Saturday, September 29, 2018

Exploring for Snacks from Chewy.com

Recently, I found a little backpack for Rye and I couldn't wait to try it out. I wasn't sure what Rye would think about wearing a pack and I didn't want to weigh her down too much the first time she tried it out, so I spent some time thinking about what to put in there. Then I realized the pockets were the perfect size to fit the bag of PetKind Lamb Tripe treats we'd gotten from Chewy.com. Every good adventure scout needs a good trail snack, so we thought these would be a great item for our first outing with our pack.


While the treats were soft, jerky-like strips, there was one line on the packaging that made me skeptical about them. The front of the package says the treats have a "friendly smell," and I know from all of the treats we've tried that the grosser the treats smell, the more the dogs like them--a friendly smell didn't sound like something they'd be as excited about.


And I was right. Rye and I went on an adventure on one of my favorite trails after a barn hunt lesson, but Rye is very jumpy in nature. To keep her calm and focused, we need high quality treats that get her attention. Treats need to be more exciting than squirrels and chipmunks and tasty enough to keep her from thinking about people she can hear but not see when we're on a trail. The PetKind Lamb Tripe treats were not interesting enough to get Rye's attention. She wouldn't turn to look at me when I called her name and unless I stopped her and stuck the treat in front of her nose, she didn't show any interest in the treats.


This was a bit of a bummer because otherwise these treats are perfect. They were easy to break up into smaller pieces and the bag had a lot of big pieces inside, so they were just what I look for when it's time to choose a treat for training. Barley thought they were excellent, though, so she was happy to finish off the bag for us.

Since Rye wasn't crazy about these, I probably won't be purchasing these again just because it's easier to have treats that everyone will eat when I'm walking both dogs. If you live in a multi-pet home, the bag does point out that these are appropriate for dogs and cats. Soth couldn't try them out because of his dietary restrictions, but if I had a normal cat that could eat any protein, that would definitely have been another selling point for these treats, too. Overall, I like the treats, but I'm not the one that has to eat them, so I have to go with Rye's review on these.

Disclaimer: We were given one bag of PetKind Lamb Tripe treats in exchange for our honest review as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program through Chewy.com

Friday, September 28, 2018

Sniffing Out Snacks from Chewy.com

Ever since our scent league ended, Barley has been looking for new opportunities to use her sniffer. Usually, she finds an odor in a box, but this time she found something even better: Stella & Chewy's Wild Weenies. Everyone knows that the best things come in Chewy.com boxes, so Barley knew she'd love what she found in this box.


Right off the bat, I was excited by these. I'm such a sucker for cute packaging and when I went to open the package, I saw that instead of just having a little "tear here" notch, these have a little bone shaped pull over the seal.


Barley was also excited as soon as we opened the package. The Wild Weenies are about the size of a little smokey breakfast sausage and they're all meat, so Barley couldn't wait to dive into them. In fact, they were so appealing to her that when we tried to use them for rewards for finding actual scents, Barley started alerting at every single box in hopes that she'd get one.


If we were judging these just by packaging and the dogs' reactions to these, we'd give them 5 stars. But there were a couple things I didn't love about these treats. First, while they were relatively easy to break up into smaller pieces, they were very crumbly. At home, that's not such a big deal but it automatically disqualifies them from being treats that we can use in class because we can't use anything that's going to leave a trail of crumbs on the floor while we're training. 


The second problem I have with these is the fat content. The minimum crude fat content is 37.0%. I'd honestly never looked at that with treats before--we've always been pretty good at adjusting food based on how many rewards the dogs are getting with training and Barley's a tank, so we'd never had any problems. Unfortunately, though, Rye and I have been working through some training issues, which has required more high value treats than usual, and last week she ended up at the vet with pancreatitis because her pancreas was inflamed and not able to function properly. The vet suspected this was from eating too rich of a diet. To be clear, these treats were not responsible for Rye's pancreatitis, but the high fat content of the treats when combined with all of the string cheese and other high value treats probably contributed to the problem. The vet recommended we stick to foods closer to 10% when it comes to fat. 


For that reason, Barley will get to finish off the rest of the bag since she has a stomach of steel and we won't be getting any more of these treats in the future. I'm sure both of the girls will be sad about that and if there are other Stella & Chewy's options that have a lower fat content, we'd totally buy their products in the future, but these just aren't the right fit for our training needs or for Rye's health needs. 

Disclaimer: We were provided with one bag of Stella and Chewy's Wild Weenie treats from Chewy.com as part of the #ChewyInfluencer program in exchange for our honest review.

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!