Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Welcome to Purgatory

When we first starting competing in AKC agility, we ran into one of our old classmates who had just moved up to Open--the second level--with her dog. She mentioned that everyone told her that Open was also referred to as purgatory because people spent so much time working on getting their three qualifying runs. We laughed about it and I went back to racking up successes in Novice--the first level--with Rye.

It didn't take Rye long to move up to to Open and I was sure we'd be in Excellent--the third level--in no time. It didn't take me long to realize that we had officially entered Purgatory.

We moved up to Open in the Jumpers with Weaves class the first weekend in June. Since then, we've run 9 AKC Jumpers courses at the Open level--and we have yet to qualify once! 

We've been running some beautiful courses, though. As you move up from one level to the next, you're allowed fewer faults. In Novice Jumpers courses, we could get two refusals--where the dog goes past the obstacle and you have to bring them back to take it. We had some clean Novice runs, but Rye also jumps really big and sometimes we needed those two refusals to qualify. 

In Open, you only get one refusal. Now, we're trapped in this two refusal purgatory where on all but one of our 9 courses, we've earned two refusals. In the one course where we didn't have any refusals, Rye dropped a bar, which is an automatic NQ. 

This past weekend, we finally seemed like we were on the same page. She was responsive and collecting well. We also had the kinds of courses that Rye lives for--big flowy courses that have beautiful arcs of jumps where she can run full speed ahead. She didn't go past a single jump, but we still got two refusals thanks to our new nemesis: the weaves.

Rye is a beautiful weaver. But lately she's been struggling with the weaves. Sometimes she struggles with the entrance and that causes mini meltdowns on the course. Rye doesn't like to be wrong. She's eager to please and she really truly wants to do what I want her to do, so when she misses the entrance and I pull her back around to start over (you get three tries--even though if it takes you more than two tries, you get two refusals), she usually starts barking in frustration and sometimes pounces on me. That makes it hard to get a clean entrance the second time. Other times, she enters the weaves beautifully, but pulls out close to the end--usually around pole 10 of 12--and that makes her equally frustrated when we have to start over.

This weekend, she wasn't having quite as much of a meltdown when we'd start over--but it still took all three tries to get the weaves on our first Jumpers course of the weekend. She also wanted to make up her own course, but I was so proud of how she came when I called and got back on track.

Our second Jumpers course of the weekend was even more beautiful. The judge even told us during the briefing that he liked to design flowy courses because he likes to see dogs in extension and having fun. (Yes, I will be signing up for any trial where I see his name on the premium as the judge!) Rye and I were really clicking. In the one spot with some tight turns, she read my cues perfectly and I couldn't have been more proud. But we also took three tries at the weaves.

Rye had the time of her life even though we didn't qualify. To be honest, this weekend, I was having the time of my life, too. I've probably watched each run at least 5 times just admiring the way we were moving together. 

We also spent lots of time connecting in the park across the street.

At the last trial, our judge gave all of the Open teams a pep talk during our briefing. She pointed out that Novice is where your dog is learning the game. Open is where you're learning how to run the dog you have. Excellent and Master's are where you're really a team. She told us to cherish our time in Open because that's where some of the best memories and stories are created. She also mentioned that it took years for her to get out of Open with her own dog (and we know several other people who have taken 2 years or more to get their 3 Qs!). 

Each time Rye and I go out on a course, it seems like we're more connected than we were the last time. I'm learning to anticipate her moves and she's learning to read mine. 

We still have a few moments when we don't communicate well or she gets a little wound up and forgets some things. Like our first Standard course of the weekend. She ran a beautiful opening sequence and then missed her contact on the dogwalk because she was going so fast and I was way too far behind to reinforce her wait at the end. But she got a challenging tunnel entrance after the dogwalk and did her weaves perfectly. She also got a little wound up on the table and pounced on me after bouncing off the table once. The judge was chuckling so much that I could hardly make out the numbers in his table countdown to release us to the next obstacle! 

Thankfully, we have had a little bit of success in Open. While we don't have any Jumpers Qs, we do have 2 of the 3 Qs we need for our Standard title. 

The only Q we earned this weekend, though, was in our Novice FAST course. We're really loving FAST--or Fifteen and Send Time--where there's a distance challenge (or send) that you have to complete, but the rest of the course is made up by the handler. The goal is to get a certain number of points--in Novice FAST it's 50 points in addition to completing the send and you qualify. We've only run in FAST four times, and this weekend we got the third Q we needed to move up to Open FAST. The best part of FAST is that the only fault you get is if you fail to get the send when you attempt it--knocked bars, missed contacts, failed weaves aren't a problem. FAST has given us a chance to get a little of the crazy out before moving on to Standard and Jumpers and Rye loves that I can choose the types of lines she enjoys running. This weekend, we ended up with 64 points and could have gotten more because we crossed the finish line with almost 4 seconds to spare, but we had enough to secure our Q and earn first place.

