Monday, December 31, 2007

Jumpers and Rally

I was asked to judge a long haired whippet specialty Saturday for conformation. That was a great experience. I will write about that later. But they were kind enough to let me enter Wyatt in agility and rally. We made it up for the jumpers agility class. We had a few off courses for the advanced run. I was out of practice in terms of my timing. But we smoked the novice course in 20 seconds. Very fun to do some agility again.

After conformation, I stuck around for rally novice and rally advanced. We got a 99 for novice which was fun. I was not sure being on leash would be good but it was fine. Still looked for that elusive 100. We had a really great advanced run too, a 94 but I was very happy with Wyatt's stations, especially the halt, 90 left, halt. We have practicing that a lot as part of our directed retrieve utility training and he was great, right with me, and nice and straight. We lost 3 on a 270 left as he was forging. I need to remember to really turn in and look at his rear before he starting forging.

I did not manage him well. I did not bring tarps to cover his crate. I used some blankets I had but he was experiencing some SA when I was judging without Patriot. I should have brought Patriot or lots of tarps.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Quiet

Not too much new here.

Still practicing obedience and rally. We have an open match next weekend and a rally trial in January.

Still working on sits and stays. Wyatt is a bit squirmy sometimes when I am farther away so I mix the distances up from right in front of him to out of sight. He is doing well at home and not going down but there was no sits and downs last week at class. Maybe tonight if I can get out of our driveway. We got some freezing rain this morning.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Directed Retrieve - Improvement

One thing that is helping with a fast and responsive left turn is the following exercise I made up.

Start with dog sitting in heel position.

Do a 90 degree right pivot. Reward. Do a 90 degree right pivot. Reward. Repeat 2-3 times without pausing in between. Since out right pivot is pretty good, I mixed it with an immediate left pivot to get the same behavior on both. So far, this seems to be improving his left pivot quite a bit. I will change to 180 degree pivots at some point.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Directed Retrieve

I have been working with Wyatt a lot on the directed retrieve. In this utility exercise, there are 3 gloves and the judge tells you which one the dog is supposed to retrieve. You are supposed to move together as team from a position facing away from the gloves to a position where you face the gloves. In my experience, the retrieve is the easy part. Getting the dog to maintain heel position as you turn and face the right glove is the hard part. If Wyatt ends up out of position and/or facing the wrong glove, he may get the wrong glove. I turn clockwise for the middle glove and the left glove (facing the gloves) and turn counterclockwise for the right glove (facing the gloves). The counterclockwise turn is tough. I am making progress but Wyatt wants more cues and/or lots of shoulder turning to turn with me counterclockwise. I was used to a rally type left (inside) turn where there can be a delay and lots of signaling.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Proofing Jump on Retrieve

Since Wyatt left a little early on last week's open obedience run thru Retrieve on Flat exercise, I decided to proof this. Sure enough, he was leaving early if I moved or said anything. First, I moved and had him come back if he left. He got that quickly. Then I said words other than "Find It" and I fooled him on that too. Now, he does not leave unless I say "Find It". One side effect though, he has needed a double command a few times. I guess he does not want to make a mistake. So I think I will not proof the words anymore.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Snort, Snort

I noticed that Wyatt snorts every time as he is going out to do scent discrimination. I also noticed this outside when the dogs are interested in a scent. I can only assume they are "clearing their pallet". Interesting.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Open Run Thru - Second Try

We had obedience run throughs last night. Wyatt did great. He got a 183 1/2. We only lost 5 1/2 points heeling. We had some minor point for sits. He anticipated the retrieve on flat but stopped a few feet ahead of me when he realized he had not been released. Tibby only took off 3 points but told me later some judges might have NQed him. He nicked the jump for 1 point (I thought that was a more serious issue) and also made some contact with the last broad jump for 3 points. I think the jumping issues were unusual for him but I will practice the broad jump more at home at the full distance which we don't often do. I left very confident and comfortable with the whole open sequence which is very important. So I did the our usual warm up routine and I was up and praising him and running to the next "station" between exercises.

I did a reduced version of the sit and down standing about 10 feet in front and reducing the time on the down to 3 minutes because we have not been practicing the down. He starting moving one front leg lower about 1/2 through the sit and I gave a low key - ut - and fixed his sit and he was fine. Not sure if he would have gone down or not...

Overall, I was pleased. I am confident on the individual part of the exercises and hopeful I can work through our group issues. More on that later; I have been thinking a lot about it.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Rally Lessons

Couple of reflections from last weekend.

I used to think of Wyatt as being inconsistent and perhaps that is more true for agility. However, our scores and more importantly his performance was very consistent in 6 rally runs in 3 days last weekend. Scores were something like: 92, 95, 97, 94, 95, 86. I was consistent in his pre-run rituals except for the last run (which had a lower score). I'll share what is working for us in terms of pre-run ritual at a future date.

I was having trouble getting a straight down in the halt-stand-down exercise. I realized I could bend over and point to the ground straight in front of him and get good position. Not as impressive as putting my hand in air but saves a point.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Quick Rally Results and Video Link

Wyatt had a super weekend going rally. He got 3 more RAE legs (up to 7 now). 5/6 of his scores were in the 90s with the highest being 97 in Excellent on Saturday. More later on what I learned this weekend.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Be Careful Close to an Event

I have been tuning up Wyatt's rally work the last few weeks. We have 3 trials this weekend. I was having some trouble with a stationary stand command. It is very easy to get panicky and frustrated right before an event and make things worse. He would sometimes sit when I asked him to stand and gave the hand command for stand. I think what was happened was that if my hand went too high, he saw it as a sit command. When I bent lower and went out in front of him and not above him at all, it seemed to be more clear to him. I find there is a tendency to panic and want to drill like crazy which adds to the stress. When I relaxed and reflected on what might be going on, things fixed themselves...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Send Direct

I decided to change to "send direct" for scent articles. I used to make him sit before he went but it seems like it will be more motivating to send direct without the second sit facing the articles after you turn around...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Open Run Thru

Here's a link to Wyatt's open obedience run thru last week.

Video

I was very happy with the results. I made a few mistakes on the retrieves but I thought he did great. His heeling was super. We only lost a 4-5 points. The end was hilarious when he did not know how to finish next to a jump. Probably thought I was throwing some agility in. He went down on the long sit though. We seemed to have regressed a bit since I started training the down again. I am planning on just training the sit for now and doing some heavy treating when he is around other dogs in the long sit.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Story of Wyatt and His C-ATCH

I am very proud of my little Wyatt, who earned his CPE agility championship title on Sunday. Wyatt is the first dog I have owned in my life. I am now 48 years old. When my wife insisted that we NEEDED a whippet, I was very resistant. We were pretty overwhelmed with the stress of trying to have a baby at the time. Dawn looked in a book of dog breeds and thought the whippet might be good for us. She found Ray Johnson somehow and went up to see what rescue dogs he had. Wyatt was given up by an older couple that could not handle him and his littermate at the same time. He did come with a bunch of commands and it was clear that his previous owner had played Frisbee with him and taken him to pet obedience classes. He paced around the house for weeks. It was clear that he was a very nervous and high-strung dog. We almost took him back after about a month because my wife and I were having a heck of a time trying to figure out how to deal with a dog. I said no because he was already so messed up, we just could not make him go through another transition. We took him to the local pet obedience class and he was so terrified he cowered between my legs and continually jumped on me because he was so nervous. I started running with him every day, which I quickly grew to love.

After struggling with his separation anxiety for a long time, we decided to get another older dog who was calm. By this time, we had started Wyatt with agility and racing and the dog sport bug had taken hold. I had taken to the Internet to research whippets and ended end finding his breeder who we ended up meeting at a dog show. She had a finished dog she had retired who she ended up giving to us as a companion to Wyatt. He was so pretty, so fast and agile, and so easygoing, we wondered if maybe he could win the AWC triathlon someday. That dog was Patriot and he has been a steadfast and calming influence on Wyatt. After using Clomicalm and doing behavior modification and having Patriot as a friend, Wyatt eventually got over his separation anxiety.

One thing about Wyatt is that he loves to work, he has incredible drive, and he is very smart (almost too smart). We used to give kongs stuffed with Charlie Bears and peanut butter when we left the house and I always wondered how they got everything out of them. One day I decided to watch. As Patriot patiently licked his Kong, I saw Wyatt continually picking up his Kong in his mouth and dropping it on the cement floor as the treats came tumbling out. He also became very attached to me, the guy who did not want him in the first place, and likewise he became a steadfast companion to me. Wyatt quickly learned obedience and agility but was so stressed at trials (he is afraid of other dogs and very sensitive to noise), we had to work many years to bring out his best when trialing. I am still figuring it out actually! As examples of his drive and intelligence, he barks before starting his scent discrimination glove practice because he is that anxious to get started. He jumps over jumps in the backyard on his way to pee just for the hell of it and will retrieve for long stretches of time.

We worked for 3 1/2 years on his agility championship and had to work for years on contacts. I retrained a beautiful contact but found that I could not get it at trials and I had to figure out lots of little different ways I needed to give him more support at trials so we could get successful contacts.

He has never been an easy dog to trial. There were many weekends when we got zero Q’s in agility or obedience and I would drive home discouraged. Meanwhile, Dawn and Patriot would have lots of ribbons to bring home as Patriot is much more consistent (but also slower and less driven.) Luckily, when we were “on”, it was just fantastic as his incredible speed and drive in agility was just a thrill that many only experience with border collies, Aussies, and shelties. We would NQ in novice obedience a lot too as he would go down on his sits or move during the stand for exam when he got fearful of the other dogs or the judge. One day, we got in the ring very early when the other rings had not started yet and ended up with a third place and a score in the 190’s.

We made steady progress towards our goal of a C-ATCH. Wyatt quickly got all his jumpers Q’s and also did very well in games that require working at a distance. But the standard class, with its weaves and 3 contacts was always the hardest for us. About a year ago, I started noticing some reluctance to play at agility but did not attend to it enough. Then at a New Year’s trial, he started to run out of the ring and also avoid jumps. I was crushed and wondered if we would ever get our C-ATCH. I initially blamed it on his temperment but figured out - with the help of an excellent sports vet - that he was having back pain. We took 6 months off and learned massage and how to properly warm up and cool down. It actually helped him a lot as he used to pace when we jogged (even when we first got him) and now he has a nice trot and a flatter topline. It was not until years later that I understood that his conformation (and temperment) were poor as he had a roach back and straight front. One prominent handler said, “What’s THAT???” when she saw him and there were some mean remarks at the racetrack as well when he fouled out as a D dog. I was able to course him for a while as there was no box to overstimulate him but eventually his black dog phobias got the better of him. Well, he recovered nicely from his back injury and we got back to work. In the meantime, I was able to teach him all of the open obedience exercises and most of utility, which he loves. We also worked on rally to help his (and my) ring nerves and he now has his RE and 4 RAE legs. He also started tracking as time permitted and he is showing a nice aptitude and keen interest in tracking.

