, so I really was thrilled.

Like I said, we worked on making the A-Frame contact more independent. I think we actually got somewhere. By the end, I was able to run past her and she'd stay on the frame. She was creeping a bit, but Marisa said that it's likely due to the fact that she's still figuring out exactly what I want for her to do (since usually when I move forward, that means she should move forward, too). She got a bit stressy when I told her to try again after she broke from her contact, but we did it one more time and ended on a good note.

Afterwards, Marge got a fully body massage. It was finally warm enough for it. She handled it much better than last time, standing in place instead of wriggling all over. We're going to do it once a month. Marisa said her neck felt good and there wasn't anything other than normal tightness any where else. The hip flexor that bugged her last month is still slightly inflamed, but apparently it's nothing to be concerned over. Still, I think that's my cue to really pick it up with some strengthening/stretching exercises.

She's pooped, now, asleep on the couch. I'm pooped, too, but really wanted to finally get back to my Tuesday Training. Off now to play catch-up with my favorite blogs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

An Award For Us and Kitty Sitting

Our new friends Rebecca and Daisy Mae at If You Give A Dog A Bone presented us with this award. Thank you, guys!

I definitely do pride myself on writing about lots of different topics. In keeping with the rules of the award, here are seven facts about Marge! To change it up, I'm going to make them all agility facts!

1. She has super weave entrances and I can get decent lateral distance from her while she's in the poles.
2. Her A-Frame contact is currently an enormous work in progress. We've been practicing on our stairs.
3. She used to really dislike the tunnels and would often refuse to go in or come out the wrong way. Thankfully, that's changed!
4. She finds the table to be a lot of fun. Even when AKC changes its rules and makes the table non-positional, I'll still have her do an automatic down on it.
5. She had major issues with the tire in the beginning - lowering it only made it worse - probably because she didn't know where to look for the opening!
6. She has jumped over 3' in my back yard with no problem. But, that was when I was still dog-ignorant, and now I realize that jumping her that high can injure her if she's not used to it.
7. I really, really hope she can get her Master Agility Champion title. If we accomplish nothing else except that in our performance endeavors, I'll be happy. I dream about it sometimes.

We won't pass it on to any one in particular, but feel free to take it if you want it - especially if you're a new blogger!

This weekend, I spent my time kitty sitting for four cats. Their momma is a family friend's sister, and needed someone on short notice to watch them for her.

This is Tippy. He is the oldest.

And Moby. He's the second oldest and the most friendly.

And Cleo. The most stand-offish of the bunch. Reminds me a lot of my boyfriend's old cat, Russell.

And lastly, Wanda, the kitten, who didn't show her face until yesterday.

They were SO much fun to watch. I had to be on my toes because the older two are on restricted diets, which made feeding time interesting. I think we got through it OK, though. Even though I only spent four days with them, I'm going to miss them!

I even got them to play a little. Tippy, Moby and Wanda were totally obsessed with the string I brought from my house. It was nice to see a cat as old as Tippy actually be interested in playing with something. It was also nice to see them gradually warm up to me as the days went by.

Just thought I'd introduce my new friends. It's been quiet around here other wise. Expect a training update (finally!) tomorrow night; Marge and I have been doing a few things together.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Spring Weather and Revisiting My Youth

Seems like the cold weather is behind us for good - it's definitely starting to heat up here! Though Marge is still faring pretty well behaviorally, she acts as though all the energy has been zapped out of her.

This was Marge on our walk yesterday in the big field. I'm so glad that she was comfortable enough to flop down to the ground while out there. She did it again in my front yard this morning. We sat there for a few minutes, soaking up the sun.

Later on last night, my sister and I revisited our childhood and went through container upon container of old toys to be sold at our garage sale tomorrow. (It made me feel really old. I'm hitting the big 2-0 in July. I just finished my Sophomore year of college. Where did the time go?)