With weekends like this, Purgatory doesn't seem like such a bad place (although I still don't want to stay for long!). Rye was happy and tired even after the hour-long car ride home.

And I bought a shirt to remind myself that this is really all about having fun. It says, "The best handler in the world is the one whose dog is having the most fun" and has a little stick figure dog bouncing around like Rye. (I also had to get a shirt to wear for Barley outings.)

We have one weekend off and then we'll head off to a CPE trial, so I'm hoping that the slightly more lax rules will give us a chance to build even more confidence and be ready for our next AKC trials in October where maybe I can get a belated birthday present and get our first Open Jumpers Q!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

These Are A Few Of Rye's Favorite Things

Anyone who follows us on Instagram knows that we've been spending an insane amount of time at agility trials since we started competing in March. When we go to a trial, one of the most important things I toss in Rye's agility bag is a variety of high value, easy to break apart treats.

This month, we had back-to-back weekends of agility, so we needed something new to make sure Rye stayed focused on me. Chewy.com had just what we needed: an I and Love and You Nice Jerky Bites Variety Pack. This pack comes with three 4-oz. bags of jerky treats in beef and lamb, chicken and duck, and chicken and salmon flavor. 

When we have multiple flavors of treats, I've always let Barley pick out which flavor she wanted to use for training or to take to class or scent trials. I tried to let Rye decide which flavor she wanted to take along, but she just couldn't decide.

So, I chose. Salmon treats are usually pretty stinky, which makes them especially good for keeping the focus of an energetic little dog, and these were no different. As soon as I opened the bag, I was hit with that strong fishy smell. Rye was immediately interested in what we were going to do.

In addition to being high value, the other most important quality in treats we take to trials is the ability to break them into smaller pieces. We do a lot of focus exercises between runs. Sometimes Rye has to wait as many as 4 hours between runs, so it's important for us to do things during that time that keep her engaged. One of our favorite ways to do that is to make "treat art" and practice Rye's spelling with treats. 

These treats are perfect for that! These treats were soft and easy to break into pieces. I could get each piece into about 6 pieces (and I probably could have made those smaller, but Rye objected to that), so the bags went a long way at the trial. 

Rye really enjoyed these treats--and she wasn't the only one! Barley thought they were swell, too. Any treat that can be broken up easily is great for sticking in our treat pouch for walks. Both dogs have different triggers, but I can't say "what's that?" and give one dog a treat without the other one looking at me expectantly, so I need treats that can easily become multiple treats. 

The one thing I didn't love about the I And Love And You Nice Jerky variety pack was that two of the flavors contain chicken. I usually avoid anything with chicken in it just because there have been so many problems with chicken jerky treats. I And Love And You knows that people worry, though, and their bag advertises plainly that there's nothing scary in these treats. 

I did a little digging on their website and in the FAQ section, they point out that they don't source any of their proteins, fruits, veggies, or other major ingredients from China. They do acknowledge that some vitamins are only available from China, so their cat food blends use a small amount of Taurine that may be sourced from China. There are no vitamin mixes in these treats, though. It's all meat, brown sugar, natural hickory smoke flavor, and natural preservatives, so I felt ok about feeding these to the dogs. I'd feel even better if the chicken was eliminated completely and I did limit the number of treats I used per day when we were using the chicken varieties just in case. 

Overall, these treats are really nice! The dogs loved the flavors and they were perfect for my needs with training. You can also order individual packages of the Nice Jerky Bites on Chewy, so I will probably just order the Beef and Lamb bites since those are the proteins I'm most comfortable giving the girls. They'll be very excited when they see another bag showing up in our next Chewy order!

Disclaimer: We were sent an I and Love and You Nice Jerky Bites variety pack in exchange for our honest opinion as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program.

Monday, August 27, 2018

What We Do For Love

It's no secret that Soth is my heart. He's the first pet of my adult life. He was by my side during my first post-grad school job. He moved across the country with me. He was with me when I bought my house. He's been there for all of the biggest moments of my adult life.

It's also no secret that loving him isn't easy. We spent years trying to get his FLUTD under control--and as a result, we spent hours every month deep cleaning carpets and we saw the wonderful staff at our vet's office more than we saw our family.

But I love him. And when you love someone, you do things you might not normally do.

Like sacrifice some of the containers for your herb garden for catnip plants because that makes him happier than anything else you've ever done for him.

Or stay snuggled up on the couch under a blanket even though you have a lot of work to get done because you don't want to disturb him.

Or scribble out algebra equations and do conversions of decimals into fractions even though when you got your AP Calculus results and learned you didn't have to take math in college you vowed you'd never do math again.