This fall, we gradually racked up standard Qs even as the rules changed to require 10 standard Q’s instead of 8 under the old rules. Everyone also loves to watch Wyatt run and especially jump as he takes off early, lands late, and goes much higher than required! Finally, this weekend, he got his 9th standard Q on Saturday and his last Q on Sunday with some really nice runs. Sunday night, he seemed even more attached to me than usual as he snuggled up against my leg to sleep. He also followed me around the house and stood near the cellar door as he does when it is time to practice obedience and get some cheese. I was going to give him a break but it was clear he wanted to work and get his cheese. Throwing the dumbbell, he ran out even faster than usual and rushed back to me dumbbell firmly in mouth, almost sliding into me due to his high speed. I could not help being extremely proud of my little rescue whippet who loves to work so much with so much enthusiasm and then insists on getting under the covers with me on the couch snuggled between my legs for a well deserved rest.

To see a photo of Wyatt with his ribbon, click on:

http://www.jheffernan.com/dogs.html

To see a video of his C-ATCH runs this weekend, click on:

http://youtube.com/johnsheffernan

Monday, November 05, 2007

HE DID IT!


Wyatt earned his C-ATCH yesterday. I am very proud of him and very relieved. We picked up our last 2 standard runs we needed this weekend. Here's a photo. I will write more and post videos later.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

One More

Well, we got one standard Q today but could not get the second one so maybe tomorrow. We have one more chance at our CPE agility championship tomorrow (Sunday)...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Why Stop?

When practicing agility with your dog, if there is a problem with an obstacle, go back and redo the that part of the course, don’t stop the dog just and redo just that obstacle.  Usually it is the handler’s fault anyway, why stop the dog?   I’ve seen lots of people express verbal and physical disappointment too when something goes wrong.  They complain, stop the dog, and put the dog back on the contact or whatever.    Great way to demotivate your dog.

Proofing

I have been doing some contact proofing in the cellar using a painted board. Wyatt seems to know his job pretty well but I can fool him sometimes and get him off the contact board without being released. It will be interesting to see if this has impact this weekend.

I have been reading Controlled Unleashed. This book really opens up ideas for helping your dog deal with his or her own stress. Typically, people tell you dogs have ESP and all their stress somehow comes down the leash from you. I have never felt this to be correct so it is good to have some acknowledge that dogs have their own stress. I do feel like our stress does impact them because our handling changes and, yes, we can make them nervous if we are. However, they have their own stress too. I know Wyatt does! So this book is very welcome with ideas to help with the latter.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Teeter or Dogwalk

Very interesting experience at a CPE agility trial last weekend.

They had a dogwalk and there were metal stands under each side piece. About 80% of the dogs were bailing off the dogwalk after going up 1/2 way up the up contact. Before doing that, many of them were crouching down. I did not figure it out at the time and thought maybe the board was bowed or there was something weird on the surface but sure, enough, the dogs must have thought it was a teeter. Wyatt, of course, bailed off. He will bail if something is not right. They took off the stands for the next game and almost all the dogs had no problem. It looked exactly like a teeter from the dog's point of view on top of it. It is so interesting that the dogs clearly saw it as a teeter while we humans took a long time to even figure that out.

Wyatt had trouble with the dogwalk and other contacts on this run and I was a little frustrating. I have been trying no reward if he really jumps off contacts and did not reward him after this run. I am really rethinking that as it was totally not his fault in this case. We also found in class this week that if I forgot to give him his "tip it" cue, he jumps off the teeter especially if I don't pause. I thought in the trial that the cause of a fly off was my motion but now I wonder if I forgot to say tip it. I usually say teeter, tip it, spot, and then OK as a release word. It's a lot to remember. I wonder what else I am doing differently in trials that causes contact problems. (Though he does them pretty independantly at home and in class without much cueing.)

I am going to give a small reward even on a "bad" run and jackpot him on a good run.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

CPE Saturday

Well, we had one good standard run - just missed the dogwalk contact - that one is still difficult for us. We won't talk about the other standard run quite yet but I did learn something very interesting in that one.

Here is a video of a really nice Snooker run we had.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Quick Update

Wyatt had trouble last week at obedience class with the group sits. He stood up a few times when I was out of sight and was a little antsy and shifting around. We tried to do too much too fast. It is probally good that he stood though and did not go down like he used to. Finally, I just left him straight out and turned my back for 30 seconds and he was fine. He has been doing 3 minutes out of sight at home. I started to try downs again. I did not practice them for a long time since he was fine and I did not want him to anticipate the downs during the sit. He now sits during the down! So I backed up on that too and am staying close and in sight and doing shorter times. Tibby recommended alternativing sits and down on different days. I decided we are not ready to enter open yet until the sits and downs are really good at class. The good news is everything else is great and I did some amazing proofing at an agility trial this weekend where he did dumbells, gloves, heeling, scent discrimination off leash in the center aisle. I chaired the trial so I could get any with practicing is such as busy spot off leash! We noticed in class that Wyatt will go down if someone else (not me) yells down really loud so I will have to proof that at some point.

We had a bad contact bad Saturday at our CPE agility trial but had a good day yesterday and we got one precious standard Q and one jumpers Q. 3 more standard Q until our championship. I am entered in 4 this weekend so we have a shot. I would be happy with 2 though. I was sleepy Saturday and Sunday I was able to really focus on what was happening in contacts. If he gets ahead of me, I need to call him and talk to him I think and get his attention. If I am ahead of him, looking at him and turned when I need him to stop seems to help. Last year, he had perfect contacts at our home arena but not this year. Go figure.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Class Tonight

I am planning on going to obedience class tonight. Big test will be the long sits and downs. Wyatt has been doing 3 minute out of sight sits at home, which is great. I started on the downs last night. I usually don't even practice these since there this seems to be his preferred, safe position and he used to have a big problem going down on sits with other dogs around. Last night, I tried a 3 minute out of sight down and he stood up. I went down to one minute and he was fine. Note that I don't do the down after the sit but keep it separate so there is no anticipation. I am not too worried about the down which I beleive I can fix but am curious if he will do the out of sight in class. It used to be that he would go down from the sit in sight and he's not doing THAT at class so I guess I should not worry too much.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

CPE Trial Last Weekend

I did a CPE trial last weekend. They had 2 standards each day starting first thing in the morning so I just went up to try and get some standard Q's. Before the weekend, Wyatt needed 5 standard Qs for his C-ATCH. We had contact problems Saturday on the first run. The second run was really nice but he did not get the dogwalk contact which was the second to last obstacle. Tough after such a nice run. I ran Patriot too but did not Q on Saturday. Not my best day.

Sunday was much better. I got 2 nice Qs with Patriot. He runs consistently and steadily. I can't get any speed out of him on the weaves though he does go much faster at home. I have to remember to wait for him and race him out of tunnels. Unlike Wyatt, you have to cheer him a long and not get too far ahead. Wyatt had a great first run but again blew the last contact, a dogwalk. I walked him off the course without comment or a treat figuring he really does know his job now and I can't reward him anymore for behavior I don't want. I think I need to put some responsibility on him no matter so that he knows he can do the job no matter where we are and what is going on. We Qd on the next standard run. He stopped on the dogwalk though it was a bit high and he released from there the judge was kind or he got a toe nail. But I think this will be a good strategy for us. I need to at least see an attempt to stop - no more leaping off. He was definately expecting the cheese after the first run.

We now need four more standard Qs. I have a trial next weekend at our home arena and then a trial with 4 standards the weekend after that so we should be able to pick up a few more (at least!)...

John

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Next Venue in Agility

I have been thinking a lot about what venue to pursue next in agility after (and if) Wyatt gets his CPE championship (C-ATCH). With a toddler and with Wyatt being 5, we need to focus our limited time on one venue. I would like to pursue another championship with Wyatt. These views apply only to us as a team. I respect other people's choices on what venue they choose for their dog. Each venue has something to offer and we are blessed to have so many choices in agility.

One choice is to go for the next level of CPE Championship, the C-ATE. He might be the first whippet to do so, which would be cool. However, you have to go to tons of trials and it would not be any harder in terms of courses. Technically, the C-ATE requires all clean runs in Level C but Wyatt either gets a clean run or a NQ so for us, it would be the same courses and times. So I thinking that I would like to pursue something more challenging that would force me to improve my handling skills.

While AKC is popular for whippets, I just don't get the appeal myself. Runs cost twice as much as other venues ($25/run compared to $10 to $14 per run for other venues). Until the FAST class was created (which still is not offered much), there were no games and only 2 runs per day compared to 4-6 for other venues. Wyatt typically needs the first run of the day for "nerves". I don't like refusals. We don't usually get them on a qualifying run in other venues but it seems like double penalizing the dog since you lose time. I don't like the table in standard and the courses tend to be very tight and twisty which is not good for a long striding dog. In my experience, the atmosphere is one of the least friendly compared to other venues (even though there are many wonderful AKC competitors). I also never liked the fact that there are weaves in jumpers. I love jumpers because it only has jumps and tunnels. Why put a obstacle that slows the dog down in a jumpers course. Only AKC puts weaves in the jumpers game. Also, it can be very formal in terms of rules and I think it is silly that the judges were ties. The only advantages I see is that the Excellent courses are challenging and other whippet people have some knowledge of AKC titles and what they mean.

DOCNA seems cool but there are very few trials in our area right now.

USDAA is a good venue but I have a problem with their jump heights. Wyatt would have to jump 26 inches to be in the Championship program. I do not believe this is a safe height for my dog. That is a full 6 inches higher than he would have to jump in any other venue. This appears to be a problem for many dogs who are close to the cutoff. Wyatt is about 21 3/4 and the cutoff is 21 inches. As soon as I express this concern, folks suggest I do performance but I don't feel that I should have to be in the second tier program to perform safely. While I am not suggested performance is easy by any means, I want to pursue the championship for the best dogs as Wyatt is an exceptional agility dog. Many USDAA people don't agree that Performance is second tier or a veterans type class but there are reasons I think that way.

From the USDAA web site:

The Championship Program jumping height classes were developed to be congruous with international standards demonstrating the highest standard in training and performance, fully revealing the dynamics of canine performance capabilities. Time has proven that these jump heights provide both a fair and safe competitive environment when a dog is trained properly.