My nostalgia didn't stop me from pestering my sweet, tolerant dog with my old treasures. She was totally baffled by these wind up toys that must be at least 10, maybe 12 years old. They danced across the floor one last time. We have ENDLESS other animal figurines - barnyard animals, dogs, zoo animals, sea creatures. We have lots of horses, too, but I admit that those were retained due to their extreme sentimental value. Hopefully some kid will get some amusement out of these toys the way we did so many years ago.

She was especially fascinated by this little plastic Woody (voiced by my man, Tom Hanks - that's my girl, Marge ☺). We were all big Toy Story fans in my house in the good ol' days. My mom's sentimental attachment kept this one from going in to the massive (and I mean massive) pile of "things to be sold" too. Marge kept trying to bite his cowboy hat off. I strapped him to her collar. She walked around a bit, then twisted her head around to knock him off. My sweet, tolerant girl! If not for all of her fear issues, she likely would have been a great playmate for children. That's okay, I'm not giving her up any time soon.

We're selling lots of big stuff, too. Games, a doll house, and my unbelievably large collection of Barbie Dolls (seriously, I don't know how or why I had so many - and yes, my collection included Barbie dogs and Barbie horses and a Barbie vet and pet shop and all the stuff you'd expect to find in an animal lover's childhood Barbie set). My mom has some other stuff she's getting rid of, too. I'm selling some lightly-used clothes that no longer fit me, jewelry that I'll never wear, handbags, and a DVD or two. May as well make some money off of the things that are just lying around the house collecting dust. It's amazing what people will buy. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Different Scaredy Girl

HOMER IS HOME. I would have updated sooner, but my internet was out again yesterday (which means ANOTHER week without the training update - and agility was cancelled due to rain, too). I don't have any details at all except that he was found. Thanks for your good wishes!


I'm very excited to announce that I taught my first class with my dog club Monday night as an assistant. It's a non-competitive agility class, where the dogs learn the basic obstacles without the competition skills. There are only three dogs in the class - a GSD mix, a Papillon, and a Lab mix. A fourth is slated to join us next week.

The Lab mix is a nervous girl. I knew it right away when I saw her - big eyes, ears back, tail low, tip-toeing. So, I kind of leapt at the chance to work with her and was put in charge of her for the night. She had taken this class before, but still was having a lot of trouble with the tunnel.

I started by simply going over to her, crouching down, lowering my head and letting her come up to sniff. She realized pretty quickly that I wasn't going to try to pet her, but was just going to throw bits of turkey her way.. we progressed all the way for her to come up and bop my hand with her nose. She seemed to learn quickly, as she didn't know "touch" before I started teaching her it. I informed her owner that "touch" was particularly good for fearful dogs as it lets them dictate the terms on which they interact with a person (without the invasive petting).

We moved the tunnel off to the side of the room so that the other dogs could practice jumping and recalls while we worked. I scrunched up the tunnel really small and it was evident that this dog was seriously afraid of it, giving herself a lot of room from it. Once we got her in to the vicinity of it, I told her owner: baby steps, lots of cookies, lots of praise. We ended up getting her to put 3/4 of her body in to the tunnel.. the most that she had done so far. When we were finished, she was still curious and investigating it. We ended with a fun session of running through the uprights, which she seemed to like. When she saw the other dogs going through it later, she was very interested in watching them.

I was going to introduce the clicker to see if that would help her at all, but I decided that the extra noise might not be a good thing, and told her owner to try it at home first.

She has a LOT of object and sound fears. She is afraid of the tunnel and the (very low) A-Frame, and would not jump when I put the bar up to 8". Hearing a dog scramble up the A-Frame sent her in to a tizzy. So did the hula hoops dropping on the floor. Agility can really go either way with a dog like this.. some soak it all in, and others really struggle. Her owner is also a bit over-concerned about giving her too many treats, which, of course, will be to the dog's detriment. The biggest thing with new trainers is that they really don't understand right away that treats are an integral part of getting the dog to associate the activity with something fun. It will be interesting to see how this sensitive girl and the others progress.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Good Mojo Needed

Unless there is another skittish black Lab mix named Homer who was adopted out by my old rescue group, it appears that Marge's big brother is lost. :(

I feel just awful. The e-mail I got about it said that he slipped out of his collar Saturday night in a park. He was last seen heading out of the park. I e-mailed to ask if they'd like me to help look for him, but I haven't got a response.

