Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Weekend

Yup, more agility :-P

I went out both Saturday and Sunday, like usual, to Mary's for class and open practice. We worked on the Excellent JWW course from our last local trial. It flowed nicely but was challenging, with several pinwheels and some tight turns with lots of "wrong" choices. Overall, Cedar and I did pretty well.

Contrary to what this pic shows, her weaves are still pretty much broken :( But I just ordered some 24" poles so that should help her gain more confidence. We only have 20"ers at home. I guess I should stop saying that she's "broken" when she probably never fully understood the obstacle in the first place. So... it's a work in progress.

She really is doing well on her "turn" command and will confidently switch directions and turn away from me to take another obstacle :)

Thanks to my new exercise regimen, I have been able to run a lot faster with Cedar recently. That, combined with better timing, is starting to make things a little easier for us. I think my handling is getting a bit smoother, and some things are starting to make more sense. It's really neat to see AND feel us getting better as a team. Cedar is more responsive (in general) and listens very well. She's lightning fast and never drops bars. She cues off my body language so well, sometimes it's like she reads my mind. I know that we are just beginning, but in my newbie opinion, I think we could really go places someday. That is a great feeling.

You guys are probably getting sick of hearing it, but I love this dog :)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Just A Reminder

For everyone to check out my new blog, Cedes of Change.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Question

Agility people: what are your criteria for deciding if your dog is ready to start trialing?

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Our First Whole Course... Well, Almost :)

Today was our group class. The course we worked was a former World Team tryout jumpers course. I'm not sure what year or round, but it was tough! There were lots of places that required front crosses--not my strong point :) Since Cedar's weaves are currently still broken, we didn't even attempt them. But that is the only part we didn't do :) Luckily, the weaves were at a logical "break" in the middle of the course, so I decided to just split the course in half and treat it as two different "sections." My idea ended up working out well and Cedar really impressed me :). We managed to cross in the right places and Cedar was listening very well most of the time. A few times she blew me off and went off course, but I probably was telling her to go that direction somehow :). And I didn't fall over doing any of my crosses!

Tomorrow, we're going to work the same course again, so maybe we can get some more finesse. We're starting to figure it out :)

Friday, July 30, 2010

3-2-1 Contacts!

I know it seems like I've only been blogging about agility lately, but, well, we've been doing a lot of it :)

We went out to Mary's last night for a private lesson, and worked on a whole bunch of stuff. We started out on the teeter and A-frame, because we haven't worked contact equipment *that* much, and she still wasn't fully confident... or so I thought! WOW! She did so well! We worked each contact obstacle at full height, and she showed no hesitation and fantastic contacts! I was particularly proud of her on the teeter. I think maybe she's really understanding now that she has control over the motion. Her 2 on/2 offs were great on every obstacle. What a good girl she is. She is so much fun in agility because she is so smart, enthusiastic, and naturally uses her body well.

Next, we worked on a jump grid. I think it was out of a Clean Run exercise book... but I'm not sure :) The first three obstacles were a jump, tunnel, and weave poles... in a straight line! It was a challenge figuring out where I needed to be in order to get her to make the weave entry. We did pretty well :) After the weaves, we had to make a sharp left turn to make a jump, then do a big serpentine for two more sets of jumps. It was an interesting challenge trying to negotiate a smooth rear cross in the middle :-P But we figured it out, and did quite well, I thought. Cedar, as always, thought it was AWESOME. She had the biggest grin on her face the whole time.

After that, we took a break and did some more jumping, working on one end of the grid in a kind of square pattern. I worked a lot on using my body position (not just my arms, haha!) to set her up for success in making really tight turns. We did some pretty challenging stuff :)

Cedar's weaves are still broken :( We had to go back to basic 2x2 foundation work to get some success. Frustrating.

We worked on the dog walk a little bit at the end, and she did very well with it, too. Great contacts, and she attacked the obstacle with confidence that is really nice to see. I love this dog.