The Performance Program was developed for recreational competition purposes, placing less emphasis on demonstrating the agility of the dog. This program offers lower jumping heights for dogs, more generous time constraints on course, and a lower A-frame for all height classes that requires less strength and muscular control to perform.


I do not believe that the championship heights are safe as they claim and the wording about Performance being "recreational" is off putting to me. Also the equivalent of a championship for a Perfomance Dog is called "Accomplished Agility Dog". The word champion is nowhere in the title.

That leaves NADAC. I like a lot of things about NADAC. The courses are open and flowing which is good for dogs, especially long striding dogs. There is no table in standard. The distance challenge in regular (standard) force the handler to be good at distance work. Chances and tunnellers also force you to be good at distance. The times are very tough in the proficient class. Any bobble and you don't make time in elite. Times in Elite are harder than USDAA. (I calculated this using a typical course length and including 5 second for the table in USDAA). There are 5 or 6 runs per day and many trials have 2 regular classes a day. Someone I know claimed NADAC was easy because you could get a regular title in a weekend. While it may be possible at Novice, it would be very difficult in Elite and just because there are 4 runs in weekend in regular, that does not make the title easier to get. You still have to get 3 qualifying runs. NADAC is the only venue (DOCNA may as well) that allows training in the ring. While you don't qualify, this allows you to correct problems in the trial setting. Wyatt has had many trial only issues (most notably contacts) so this is a huge plus for us. We still don't have reliable trial contacts so NADAC is really the ideal venue for us as we can develop reliable trial contacts. I finally figured out how to steer him really well and avoid off courses so he will be unstopable with reliable contacts. NADAC seems to be the best venue for us in many ways.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

OB Update

Wyatt is now showing rock solid sits for one minute out of sight.

He is really motivated for obedience right now. I think Open will be easy if the stays hold (famous last words no doubt).

Last night, he was whining and barking to start scent discrim. He can't wait to get that article. How many dogs would do that?

Gloves are looking real good though I am still working on the left turn for one of the far gloves.

We are entered in CPE this weekend for 2 standards a day only. Still need 5 standard Q's for his C-ATCH.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Vexing Contacts

We had a pretty good weekend at the CATS CPE trial but we are still having some vexing contact issues at trials. The good news is that we had great weaves and no off courses. I seem to have finally figured out how to steer Wyatt so he does not go off course. It seems to be a matter of anticipating the off courses, planning for them, and giving cues in time so he knows where to go. There were tons of weaves (including 3 in Wildcard yesterday) and also a set of 12 yesterday in standard. I had to restart weaves only once and he did not pop out once. However, the dogwalk contacts were vexing us. We had a great standard run Saturday be missed the dogwalk contact. I had thought after last weekend (we had a perfect day Sunday with 5 Q's and no missed contacts) that looking at him and maintaining eye contact would cause him to stop but, while this seemed to help, it was not the magic bullet that I thought it would be. He seems to be wound tightly at trials so that any little thing will cause a premature contact release. Also, he got way ahead of me on the dogwalk at times so I was not there to give eye contact. At home and at class, he does a totally independent 2 on 2 off no matter what I do or where I am and I do not even have to look at him. Sunday, I used jackpot to do 2 dogwalks and got both of them but he still missing the contact in standard. We had a great jackpot run and he was one of very few dogs to even get to a dogwalk some 15 feet from the tape but he stalled up there above the yellow zone and I had to move in to get him moving again. The good news is when everything is working for us, he is fantastic. We got 2 level C Q's Saturday and 2 firsts in Snooker and Colors and 3 level Qs Sunday in Snooker, Wildcard, and Jumpers with 2 firsts and a 3rd in Snookers. See the link below for a video of our jumpers run.



I am thinking of trying some more creative ways to put some stress on him at class such as having the instructor act crazy and standing near the contact, putting crated dogs near the contact, or scattering toys around the contact. We are 5 Q's from our CPE C-ATCH and will probably focus on NADAC next where I can redo contacts but if anyone has any advice I would appreciate it.

-- John Heffernan
-- http://goodwhippet.blogspot.com/

Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RE, SC, NA, NAJ, OAC, EJC, OCC, TN-O, TG-N, WV-N, CL4-R, CL5-HSF, CGC “Wyatt”
Whippet AWC Triathlon Winner C-ATCH Ch Seaspell’s Concord Point, CAV, CD, SC, OA, OAJ, RN, CR, OTR, NJC, NAC, TG-N, CGC “Patriot”

Friday, September 14, 2007

Wyatt Wins Big Buck in Obedience

Wyatt did great at Tibby Chase's open/utility drop in class last night. He actually won a dollar.

Tibby has tons of great ideas I have never seen from anyone else. She put a dollar down on the floor and the person who dropped their dog (as in the open drop on recall) closest to the dollar won the dollar. Wyatt was second to last and before that, the closest dog was about a foot away. When our turn came, I made sure the dollar was in the direct line between me and Wyatt. He was doing very ncie drops all night and I had a good sense of how far he was moving forward before dropping (not very far). Anyway, I dropped him right on the dollar. We beat a cattle dog, a golden, and an Aussie, and bunch of other dogs. That was fun. He also sat solidly for 3 minutes with me across the ring. Next step is start working out of sight. I also did some good proofing with scent discrim. He is having trouble sometimes with one dumbell on an outside corner, which was not part of the Around the Clock method. We did a lot of proofing with drop on recall. Wyatt was not distracted except when offered food by someone close to where he dropped, which was not too surprising. Tibby said we have to get that sit problem fixed because he is very ready to earn his CDX. That was good to hear. Wyatt has become such a good boy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Whipet Results from CPE This Weekend

Whippets Shine at Connecticut CPE Agility Trial
November 8-9 2007 – John Heffernan

Whippets shined this weekend at the SCAT CPE agility trial in Southington, CT despite the record temperatures and humidity. Sharon Dunston and Gypsy finished their level 1 CPE title. They make a nice team with good speed and focus. Paula Milnes and Mini-Me (love that name) also did well at their first ever agility trial and received at least one level 1 qualifying score (Q) that I saw. Mini-Me also showed good speed in the Colors run I witnessed. Danielle Gregoire and Webster also had a good weekend and had at least one Q in Jackpot Friday night. I was amazed at the improvement Webster showed this weekend. It does take some of our whippets quite a while to get used to the stimulating environment at an agility trial. Webster stayed very focused during the entire standard run I had the pleasure of observing.

Veteran CPE whippets Wyatt and Patriot were run by John Heffernan, while wife Dawn vacationed on Cape Cod with their son Aidan. Dawn usually runs Patriot who earned his CPE agility championship last February. Wyatt did very well in the heat Saturday, staying fast and motivated all day. He got a first and Q in level C (Championship) jumpers, a 2nd place and Q in level C Snooker, and a first and Q in Level C Colors but had contact issues all day. Patriot had a Q and a 4th in Level C jumpers and a Q in level C colors before succumbing to the heat.

Wyatt, Patriot, and John had a perfect day on Sunday having clean, qualifying runs in 9 classes they entered. Wyatt received 5 Qs earning 2 firsts and 2 seconds while Patriot earned a second, 2 thirds, and a fourth place. They ran in the championship level in all classes except for Wyatt’s standard classes. His level 5 standard Q means that he has earned 5 level 5 Qs and needs only 5 more for his CPE Agility Championship. John reports that he had a breakthrough day - finally figuring out how to get reliable contacts at trials. While Wyatt does a perfect, independent 2 on, 2 off contact at home, John finally figured out that Wyatt needs more support at trials. He requires eye contact at trials during the contacts even though John does not look at him during the contacts at home. In combination with increased ability to steer this very fast and motivated dog, getting reliable contacts resulted in Wyatt’s first perfect day in agility. Patriot also qualified with in his 4 runs. John was thrilled to have perfect days with both his whippets.

[I will write another post about Wyatt's progress next.]

Friday, September 07, 2007

Proofing Jump on Retrieve

We had a really good class with Tibby Chase last night. It is a open/utility drop in class. Wyatt did great. He had a few problems during heeling run through. I beleive there was cheese on the floor in a few places. But he caught back up and did well besides that. After that, Tibby has the idea of putting leashes, white, small paper plates, and chalk marks all over the mats. The dogs had a hard time with the first try but really adjusted quickly. I think Wyatt thought maybe it was some kind of weird scent disrimination first. The second and third times, he cruised right over the jump and cruised right back. His speed is great right now. Broad jump as also great as was drop on recall. Tibby had us practice coming into the ring. Great idea. So we figured out when and where to put our dumbbell and practised maintaing contact with your dog as you take off the leash and set up. This was really good for me as I sometimes get frazzled and lose contact and start even when we are not ready! I proofed some scent discrim after class and Wyatt was flawless and did about 10 in a row. This is good because he tends to get the wrong article sometimes "on the road". He also sat for 3 minutes rock solid with other dog and with me 6 feet away off leash so that was great too.

A very inspiring class. Tibby also sees the good and the progress in what happens even though she is also realistic and not a pollyanna...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Scent Discrimination Retry

I noticed something interesting with Wyatt last week. We were practicing scent discrimination. Wyatt picked up the incorrect article. He came about 1/2 way back to me, then decided to go back and get the correct article. I could swear that I did not move or utter a sound. Did I somehow cue him that he had the wrong article? Or did he change his mind and decide to go back on his own? In either case, I am amazed...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Long Sit

With the exception of the long sit and down, we seem to be ready to trial in open. In working with Tibby Chase, she suggested that we first get Wyatt really comfortable with the sit by treating him as I touch him on the chest and back and by then working with on leash sits by my side. The next step has been sits with me in front of him working up to four minutes and making sure they are rock solid and without a lot of the shifting around and resitting of the past. Well, we have now worked up to 4 minutes with me in front and my next step is add distance. I am wondering what I should if he does start shifting and/or going down again? I can back up in my training (go back to being closer to him) but what about in the moment?

Some other things I have been wondering.

For go outs, what is the next step after doing go outs at a long distance? Combine with the sit? Fade the target? When I tried to do some without the target, Wyatt got confused and started looking back at me as if to say "Where's the cheese?"

I am going to write to Tibby and ask her and will report back here.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Utility Tips

I received this tips for Wyatt and me when we took a private lesson with Tibby Chase. It was very helpful and I have been practicing some of these changes already.


Signals

Give signal, wait, and then give verbal command – not at the same time! That way you can fade the verbal command. I was giving the signal and command at the same time.
Use come signal that I have not used in a while, forward motion to chest.
Can Wyatt see my sit command or is it too much in front of my body?
Use barrier? He tends to anticipate a down too much from drop on recall training.
Note that there is no sit before the stand for signals.