He is a very nervous dog, probably more so than Marge is, even after all of this time. His owners are so nice, too. They have another one of Marge's litter mates, one of the bolder dogs of the bunch.

All I can think of is him running loose, scared out of his mind, not knowing where to go.

So, if you can, send some good thoughts that he is found, safe and sound.


My internet is screwed up once again, it took a half hour for me to make this post. So, it might be another week of fighting with Verizon to make my internet useable again.

I did call the vet regarding the ticks. They said not to worry about it. I also found out by e-mailing the Parks Department that the kind Marge had on her were likely Dog Ticks, not Deer Ticks (which carry Lyme). So that's a good thing. They told me that the worst of the tick season will be this month and June. So, maybe we'll be set to go back in July.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Trails and Ticks

Well, we did finally get out to the woods today. We walked up one of our "usual" paths, to the highest point in the Greenbelt. The views were breathtaking - it had been so long since we'd seen these magnificent treetops.

Marge, too, welcomed the cool breeze running across her face after our short, but hot, climb to the top.

We had some company, too. Khyra, does this guy look familiar to you? He's some kind of hawk or falcon, but we're not sure what species. There were a few of them flying over us, trying to figure out what we were. (Photo taken by my sister.)

Before we started our hike back down, I noticed that a tick had jumped on to Marge's back. I promptly swatted it away and smashed it with all my might using my shoe. I get SO heeby-jeeby around bugs, and bugs that latch on and suck your blood and carry diseases.. well, that's even worse.

We initially planned on staying longer, but the heat, the buzzing bugs, and the threat of ticks made us decide to end things on an early and happy note.

When we got home, I pulled in to the driveway and turned around to look at Marge, who was sitting in the seat behind me. There was a $%&#&$@ tick crawling on her neck!

I got out of the car as quickly as possible, took a little scrap of paper towel that I had handy, and pulverized that bug, too. Thankfully, this one was not attached, either.

Now, of course, both my sister and I were freaking out. We have never experienced ticks before - we're city kids, through and through.

The only thing I could think to do was take Marge out in the back yard with a couple of combs and sift through her fur. We searched that dog from HEAD to TOE and everything in between.. multiple times.. and yeah, we found another tick, this time on the back of her paw. I'm not sure if it was attached - I don't think it was, as I got it out of her fur using the fine-tooth comb and it came out whole (and perfectly alive and crawly, if I might add).. UGH!

Thankfully, the bath was scheduled for that afternoon, so we took her and SCRUBBED the heck out of that little doggy. Using the dryer, we were able to sift through her fur some more to make sure we hadn't missed any. We checked ourselves numerous times, too, and also showered. We had been wearing bug spray while hiking, so it seems that they avoided us. I still feel itchy all over, though...

It looks like we're in the clear, but I'm still nervous. I've never dealt with ticks before. Do I need to call my vet? Should I re-apply her flea/tick topical (she got it about 2 weeks ago)? Argh! No woods for a while - I guess the rain and heat has brought those disgusting little creatures out.

Also, while looking on Marge for more ticks, I noticed some sort of lesion next to her paw pad. Not sure what it is - it's raw and red - I cleaned it out and dressed it with an antibacterial cream that my vet has let me use on her before. I put a sock to cover it while I'm awake to watch her, too. She's not limping, so that's good, but I am concerned because it doesn't really look like it's going to be quick to heal like a simple cut would be. Going to keep an eye on it for now - let's hope a vet visit isn't in order this week!

What a crazy day it became!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hitting The Sand

To break up the monotony of walking out in the big field every afternoon, we went to the beach. My sister had initially suggested it, and I had been thinking it all along, so it worked out well.

It was HOT. I guess we didn't realize how hot it was, initially. But, we spent a good amount of time there, walking up and down the desolate part of the beach.

I absolutely love this photo. Marge was standing up on the old building ruins, and the lighting aligned just right so that she almost became a silhouette. The sky looks gorgeous, too!

