Monday, October 30, 2006

Sticky Contacts

We had a pretty good weekend at a CPE trial even though we only qualified twice out of 8 attempts. Lots of almost Q's. We did get first in colors Saturday for a level 5 Q and first in jackpot Sunday with a first and a great run where lots of people came up to me afterwards and said that was the way to do it. Biggest problem Sunday was sticky contacts. We did his "2 on 2 off" right at the edge of the yellow zone and I had a hard time getting him to move down the contact. I obviously did not want to release him but time really got chewed up trying to get him to release. I believe that he really does not understand to go to the bottom of the contact and I have not been consistent in trials about "making" him go to the bottom. One of my instructors says to go back to using targets so we will try that.

The barn was small and I needed to adjust my style more than I did. I did have some back jumps which were unusual. One of these was right on the #5 snooker obstacle that I need to get enough points. It was a 2 jump combo and he went around the second jump! We had one off course on a very, very difficult standard course Saturday so I was pretty happy even though our Q rate was low. I think the small barn and the fact that the judge has dachshunds contributed to courses that were not that great for long striding dogs.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Place (Again)

Wyatt is balking at going out to play agility. I believe this is because we fell off the dog walk last week. I have noticed this in the past too. He is reluctant to go to a place where an injury has occured. I have been bribing him by throwing treats out and having him "find it", a popular game. Once he gets there, he plays agility as usual. But it does, once again, show how dogs are very specific to place...


Monday, October 23, 2006

Good Equiment

Our teeter collapses recently as Patriot was going over it. It was an inexpensive PVC based teeter. I have found out - the hard way - that it does not pay to go cheap and I have gradually replaced a lot of our cheap or home made agility equipment with MAX200 stuff.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Proofing Place

Since running Wyatt on our "home court" last weekend (where he did very well), I have concluded that Wyatt's proofing issues are probably not dog related but place related. How does one work on this? Take him to a lot of different places;do run throughs as much as possible; trial at familiar places. I think this is slowly improving over time as he becomes a more confident dog. Though I felt calm and comfortable myself last weekend, I also chaired the trial and have a new baby so I tend to think my state is not such a big factor (though bad handling will cause problems certainly). I think my experience does disprove my original theory that Wyatt's nerves were related to other dogs. Since there tons of new dogs last weekend, I don't think that is a factor.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Stalling on Contacts

Wyatt did a stall last night on his first contact just like the first class last weekend. My teacher suggested going back to using contacts for now (at least sometimes). So that is what I am going to do. Better than jumping off but still not ideal. I think he is afraid of making a mistake.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Wyatt and the 190.5

This article, first appearing here, was picked up by Front and Finish magazine. Wyatt's photo even appeared on the table of contents page. Thanks to Brenna Fender for picking up the article and using it for her excellent Sighthounds Sound Off column.

[This article and photo appeared in the November 2006 issue of Front and Finish magazine.]

The Story of Whippet Wyatt and the 190.5
John Heffernan

We rescued Whippet Wyatt when he was one year old. My wife insisted we get a dog even though I did not want one. Wyatt had many problems 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 a dog B&B when he was a year-and-half-old and had our first agility lesson. We took agility up when he was two. When he was 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. He generally needed 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 would have been scoring in the 180s if we had qualified.

We went to a really nice obedience-only trial in the Worcester, Massachusetts, area. We were the first dog in the first class and it was a nice quiet area. I knew taking off that Wyatt was really paying attention. We got through all the exercises beautifully and the judge told me we had qualified so far. Wyatt 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 Qed, but had we placed? I saw a couple of other really good Novice A dogs. The judge announced fourth place, and 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, rally, lure coursing, and agility. I still tell my wife I am just making the best of a bad situation, but she knows better.

Agony to Ecstasy

After a disasterous outing at our last trial (0 for 5) and a crash into a jump, I was unsure what would happen this weekend. However, we were on our home court. Hilltown Hounds hosted our first ever (CPE) agility trial in the horse barn where we practice.

On our first fullhouse run, Wyatt got all his contacts but stalled on the A Frame and we did not get enough points. Standard was next with a very challenging course with lots of off course potential. Wyatt smoked it with a clean run and a first. This also completed our level 4 standard and was the last Q needed for level 4.

Wildcard was next and Wyatt again ran the course fast and perfect taking second place and picked up a needed level 5 Q. Snooker was next which is one of our best games. Wyatt again ran perfecting picking up first and a level C Q. It sure is a nice feeling to run fast and perfect on almost ever run. I could get used to it!

Sunday was similar where we picked up our first level 5 standard Q (2nd place), a needed level 5 colors Q (first place), and our final level 5 jackpot Q (third place). We had a good jumpers run but one off course. I think I was tired at this point being trial chair and having the baby with us all weekend. It seemed to really help Wyatt to be on his home court. The only difference I noticed was that he was not coming all the way down to the end on his contacts (which he usually does at home and at practice so I have to work on that).

Friday, October 13, 2006

Less Is More

My wife and I are both finding that less training has been better in both agility and obedience. The baby has forced us to cut back a bit but it actually seems to be helping. The have been more enthusiastic and motivated...


Monday, October 09, 2006


I got some good tips last week at our very good open obedience class. One was to always treat your dog from heel position (or front position) when working obedience. So simple but how often do I pull him out of heel position to treat him?

Group sits will be the death of me in open and, again, my teacher gave me some ideas (and hope). Wyatt has been shifting around a lot at home (but does not go down - in class and at trials, he will often go down pretty quickly). Anyway, my new technique is going to first, help him into a really good sit (we will have to work on him doing that himself later), stay close to him and reposition his front (or rear) legs when he shifts. The idea is that this will help him know what his job is. So I have moved up much closer and doing this. I used to let the shifts go and figure at least he wasn't going down but then he would often go down in class and about 50% of the time at trials.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ecstasy to Agony

We took the baby and 2 dogs to a local CPE trial last weekend. The day before, the baby had a stroller accident which scared us but he is fine. But I have been sick and Dawn has been doing night duty so we were both pretty tired and stressed going into the weekend.

On Saturday, Wyatt got a standard level 4 Q with a real nice run on a very challenging course. He knocked a bar but still got first place in a class of 15-20 dogs since he was the only 20" dog to qualify. I thought we got out of level 4 with that Q but since it was not clean, we still need one more level 4 standard Q to finish level 4. We also qualified in level 5 wildcard with a real nice run and another first place. In snookers, he broke the start line and went off course for an NQ. On the second standard run, we had some contact issues. I have been finding the last run of the day can be hard for us. All in all, I was pretty with Saturday.

Sunday was another story. I guess you and your dog can just have bad days. This was one of them.

I did baby duty so I was pretty exhausted. I think that Wyatt is so sensitve to me that when I am off I must send him the wrong (of at least different cues). I think dogs can also just have bad days too. But we had contact issues all day - even teeter flyoffs - which I rarely see. After 3 bad runs, I thought we might rally for our 2 strongest games - snooker and jumper. We had a good snooker run going but I gave him a strong and early wrap signal and he totally crashed into the jump and landed on his back. He limped off the course.

For jumpers Wyatt seemed fine so I ran him. He actually had a great run but I did not signal him strongly enough for a tunnel right near the end the of course and I just kept running instead of correcting.

We ended up going 0 for 5! I wonder how much my stress and exhaustion affect him and how much is his own stuff. Well, in any case, I realized that I need to be at my best (or at least half decent) to run him. We ended up with 2 firsts and 7 NQ's for the weekend!