Scent Discrimination

Go closer to the gloves if the dog is having a problem.
Can also reduce the number of articles and put them farther apart.
You can also keep playing by using the same scented article. I used to always do only one leather and one metal article.
Proof this wherever you can!
If the dog makes a mistake, don’t reward but also don’t correct. I used to use my “oops” word and have him try again. Now I just take the incorrect article and try again.
Use a chair to get the dog used to having the articles nearby and behind him.


Gloves

Don’t worry about position number 2 initially.
Our left pivot really needed work, which I was not aware of. I was doing a rally left finish with me moving a lot and Wyatt waiting and then coming into position. You have to pivot as a team on an imaginary pie plate. Warm up with some left turns then practice pivoting by using luring. You put your left foot in front of the dog and lure him by turning your hand outward as you pivot.
Keep your hand level for your signal. Also, I was doing this incorrectly. It is one movement not two. I was giving him a watch command, waiting for him to see the glove, and then moving my hand and saying find it. It is supposed to be one continuous movement of the hand.
You can put a treat on the glove. I never did this and he seems to be fine without it.
Look at the glove and not at the dog. I was looking at the dog.
Note: I made these changes without difficulty with the exception of the left pivot, which we are still working on.

Directed Jumping


Keep the 3 parts separate initially (the go out, the turn and sit, and the jumping).
Combine the go out and the turn first.
Add distance to your go out as soon as possible.
Using a target on the far gate, the dog should lock in visually to the target before going out.
You can move in close to gate and just practice the turn and sit part.
Give your “come” command while the dog is still licking the cheese.
Note that the sit is a verbal command only, no signal. I was using a signal too.
Start with jumps close together. Lead dog carefully through the jumps, have the dog do a front, put the dog in a stay, and gradually separate the jumps.
Note that you pivot while the dog is in the air.

Moving Stand

Wyatt does this very well but can be fearful of strangers. Get loads of people to examine him while treating him.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Wow - Tracking

I never knew tracking could be so much fun until yesterday. First, day care called in sick so I rushed to bring the baby with me to tracking. I had to stop for a doughnut (I never have doughnuts) but managed to get there in decent time. We were the last to go. The instructor rushed us along because we had laid tracks when it was very wet and dewy and the sun came out strongly and was drying everything rapidly. She thought that this was the equivalent of aging the tracks much more.

I laid a track for her with 5 90 degree turns and 50 legs in between. I did fairly well but need to mark my corners better on my notes or find obvious corners. I felt like I should not stop and take notes much so I would not create scent pools but I guess this really just applies to corners. I also need to tally my 10 yards increments as I go along because sometimes I lose count when I switch attention to other things like articles, flags, and corners.

So we were finally off to do our track after everyone else ran theirs. As we approached the flag, I mistakenly took off Wyatt's buckle collar before getting the harness on. He ran to the flag and sniffed around for the first article! While not a good practice to continue in the future (always get the harness on BEFORE removing the regular collar), it showed that he knew what he were doing even before I gave the TRACK command. How did he know? And it showed that he was into the game.

I praised him and got the harness on and off we went. The track was visually obvious on this day (to the humans anyway) so I had a real good sense of when he was on the track. After a few slight stops when he drifted to the wind side to air scent, he really stayed right on that track. And his head was down (at least for a whippet). The instructor has a golden and she told me Wyatt's head down would be her Golden's head up position! He kind of bobs hi head as he goes along. He found all the articles very well including one I has stepped up because I did not see it. And best of all, for the 2 corners, he just keep cruising right on down the track. The instructor said he really nailed it! I had no idea tracking could be so much fun. We have a long way to go but I was very encouraged.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

NADAC - What I Learned


I mentioned previously that I had some great insights last weekend at a NADAC trial even though we did not Q very much.

We have been prefect in class, rarely having a problem. However, at trials, we have many NQ's almost always a blown contact or off course. I beleive both Wyatt and I - mostly Wyatt - is faster at trials (and he is already very fast in agility!) What do I do - slow down at trials? No, agility is about speed. Speed up in class - hard to do. Lynn Smithley suggested of these to use distance more. That will help handle Wyatt when he is faster at trials. I have thought of this before but I really put it into action at this trial and it worked beautifully. One example was in tunnelers. There was an opening of 3 tunnels in a row. However, you had to pull your dog off the straight line to the third tunnel and do 90 turn to a different tunnel. Typically, I would not have been able to stop Wyatt from taking the third tunnel. I might have turned (too late or not enough). I might have tried to call him off. What he does in this case is very dutifully look at me and see that I am still pointed where he is headed and keeps on going. This time, I called him when he was in the second tunnel and made very sure I was pointed 90 degrees to the other tunnel. He also gallops during tunnelers so I was a good 15-20 feet away when I called him off. He went right for the correct tunnel. On this course, I continuned to work him at a large distance succesfully. Unfortunately, I got lost for a split second and sent him to one incorrect tunnel. But the strategy worked. In another elite regular run, Wyatt got a really tough distance gamble without difficult. So it is clear that he can work at a distance but I need to change my handling to allow him to do so succesfully.

My previous goal has been to increase our Q rate at trials but I realized that this was too unspecific a goal. Instead, at this trial, I picked spots where I have been having problems and tried to anticipate them and improve. This also worked great and was very satisfying to improve even though we may not have qualified. I think I am getting close to being able to generally put the whole thing together at trials.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Utility Lesson and Tracking This Week

I am looking forward to a private lesson with Tibby Chase tomorrow on utility level obedience. I have been training it for a while but have never had an intstuction or feedback except for some books. I really enjoy training it and Wyatt seems to love the challenge. Hopefully, I am basically on the right track with my training. Thursday, we will do some tracking. I have not been practicing tracking since the last time out but at least I will go this week. I need to try and go once a week if can.

Few Q's But Lots of Learning

I had a really good weekend at a NADAC trial. Wyatt and I earned only 1 Q but boy, I learned a lot. I will write about it this week.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Rally and Conformation Saturday

A friend asked me to show his bitch in open conformation totally spur of the moment because he had a conflict with a paid client. I reminded him I had little experience but he said to go for it. I did not feel much pressure but this bitch Tilly must have been in heat or close to it because Patriot kept trying to mount her (and almost succeeding) right outside the ring! I only had a little kid to hold Patriot who is pretty strong so it that was interesting! Patriot seems to like those Mariki bitches because he has bred 2 others (almost 3 - I wonder if anyone has shown a dog and a bitched "locked together".)

I did a decent job with the bitch and did everthing for the judge pretty well (she moved well for me) and stacked pretty well. Anyway, the judge liked her and put her up first for 1 point. What a little thrill you get when they put you in the front of the line. My first show points in my second time showing! That was fun.

So I had to decide between Tilly and Patriot for BOB. A nice lady who also showed in open bitches agreed to show Tilly. Patriot was terrible at point and very distracted with Tilly. On the go around, he was sniffing her trail, head down when he could. The judge was right there after I put him on the table (he was first) and I did not have time to stack him great. The judge asked me if he had ever been measured and he is well under the limit so that made me wonder about the judge. Anyway, I did not show him that well. He got BOS but was the only dog and Tilly got BOB. I will have to do a better job keeping him away from the girls in the future. I guess you can show a dog in heat. That suprised me.

Patriot and Dawn got their RN Saturday which was nice since they don't do rally that often.

Wyatt was in Rally Exc B and Rally Advanced B. We are trying for our RAE and he had 2 double Q's already.

It was a bit hectic with conflicts with breed but we had a great baby sitter on site with us so that helped a lot. Wyatt went first. He did OK in Exc B but not as good as he usually does and we squeaked by with a 73. He definately does better indoors and in cooler weather where we have been scoring in the 90s. We got an 80 in Advanced B so we did earn another RAE leg. Maybe I did not proof him enough. I usually do more run thrus with treats only a the end before a trial. Also, I did not bring his favorite treat cheese (I did bring in but it would have melted in my pocket with the heat. But we managed a double Q. 7 more to go!

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Drop On Recall and Group Sit Progress

I went to Tibby Chase's open/utility drop in class this week. Once again, great class with lots learned. The highlight was seeing how Wyatt was going on drop on recall. He did a really nice drop, much like the good ones I have been seeing at home. Tibby said it was great and would only result in a 1/2 off in terms of creeping. The instructors emphasize the instant and total drop so much, I was not sure if it was ready or not. Except for the group sit, he is about ready to try in open. On that, I had him do a one minute sit on leash right in front of me and he was rock solid. So I am continuing to work on a relaxed sit at home. Tibby showed me a way to get the dog comfortable with sitting by giving lots of treats while you add some stress by touching the dog. Then you work up to sits by your side and then sits in front and then add distance and other dogs. It will take a while but I do now have hope for the group sit. Wyatt was hesitant to get the dumbbell when I Tibby was close by (I had to do a multiple "find it" command so we will work on that too. In utility, he is having some issues with scent discrimination all of a sudden so I have reduced the number of articles and made it less formal and am working back up.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Is Agility a Zero Sum Game?

I am a feeling disappointed from the weekend. Wyatt and I seem to be having contact issues again. Specifically, we had a lot of trouble with the dogwalk on Sunday. He did seem nervous at this indoor site and I think my handling of the dogwalk was off. What was not working was me lagging way behind him. I think in this case, he sees or hears something behind him and interprets it as a signal to release. I did notice that he did better yesterday on our last run when I send him to a tunnel, had him catch up with me, and then release him when we were more together. He released prematurely but did make the contact. I SHOULD be happy about a weekend with perfect weaves and fewer problems with off courses. (Still needs work.) We did get one standard Q so we need 6 more for our championship. The 3 Q's we did get were all first places. Sometimes it seems like a zero sum game, you get better in more area and something else seems to fall apart. Perhaps that is my inexperience in keeping everything "in mind" at once. I have a NADAC trial in August where we can train in the ring for contacts and I may try and get to some different classes at different sites to practice.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Start Line Issue

At practice last night, Wyatt held his start line stay perfectly. Although the problems I had at the CPE National were with a contact as the second obstacle, I am wondering if this is a trial issue. I do see signs that he is anxious to start at a trial (reluctant to sit and shaking hind legs).

Monday, July 16, 2007

Good Quote

From Clean Run Magazine, June 2007...

“The joy is being able to step up to the start line with your dog, not in crossing the finish line victorious over others.”

I really find this to be true especially after Wyatt’s injury. He had a back injury that caused him not to want to play agility anymore. After taking him to a sports vet, taking a dog massage seminar, taking time off, and then practicing less, he is looking better than ever. One thing I found very interesting was that Wyatt always paced when jogging with me and Patriot in the woods. The dog massage person said it was due to tight stomach and back muscles over the loin. I was dubious because I thought it was due to conformation that he was born with. Sure enough, Wyatt no longer paces when we jog. He has a nice trot and his topline and movement is much better. So perhaps this injury was a blessing in disguise.