Here's another picture of her posing. She climbed by herself on to something higher later on, and took a pretty nasty tumble when she tried to jump down. She seemed okay, though - she looked like she was most upset about getting sand in her mouth.

I realized once we had gotten there that I had forgotten to bring Marge's water bowl. I did have a bottle of water with me, but nothing to give it to her in. She won't drink out of the bottle or out of my hands - she's afraid I'm going to wet her with it. So, a big, clean, empty sea shell was the only thing I could think of. It was way too hot for her to not have any water. It worked smashingly. Talk about making the best of it with what you have!

Here's the surf near the end of our trip. Once again, Marge didn't want to go any where near these rocks. It was too bad, because sitting on them with the water splashing near our feet was a pretty cool experience. It'd be a good spot to just go and relax at.

By that point, it was pretty evident that Marge was done. It was warm for her, and we all know that Marge's patience runs low in the heat. One more recall, and we went home.

On the schedule tonight: thunderstorms! An opportunity for conditioning. We had some pretty loud bangs before, and I am glad to report that Marge did not completely run away, though she was scared. I'm armed with a cup of kibble and I'll send them flying at her any time the thunder rumbles.

Tomorrow, we're hoping to finally get back to the woods, after months of absence. Later on, Marge will go for a bath. Something tells me she'll like the first thing better.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Marge and I had the opportunity to be in a major New York City newspaper this week. However, the editor wanted to do a photo shoot of Marge. Given Marge's fears, I told them that I would not do it. So, I guess they will feature another lucky mixed breed team. The welfare of my dog is much more important than a news story!

This is the article from my local newspaper regarding Marge, this past weekend's agility trial and the AKC Canine Partners Program. It was in the main section of the newspaper and featured the below photo of Marge, blown up and in color print. Thought I'd share it with you all!


Mixed-breeds will get to strut their stuff

By Arianna Imperato

May 06, 2010, 6:56AM

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Every dog has her day -- even if she's a mutt.

Marge, a mixed-breed Labrador and hound with an athletic build and jet-black hair, will be permitted to compete for the first time in the 10th annual Dog Agility Trials held by the Staten Island Companion Dog Training Club.

Her breakthrough is thanks to a revision of the rules by the American Kennel Club, which sanctions the organization and previously allowed only purebreds to show what they're made of.

"I couldn't be happier with the decision to include mixed-breed dogs in AKC competitions," said Samantha Scicchigno, owner of Marge, her first and only dog.

The AKC made the announcement in early April.

"Before that decision, I was planning on having to drive over two hours to agility trials and other events organized by less common venues. Now, I can stay very local, with several AKC agility trials in Staten Island annually," Ms. Scicchigno said of the benefits of this adjustment.

Marge, who is a 40-pound rescue dog, was adopted in June 2008 and began training with the SICDTC six months later.

"When we eventually started training for agility competitions, I felt limited as to what I could do with her before she was allowed to play in AKC," Ms. Scicchigno said.

The event, which will be held Saturday and Sunday, from approximately 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Wolfe's Pond Park, Prince's Bay, will see approximately 300 dogs entered each day, according to Ms. Scicchigno.

At the agility trials, the dog is off its leash and must follow the verbal commands and body movements of its handlers in order to complete the course, which includes jumps, hoops, planks, and tunnels. The ultimate goal for the teams is to win ribbons and titles, and for some competitive canines at higher levels, the chance to compete at AKC's Agility Nationals.

"It makes the world of dog sports so much more available to people in our borough," Ms. Scicchigno said.

I know this is another week without Tuesday Training, but I'm still too tired from the trial and caught up in school work to think about that kind of stuff. Agility class tonight - we're having a party because a lot of dogs got titles this weekend, including my instructor's GSD's 4th MACH at the age of 10 1/2.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Weekend Complete

The rest of Saturday went well. I fell asleep for a little while before heading back to the trial. Once we got back, we found that they were running at least an hour behind schedule. The wind was whipping and they needed extra ring crew to make the courses usable. They had someone holding the sides of the panel jump up, and another person standing on the chute to keep it from twisting in the wind.

