Wednesday, December 9, 2009

To Each According to His Need

Thank you Melinda for sharing that lovely phrase with me. I wanted a lot of Qs this weekend. I needed some perspective.

The ICDOC December trial is my favorite. I really love it because it is ours. I think we do a great job and I have so much fun. It was the first agility trial I entered and we got a Q the very first time we ran. We got a jumpers Q first run this weekend and finished our Novice Jumpers Preferred title. (I will NOT say "finally.") Jazz and Coach both came to the trial and both of them were great. Jazz stayed with me and we ran many smooth, almost perfect runs. We only qualified once. I was so disappointed and discouraged and lots of other "dis" words. I actually told Jazz that maybe I'm just not good enough to compete in standard. I am a fool.

I feel like we work and work and don't accomplish anything. Poor me - get out the tiny violins. The fact is that we have accomplished a lot. We started with no idea about any of this and a dog that NEVER came when he was called. He would run with me for a while if it was fun and then run everywhere else because he felt like it. I would holler, clap my hands (OK Jayne - I still do that some times,)wave my arms around, and generally act like a goof. We have become a team. Maybe not a first place, MACH team, but a team. When I can forget about my compulsive need to succeed, I remember that we have fun.

Did I say fun? Remember that? The reason I love dog agility is the fun of it. I love the fact that some kind soul invited hundreds of dogs and people to a great big party and I get to come. Not only can I come to this great party, but I get to bring my dogs! Wow! I love watching people run and cheering them on. I love trying to figure out the courses and run them smoothly. I love the feeling when I look over and Jazz is right there with me. (OK - I hate the sound of those stinking bars dropping. I hate that a lot!) I don't get as much fun out of qualifying badly as I do out of failing to qualifying but running well.

Did you notice that I said "failing" to qualify? That is my problem. I don't want to fail. I feel ashamed to be in novice after years - yes years - of trying to complete novice standard. I get all these negative things going. I need to learn to enjoy the moment. I need to get past caring about the titles and remember to care about the good things.

The other thing I need to remember is that I don't really work that hard at this. I train one day a week, sometimes two. I play with my dogs and love them, but I don't have weave poles in my living room. (I did have a table for a while, but it really was too big.) I work as hard as I want to and I have fun doing it. I am not willing to work hard enough to be great at this. If I really wanted to be great, I would probably have to go get a Border Collie or a Sheltie. Then I would have to live up to the dog's expectations. You know those dogs - they stare at you all the time. YIKES!

I started agility because it was fun. It is good mental and physical exercise for me and the dog, and I like the people who compete. Those things still apply. My dogs both make me laugh and both of them like to run around jumping and climbing things. I work as hard as I want to. If qualifying becomes important enough, I will work harder. I have a very demanding job and lots of hobbies besides the dogs. I need variety. I need to remember to have fun.

So I will remember to laugh more. I will stop feeling sorry for myself because I made a mistake. I will not turn this game into a job. I will keep my perspective or I will ruin this wonderful sport for myself and my dogs. I got exactly what I needed this weekend and I had a great time.

Thanks to all my "dog" friends. Remember to laugh.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Things I Learned Last Weekend

Jazz and I were at the NADAC agility trial in the Quad Cities last weekend. I don't know if he learned anything, but I learned a lot!

I took Coach on Saturday to get him some experience with the noise and confusion of an agility trial. He was totally confident. He never appeared hesitant or confused at all. He waited nicely for me to release him to come through the door, sniffed and was sniffed with no fear, and greeted all people with enthusiasm and affection. He had a great time inside and waited quietly in his crate in the car. It was a really great start for him!

I also learned that a Nissan Sentra is just never going to be big enough for both Samoyeds and all the junk I bring to a trial. It was really ridiculous trying to get everything in the car. More on that later!

I got some great coaching and tips from Cynthia during novice walk throughs. Her rule of thumb is that rear crosses should happen closer to the obstacle you are leaving and front crosses closer to the obstacle you are going to. I talk about the dog's light bulb moment, this one was one of mine.