I got a nice comment from the CPE National Agility Trial judge.

“Thank you for the videos! Wyatt is probably the best whippet I have ever seen in agility! Awesome, awesome dog!”

Comments like that are nice but the best thing is the thrill of having a great run with your agility partner.

We rescued Wyatt at one year of age. He is the first dog I have owned. Kind of ironic as I think now of carefully choosing a next dog from specific lines that would make a versatile dog in many dog sports.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Gamble

I have been practising the gamble we saw at the CPE Nationals in the yard and have learned a lot. The gamble is a jump leading to a tunnel which has a 90 degree bend in it. After the tunnel, there are 2 jumps side by side and the final table. Gamble is to send the dog to jump, tunnel, far jump, and table staying away from the obstacles. Definately to turn and keep going after Wyatt is sent to the tunnel or he will stop. I tend to do this at trials. Hopefully, it is in my body memory now. Also, if I book it and get out near the table, his line is much more to the far jump. After I did the far jump for a while, I tried to pull him to the near jump and found he was not attending to me. So I put in a little RFP and that got his attention.

This was a great little exercise for the yard.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Nova Scotia

Dawn and I, our 2 whippets,  and our one year old son are in Nova Scotia at the CPE Nationals.  It was a great trial.  Lots of fun and lots of supportive, fun, and friendly people that CPE is known for.    

Wyatt and I had some great runs.  Things are really starting to click, just not 100% consistently.  I did have a problem with start line stays in 2 standard runs where there was a contact discrimination first thing.  That cost 2 Qs.  Ouch.  Have to work on that.  Seems to be mostly at trials and first things in the morning when he is hyped up.  (There is a video of one of these runs.)  We had an awesome colors run (see video link) and also a great jackpot run (did not get the gamble) but the opening was one of our best runs ever (someone has this on video and I will post it later).  I still tend to stop suddenly and pull him out of the gamble.  I need to keep moving and turn just like I do on a normal tunnel (or whatever) send out.  

Patriot and Dawn also had a good trial.  Both dogs got 4 Qs each.  The courses were challenging.  Wyatt got a 4th in standard a 2nd in colors.  First was Elise Paffrath, our instructor, who is a national ranked USDAA competitor so I had to be happy about that.  Check out the video (especially the colors run)...

Video Link


-- John Heffernan
-- 99 North Hill Road
-- Conway, MA 01341
-- http://jheffernan.com/
-- http://goodwhippet.blogspot.com/

Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RE, SC, NA, NAJ,  OAC,  EJC, OCC, TN-O, TG-N, WV-N, CL4-R, CL5-HSF,  CGC “Wyatt”
Whippet AWC Triathlon Winner C-ATCH Ch Seaspell’s Concord Point, CAV, CD, SC, OA, OAJ, CR, OTR, NJC, TG-N,  CGC  “Patriot”  

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Tibby Chase Class

I went to Chicopee last night for an open/utility drop in class with Tibby Chase. Great class. Tibby has tons of ideas. Some are simple but make a huge difference. For example, she suggested saying "Come" right after Wyatt picks up the dumbbell. That increases his speed and motivation quite a bit. She gave me some things to try for the group sit too. I will write about that in another post. Wyatt was awesome at this class. I usually see a big drop in performance in class in Greenfield but not in Chicopee. It was small - 4 dogs and quiet and I warmed him up really good. I saw maybe 5% drop here from at home. He impressed everyone with his jumps especially and also his scent discrimination which I did after class. This class is a bit farther for me but it was well worth it. His heeling was right on too besides the slight lag I get for fast (which I also get at home). We are doing a private lesson Monday.

It gives me hope that we can get through open and onto utility some day. At least now I have a strategy and plan for the sit problem. I would hate to see that isse stop him. He can definately get a UD if we can get through open.

I did learn that his jumpo height will be 22. I thought it was 16. I guess I was reading the 3/4 breeds. I am not too worried about the high jumps but the broad jump I will have to practice with him and make sure he has enough room to get running start. He is a great jumper in agility so I guess I should not worry...

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Hero or Zero

I think some dogs are hero or zero dogs.  Patriot, who my wife normally handles in obedience and agility, is very consistent but you kind of have to cheer lead him through the agility course.  On the other hand, Wyatt is a crazed maniac who I have to work hard to keep up with. We have had tons of issues with contacts, off courses, and lately a back injury.  He has tons of first places.  We also have tons of NQ’s.  Sometimes I get depressed from a bad weekend but when he is on, it is like driving a performance sport car and there is no thrill in the world like it.  All in all, I find running Wyatt much more fun.  I just try  to look at each NQ as telling me something we need to work on...

Directed Retrieve

I have moved the directed retrieve outside and, I have to say, it is a lot of fun. There is not room inside for 3 gloves but there is room outside and I have been doing 3 gloves and also the required turn around (since I now know the foot work - I think). Wyatt is doing well. He will sometimes get the wrong one if he does not spot it first. I have to be patient and make sure he sees it. However, I try not to move his face - I doubt that would be allowed. How to you get your dog to change his focus if he is not looking at the right glove without pointing his muzzle in the right direction? After we practice a few times (usually I do once in each of the 3 spots), I have him fetch a glove. The gloves really seem to engage the prey drive in whippets (or in Wyatt at least). He loves to get the glove.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ob Class Last Night

Good class last night...

Don went over the footwork for directed retrieves, which I had never thought much about. Having practiced rally, it was a breeze.

Wyatt stayed up for the sit and did an out of sight down but lifted his rear during the long sit.

He seemed to heel better off leash at the end of class. He seems stressed at the beginning of class and upon entering the building. I have not been going much so I guess I need to keep it more regular. Makes me wonder what the effect of going to a new building is at a trial.

I am still struggling with "hanging around" stays. Should I expect him to stay sitting when just waiting around for the next thing to happen at class? He definately gets up during these times.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Stays In Trials/Stays at Home

I am starting to admit that we also have a stay problem at home. Though certain situations are good (waiting for his dinner), others are not good such as when we eat dinner. Last night in agility class, I also was practicing stays. He was good during walk throughs (at least in a down) but lousy waiting around near me (he seemed to be obsessing over the cheese in my pockets). So perhaps I can do more at home and in class and see if it carries over. Also, he is lifting his butt when practicing at home which I understand is an NQ (though his butt doesn't even touch the ground normally in a sit!). It almost seems like I need to start all over. I have been not rewarding the sit if he lifts/shifts his rear end. I used to mark it (uttt) and carry on.
I am thinking of doing a private lesson with Tibby Chase on this issue. Since his drop on recall is now pretty good, the groups sits and stays are the last thing...

Monday, June 11, 2007

Agility Last Week

Boy, we had a good last run in agility last week. No mistakes, perfect contacts and super fast weaves. That was encouraging. No trials until the CPE Nationals in Nova Scotia though.

Picture Perfect Drop on Recall

I got a picture perfect drop on recall with Wyatt yesterday which was exciting. He usually creeps forward quite a bit. Doing the recall early seems to help for some reason. I think I will try to get the drop in good shape and really work on the group sit, our hardest thing by far. I feel like I will need some help on that one...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Drop on Recall

Drop on recall is surprizingly hard. After training for at least a year, I finally am getting to a decent drop on recall at home. He still creeps a bit. I am sure it will be worse at class or at a trial so we need to keep working on it and start proofing it.

We trained it by doing down games (sudden downs when heeling) and by moving forward to the dog when practicing a formal drop on recall. (That is, you run towards the dog after you give the down command). We also mix it up and don't always call a down so they keep up a brisk pace and don't anticipate the down. I use both a hand signal (arm straight up) AND a verbal command so I will need to drop one of those too.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Peeling An Onion



Agility is a never ending lesson in life. Since Wyatt is now healthy and has reliable (though not perfect) contacts as trials, the next thing to work on has unfolded. I see now that it was always an issue but due to our focus on contacts, it was hidden from the forefront on my consciousness. The issue now is off courses. Specifically, if there are two (or more) jumps in a row, with the path veering off to the left or right to another obstacle, we have a strong tendency for an off course. I really focused on this issue this weekend and made very good progress. The biggest issue for me was deciding when to use a RFP, when to use a call off, and when to pull or push with a v-set. The biggest issue is mine; I need to cue him in time. I tend to be way too late to change his path. Wyatt is so fast and jumps so big that he can be over the (wrong) jump before you can blink.

We had a good weekend at a CPE trial getting 2 level C Qs and 2 firsts Saturday. We missed standard with a teeter fly off. The teeter was bouncy and he was surprised the first time I think. Too bad because the rest was flawless and we really need standard Qs. Also Qed in Snooker and Fullhouse. We made it all the way to the end in Snooker.

Sunday we 3 of 4 Qs in standard (2nd), wildcard (2nd), and colors. That was our last wildcard Q needed for our championship. Now we "just" need 8 standard Qs. We have 2.

Here are some photos from the previous weekend's trials. Photos are by Barry Rosen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Video Link to Snooker Run

Here is a link to the Snooker run I was discussing yesterday. I am looking for advice on the off course at the end (the second tire to a jump).

Video Link

From what I see, I did not turn soon enough or far enough in my RFP.

Never mind the beginning sequence. There were problems there too but I know what went wrong there...

Monday, May 21, 2007

CPE Results and Off Courses

Wyatt and I had a good weekend at the SOBAD CPE trial this weekend. We Qed 3 out of 5 times both days with placements in each. We finished our colors championship requirement and received a Q in wildcard with only one more left. We did not get any standard Qs however. We have one more trial before the requirement change to 10 Qs in July so we still need 10 Qs total - one wildcard and 9 standard. We have one more trial until July.

Wyatt's contacts were great. We were not called on one contact. However, I still see a difference between class/home and trials. At trials, he does not drive to the bottom but waits for me up on the contact and waits to be released. As the weekend progresses, I worked more on getting him to go lower on the contacts before being released. Best thing of all was that he was happy and fast all weekend.

We had some real hard breakers though. In snooker Saturday, we had a fabulous run going. We got lots of points in the opening and had a great closing going where we could have got through 7 in time. After a #5 A Frame, there was a #6 tunnel where the ends where wrapped around one side of the A-Frame. I took him in the wrong end even though I walked it correctly. In standard, I got through the really hard opening sequence and was a little lost after doing a front cross at the end of a tunnel. I ended up facing the dog walk and not the correct weave entry and paused enough for him to take the incorrect dog walk. He ran perfectly when I got him back on course. On Sunday, another great run. After I got him though a difficult threadle, there was a 90 turn to weave with the final obstacle finish line jumps in line with the jump second jump of the threadle. It felt him he was over the incorrect final jump before I could even react. No doubt, I did not cue him early enough or needed a front cross. A very similar thing happened in day 2 snooker (I have a video of this). He jumps so long and is so fast, that I sometimes do not anticipate the off courses like I should and do not cue fast enough.