The wind was so bad that I considered scratching. A canopy tent went tumbling in to the ring while a little Sheltie was finishing up his run. Thankfully, no one got hurt, but it was scary. A lot of tents - including my own, which is now mangled and unusable - came down with the wind.

But, yes, we stayed. I figured that it things got really bad when we were due in the ring, I'd just say thank you and walk off. We lucked out, and our course stayed up while we ran in Novice Standard.

It wasn't a bad course. The chute was really the only problem. I was able to get into front cross position after the broad jump - wasn't sure that I'd have time - but it looks like I actually overran it. Never thought THAT would be the problem with me! The rest of the course was pretty straightforward - her teeter was slow but she didn't get startled or fly off, so I was happy. And her dog walk contact was BEAUTIFUL. She didn't hold her A-Frame, but that's an ongoing training issue for us. All in all, it was good for a score of 95 (5 points off for refusal at the chute) and 2nd place. Our second Novice Standard leg!

After that, we went home and relaxed. I slept, either on the couch or in my bed, the majority of the time that I was home.

It started all over again in the morning on Sunday. Woke up at 5:30, did my papers, left my house by 7:15. I discovered upon arriving there that I had lost my temporary height card. I was SO mad. If there's an official measurer at our next trial, it'll be okay. But, if not, Marge will have to be measured by the judge. I have no idea what I did with it - I never lose stuff like that and I really don't want to put Marge through an extra measurement. I looked all over the place, but it must have blown away.

I was definitely stressed and Marge picked up on that, so she was a little bit nervous when we first got there. Thankfully, we both got it together and felt better. Since I did not have my tent, we set up with a friend. Being with someone we know makes us feel better, too. Louie met me there around 8.

Our first run, standard, was around 10. It was still windy, but not as bad as yesterday.

This was SUCH an awesome run. She didn't hold either of her contacts and the wind had knocked down one of the jump bars, but I feel like I made some really nice handling decisions. The front cross after the yellow tunnel worked SO well, and so did the front cross after the weaves to get in to the chute. Then, I sent her out to the tunnel so I could get in position for a landing side front. Three fronts, one course. That's probably a new record for me. I hate fronts!

I had no idea that this would wind up being a clean run. I thought we would have had a refusal for the little bit of spinning before the red tunnel at the end. But, nope! That was our title. Our very first ever agility title. And, we got a 1st place for our efforts.

Once again, we went home after our first run. I was exhausted, and starting to feel a cold/sore throat coming back. Louie and I fell asleep, and I strongly considered not going back. I didn't know if I was pushing myself or Marge too far.

Of course, at the last minute, I decided otherwise. Marge was still flinging toys at Louie and poking us with her nose to get us to do something. She didn't seem fatigued at all, so I toughed it out for one more run. Look at her waiting ringside before her final run - she looks extremely calm and confident. Our dog trainer friend (who knows A LOT about fearful dogs) remarked the same earlier in the morning. Lots of soft eye blinks going on.

And it was a good thing I did tough it out. This Jumpers course was extremely fun, flowy, and fast. Marge looked like she liked it, too. Most people were front crossing to the weaves - but we've practiced backs to the weaves often and I was confident that we could pull it off. Louie cut the video off, but she was all wiggles and wags after this run (and ALL runs - I suspect the handfuls of food that she gets has a lot to do with it!). We Q'd in a 20 second run, 5 seconds ahead of the 2nd place dog. Finally, finally, finally, I got it together for Marge in Jumpers.

KB asked about the specifics of Jumpers. In AKC, the Jumpers with Weaves Class (shorted to JWW or Jumpers) is made up of jumps, weaves, and sometimes tunnels. Other venues have variations of this, sometimes without weaves or without tunnels. The point is that the course is fast, and you don't have the option of slowing down on the contacts or table like you do in Standard. So, I guess you could say that directional handling matters more.

I was REALLY pooped after that. We stuck around to get our ribbon and then high-tailed it out of there.