I learned to scribe for NADAC. It was fun, but I don't like scribing for courses with contacts because I have to watch the judge and cannot watch the dog run. It's more fun when the judge sits next to you and tells you what the deductions are so you can watch the dog part of the time.

The judge commented that he could tell which handlers usually ran AKC because they overuse front crosses. His comment was that NADAC courses flow better than AKC and need fewer front crosses and more rear crosses. I don't know if this is true, but it is an interesting observation.

I learned something about Jazz last weekend also. (I think it is something I sometimes know and then forget.) Jazz ran clean all weekend, but very slowly. We had many clean runs that failed to qualify because we were slow. I cheered, begged, and pleaded with him to get him moving and nothing worked. People played with him to get him riled up before we went in the ring, but he never ran faster. I checked his movement and felt him all over to be sure he wasn't hurting and he seemed fine. I left on Sunday believing that he is just not that interested in agility, or I am not a very good motivator. On the way home I heard his stomach making some really awful noises. He did not eat a bite all day Monday. He refused to play with Coach and slept in the yard all day. His stomach quieted down Monday night and he has been eating and playing ever since. I learned to trust my dog. He likes to run and he will give me the best he can. The dog that is sometimes accused of not having a "work ethic" ran twelve runs for me with a stomach ache. He even earned his novice hoopers title on Sunday. I hate that I have to be reminded to trust my dog.

So, in one long weekend, I learned that my puppy is confident, my car is too small, my handling and show skills keep improving, and I was reminded that Jazz is a good guy and I need to trust him. Not bad for a weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Agility Weekend - the Good and the Bad

Last weekend was a real roller coaster of good and bad. Jazz and I competed in AKC agility at Muscatine. I didn't really enjoy Saturday at all. I'm not sure why, but it was just a down day. The crating was nice, the facility was nice, and there were real live sheep. Jazz was very happy about the sheep and not so excited about agility. I did every single thing I was not supposed to do. I was too loud, my voice was too high, and I really didn't feel like Jazz and I connected at all. We had terrible runs and I was really feeling like a fool. It was late and dark when we left the trial.

I was driving home and was only about ten minutes from the facility when I suddenly went blind! One minute I was driving along and the next minute the whole world was a blur. It was terrifying. I grabbed at my glasses and there was nothing there. I was so disoriented and confused. I managed to pull over to the side of the road and calm down enough to realize that my glasses had broken. The lenses are tied in with a piece of nylon fishing line. The line broke and the left lens fell out. I tried to tie it in with dental floss, I tried to tape it in with moleskin, and I tried to see if I could drive with my left eye closed. None of these clever plans worked. I thought about calling my daughter to come and drive me home, but what to do about the car? I finally hit on a brilliant plan. I held the left lens in front of my left eye with my left hand. I did this for one hour while I drove home. My left arm cramped, every bump caused my glasses to bounce around in my hand, and it was an altogether miserable experience. When I got home I realized that I have a pair of computer glasses that I can see out of. I don't know why I didn't think of this and have my daughter bring me the computer glasses. Just not my best day.

I almost stayed home on Sunday, but I decided to put on my computer glasses and give it another try. I'm no cream puff! I can rise above adversity! I went to Muscatine. I reminded myself to lower my voice and be calm. Jazz and I went into the standard ring with high hopes. We were a team. We had a really nice qualifying run going. The last three obstacles were in a straight line - weave poles, teeter and jump. We were headed for the weave poles when Jazz stopped. He started sniffing around and I knew what he was thinking. I said no and tried to get him to move. He squatted.... you know the rest. So much for a quick come back! My only saving grace was that I had a bag in my pocket. I was so disappointed. The last run of the day was jumpers and we ran smoothly and together. Jazz did the weave poles first try and all the way through. We finished with six seconds to spare. It was a clean run. I have no idea how we could end up with a qualifying run after such a lousy weekend, but we did. I guess that's why I keep coming back - anything is possible!

We are entered in NADAC agility this coming weekend and I can only hope we have a little more happy and a little less drama. We are bringing the puppy on Saturday. He tends to generate a little drama everywhere he goes. Uh Oh.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Oh Those Ears!