Friday, July 23, 2010


Here's a short video of Cedar and I at our agility lesson today:

I scheduled another private with Mary to work on some things: mainly, Cedar's confidence issues with the A-frame and weaves. We lowered the criteria on both to give her a better chance of success. She did great, as usual. I just love working her in agility.

First, we worked on a lowered A-frame on strengthening her contacts and getting her to realize that she can control her momentum on the down side. I think she figured it out... after a few tries, she was using her body very well and hit her 2 on/2 off contacts like a champ, even if I ran past her. You'll see that in the video :)

Next, we worked a little on weaves. She's been popping out on the last pole, and I couldn't figure out why. After watching her, Mary noticed that Cedar's footwork was getting messed up at around the sixth pole. So, at home, we may go back to doing two sets of six poles to build up her confidence a bit, and gradually move them together like we did before when I first started training her to do twelve poles.

Anyways, after a few failures, we left the weaves and did some jump sequences, which amped her up and gave her some confidence. On returning to the weaves, we were able to get her to do the twelve poles once each direction, which was awesome! The second time, we managed to complete the weaves mid-course, with a pretty difficult entry :).

I was very pleased with how well Cedar listened to my body language today. Perhaps I'm just getting better, but we seemed a lot more in sync than usual. Progress!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Plans for the future

I figured while I still have some time to devote to this, I should make some plans for training Cedar to get ready for obedience, rally, and agility trials. There are a bunch coming up this fall that I'd like to go to, and Cedar is getting pretty dang close to being ready :) There are also a few arena herding trials this fall that I'd like to do with her, depending on how much time on stock we can get in. I'm not sure if we're quite ready for the distance required in ASCA Open. Even though it's not much, I want to be really, really confident before taking that step :). Maybe I'm being too cautious?

Anyway, here's some short "plans" for how I plan to get us ready for action in the fall:


What we know: Basic heelwork, sit, down, stay, etc.

What we need to learn/practice: Serpentines around cones, more reliability and confidence, solid knowledge of heel position, finish right.

Proofing: Work just as well under distractions, get used to signs, get used to having a judge walk beside us.


What we know: Basic obedience commands

What we need to learn: More solid heelwork (her basics are good, I just want more commitment, style, and reliability), solid stays, stand for exam under distraction, practice figure 8's. Straight sits, both at front and in heel position.

Proofing: Work everything extensively under distraction, get her used to strange dogs in the stays lineup, teach her to find heel position from a variety of places. Polish dumbell retrieve. My goal is to have her trained and solidly proofed through Open before entering a trial... or at least Graduate Novice :) I want to have at least an 8-10 minute long sit and down, under distraction. I just can't stress about that anymore! It's the only exercise I have failed, and I think I have a complex about it, as I can't seem to actually finish a CD title on any of my dogs!


What we know: Jumps, front/rear crosses, tunnels, chute, tire. Table basics (needs work), Weaves (solid on 6 poles, working up to it on 12). Contact basics (still needs confidence)

What we need to learn: Solid weaves (12 poles from almost any entry), Confident contacts with 2 on/2 off position no matter where I happen to be on the course. And, she needs to learn how to collect herself! We'll be okay on more open courses, and at a distance, but in the tight World Team Tryout courses we've been doing in class, she tends to go too fast and not think about her body. The ability to collect will also help her with table and contact work. So, we'll be focusing really hard on teaching that skill this summer and fall.

Proofing: Practice on different contact equipment. Work under trial-level distractions.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

New Blog

Check out my new blog, Cedes of Change! It has a bit of a different focus than this one, and I'm having lots of fun with it. I'm hoping to eventually switch over to that one exclusively, so stay tuned :)

Monday, July 5, 2010

3 Days in a Row?!?

Yes, it's true. I went out to Mary's for agility today... for the third day in a row. We are really on an agility kick right now. The reason I went was to get a jump on Cedar's contacts. Since I haven't had them at home, it's been hard to train consistently and I don't really know how to do it... so I went to the expert for help!