But that's just what I found myself doing early last week. Soth had his 10-month post-cystotomy evaluation on Tuesday. He's been on potassium citrate since his 4-month evaluation, which has gotten his pH levels exactly where we want them for the last two check ups. We've been getting the potassium citrate from our local Wal-Mart pharmacy, but it's expensive and it comes in a pill form that I have to crush every day to mix into Soth's food because that's the only way he'll take it. It's also expensive. I got proof that the internet stalks me when I saw an ad for a potassium citrate powder with cranberry on Chewy.com. It's about 1/3 of the price of the pill form, so I printed the details to take to our 10-month appointment to see if our vet thought it would be a good option for Soth. After she did a little research, she said we could try it--but the dosage in the serving size of the powder is different from the pill, which meant I had to do math. The powder comes with a 5 gram scoop, which contains 300 mg of potassium citrate. Soth needs 540 mg, so I had to set up some little equations to figure out how many grams of powder he needed to get that dosage. Then I did some more math to figure out how many scoops that would be--and then I promptly found a sliding measuring scoop that will allow to me measure anything from .5 grams to 13 grams so that I can avoid ever doing math for this again!

I guess it's ok, though, because Soth does a lot of things out of love for me, too.

Like pose for pictures to tweet to the Pittsburgh Pirates announcers every single Pup Night.

Cats like Pirates, too.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Snacks Worth Working For

Summer is not Barley's favorite season. She turns into a couch potato as soon as the temperatures climb above 70. If I want her to work outside, I need something worth working for. Our friends at Chewy.com had just what we needed: Blue Stix from Blue Buffalo.

Blue Stix are pepperoni-style treats, so they are long, soft sticks of treats. These are my favorite style of treat and this particular brand is one that I feel good about using because of the ingredients. We got the lamb flavor Stix and the first ingredient is lamb. They're also filled with other yummy things like sweet potatoes, blueberries, carrots, and apple. 

Barley definitely thought these were worth working for (even though she was pretty sure she should just get some for being cute).

The reason I love pepperoni-style treats so much is because they are so easy to train with and these Blue Stix are no different. It's easy to grab a couple of the Stix, toss them in my pocket, and then break them into many tiny treats. Any time we have a treat that can turn itself into many treats, I'm happy!

These treats were tasty enough that Barley was willing to do a few short agility sequences on a sunny, summery day in exchange for them. But she was really excited to use them for a quick game of noseworks.

She found the treat hidden behind the planter almost immediately.

And she was so excited to get another bite of Blue Stix that she was not going to waste any time going around the patio furniture to get it the easy way!

Can't quite reach!

These treats are also great for walks. As I've mentioned elsewhere, Rye and I have been struggling with a little reactivity on leash--mostly when she sees Jeep Wranglers (yes, my dog is neurotic) and cats. The best way to keep her from having meltdowns is to just keep shoving treats in her mouth while we pass the trigger (or it passes us). I was able to break up the Blue Stix into enough pieces that I could keep her sitting calmly while a Jeep passed or keep her focus on me while we walked by a yard with a cat in it.

I have no complaints about these treats and I don't think the dogs do, either! We added these to our next autoship order as soon as our bag was finished, so we're going to continue to enjoy these treats in the future.

Disclaimer: We were sent one bag of Blue Buffalo Blue Stix in lamb flavor in exchange for our honest opinion through the #chewyinfluencer program from Chewy.com. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Gaining Everyday Skills through Dog Sports

The majority of our training falls into two categories: reactive dog training and dog sports. This summer, we've spent almost all of our time in the dog sports world between barn hunt training with both dogs, scent league with Barley, and agility trials with Rye, so I was excited when we decided on the theme of dog sports for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop this month.

When I first got into dog sports, Barley and I never had any intention of competing in anything. Our reactive dog trainer had suggested taking a beginning agility class as a way to get Barley's brain working in a new way when she was around other dogs. When we started noseworks, we had a similar goal--get Barley to think more with her nose than by scanning the environment looking for other dogs. Even though we've shifted our focus towards more competition, especially with Rye, dog sports still give us a great chance to learn skills that help us in our daily life and with our reactive dog work.

One of the first things our first agility trainer taught us is that agility is 85% obedience. Yes, the dogs have to learn to jump and use the other equipment, but it is impossible to complete a course with a qualifying score without a strong obedience foundation.

When Barley and I first started, we did very little work with actual agility equipment in class. We spent a lot of time practicing lead-outs by leaving our dog in a sit-stay and we spent a lot of time practicing come to heel and come to side after we'd walked away. As a result, Barley is really good at paying attention to my hands and my eyes and coming to specific sides. This makes running courses with her a breeze because I know if I stick my arm out, she's going to come to the exact spot I want her to come to.

This is right where you want me, right?

Rye's first trainer had a different approach. We focused more on learning the equipment right from the beginning. Rye is super confident on all of the contact equipment because of this, but she's not as good at reading my cues, so a lot of times she takes a slightly different path than I've cued, which has occasionally lead to taking off-course obstacles or having a refusal of jump because she's run past it. Now, we're having to work that obedience in, which is a little harder to do--at least for me--once you've got a dog that is very confident that she knows how to do what you're asking of her.

Agility gives us a chance to strengthen our stays, our comes, our leave its, and endless other obedience cues that make our daily life a little easier.

