Monday, July 31, 2006

190.5 (Version 2)

This article will be appearing in Front and Finish magazine (I hope).

The Story of Whippet Wyatt and the 190.5

We rescued whippet Wyatt when he was one year old. My wife insisted we get a dog even though I did not want a dog. He had many issues including separation anxiety. He is a very sensitive and anxious dog and has fear issues with other dogs. I am 47 years old and he is my first dog. I knew zero about dogs, whippets, or dog training when we got him.

We went to dog B&B when he was a year and half and had our first agility lesson and took that up when he was two. At two and a half, we started formal obedience training. He has come a long way since our first local obedience lesson when he would nervously and continuously jump up on us or hide between our legs.

By using positive methods I read about and a lot of trial and error, we entered our first obedience match and managed to squeak by with a 173. We trained twice a day for about 15 minutes per session and went to an hour-long class once a week.

At our next few attempts, he started to go down during the long sit and generally needing more proofing. I did not want going down on the sit to become a habit so I stopped competing and retrained it using cones. I was not sure I would ever be able to get past this problem and resigned myself that we might never get a CD. We kept working on novice and I also discovered that he REALLY enjoyed utility and open work especially retrieving, jumping, and scent discrimination so we added that for fun.

We started to compete again and we missed just one thing for a few trials. But I knew we would do pretty well if we put it all together because we were scoring in the 180's if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice obedience only trial in the Worcester, Massachusetts area. We were in the first class, first dog and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that he was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had Q'ed so far. He had stayed with me well with minimal lagging. We got 0 points off on the stand for exam and the recall. I started to think we might even place if we could only make it through the group sits and downs.

He made it through the sit in what was the longest minute of my life. The three-minute down seemed like an hour but he stayed down even though he looked around nervously and kept changing his head position. I knew we had Q'ed but had we placed? I saw a couple of other REALLY good novice A dogs. The judge announced 4th place, then with a score of 190.5, Wyatt of Dodge City for our second CD leg and third place.

The high from the Q and the score lasted for quite some time. I was so proud of him and happy that he had done so well. Wyatt loves to work hard and play hard. He is the kind of dog who diverts his path going out to pee in order to go over an agility jump. He whines to start scent discrimination exercises.

Wyatt now has 16 different titles in obedience, lure coursing, and agility. Not too bad for the rescue dog I did not want. I still tell my wife I am just making the best of a bad situation but she knows better. I love my “190.5” as we call him now.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Exciting, Breakthrough Weekend

We had a breakthrough weekend at a CPE agility trial in Vermont this weekend. Wyatt did not miss a single contact and received 7 out of 8 Q's, placing in each run. On Saturday, we stopped and waited to be released on every contact except one dog walk (he released early from my body motion but was in the yellow zone). Our one NQ was an off course. There were 2 side by side tunnels and he got too far ahead of me to direct him to the correct one. Saturday's snooker had an A-Frame for the number 7 (most valuable obstacle). As I usual do, I tried to avoid the A-Frame but the #6 tire did not have good flow. Since we have finished getting Q's for our championship in Snooker, I decided to go for it and do 3 A-Frames in the opening for the max points and get the final A-Frame on the closing sequence. Wyatt did all 4 A-Frames perfectly (stopping and waiting to be released). One thing he could have done better was drive all the way to the end of the contact so I vowed to work on that Sunday.

Saturday's performance gave me so much confidence that I was able to really work the contacts just like I do in class and at home on Sunday and he really did them just like at class. I am especially happy that he has now gotten 3 standard, level 4 Q's in a row. They have all been clean runs. We used to have a 25% Q rate in standard. The 2 standard courses this weekend were very tough and there were not many Q's. What a confidence boost to feel we can do any standard course! In wildcard (where you make obstacle choices 3 times, I choose the A-Frame and he delivered). I would never have chosen the A-Frame in the past if I could help it.

What a thrill to see those great contacts *finally* at a trial. I have worked on this problem for at least 2 years! I think many people would have given up and I did have moments when I thought of getting another dog. But I persisted, did a lot of NADAC and did a lot retraining. Wyatt is laying at my feet right and I am so proud of him my eyes are starting to water up.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Water Whippet

I never thought Wyatt liked swimming. I used to have to basically drag/throw him in and he did not like that. Yesterday, it was in the upper 90's and I jumped in the river and he came running in after me. I guess it just has to be hot enough.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Driving Into Tunnels

There was an interesting Jackpot (Gamblers) course we did this weekend. There were 3 gambles, one was just a pin wheel and 2 were distance gambles. In both, you had to drive into a tunnel. The first was from a tire, the second straight from a teeter. Even though Wyatt is generally good at distance, we missed both. I think the reason is that he is good at more lateral distance work with jumps and tunnels. This was more going straight ahead, not parallel to the handler. So I set up some courses at home to work on this. We ended up with a Q anyway because there was a lot of time to get points but, in general, every NQ is an chance to work on something that needs work.