We worked on the A-Frame first. Cedar still doesn't totally understand the value of 2 on/2 off position, so we worked a lot on really making it worth her while. We introduced tugging instead of a treat reward; letting her tug while in 2 on/2 off position as long as she kept her back feet on the contact zone. That seemed to help her out some. I need to practice more on making her a more enthusiastic tugger. She loves her toys but doesn't tug very hard. So we'll be working on this in the next couple weeks. We also did a little jump exercise to break up the monotony of contact training, starting in 2 on/2 off position on the A-Frame and doing a short sequence of jumps in a tight circle. She aced it.

Next, we went to the teeter. Since we hadn't trained the teeter in about a month, we started easy with the teeter significantly lowered. Cedar didn't even bat an eye at the motion and easily found the 2 on/2 off position. We gradually raised the teeter up over the course of the session and she did great! She still needs lots more reinforcement, though. It still makes her nervous. However, she learned today that she can control when the teeter tips, so I think that helped her. She was a lot more confident after that.

We worked a little on the dog walk, which highlighted just how much work we need to do to solidify Cedar's contact behavior. :) She was unsure what exactly I was asking, but we worked through it and I did a lot of reinforcing the correct position.

Last, we did a few weave drills. Mary was very impressed with how well Cedar weaves. She does an excellent job with rating her speed and hitting the correct entries, even with obstacles before and after. What a good girl she is!

It was a lot of fun, but a lot of work training (in the heat) for the whole hour! Cedar was pretty exhausted by the end, but tried her hardest to the very last exercise.

A few photos:

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day

I'm so glad I dragged myself out of bed this morning and went to agility again. I slept through my alarm but woke up a few minutes later, and briefly considered going back to sleep before I realized how stupid that would be. We need to practice!

The same course from yesterday was set up, but we ran different parts/different paths. Cedar did GREAT! Much better than yesterday... but I think my handling was better, too. I really focused on making sure my body language pointed her in the right path. If paid off because we were able to run about half the course--a big improvement from yesterday. I was able to get some nice wraps from her (without her blasting off wide when I needed her to come in tight to make the next jump)and she showed me that she is able to take obstacles at a distance, which is great.

I also had the opportunity to work on her dog walk today. Considering how little we've been able to practice contact obstacles, her 2 on/2 off is coming along nicely. She can do the whole thing at full height now with me on either side :)

I also managed to score a free set of weave pole bases, so now I don't have to use stick-in-the-ground poles anymore. Yay!

Cedar has a great mind for agility; she's very serious on the course, (mostly) listens well, and is responsive without being clingy. She has the confidence to work far away from me and close in. She's sure a lot of fun, and is accumulating quite the fan club <3 It sucks to not be able to work sheep as much as I'd like right now, but we've been having a blast in agility!

Happy 4th of July!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What's New? Not Much. But I took some pictures.

It's been pretty slow around here lately. The summer heat is kicking in, making both me and the dogs pretty lethargic. However, the gang still enjoys a game of fetch or too during the day, especially if that means some pool time afterwards :)

Today was our first time in the advanced/excellent-level agility class.... and boy were we in over our heads! The course we practiced on (we only did segments) was a World Team Tryout course from last year... and was (understandably) very difficult, non-intuitive, and full of interesting challenges. Overall, Cedar did well, but it showed me just how much practicing we need to do before we're ready to compete! She is so fast that she tends to blow by me before I can say anything or get her pointed to the right obstacle. It's mostly my fault... my timing is horrible and I wasn't giving her enough help and direction. We were able to get in several really nice moments... including a particularly brilliant (okay... it might have been accidental) rear cross.