All in all, a great weekend though. There is always something to learn. I will post the link to the video later...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Steering and the RFP

I think I have finally, after 3 years, understood how to steer my dog.


I used to use a reverse flow pivot (RFP) only when there was an obvious and severe obstacle discrimination problem. But after watching some really good handlers - especially in NADAC where you have to handle at a distance - and finally getting it in class, I see that I really need to turn in much more to steer Wyatt.

Last night, we had a situtation where there was an A-frame and then a set of 12 weaves sittiing fairly close and parallel to the A-Frame. So you had to do the A-frame and then turn your dog 180 degrees back to the weave poles. In order to get a good entrace to the weaves, the best move was to collect your dog by doing a subtle RFP, collecting the dog by standing still, and then moving ahead when the dog was collected and headed to the weaves. If you did not do this, the dog would go wide of the weaves and get a bad entrance. There were a number of places on the course where this type of move was needed.

I am also seeing that this move can be used in many places and also on the fly as a way to steer your dog back on track.

The other insight I had last night was that agility handling should not be thought of as obstacle to obstacle but as a continuous flow. You are always steering. Even when the dog is committed to the obstacle, you should be steering to next obstacle.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Wyatt Is Back

I am so happy with this weekend. Wyatt is back and wanting to run agility. We had a good weekend - a little rusty but he is basically back to his old enthusiastic self and such a great agility partner. You may recall that our last trial at New Year's, he did not want to run and ran out of the ring. We figured out with the help of a sports vet that he had a back problem. With a lot of rest, stretching, and massage, he healed up and he gradually let go of some behaviors that were a result of the injury (such as avoiding jumps and going way out of the way to do contacts.)

We did not get tons of Qs but we got some really hard ones. He got 2 elite regular (standard) Qs, which are really tough to get in NADAC due to the fast times required and the distance challenge in each course. He also placed first and second. Wyatt also got an elite jumpers Q yesterday and a second place. He had a few contact issues but in NADAC you can go back and redo them (you don't qualify of course) so we used them as learning/training experiences. By the end of the weekend, his contacts were solid again. One thing I realized is that I need to do more distance work for NADAC, which would be fun anyway. There was a really hard tunnelers course today and he was a rocket but I could not keep up with him to cue him at close distances.

But more than the Qs and placement. it is great have such a wonderful partner back in the game.

Here is a video clip from today showing our second place, qualifying standard run.

I hope you enjoy it.

Wyatt NADAC Elite Regular Run

Friday, May 04, 2007

Agility This Weekend; Rally Last Night

Went to a rally class last night which was really a run through. I thought we had everything down but I did learn a few things. #10 Spiral Dog Inside, I had never seen at a trial or practised so that was very good. I had it all wrong the first time. It was challenging to keep Wyatt from lagging at this very busy class. Also, on Halt, Down, Sit, I need to work on getting a straight sit from the down.

Wyatt was great in class Wednesday. The instructor said he looked happy and back to normal. Our first trial since his injury is this weekend so we'll see. My goal is just to have fun and make sure he is happy...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Mating

This is a little off my usual topics but our dog Patriot just figured out how to "do it." I was almost ready to give up at one point this weekend. We bred him about a year ago for the first time and the puppies came out great. "Major" just finished under a year old with 4 majors. The first time, we helped him alot putting the bitch on boards (he tended to be very high on the bitch) and guided him it. Like a teenager, he had trouble finding "home plate." Then if you touched him, he would ejaculate so you could not guide him too much either. Somehow, we managed to help him breed twice for his first litter. We were unsuccesful the second time without any boards or help and the bitches owner did AI but she never got pregnant. This third time I was again ready to give up; it is frustrating for everyone! However, we brought the bitch home to try one last time and were able to breed him pretty quickly once we got the bitch up to the right height. He actually used an obedience broad jump! The second time, I put the bitch on the board again and he was in in less than a second so that was encouraging. Today, I saw that he seemed to be getting closer on his own because he was not going so high so I left them alone and the bred without any help. What does this have to do with training? Well, I did see learning taking place but it did seem like some assistance was needed at first. The motivation to learn was also high. I did see him losing interest also when he was not having any success.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Two Different Agility Practices

I started doing a little agility work with Wyatt outside again after a long break. We have been going to class but not working at home due to the snow, ice, and later mud.

First practice was later in the day, hot out, using standard soft venison treats. Wyatt was OK but still doing some avoidance and needing coaxing to come down and play.

Second day, I showed him the cheese and took him out on leash, took leash off, and started. This practice was much, much better. Still having problems with repeating or taking contacts when I have not signaled them but this second practice was much better and we did work on the "contact suck" issue.

I beleive the cheese, temp, and time of day were factors...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Rally Results

I was very happy with Wyatt and had a lot of fun with Rally this weekend. Wyatt got 2 double Q's (our first 2 RAE legs) with scores ranging from 93 to 97 and one fourth place in Excellent B today (not easy to place in Rally B anymore)...

He did great on backup 3 steps and many other hard stations. Hardest stations (which I will work on) were stations that go from sit to stand (Wyatt needs multiple commands to stand typically - I taught this for Novice Obedience by moving forward) and the stationery call forwards where he does not always sit straight in front.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Too Motivated?

I noticed that Wyatt can get sloppy (most noticable in rally and obedience) if he is too excited about the treats he is getting. For Wyatt, this means cheese. He will tend to sit crooked - more in front - in his excitement to get the cheese. Should I use a lower value treat or work with it? Save the cheese for trials?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tracking Workshop

Wyatt and I took a tracking workshop this weekend. I liked the technique. It was to use multiple drops (with food in each). We did 2 straight tracks Saturday with 6 drops on each. One was our scent, one was with a different tracklayer. Wyatt did really well on both. I found I needed to figure out what my criterion was for letting him stray. But he was motivated and found all the articles and seemed to really like the game. The instructors seemed to think he was one of the dogs that was doing the best. (I have done some work with him in the past). There are so many techniques; I am going to stick with this one. It seems to work the best for Wyatt.

On Sunday, in the blizzard, Wyatt did a turn and did fine. His biggest distraction was another dog from obedience class walking by (this dog is agressive and has come after him a few times - we just waited until the dog passed by). I realized I really had to know exactly where the turn was.

The best part is that this group practices once a week and is a half hour from my house. This sport and utility scent discrimination really give you a glimpse into how dogs see the world - through their noses.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

AKC Stats



I was looking through the last 4-5 years of AKC event statistics and I made a graph of number of entries by year from 2002-2006. Of course, this only covers AKC events. I was amazed at how much rally and agility are growing especially if you consider that there are now 7-8 agility venues.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Wyatt of Dodge City, RE


Here is a photo of me and Wyatt after we earned our Rally Excellent title.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Wyatt at the Window

I am at the Whippet National Specialty Show in Kansas City. I came without any dogs just for the weekend. That is very unusual for me and it feels strange to be without a dog in the bed. Though they sleep on the floor (on dog beds of course) at home, we let them sleep with us when we are on the road. It feels strange. I may have to look for a spare whippet around here (and there are plenty) for some nightime company!

Calling home, my wife reports that Wyatt is looking out the window a lot and waiting for my return! That is so touching...

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Run Thrus

I took the baby and went to some run thrus in Vermont on Sunday. Wyatt did pretty well. He wanted to run; I actually struggled to keep up with him and cue him fast enough. This may be because he has had some time off and/or because I had cheese - his favorite treat. We are still not back to 100% though. He is still prefering contacts to running my course at times. I am not sure if I should go with him and finish the contact or keep running. My sense is that I should do the latter, then loop back and try again. We did have one really good run with no problems. It seems that I have to handle better and cue earlier and more right now also until this problem is corrected. If I "get lost" or even hestiate he will make a choice or "spin"...

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wyatt Back to Normal?

My wife and I have both noticed that Wyatt seems back to his usual, crazy self, for better or worse! He is making huge jumps onto couches, constantly trying to get extra food, and generally being the wacky Wyatt we know and love. I am entering him in some CPE trials. We will see how he goes but I am hoping he will be back to normal there too (or close to it)...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Long Retrieves

I have been trying to make retrieves even more fun that they are for Wyatt already.

One thing I noticed is that if I throw close to the ground, it increases his prey drive and enthusiam.

I also mix it up and do not always ask for a front or a stay before.

Last night in agility class, I brought the dumbell and threw it all the way across the bard - about 50 yards. He loved the long run to the dumbbell and all the way back to me.

Anyway, he really seems happy retrieving lately with these changes. He always liked to retreive but I beleive this will help when trialing and stress is higher.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Wyatt of Dodge City, RE

I am very proud of Whippet Wyatt of Dodge City, CD, RE, SC, NA, NAJ, OAC, EJC, OCC, TN-O, TG-N, WV-N, CL4, CL5-SF, CGC who earned his Rally Excellent title today with a score of 93. We have been practicing a lot including some of the really hard stations like back 3 steps, offset figure 8, and pivot left. I made a 3-point error so Wyatt only lost 4 points.

We were a little nervous starting and we had trouble with the initial stand in station #1 Halt, Stand, Sit but I was eventually able to get him to stand. I am very proud of this little guy who was (and is) such very nervous dog who we rescued 4 years ago. His off leash heeling yesterday in Novice B was just great and he only lost 4 points. Many whippets tend to be in a different time zone from the handler in off leash heeling and Wyatt certainly has done that too. But I made sure we had a good connection before we told the judge we were ready, made if clear to him that his favorite treat was in the offing, and kept him really upbeat with my heel commands and between exercises. At home, I have made off leash heeling a fun game: to keep up with me no matter what crazy things I do.

Since he has been injured (he had a back injury from agility that caused him to not want to play agility), I have learned an important lesson. The most important thing is to have fun with your dog. Titles and placements are nice but not THE THING. It was a real change for me yesterday to NQ and be so happy anyway. It has actually helped my performance too since I am less nervous when I am not so worried about qualifying, getting the next title, et cetera.

These dogs have a lot to teach us and. and so far, every really important lesson for me, has been when something "goes wrong".