Monday, July 17, 2006

CPE Trial

We had a good CPE trial this weekend. Wyatt got 4 of 7 Q's including our first (clean) level 4 standard Q. As we get into level 5 with some level 4, it feels good to be closing in on our C-ATCH (championship). Wyatt finished up his level 5 Snooker so he has 3 games completed with 3 more games to finish and lots of standard Q's. I don't think he has a missed contact all weekend although he is still not performing them as well as he does at home and in class. I had some weave entry troubles with weekend as well as some handling error caused by sleep deprivation from our new baby boy. Aidan was a big hit at the trial. We were very grateful to all those who held him while we ran.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Weaves at a Distance

We recently hit a distance challenge in NADAC that involved weaves, which is something I had not trained. So I set up a little racetrack with jumps on the sides and weaves at each end. If you go one way, you get on side entries and if you go the other way, you get off side entries. Wyatt has always been better off site but he has been progressing on doing weaves on site with this setup. As he gets better, I stay closer and closer to the middle of the course. It was been neat to see the distance and correct entries progress. By the way, he tended to enter between poles 2 and 3 onside previously if I was too far away.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Training Blahs

I have trained Wyatt to open/utility and to the highest levels of agility. I am not sure what to train next. His biggest issue is proofing so I guess that is the answer. That is the hardest thing to train though. I am working on fine tuning a few things: weaves entries at a distance on-side, driving to the 2 on 2 off position. In obedience, I am still working on long sits and drop on recall. How do you keep motivated at home when you have pretty much covered everything?

Friday, July 07, 2006

Wyatt in Rally and Obedience

We went down to the Big E today for rally and obedience. There were a lot of scrathes in OB (Novice B) so I kind of rushed in. Wyatt was pretty distracted. As usual, they put novice next to the aisle in the worst possible place. We did everything OK but was lagging quite a bit and missed some sits. He also anticipated the finish in the recall. We ended up with a 175 not counting the group exercises. He went down pretty quickly on the sit. I then had trouble getting to sit long enough for the down but the judge gave it to us. He seems to want to go down when he is nervous. Kind of funny too. He was on the end during the down and a little bit on the cement and scootched over enough during the long down to get onto the mat. Too bad there are no cuteness points. I felt discouraged but when I saw our score I felt better. We would have Q'ed if not for the sit. I don't think I should show there anymore though; it is just too hard of a place for him.

One ring over in Rally, he did much better. Being able to talk to him makes a huge difference. He got a 91 and his final Rally Advanced leg. I made one handler error that cost us 3 points so he only got 6 points off for some slow/crooked sits.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


We ended up having a very good weekend in NADAC. Wyatt completed all his NADAC novice titles as well as Open Regular with a total of 10 qualifying runs. He also received his first Elite Jumpers leg. He placed in every class that he qualified in and received 5 blue ribbons including 3 in regular. His contacts are still not as good as I see at home and in class and he pretty consistent would blow a contact on the first run of the day. That is way NADAC is very good for him right now. I can repeat the contact. Hopefully, he will not always need this first practice run at some point.

I am pretty proud of him. As a dog we rescued 3 years ago as my first dog I have ever trained who has his shares of "issues", he has done quite well...

Wyatt is now:

Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RN, SC, NA, NAJ, OAC, OJC, NGC, TN-N, TG-N, WV-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC “Wyatt”

Sunday, July 02, 2006


We had another good day picking up 3 Q's with a placement in each (2 firsts and a third). Wyatt earned his novice weavers title. He Q'ed twice in weavers and once in regular (standard). He missed a contact (A frame) in chances but got the gamble. He missed the a frame again in his first regular run and also the weaves, which were part of the gamble part of regular. We don't practice weaves at a distance much (I will now!) so I was pleased that he actually got through about 7 before pulling out. His last regular run was real good with 2 very good contacts. His A Frame is still not where I want it; he went for 2 on 2 off but still released a tad early. Tomorrow we have 2 touch and go's and 2 regulars so that will be 4 runs to practice our contacts.

Wyatt is now: Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RN, SC, NA, NAJ, NAC, NGC, OJC, TN-N, WV-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC

I bought a cool photo of him jumping but I can't scan it on the road but will post it later.

I hope everyone is having a great 4th of July.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Wyatt's Titles

Wyatt earned another title today - Novice NADAC Tunnelers. His titles are now:

Wyatt - Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, SC, NA, NAJ, NAC, OJC, NGC, TN-N, CL3, CL4-S, CL5-F, CGC