One of the biggest skills we practice in all of our dog sports is focus. When Barley and I started agility, the goal was to get her to focus on me and doing the tasks I'd asked her to do instead of focusing on the other dogs. When we started noseworks, the goal was to get her to think with her nose instead of always scanning the environment looking for other dogs. The more we've practiced those behaviors, the more focused she's become on me instead of on other dogs. She's always aware of where other dogs are and what they're doing, but she'd much rather watch me and hope she's going to get a snack than watch the other dogs now.

Dog sports give us a safe environment to practice reactions to distractions. In agility, there are bar setters, leash runners, and the judge moving around the course while you work. There are also timers buzzing and dogs barking. In noseworks and barn hunt, you have a ring crew and a judge, too. These different sports give us a chance to practice staying on task no matter what's happening around us. 

My favorite part of dog sports is the connection it helps me build with my dogs. When Barley and I started reactive dog training, our trainer told me that we were going to make a really excellent team. That changed the way I thought about our relationship. She isn't just something I own. She isn't my furry child. She's my teammate and we both depend on each other for different things, and when we work together, magic happens. When I first got Rye, I often wondered if she actually liked me. I knew she didn't dislike me, but it didn't really seem like she really cared if she had me or not. She's far more independent than Barley is and she's perfectly content to nap in a separate room or stay out in the yard watching squirrels by herself. Once we started agility training, though, things changed. When we're on the agility course or in a barn hunt lesson, Rye and I are connected.

That's when I know she likes me and wants to spend time with me--she just doesn't really want to show me she likes me by snuggling or gazing longing into each other's eyes like Barley does. If we didn't have dog sports, I'm not sure I'd ever have figured out that my little dog is glad I adopted her! It definitely would have taken us longer to get to that point.

Dog sports are also a great way to socialize your dog. We've had the same group of amazing agility classmates for years. That's gone a long way in helping Barley feel relaxed in the presence of other dogs during high energy situations. Barley might not want the other dogs to sniff her, but she's ok with sitting a few feet away from them and lets me give certain dogs in class a treat (as long as I give her one, too!) while they sit calmly near each other. Rye, who wouldn't let my brother (someone she'd met before) touch her when we first got to my parents' house last Christmas, wants to meet all of the other handlers when we're at a trial. She waits nicely while I talk to people. She lets people pet her. I'd think this was just because they had snacks, but when we first started obedience training, we were with the same trainer for 12 weeks and she ducked away every time our trainer tried to pet her during the "Can I pet your dog?" exercise where the dogs were supposed to sit calmly and not jump up to meet the person saying hi. There's something about the agility environment that makes Rye feel confident and the more positive interactions she has with people, the braver she's going to be in the rest of the world.

It was about 7 years ago now that Barley and I took our very first agility class. I'd never thought about doing dog sports before. I'm not sure I'd ever even thought about dog sports at all. I'm not even entirely sure how I knew what agility was or that it was something a shelter dog could do--I certainly hadn't heard of noseworks or barn hunt. Now, though, I can't imagine our lives without dog sports. They have given us so much fun and laughter, so much pride (with a little heartache and embarrassment mixed in), and so many opportunities to practice skills that we use in our daily lives.

Join us and our co-hosts Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop. This month, our theme is Dog Sports, but we welcome any positive training posts. The hop opens the first Monday of the month and lasts all week!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Confronting Fears with the Thundershirt

I've got one dog who is unfazed by fireworks and one who is only interested in them if they're in cookie form. Our house is about half a mile from where fireworks are set off in town and our neighbors are quite fond of setting off some of their own as well, so July is a long month for my Barley girl.

When our friends at Chewy.com asked if we'd like to try the Thundershirt, I hesitated for a minute. We'd actually purchased a Thundershirt several years ago because we were visiting my parents during a particularly stormy period. When we'd tried it on a beautiful sunny day so that Barley didn't immediately associate it with scary things, she had shut down and refused to take a step while wearing it and she wouldn't take treats from me until I took it off her. We returned it the same day because they're not cheap and I couldn't see the point of keeping it for a stormy day if she hated it so much.

But I decided that this might be a better time to try the Thundershirt. For one, we were going to be in our own house while trying it instead of traveling. Also, we hadn't tried it for fireworks and the Fourth of July was quickly approaching. 

When we got home from our trip to my sister's on July 2, the Thundershirt was waiting for us. My neighborhood started shooting off fireworks days before the actual holiday, so we immediately pulled it out of the box and tried it on. 

The first thing I noticed is that they've changed the design since our last try. The Thundershirt is in some light, breathable, moveable material that reminds me of my favorite jersey dresses. They've also changed from boring grey to blue or pink--we were sent a blue one. The insert in the packaging provided illustrated instructions on how to fit the Thundershirt, but I still struggled a little bit with fitting it. Part of that is because Barley is oddly shaped with a tiny head, a huge neck and chest, and a teeny tiny waist, so the very end of the shirt was really loose and kept flipping up further on her back. Part of that is because Barley wasn't thrilled with being dressed up and I think she held her breath to keep me from getting a good fit around her middle. Another part of it is that there are three flaps that you have to wrap around the dog and the inner flap kept going to the wrong side, so I was trying to keep Barley still and readjust the straps so I could velcro them.