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Odedience Results

We trialed in Novice B obedience today. I was very pleased with Wyatt's heeling, especially his off lead heeling where he only lost 4 points. The other 2 whippets today had a really tough time with their off lead heeling. He was right with me. What a nice feeling. We did have some tight leases on lead but he sat every time and basically stayed with me. I actually think I kepy eye contact more with the off lead and that worked better. People always tell you not to look at your dog but I think it's OK as long as you don't turn your shoulder. He moved quite a bit on the stand for exam but the judge was kind. I think she approcahed him quickly (which he SHOULD be able to deal with). Need to proof that more. We have not been to class in months. We had a Q going into the stays but he went down on his sit after about 15 seconds. The long down was fine.

Rally tomorrow!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Rocking Practice

Wyatt and I had a rocking agility practice Wednesday night. He was great and back to his old self. During the second half of the course, I don't think there was a single problem. He was very fast and motivated. Being on home court seems to help.

Also, the worst problems I have seen are where we run 2 days in a row...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wyatt - There Is Hope

We did a private agility lesson Saturday and it gave me hope for Wyatt. Wyatt did all the very worst case behaviors I have been seeing since his injury: freezing, running out of the ring instead of starting, going totally in the opposite direction of me back to contacts.

The instructor thought it was all stress and suggested that I just keep running with an imaginary dog (or not). Sure enough, he did come out to play if I kept it up! Anyway, Lynn thought he would be fine and the stress would fade over time. It was very good to know that Wyatt would run if I kept going. This is so different for him since, before the injury, he was SO enthusiastic.

She also showed me a way to help him to learn not to jump too early by using jumps spaced very closely together. Of course, if they were too close together, he jumped over both sets!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Coming Up

We have run thrus this week - Friday night - AKC style in Springfield. Weekend after that is obedience and rally. I have been doing novice run thru's with Wyatt with no treat until the end. He seems to be OK with that but is very eager to run over to the treat area when done (or when he thinks we are done). Still doing rally as well and open and utility practice. Not much agility lately - class has been cancelled due to cold again. We are doing a private Saturday to work on that weird tunnel thing we saw last weekend.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Mixed Results at Run Thru

After a really good agility class last week, Wyatt has some mixed results yesterday at some run thrus in Vermont. This was a new facility for both of us. The good news is that he ran and did not shut down and run out of the ring. He did show reluctance to run on his third run but I coaxed him into running. He definately was not his usual self though. His weaves, jumps, and A Frame were good. He jumped off his first teeter but it did bounce funny when he got on. We had a real problem with a dog walk though. There was a tunnel on one side of it and another tunnel quite a bit away. He was very reluctant to come off the dogwalk into the far tunnel (good contact though). He kept running back up the dog walk instead of heading with me to the far tunnel. I had to bribe him and/or direct him strongly with me to get that tunnel. Not sure what was going on. I am going to try and get back up for a private to work with that specific equipment and placement...

All in all, I should be happy but I have to realize he is still not 100% and I have to be patient.

I also forgot to warm him up which I am supposed to do for his back! He were running a little late setting up for the baby but I have to remember NO MATTER WHAT...

Mixed Results at Run Thru

After a really good agility class last week, Wyatt has some mixed results yesterday at some run thrus in Vermont. This was a new facility for both of us. The good news is that he ran and did not shut down and run out of the ring. He did show reluctance to run on his third run but I coaxed him into running. He definately was not his usual self though. His weaves, jumps, and A Frame were good. He jumped off his first teeter but it did bounce funny when he got on. We had a real problem with a dog walk though. There was a tunnel on one side of it and another tunnel quite a bit away. He was very reluctant to come off the dogwalk into the far tunnel (good contact though). He kept running back up the dog walk instead of heading with me to the far tunnel. I had to bribe him and/or direct him strongly with me to get that tunnel. Not sure what was going on. I am going to try and get back up for a private to work with that specific equipment and placement...

All in all, I should be happy but I have to realize he is still not 100% and I have to be patient.

I also forgot to warm him up which I am supposed to do for his back! He were running a little late setting up for the baby but I have to remember NO MATTER WHAT...

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Barking to Start Scent Discrimination

Gotta love Wyatt. The other day, he was barking to get started on scent discrimination. There are probably not too many dogs that do that. He does not do this all the time but it does appear to be one of his favorites. I have been using string cheese too, which is a high value treat for him. I doubt he would do this in a trial setting but to honest, I would not care if I got points off for being overly enthusiastic...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wyatt Cleared But...

Wyatt was cleared yesterday for agility. The vet determined that he was not in pain and had improved his tense back muscles and his flexibility but still needs more work on the latter.

He ran great at practice last night; the best dog in advanced class but was showing some avoidance behaviors especially on the last run. Whether this is physological from before, whether there is still pain, or whether he was just cold and tired (we did do a couple of hour long runs this week; one on the same day as practice), I can't say. With the snow and cold, he will get more time off. I will try and get to a run through ASAP so we can see where he is at in a trial setting.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Breeding an Agility Whippet

We have been thinking about breeding our next generation of whippets for versatility. We want to breed Patriot who has great conformation and is good at agility, obedience, and coursing. We might look for a bit more drive and natural retrieve. However, we got him at 2 and he was only trained for the ring so who knows how he might be different if we raised him from a puppy. Wyatt does seem to have more retrieve and drive, but again, we got him at 1, so I am not sure how much his first owners did. {I do know they played with him in frisbee and took him to obedience classes.]

I guess it can't hurt to pick your best breeding and temperment test the puppies. But, of course, there are no guarantees!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Proofing Yesterday

We went to the Hartford shows to see 2 of Patriot's puppies show in conformation. Major went RWD. I thought he should have won - he was just stunning. Dashielle, the other puppy, looked great too. But the best thing is that Dashielle is in a great home. The owner just loves him and will do all kinds of activities with him.

I did a little obedience and rally proofing with Wyatt in a very busy ringside area. He did pretty well but I did use a lot of treats to keep the focus.

We did heeling and a few retrives.

Wyatt has an appointment this week to check on his back. I am hoping for a lot of progress of course but need to remind myself to be patient. He does seem a lot better though. He is jumping like a kamikaze around the house. This typically takes the form of a running jump onto a couch, sometimes right over Patriot.

Reflections of Time Off

My attitude towards competing has been changing since Wyatt has been injured. I beleive that I was pushing jim too hard, not picking up on clues that something was wrong, and too focused on my own goals. It is easy to get caught up in the push for titles and ribbons and forget the other half of the team. The break from competing and even practicing agility has been a good one. I can't help wonder if all dogs (and handlers) need some time off now and again.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Ob/Rally Update

We have obedience (Novice B - just for practice - we have our CD) and Rally Excellent B (need one more leg for RE) in March so I am trying to get Wyatt used to less treats. I am also now using cheese, which he really loves. The good part is he performs well and clearly knows we go somewhere else at the end to get the cheese. But he loves cheese so much he will whine and also run to it when he thinks we are done. I have been doing complete novice routines. It seems so easy now that we have been training open and utility for a while! I have also been putting together longer sequences of rally exercises. That also seems easy now that we have worked on backup 3 steps and left pivots and have them down. Of course, who knows what will happen in the actual ring!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Patriot C-ATCH


Patriot and Dawn earned their CPE agility championship yesterday! Way to go! Wyatt is still out of competition but I hope to have him back this spring and summer. He is close to his C-ATCH too.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Cheese

I noticed a big change last night doing agility/rally with Wyatt at home when I used string cheese instead of the usual Charlie Bears. Lots more speed and enthusiasm.

We have agility tonight and I am going to try moving him up to 12 inches. We have not been doing any agility to speak of outside of class. It's cold and I think the time off it better for him anyway. He seems to be better around the house. Yesterday he came charging to one of our coaches and jumped over our other whippet Patriot and onto the couch. He is quite the kamakaze (for better of worse) when he is feeling good. Hestition in jumping on things was one of the many signs I missed or ignored over the last few months. More on that later and also how your goals and priorities change when your dog get hurt.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Last Night

Wyatt did really well last night. We wanted to do agility and had some good runs. We are having a major contact suck issue right now with contact/tunnel combos but I was just happy that he was happy. I had him jump 8 inches to start. The weather is cold right now so we won't do agility in the yard (which seems to have a negative association for him anyway) but I will try running him at 12 inches next week.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Back to Agility

Well, our week off of agility is up. It has been too cold to try much outside. I will probably go to class tonight and try some light jumping (low jump heights) and short sequences. We will see what happens! Hopefully, he will want to play and his back will be OK. I need to remember the warm up and cool down procedures...

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

What We Are Working On

While we are on our agility timeout, I have been working with Wyatt on obedience and rally. We have been perfecting our rally excellent moves including left pivot, 3 steps back, side step, and some others. He is doing real well, at least at home, and we should be able to get our last RE leg as long as he wants to play. In tradional obedience, I am really trying to finish up open and utility training. The hardest items are go outs, drop on recall, and group sits. I have working on go outs by baiting a target with cheese wiz and putting the target on a ring gate. I command "go out" and he has really been running out at a good clip. I then (sometimes) ask him to sit. I have been using a low board to prevent creeping. I have also started using 3 different gloves on occasion. Everything else is pretty much in place (at least at home) includingt scent discrimination and retrieves. I need to check the heeling part of utility and check signals. I beleieve all the pieces are in place including a moving stand but need to try putting it all together.

Of course, the proof is in the proofing!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

X-RAY Results

Wyatt's X-Rays were clean so that was a relief. It rules out arthritis. Regular Vet said we could try anti-inflammatories. I am going to check in with the specialist I have been using - Julie Roos - on next steps.

My computer is down so I will write more next week when I get back...

Monday, January 15, 2007

X Rays This Week

Our regular vet happened to see Wyatt last week for a shot and also saw the back pain. So I scheduled X-Rays for Wednesday. She mentioned that he might have some arthritis but that could be treatable with anti-inflammatory drugs. Meanwhile, Wyatt seems better to me in terms of his energy and back pain.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Time Off

As I expected, the time off from agility with Wyatt is harder for me than for him. He is enjoying a rest and seems to have more bounce and high spirits. I definately miss practicing with him. Due to the weather, we usually slow down in the winter especially with practice at home. This year's mild winter allowed practicing in Novemeber, December, and January during a time when Wyatt (who does not like the cold) usually hibernates.

He seems to be enjoying the massage he gets everyday. Still a week and half to go on the time off...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Diagnosis

I took Wyatt to Julie Roos, who is a vet and does PT and chiropractic. Basically, she found that has back pain caused by too many years of agilty without proper streching, warming up, and cooling down. This probably caused our current problems in combination with all the trauma and spills of this year along with the additional stress of the baby and overpracticing him. So he gets 2 weeks off and lots of massage. Meanwhile, he are having fun, running in the woods, and still doing rally and obedience.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Wyatt Status

I am getting a full evaluation of Wyatt next week from Julie Roos down at Clean Run. She is a vet, does acupuncture, and chiropractic and has lots of experience with agility dogs.