What we need to work on most:
Weaves (Get 12 poles reliably... she's not quite there yet)
My body language (I'm slow and not expressive/direct enough)
Tight Turns and Serpentines

Here are a couple photos from today:

Have a good one!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Scrub A Dub Dub... Two Border Collies in the Tub

Today was the first really hot day of the summer... which means the first outdoor Bath Time for the collies this year! I'm excited to not have to bend over my bathtub for at least a few more months :)

Moss looked eager, so I grabbed him first and put him up on the table.

He soon realized his mistake.

Moss hates bathes. Like, he really, really hates them. Especially the blow dryer at the end. Or being brushed. He gives me the stank eye anytime I come within a foot of his toenails with the trimmer.

Have you ever seen anything so pathetic?

Moss generally abides by the "if I can't see it, it's not there" philosophy... unfortunately, that doesn't work as well with water.

Sorry, Moss.

Moss: F*** you.

At least he looked handsome after it was over with! :)

Actually, even soaking wet, he's handsome... dontcha think? :)

Cedar, on the other hand, loves baths. She adores being groomed, and stands very politely, even offering her paws up to be brushed or shampooed. She's such a princess <3

But even Cedar has her limits when it comes to being sprayed with the hose :)

A few shots of Cedar, post bath/blow dry:

Have a great day!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lego My Ego

In his book, The Nine Secrets of Perfect Horsemanship, Don Blazer (in a rough paraphrase) warns that one of the worst things someone who works with animals can do is let their ego get in the way of the real lesson. By ego, he means, in part, that worry that (most) competitively-minded people have about looking like an idiot in front of others; the ugly side of the drive to be "the best." The only way to actually get better is to put the ego aside and take each experience--good or bad--as not only a learning experience, but a way to show where you need the most improvement.

Apparently, I forgot that idea last night when I went out and worked Moss and Cedar. Moss actually worked pretty well for having a month off. I could definitely tell the difference in my handling... my timing was off and I just felt really rusty. Our first outrun was a little off; he tried to cross over about halfway through so I went closer to help him out. After that, he was awesome... his usual self. :) He really is a pro. Driving was great, he remembered his inside flanks and did wonderfully overall. He is so kind to the sheep, they really trust him. What a good boy. It was great to be out there working him again. He's really been good for me, and I feel so good and calm working him.

Cedar was a different story. We just... were not working well together last night. She was the worst version of herself on sheep: fast, tight, pushy, nervous, and grippy. I hadn't seen her this bad in almost a year. I was reacting very negatively (and unproductively, obviously) to her shenanigans. Again, my ego got in the way and I let that part of my brain take over to the point that I was pretty much acting like a spoiled five year-old.

(Have I mentioned how annoying my high pitched "LISTEN!!!!!!!" screech is? Even to my own ears, it sounds foreign and harsh. I hate it.)

I was really upset at the time, and disappointed-- both in myself and her. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been so bummed. After all, we haven't worked in months. By the end of the lesson, we were working together much better, and she was even able to get the sheep out of a corner right next to the rest of the herd (they were on the other side of the fence). I made a point to slow my voice down. Dianne kept reminding me to keep my emotions out of it. As usual, that really helped :). I am so thankful to her, she's such a great teacher.

It's no secret that Cedar and I have struggled a lot with herding. While she tries very hard for me, her pressure sensitivity has been hard for a novice handler like me to understand and deal with. However, she is really great at--and LOVES-- agility. In fact, we just got moved up to the Excellent-level set of classes :D I'm so pleased with how she's doing in that venue. As good as we do in agility, it doesn't turn my crank quite like stockwork does. It's strange to me that we can be so good at one thing, and yet struggle so much in another. Irrational, I know. I still have this sinking feeling every time we have works like last night's that we're just NEVER going to get it. Rationally, I know that's not true. Eventually, we will get to a place where Cedar will be able to work to the best of her ability and we will find balance in our "on-sheep" relationship.