We also had a little thunder early in the month. Normally, Barley panics at the first sound of thunder, but I actually got her to go out long enough for a bathroom break while she was wearing the Thundershirt. 

But did the Thundershirt really work? Yes and no. When there were sporadic fireworks or far-off thunder and Barley had the Thundershirt on she'd stay in the room with me instead of hiding under the bed or in the bathroom. She wasn't her normal happy, wagging self. We tried to practice noseworks one day and she refused to sniff anything while wearing the Thundershirt. But the fact that she wasn't in hiding was a pleasant surprise to me. 

She often hangs out on the cooling mat while I cook, but usually she watches me to see if anything will drop.

When there was a big storm or fireworks going off more consistently, Barley was back under the bed. Of course, this meant that I didn't sleep much at all because I didn't want her wearing the Thundershirt all night long, so I'd half sleep and wait for her to come out in the middle of the night so I could tackle her and take the shirt off her before she decided to go back under the bed.

The insert in the box mentions that dogs might have an adjustment period where it takes several uses to see any difference and also includes some tips for helping your dog embrace the Thundershirt, but we've tried the Thundershirt several times a week all month and haven't really seen much difference except for during minor storms and sporadic fireworks. Thankfully, when Barley is bothered by the storms, she does seem content to just go under the bed or in the bathroom and sleep until it's over. Since she's not destructive or hurting herself, I can live with her napping through storms and fireworks (honestly, I am pretty content to nap through storms myself). 

Overall, the Thundershirt was relatively easy to put on, it was easy for Barley to move in, and it didn't seem to make her hotter even during the heatwave we've had, but I don't think it's quite the right solution for Barley. I did put it on Rye when she was having a conniption fit over a squirrel she could see through the window. Our shirt is a large, so the neck was a little loose on Rye, but the body of the shirt fit her well when wrapped as tightly as the velcro would allow. As soon as the shirt was on her, she settled right down and watched the squirrel quietly from her perch. 

We'll continue to try the Thundershirt for Rye's squirrel-induced excitement to see if that was just a coincidence or if the Thundershirt really did help calm her down. I'm happy we had the chance to really try out the Thundershirt because I've spent the past several years wondering if I should have given our original one more of a chance.

Disclaimer: We were provided with one Thundershirt in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program for Chewy.com. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Nights One and Two of Our First C-WAGS Scent League

Since Rye and I have been spending so much time at agility trials, I've been trying to find ways to get Barley a little more solo time. When I saw that our friend's training center was offering a C-WAGS scent league, I knew that we had to sign up. A scent league is similar to a bowling league. It lasts for a set amount of time--ours is 6 weeks--and each week the same dogs show up and complete one search each. Since Barley had earned her Level 1 title last year, this was a good opportunity to try out Level 2 for the first time.

There were two choices for the league: Sunday mornings or Monday nights. Since I had plans to visit my sister and go see Reba McEntire on the first Sunday and Rye was already registered for some Sunday agility trials, we chose the Monday night league. We were leaving my sister's house in Virginia the morning of the first night, but we were all set to get home with plenty of time to unpack the car and stretch our legs before heading to the league. 

Unfortunately, the universe had other plans.

About halfway through our trip, the a/c quit working. I wasn't too concerned about it. The temperatures were close to 100 the whole time we were in Virginia and that day was in the 90s--my little Ohio car has not had to deal with that kind of heat often, and I figured she was just tired. We rolled down the windows and I made a mental note to call and make an appointment to get that fixed on Monday.

Then about an hour and a half from home, we went through a toll plaza and my car stalled. I thought maybe I'd just let the clutch up too early, which surprised me because I didn't think I'd done that, but I turned the car back on and she came back to life. But another mile or so down the road, she kept getting slower and slower and the engine temperature, which had been fine, had suddenly skyrocketed. I had to pull over.

After waiting for an hour for AAA's tow truck to arrive, we got towed to Firestone. I was panicking the whole time because the dogs had to stay in the car for the short tow. The windows were partially down, but we'd already been hot from sitting on the side of the road with no a/c for an hour. Even if the dogs had been allowed in the tow truck, though, there was no way Rye was going to ride that close to the tow truck driver. She was doing her best to make sure he didn't get anywhere near the car while he was hooking it up. 

The adventure continued with the Firestone crew saying they couldn't have my car ready that day, but they called to book a rental car for me. We quickly realized, though, that the rental company probably wasn't going to be very excited about the dogs hopping in their transport van or a rental car, so I had to trust my gut and leave the dogs in the Firestone office while I went to get a car. Despite Rye's meltdown over the tow driver, both dogs were quickly enamored with the whole shop, so I just held my breath the whole ride to the rental and booked it back to Firestone as quickly as possible.