I was really happy with this weekend. The sounds of the rest of the park were, indeed, masked by the sounds of the trial. We didn't get to walk down to the water like I would have liked, but it was more important that Marge stayed comfortable. She did really well, going up to several people for attention and even playing with some dogs (including a DARLING Border Collie named Panda and our friend's Bernese Mountain Dog - yes, BIG dogs, not little ones!). She was able to relax in her crate and, in the event that something did startle her, she recovered quickly.

No more trials for at least 5 or 6 weeks. I'm adamant about not overdoing it with her. There are a couple of trials in June that I'm thinking about and need to make a decision on very soon (as in, tomorrow!). It's nice to bask in our success of this weekend for now, though!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

An Early Report

Marge and I are currently at home, in between runs at our agility trial this weekend.

We ran JWW this morning, with ominous black-grey clouds hovering over us. Just as the first dog in the class went to the line, the skies opened up.

I wasn't sure whether I should still run or not; Marge is not a fan of the rain. But, it was not thunder storming. (If it was, I'd have to be a complete idiot to run her.) So, we gave it a shot. Sorry, no video - it was more important that my sister be standing by with hot dog bits in the event that Marge decided she didn't want to deal with the rain and ran out. Here is the map. I hope it's legible. Jump 1 is at the bottom left.

It started out well, I led out between 1 and 2 and Marge took 1-2-3-4-5 easily. I back crossed over 5 in to the weaves.. most people tried to front cross between 4 and 5, but I didn't think I could get there. Marge did miss her weave entrance, but I don't think it's due to the back cross - she has a little trouble with weave pole entrances at trials so far. I personally think it has to due with the new 24" spacing on the weaves, which we do not get to practice at class (and, our set at home is 21" spacing - a big difference for some dogs!) She sniffed a little bit before getting back in to the weaves (probably because she hadn't pooped all morning, much to my dismay), but then ran the weaves really nicely.

I sent her out to the tunnel so I could be in the right position after jump 8 to send her to 9.. but somehow, I sent her to the double instead. I praised the heck out of her though, the rain was coming down and I had no idea she'd be running as happily and fast as she was, and then we got back on track.

I back crossed on the flat before 12 - it doesn't look like it's be a good option based on the map, but it actually worked out really well. The angle wasn't quite as sharp. I should have tried front crossing after the tunnel, especially since the run was already an NQ at that point, but I was just as curious about doing a soft back over 14 to get Marge on my right side for the final jump. It worked it okay, I guess - I tried to send her on to the final jump, but she kind of had to look back at me first to see where I was.

She got to eat an entire hot dog after this run. I was SO proud of her for sticking with me in the rain. I hope to go back there later and kick some serious behind.. it looks like the worst of the weather is behind us, so I hope the handler jitters are, too!

I don't know what it is with me and Jumpers. I really love running Jumpers courses because of the speed and the flow, but I feel like it's SO much harder than Standard. My prediction is that we'll be in Novice JWW for a long time, probably due to my silly mistakes. I hope I can get it together for Marge in Jumpers tomorrow!

There will be a lot more to come from this trial, I hope. **Also, check back sometime in the next couple of days for a newspaper article featuring Marge (and a HUGE color photo of her!).**

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Midweek Mash-up

Most of our walks lately have been in the big field, due to time constraints and situational constraints (it's been busy out there with all of this warm weather) preventing us from going elsewhere. But, we did manage to go down to the beach the other day for an evening stroll.

Not too many photos from the trip, but a few. Marge was not thrilled about walking on the rocks with us. Normally, she doesn't mind it, even likes it. But, that night, she did it begrudgingly. I'm not sure if either the presence of people or sound of the waves had anything to do with it. Still, my sister took some nice photos. Even when she's less than amused, Marge can still work the camera!

I didn't purposely skip Tuesday Training yesterday, but it kind of worked out, anyway, because I don't have much to say on the training front! We didn't have agility class due to our instructor being away at her breed specialty show. Walks have been more good than bad (with an AWESOME walk Tuesday night with our good friend, Louie), so I'm cautiously optimistic that if I handle things correctly, we can get through the summer in one piece. More to come on that as the warm weather continues.