In conclusion:

What I don't know = a lot. But I'm learning... slowly. Learning is a process, not something that happens overnight.

What I do know = that I love my dog. If not for her, I wouldn't have been introduced to this sport at all. I wouldn't have Moss. I wouldn't have made so many new friends. I owe a lot to my Cedar girl. And she's a helluva bed dog :)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Checking In

Well... I'm officially a horrible blogger :)

I have been on summer "vacation" for a little over a week, and still feel like I'm in school. I woke up yesterday morning frantic that I didn't have a lesson plan prepared for the day... cripes. Guess I need more time to unwind.

Cedar and Moss are doing well just being pets for a bit... but I can tell they're both bored. We've been going on lots of long walks though, which has been awesome. I need to keep that up. It's good for all of us :). The weather has been pretty sucky lately, though... I've been too busy trying to save my garden to do much with the dogs. Snow in late May? Yeesh...

Cedar and I start our next set of agility classes in about a month. I'm hoping to take a few private lessons before then, though... to keep in practice and hopefully work through some of her issues with contact equipment. She's not the bravest of dogs... and is also REALLY fast... which is not good when, for example, we are trying to learn the teeter! Her dog walk is looking good, but she is a bit intimidated bu the height of the A-Frame still. Other than contact equipment, we are almost ready to compete. We are really becoming a team on the agility course. What a good girl she is :). I am also debating entering her in a Rally Obedience trial in a few weeks. I need to practice a little bit with her to see where she is before I make that leap, though. She is stressed by crowds enough as it is; I want to make sure that we have all the "moves" down solid before jumping into a trial situation.

I have really been enjoying having Moss at home this month. It took him a few days to settle back into being a pet, but he's totally chill now. He goes back to Dianne in about a week to gear up for his Nursery debut in July. I really need to get back in the habit of going out and working him more often. He deserves it, as does Cedar.

Speaking of Cedar, I really want to get her in shape for some arena trials. I think she could do really well at that stuff. She's matured so much over the past year that I am actually really excited to start working her on stock again. Hopefully we can become better partners on the field... and not fight with each other/stress each other out so much. I haven't worked her in a few months due to lack of time... but I'm pretty excited to try her out again. I'm really hoping to get out to Dianne's this week.

I don't have any new photos... but here's a cute one of baby Moss <3

Monday, May 17, 2010

I Got In!!!!!!!!

This October, I will be presenting a paper at the Burney Society conference in Portland, OR!!!!

I am SO excited :D :D :D :D :D

Thursday, May 6, 2010

I'm Such An Intellectual

As most of you know, I am a graduate student in English Literature. Last week, I submitted an abstract to a conference that I reeeeeeeeeeally want to go to. (For those who don't know, an abstract is basically a condensed version of a paper. Conference organizers read abstracts to decide which papers they want to accept for their conference). Anyways, this conference is entitled, "Burney and the Gothic." Burney= Frances Burney, my favorite author and the one whose books I am going write my thesis about. I have been studying the Gothic all semester, and love it. So, basically, this is the perfect conference for me.

I want to get accepted SO badly! I find out by the 15th... keep me in your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Prodigal Son Returns

My dog is officially a badass.

I went out to Dianne's today (after over a month of being too busy to make it out) and got to see what Moss can do. Dianne has him going really awesome. He is completely on whistles, at barely 16 months old.

Awesome, right? I am so excited!

The best part is that he listens to MY whistles, too :D. I guess that means that I'm getting better at it. Dianne is really excited to start running him. He will be one of her nursery dogs next year.

I will run him in N/N (and PN, eventually... when I stop being such an idiot). Our goal is to get him qualified for the 2011 USBCHA Nationals in Colorado. Wouldn't that be a kick? Dianne has nothing but good things to say about my boy. He is looking SO grown up... I can't believe it! He no longer looks like a baby dog.


Well... must get back to work. Less than two weeks left in the semester! Let's see if I survive...