Instead of dropping Rye off at home, we had to go straight to the scent league. Luckily, we made it there right as they finished the Level 1 searches, so we had plenty of time to check in, go to the Level 2 briefing, and then we were the second dog up in Level 2. Barley was so excited to be out of the car that she sniffed every single container and object thoroughly. Her alert is so subtle that I couldn't tell which ones actually held the odor, so I called two false alerts. In C-WAGS, you can have one fault, so we failed.

Week 2 was much better, though! We practiced more throughout the week and we had a completely uneventful day leading up to the scent league. Barley found the first odor really quickly. Then I had another false alert, but we quickly found the second odor after that and got our first leg of Level 2.

In C-WAGS, you have to have 4 qualifying scores to move up to the next level, so we're 1/4 of the way to Level 3 now! 

Barley was so proud of herself and we both loved having a little one-on-one time. We decided to extend that happiness a little longer with a short walk at the arboretum to celebrate.

We can't wait to see how things go next week!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Welcome Gladys

My sister has been a foster for the rescue that brought her dog Maddux to her for years. Recently, she became a foster failure when she officially added Gladys to her family. Gladys' adoption came shortly before the dogs and I had planned to visit my sister to see Reba McEntire. While I was super excited to meet my first niece, I was also nervous about how the dogs Barley would react to having a new cousin.

Thankfully, my sister is super understanding about my crazy girl and was willing to go along with whatever crazy plans I had for introducing them. When we arrived at her house, I sent Rye out in the backyard with Gladys and my sister. Rye loves other dogs, but she doesn't do well with seeing them when she's on-leash--even if there's not an official greeting. While Rye and Gladys romped around, Barley and I unloaded the car and set up her crate. 

Sometimes Rye decided to back Barley up if Barley is upset about another dog, so I didn't want to overwhelm Gladys with both dogs right away, so when the playful pups were tired, we brought them in and put both of them in crates. 

Since Barley had done well with meeting Rye while Rye was in a crate, I thought that would be a good approach with Gladys, too. Barley hardly even noticed that Gladys was there! She ran to the basket of toys, found my nephew's treat ball, and started to play. Then we took Barley and Gladys on a walk together so they'd have some time to move near each other, too. They walked beautifully together. When we were just relaxing, Barley was not happy if Gladys approached her and she'd growl and bark at her as soon as she got a few feet away. Then Rye would start barking, too. Luckily, everyone in the house was good about reminding Gladys not to get too close and I kept Barley on leash any time all of the dogs were in the same room. By the end of our visit, Barley would nap on the chair while Gladys played with her toys a few feet away. 

Even though they weren't best friends by the time we left, I was so pleased with how well they did. It took weeks before Barley would relax near Rye while she was in a crate--and that was with multiple daily "please love your new sister" training sessions. The fact that Barley would take a nap while Gladys moved around was amazing to me.

Rye loved having a new playmate. At first, Gladys wasn't quite sure what to think of Rye bouncing around the yard, but they found their groove pretty quickly.

Play mostly came in quick bursts because it was in the high 90s and humid every single day we were there, so there was a lot of darting under the big tree or resting in the shade to cool off. 

When all three dogs were around each other, Rye still mostly chose to stay near Barley, but Rye thinks Gladys is the perfect addition to our family! And I couldn't agree more--I'm so excited to have a niece and I can't wait to spoil her rotten!

Monday, July 9, 2018

A Perfect Day

This summer has been filled with so many activities that there just haven't been enough hours in a day to actually blog about everything we've been doing, so over the next few days we'll be trying to play catch up since I'm sure one day I'll want to look back and refresh my memory on everything.

This past weekend, Rye and I entered our fourth CPE agility trial. Our usual venue didn't have any CPE trials on the calendar between May and September, so we decided to check out another venue a tiny bit farther away that a lot of people we'd met at our first 3 CPE trials really loved. I'd heard that this venue was much smaller, so I wanted to get there extra early to snag a decent spot for our crate. 

Of course, things never go as planned. We left the house in time to get to the trial site a good 30 minutes before the morning briefing, so I was confident that we'd be there in plenty of time. I typed our location into my Waze app and it's pleasant pop star voice sang each turn and exit to us the whole way there. Then suddenly we were going through a cute downtown and residential area and I was sure Waze had led us astray. I hadn't seen any images of the outside of the building when I'd used Google Maps to make sure this was a reasonable drive for us before entering, so I expected it to be like the other facilities we've been to, either a big warehouse type thing or a sports complex. There were several old, big brick buildings that looked like they could be breweries or loft apartments, but certainly not an agility gym. I didn't see any sign for an agility facility, either, so we drove until we got to a spot we could pull over and check the address. The website for the facility was the same one Waze had used, so we tried again and I inched through town. Still nothing. I decided to try my Apple Maps app. The same thing happened, so I pulled into an empty parking lot of one of the brick buildings that had an address a couple numbers off from the agility facility. I looked up and in the second-story windows was the name of the place we were going. But there was no visible door. It took another few minutes to find the actual door and where everyone else was parked. We'd gone from getting there long before the morning briefing to arriving 5 minutes into the briefing.