I am running him at home very lightly and easily and keeping it fun just to keep him in the game. Still thinking of taking o complete break. The crash into the tire set him back quite a ways in terms of motivation and the contact and discrimination skills we have been working on - no doubt, due to increased stress.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

DANG!

I ran Wyatt yesterday and he did great. Very motivated. Did not have to bribe him to play. On the way back to the house, I sent him through one more jump combo and he knocked over the tire jump and had a minor scrape. But he seems to be back to being totally spooked about practicing. I am taking a week off from agility with him even though I am anxious to work with him to get comfortable again. It really is showing me I need to focus more on my dog being happy and less on the various skills, titles, and goals I have. What a hard lesson to learn...

I am thinking of getting a full physical and eye exam for him too to rule out a physical problem.

Monday, January 01, 2007

SHUT DOWN!

I have had a lot of ups and downs with Wyatt in agility and this weekend was no exception. Wyatt is about 10 Q’s away from his CPE agility championship. During the competition this weekend, he did not want to run; something I have never experienced before at a trial. He has typically been a very high drive, high motivation dog especially for a whippet. He has always been a fearful dog but his desire to work with me and to jump has seemed to overcome his fear. He tends to be a bit of a kamikaze and I worked with him for years to get a good 2 on, 2 off contact.

Looking back, I see that there were signs that we might be in trouble as team; signs I minimized or ignored. It is a terrible feeling to see your teammate not want to play with you. I do have faith this will be one of the many things I have worked through with Wyatt. However, one always fears the worst case – that his career could be over.

THE WEEKEND

We went up early for run throughs Friday night to a new beautiful new facility near Saratoga Springs, New York. I wanted to do everything I could to make Wyatt feel comfortable in a new place. Our first run was a little tentative but not bad. On the second run, he started to show some signs of stress and slowed down and may have stopped before a jump until I coaxed him over. On the third run, I really increased my praise after every jump and obstacle and we had a much better run. He used to be a dog I could run very quietly with. So it seems like he needs more praise and encouragement right now.

For the first run on Saturday, he hesitated going into the ring and I gave a little leash correction to get him moving. This has been something I have also been seeing in class. Typically, I can both take pressure off the lead and encourage him to come with me or give a little tug and encouragement at the same time to get him going in class. This is a new behavior though and one I was worried about. I believe it started early fall of 2006.

In any case, he started running out of the ring when I took off the leash or would refuse to jump over the first jump and would run back out when I turned around and/or started moving back towards him. I ran out and grabbed him and kind of tossed him over the first jump but he still ran back. On the next run changed to For Exhibition Only (FEO) and ran him on leash and was very positive when he went over a few jumps. I kept it short.

We also tried having Dawn run him on Saturday and she experienced the same behaviors of running out of the ring.

I then tried taking his leash off partway through the run but he would not go over a jump off leash. On another run, I got him over the first jump but he stalled on the A-Frame and I could not get him off. When I moved towards him, he headed back over the A-Frame. Heading outside on Saturday, he even ran away from the practice jump and I had difficulty coaxing him over the practice jump. I could get him going eventually by leading him close to the jump on leash and then using treats. I also did a bunch of deconditioning around the ring entrance where the biggest stress seemed to be occurring. But I am wondering if my picking him up and tugging his leash may have exacerbated the problem on Saturday. I also wonder if I may have forgotten to release him. I have worked with Wyatt on not releasing until he hears the specific word OK. I will occasionally forgot and expect him to go, which I am sure confuses him. And then having me really stress out and carry him into the ring may have made the problem much worse.

On Sunday, I was hoping that he would be OK but had the same issue. Though he seems fine warming up, he again stressed out when crossing into the ring. So I changed him to FEO and did a couple jumps, tunnels, and obstacles on leash and left on a positive note. After the run, he did not show signs of stress on the practice jump, which was encouraging. On the next run I did the same thing but tried to get him to run off leash again without luck. On the next run, I though I would get him away from the start and take him off leash at the end of ring heading back. Sure enough that worked, and he has nice obstacles and jumps off leash on the way back. We got a big cheer since folks knew I was struggling all weekend especially friends that have seen Wyatt “smoke” many a course. I was still seeing stalling on contacts, which clearly is a sign of stress as I have done a lot of retraining of contacts at home.

THE WARNING SIGNS

Wyatt crashed into a triple jump at the National Whippet Specialty April of last year. He limped off but appeared fine for jumpers when I tried him on the practice jump. He crashed into it again in jumpers. He tends to take off early and will very occasionally knock a bar especially on a triple jump. I bought an AKC style triple for home which he has been fine on. I added the word “big” before “jump” to indicate a double or triple jump.

We adopted a baby boy in June. Wyatt seems to adjust fine. We still practice obedience, rally, and agility every day.

At a summer trial, I remember having a stressful weekend with the baby and having a tough weekend especially on the first day. Wyatt crashed into a jump when I was wrapping him around it tightly during a snookers run.

This summer, Dawn dropped a hardcover book on Wyatt. He was sleeping under a blanket on his dog bed at the side of our bed at the time. He panicked and ended up stepping on Patriot on an adjacent dog bed. The exact details are unknown but they ended up in a fight resulting in 5 stitches for Wyatt. Wyatt was upset for quite a while though seems fine with Patriot now. He took off a week or more of agility but seemed OK after that.

Sometime in the fall, I started seeing him resisting starting agility. I remember this starting before he fell off the dog walk in November. However troubling, I could easily get him going with a little rug, relaxing the lead, and/or doing a little cheerleading/moving forward. I have noticed him heading towards the exit on occasion during class especially if I am stressed about something.

At the Conway CPE trial (our home ring) in mid October, he has a great weekend with 6/8 qualifying runs and lots of high placements but I did recall that seeing the resistance to going into the ring. At a trial a few weeks later, he did stop running at one point during jumpers (I was shocked because he loves jumpers so much) but attributed it to a very late run in a dark, damp barn. I did coax him over the jump he stopped in front of. All in all, we had a pretty good weekend as I recall. I do remember feeling stressed with the baby on Saturday.

In November, he fell off the dog walk during a routine practice. We shook it off and ran the dog walk again but it was a good fall. After that, there was a definite resistance to going to the yard to practice. He has previously shown some resistance to the front yard after a Frisbee fall he appeared to work through that. I started to have to bribe him to play. I developed a “find it” game where I throw a treat for him to find. Typically once I get him down to the first field (jumpers and weaves), he is fine and wants to do agility. I would also lure him down to the field with a treat sometimes but this did not work as well. I am wondering now if I inadvertently was reinforcing his fears. Did I train him to not work without a specific bribe of the “find it” game first? I did notice initially even more resistance to going down to the lower contact field. Gradually, I worked with him so that less and less of a bribe was required to get him to do agility so I was pretty confident going into this weekend’s trials. I was did a lot of contact work so that stalling on the A-Frame was down to a very occasional occurrence. I also worked a lot of tunnel/contact discrimination. He was getting really drawn to contacts probably due to all the contact work we have been doing. This too was very much improved in the last few weeks.

One side note is that I have resorted to blocking him from going up contacts a few times in the last few months (once especially in class on a particular start). This seemed to really cause some stress. He seems to stall right away when he see I am not moving towards him. I have been unsure of what to do in this case; I have sometimes had to bribe him down with by showing a treat. I have tried not to treat him for being off course and have improved with this but used to sometimes treat him by mistake when he went up an unwanted contact. I also have realized recently that have inadvertently trained him to go right back up over a contact. When training him to drive to the end of contacts, I used to rapidly switch directions and head right back over. I did use his release word but he got very used to going up and down and was heading right back over contacts if my body started turning anywhere backwards towards the contact again.

In early December, we went to some run throughs at a new facility in Connecticut. His first run was tentative and he crashed the final triple jump. I took him back over it but his next run; he did not want to run. I recall using treats to get him started again on the second and third runs but seeing the jump refusals. I attributed his initial tentativeness to the lack of gates on the side of the ring and some barking dogs close to ringside. Now I wonder if there was more going on.

I also recall during November that Wyatt had trouble starting a rally run. He would not sit and then would not initially start heeling with me at the start.

At runs throughs during class last week, I don’t recall any special issues or problems.




QUESTIONS

• Should we take a complete break from agility? If so, for how long?
• Should I take him to class this week and see how he is? I probably will.
• What should I do if he resists starting his run?
• If I trial with him (FEO), what should I do if he runs out of the ring?
• Should I not use treats during warms up and only reward after a run?
• I wonder if the extra stress of trialing with the baby is increasing my stress enough to affect Wyatt’s stress level? Ironically, he seems less nervous at trials than he used to be but the stress may be showing up in the ring and not on the sidelines.
• I have been, at home, class, and at trials, been “making” Wyatt go all the way to the end of the contact since he tends to start stopping higher and higher up especially at trials. However, this seems to be a stressor so I am wondering the best way to handle it and if I should relax this criterion (for now) at trials.
• Should I crate him at class? This would be just like a trial and would bypass some of the avoidance behavior I see when I walk courses with him at class.


TENTATIVE PLAN

• Cut back on agility practice, classes, and trials and/or take a complete break from agility for a while.
• Put a jump close to the cellar door and only treat after he as gone over the jump. Just work with that one jump for a while. Be very positive for coming out to play without a bribe. Set up gates in the yard and make sure he is OK going through the gates to a faux start line without having to treat him.
• Make sure he is warmly dressed before doing agility in the winter.
• No more “find it” game with treats to get him to play agility.
• Cut back on obedience until he is into agility again and/or only do obedience after agility.
• Do as many run throughs and possible. Do trials FEO until enthusiasm is restored. Use the leash to start him and try to wean off the leash until he can start again without it.
• Eliminate or cut down on warm up treats especially at trials. Increase value of treats. For Wyatt, cheese and steak are the highest value treats.
• Consider using toys more. Use the rabbit skin on a string as a reward instead of food sometimes.
• Play with Wyatt in the yard around the equipment. This consists of throwing toys, which he chases, takes a victory lap around with, and retrieves. I have been doing on this on occasion but could do more.
• No triples at runs throughs or trials unless I can practice it first or lower the bars.
• Continue to practice the triple at home.
• Always warm up with the practice jump before a run.
• Try trialing him without the baby.
• Do not run when I am stressed.
• Change my goal from a C-ATCH (or whatever) do my dog having a good time.
• Reward releasing more strongly in obedience and agility.

FOOTNOTE

I placed a jump close to the cellar door yesterday and Wyatt went right over and it the agility fields without a need for a bribe, game, or treat. He then ran very enthusiastically even though the weather was cold and wet.