Our trial is Saturday and Sunday. On both days, our runs are upwards of 5 or 6 hours apart. I did get a tent and set it up in my backyard just for practice - so that will be a nice place to stay. But, the trial site is about 30 minutes from my house. Should Marge and I go home for a little while to beat the heat and take a break? Or, will going home and then going back confuse her and fatigue her more? Spending what could conceivably be 7 or 8 straight hours in the park (as opposed to a completely isolated trial site, like the last one) doesn't seem like a good idea if it can be avoided.

This is the park where the sounds of the hockey rink sent her in to a panic a couple of months ago. She LOVES this park, but the last two trips there have not gone well at all. Part of me is extremely optimistic - the low buzz of the trial environment has the potential to mute out outside noise. Additionally, the mere sight of other dogs and people arranged in what I'm sure she recognizes to be a dog show DOES have an extremely positive effect on her. (For example, she would have never recovered from the loud speaker at the last trial if not for the fact that we, indeed, were at a trial.) The other half of me is worried that I am in for an unpleasant surprise, and that this trial will be nothing like the last, very good trial that we had.

My plan is just to treat it as I treated the last trial. Go, set up my crate and equipment, chill out for a while, warm her up, run, chill out some more. I originally planned on taking her over by the big lake situated in this park, as I figured it'd be nice to cool her down before and/or after her runs, but it might be better for me to stay within the confines of the trial site and not go venturing off.

I'm not sure how much I'm going to post over the remainder of this week. Things have been pretty busy here. So, just keep your fingers crossed that we have a sweet-sounding weekend.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Keeping Things Friendly

Regular readers know that Marge can be kind of picky when it comes to canine friends. This makes the role of her handful of play buddies extra important to me.

We've tried to set up a couple of play dates this weekend, but they didn't really work out.

Friday, We headed over to my grandmother's house, whose neighbor has two Cavalier/Bichon mixes who Marge absolutely adores. Since they and their owner were home, we were fully expecting to be able to go over to see them in their yard ... but, as it turns out, their owner told us she was trying to grow grass in her yard and didn't want them running around back there. They were out on leash in the front, and I suppose I could have walked over, but I didn't want to intrude.. she didn't sound like she wanted to be bothered that day.

Yesterday, we did get in a little bit of a "play date," training at the club with little Westie S and her mom. They didn't play much, because it was REALLY hot (see picture below of Marge melting into the concrete while in my yard), but I suppose just being together works, too. The only dumb thing Marge did while there was guard her treats.. my fault, mostly, for leaving them out on the seat.

Later on Saturday, Marge did get to see her little Boston Terrier friend, Gordon, for a couple of minutes while out walking. If you recall, he was having some reactivity/aggression problems himself. I really felt for his owner, and I thought it was going to be the end of Marge's encounters with him. Well, as it turns out, Gordon is doing better with other dogs. When he and Marge spotted each other, they both instantly went into play bows and chase mode. I cautiously allowed her to approach, and it worked out. There was no snarking on either end. There is no polite introduction with these two. They literally just run up to one another and start going bonkers. Ideal? No. But better than nothing, I think.

This morning, I saw Buddy, the spaniel mix, out in his yard. I asked his owner if Buddy would be home today, and he said yes. I then told him that I was going to go home and get Marge, and he said it was okay. Yay, I thought, something is finally going to work out. Well, I got Marge, went over, and his car was gone and the door to the house was shut. Buddy was probably inside the house with the man's wife, but, since it was 9 AM, I didn't want to risk waking anyone up.


Crap. I'm glad she had the couple of encounters that she did, but I really would have liked for her to have a real play date. It can be so difficult to find play buddies, maintain relationships with them and work play dates into both parties' schedules. I'm hoping to have practice time at the club with one or two new people, but who knows when that'll be and how it'll go. Anyone else with nutty dogs like mine have these issues?

(PS - I'm SO behind on visiting blogs. Tomorrow afternoon, after a quiz at school that I expect to go horribly, I will have plenty of time to read about what every one has been up to.)

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