I rolled down the windows for Rye and rushed inside to see if there was a spot for our crate--and it was not looking good. They were also ending the morning briefing and getting ready to start the walk-thru for the first course. I did a quick walk-thru and then grabbed our crate from the car and squished it in in the only spot left that I could find and one of the busiest spots in the building--right in front of the results table. Thankfully, Rye doesn't mind a lot of activity around her, so I think I was the only one that was stressed by the amount of activity around us.

Our first course was Full House. This is a game that's all about getting points. There's no set course and you have a certain amount of time to get as many points as you can; for 16-inch dogs, that's 30 seconds. You also have to complete a certain number of different types of obstacles. Certain obstacles like contact equipment, weaves, and big jumps like the double are Jokers, which count for 5 points, and tunnels and panel jumps are circles, which count for 3 points, and then regular jumps are 1 point. You have to get at least 3 single jumps, 2 circles, and one joker as well as meet the minimum number of points for your level. This was our first time trying it, so we needed to get 19 points total for level 1. Rye was a little wild and didn't do exactly the course I'd planned out in my mind, but we ended up getting 31 points to qualify and end up in first place.

The next course was Standard. I really liked the course when I looked at the map. There weren't many traps where Rye might make some choices and take obstacles I didn't want her to take. We've been struggling with our start-line-stay at trials recently, though, so I haven't been able to get any distance at the beginning of a course and I've had to start with her. That means that I'm behind her for almost every single course. On this course, the one trap was going from the A-Frame to the last obstacle. The A-Frame faced an off-course jump and the actual final jump was kind of hidden between one of the columns in the middle of the building. I didn't get to where I needed to be quickly enough and Rye decided to go with the jump in her sightline. We got 5 faults for that, so even though we finished 18.12 seconds faster than the other dog that qualified, we ended up in second place. I was still really proud of how Rye did, though!

Our third course was Colors. I don't know why, but I really like this game. In Colors, there are two courses to choose from and they have to overlap a couple times. When I looked at the course map, I knew I wanted to do the circle course. The other one looked fun, too, but the circles were just a nice figure 8 and we practice figure 8s in class all the time, so I felt really confident going into that course. Colors courses are pretty short--this one was only 11 obstacles--so they always go quickly, but Rye was on fire for this one. She read me perfectly and we finished the course in 14.42 seconds! 

Our fourth course of the day was Snooker. We hadn't ever tried this CPE game, either. When I read the description of this one in the rule book, I had no idea what the game was supposed to be, so I watched it during our first two trials to figure out out. Snooker is a two part game. There are 4 red jumps on the course, so in part one, the goal is to go over one red jump and then a non-red obstacle, a second red jump and a non-red obstacle, and then a third red jump and a non-red obstacle. Once you've done those six obstacles, there's a 6-obstacle sequence you try to get through. To qualify, you have to get through the first part and have at least the minimum amount of points for your level. Each red jump is worth 1 point and then the non-red obstacles are worth whatever number of points is beside them on the map (which is also the order you do them in for the mini-sequence in part two). I had a plan for this course, but Rye was ready to rock and roll and she jumped really big after our second red and I had to think quick and readjust the plan. On the map below, my original plan is in blue, starting with the left jump at the bottom of the map and what we actually did is in pink. Rye's plan actually got us more points than my plan, too, so we qualified with 43 points. 

Snooker was really intimidating to me the first couple times we watched it, but it was actually a really fun game. We're looking forward to trying it again at the next trial!

Our final course was Jumpers. Once again, I got way behind Rye and she ended up taking one jump twice because of that, but we still qualified with the 5 faults for that. We ended up having a perfect day by qualifying in all 5 of our courses! With our Q in Jumpers, we can move up to Level 3 for future trials and we're now in Level 2 for everything else. 

We had a really fun day together. It really felt like Rye and I were clicking. Each trial, we seem to become a stronger team. I'd really like to get our start-line-stay back so that I can start out ahead of her, but right now, she seems to need me to start with her and that's ok--we'll keep working on it. 

We ended the day with a book and a rye IPA and then turned in early. Such a successful day wore us both out!

We've got our next AKC trial coming up and after the fun we had at this trial, I'm really looking forward to getting back out there!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Rye, A Story of Loose-Leash Walking

When I got Barley, I thought loose-leash walking was one of the easiest things to train. Barley has always liked to just be near me--even when she was snarling at other dogs, she was almost always doing it right at my side. We'd do a quick little refresher each spring when the squirrels came back out and then wouldn't think about it again for another year.

Even when the snow is coming down and it's her favorite time to walk, she doesn't want to be far from me.

When I got Rye, I learned that loose-leash walking is a HUGE challenge. Most people that know Rye think that she's a really excellent loose-leash walker. In our first obedience class, we were working on different heeling patterns and our trainer said, "I'd kill for that kind of focus from my dog." In classes, Rye walks beautifully at my side and she watches me to see if we're changing direction or stopping.

On actual walks, though, she turns into some sort of monster. She strains at the end of her leash. She lunges after squirrels, chipmunks, cats, and cars. Heel is a word she acts like she's never heard. Normally, I'd think it was the fact that we were outside with distractions, but she's perfect and responsive when we walk around the grounds at agility trials. There's just something about an actual walk that turns her into a different dog.

Rye's leash is usually so tight you could hang clothes on it.

Walking with Barley has always been my way to find my zen. Walks with Rye have kept us from achieving that peace because I've spent so much time battling with her over loose-leash walking. We'd either need a pound of treats to convince Rye that she needed to stay at my side or I'd end up getting really frustrated every single time we left the house as we continued to fail at loose-leash walking. Neither one of those options really worked for me, so we needed a new approach.

Every dog is different.
For Barley and me, walking is the way we connect. We literally gaze lovingly at each other as we trot down the sidewalk. For Rye, walks are a way to connect with the world. At agility trials, she knows she's there to work with me, so those walks serve a different purpose than walks in our neighborhood or on a trail. When I finally accepted that Rye didn't want to bond with me on walks, I started making some changes.

Change the rules.
For Barley, loose-leash walking was equivalent with heeling. We also used the leash clip to evaluate the loose leash because when we got our Canine Good Citizen certificate, we had to make the leash clip stayed pointed at the ground. Now, I think about it differently. There are some times when heeling is non-negotiable. Rye needs to stay close to my side on busy roads or if we're passing other people. But when we're in a safe spot, there's no reason she can't follow her nose and use her whole leash. I even started occasionally walking her on a long line. What I've found is that when Rye has a little more independence, she doesn't ever pull on the leash. On a long line, she rarely even uses the full length of the line. She also doesn't really check back in with me, but if I call her, she'll come back for a snack before following her nose again. Barley still trots along beside me and she seems to enjoy having a little more space from Rye, too, so walks are a lot happier for everyone when I'm not trying to force Rye to walk right beside me.

Keep things fun.
Since there are times when I do need Rye to walk right beside me, we do still need to practice loose-leash walking in a heel because it is no fun to walk with a dog that's straining on the leash beside you. We try to work in games to practice this when Rye and I are on solo walks or when we're walking at agility trials. One of our favorites is where when Rye starts pulling, I turn into her and change directions; then she runs to catch up to me and when she does, I repeat the process. Usually, after we've done this three or four times, she falls into step with me and walks much better. We also play a game where I encourage her to go out ahead of me by throwing a treat ahead of us and then when she comes back beside me after getting the treat, she gets a snack in heel position. That keeps her focused on me because she's waiting to see when I'll throw the next treat and she learns to check back in with me after getting ahead of me. (But we have to make sure that we're in a safe place because sometimes treats bounce!)

Every now and then, we get two loose leashes at once.

Don't be self-conscious.
The hardest part of loose-leash walking with Rye is that a lot of times we look ridiculous. When we turn the corner from our house, we're on a main road through town, so we see a lot of Jeep Wranglers and mail trucks that cause Rye to react. Four houses into our walk, there's a miniature pinscher who lounges in a window and barks at us, which causes Rye to meltdown. When we're playing the change direction game, we look crazy. We'll walk three steps and then turn around, walk four steps in that direction and turn back around. It can take us 10 minutes to walk by four houses with all of our turning around. I hate having attention drawn to me and on a busy road there are a lot of opportunities for people to see us walking like we have no idea where we're going. But I just try to remind myself that they are also watching when Rye is lunging at Jeeps or the min pin in the window and if we're going to draw attention to ourselves, I'd much rather it be because I'm training my dog than because my dog is acting a fool.

Be consistent.
When Rye and I walk by the min pin's house every day, there are times when we can make it down the street without having to change direction more than once or twice. I often find myself thinking that it would just be easier if we went the other way out of our driveway and avoid that block altogether. Sometimes when I have both dogs, we do avoid that part of the neighborhood just because it's a lot harder to work on the training with two dogs, but when I find myself thinking that with Rye, I try to plan routes that will take us by that house twice so we can get in a little more practice. That's when I really start to see improvement with her and sometimes that transfers to walks with Barley.

Loose-leash walking has not been an easy road for us. I've had to reevaluate the purpose of our walks and redefine what I'm looking for when I'm thinking about loose-leash walking. After doing that, walks have become more enjoyable for the whole family even if we do occasionally still have moments of frustration. 

Be sure to visit Wag 'n Woof Pets and Tenacious Little Terrier, our co-hosts for the Positive Pet Training Blog Hop, as well as all of the other bloggers joining us this month! Our theme for July is Loose-Leash Walking, but we welcome any positive training posts.

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