Hi - my name is Coach and I have floppy ears. Hi Coach - we feel your pain.

I wonder if there is a support group for dogs whose ears will not stand up. I did some research on the Internet and it seems that there should be a support group. There are suggestions, questions, pictures, and general agonizing over the state of dogs' ears. Will they stand up, will they bend properly at the tips, will they stay up or wilt during teething, if they wilt will they rebound, and how can we change whatever they do so that they do what we want them to do.

I swore that I would not torture my puppy about ears. I said it was silly and unnecessary. I said that before I had a floppy eared Samoyed. Here is how I handled his floppy ears:

I am embarrassed by how easily I gave in and taped his ears. He hated it and messed with his poor ears every day they were taped.

I would like him to have typical Samoyed ears and have noticed that gravity is his friend. Here he is with a little bit of help from gravity:

This is when gravity really grabs his ears:

The worst part is that I did that to him and I think his ears are floppier after they were taped than before! After the taping:

(He just came in the house and chased his tail for a minute, then went back out the dog door. Huh!?) I love this funny puppy and friends point out that I will be able to tell which Sammy is which by the ears. That's a benefit. Jazz likes him just the way he is. So do I. Floppy ears and all.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Honeymoon is Over

I am a little relieved to see that Coach is not the "perfect" puppy. I would love to see a perfect puppy. Maybe I would even love to have one, but maybe not. Coach has given me "the paw" when I called him, peed and pooped in the house, chewed a rug and then waited until my back was turned to chew it again, and yelped for 25 minutes in his crate at bedtime. Now I know that Jazz was not psycho dog and Coach is not perfect puppy.

This phase of our relationship is actually making me laugh a lot. I finally gave him a hint about the dog door. I will include a film of his early trips in and out. He now blasts through with toys in his mouth and no hesitation. I thought this might make potty training go better. It is helping. I have been standing in cold and rain for a week waiting to reward peeing and pooping. This morning, he interrupted his breakfast to race out the dog door and poop in the yard. Then he ran back inside and finished his breakfast. I was totally flabbergasted and laughed for five minutes!

This afternoon he managed to steal Jazz's favorite toy and tried to come racing inside with it. Unfortunately, the toy in question is really big and the puppy and the toy were stuck in the door. I rescued him and Jazz gave him the funniest look as Jazz walked away with the toy. Again - I laughed a lot.

He will not sleep in the bedroom in the small crate. He sleeps for a full eight hours in a large wire crate in the living room. Whatever works is fine with me. He doesn't make any noise when he wakes up. Jazz comes in to the bedroom and whacks his chin on the bed until I wake up and get the puppy up. That is very sweet and a little strange. The part where Jazz comes over and pokes me to tell me that the puppy is chewing up the rug is helpful, but less brotherly. (Actually - it's very much like my sister did to me at times.) They are beginning to play together. Jazz gets excited and they start to play. Then it seems as though he realizes what he's doing and looks a little embarrassed to be caught playing with Coach. I guess progress is being made.

I think the most fundamental difference between Coach and Jazz is me. I am not nervous about him. Jazz was so sick for so long, that I was always worrying about his health. He couldn't go places or do things for months. Coach is healthy and getting out. I felt guilty about putting Jazz in a crate or leaving him alone. I wasn't sure what to teach him or how. Coach can go in a crate when I want him to and he really doesn't mind. I have a plan for what I want him to learn and how I want to teach it. Hopefully, I will figure out the more advanced exercises on Jazz before Coach gets there. The attention class that Jazz and I took has made a huge difference in how I am training recalls and heeling. My agility friends have helped me learn to let the puppy chase me and tug with me. He is doing very well at those things also. So Jazz is a great dog who didn't have a very good trainer. Coach is a great dog who will have a little better trainer. I guess we'll see how it goes.

Monday, October 26, 2009


He is here. He is the puppy formerly known as Yellow/Orange and his name is Tundra Ice's Put Me In Coach. Call name Coach. (No - I do not think he should be called Player or Coachee. We know who is the pack leader. ME.) He is all things wonderful and a few things annoying. I think you all know what I mean.

He came complete with a cold and coccidia. The coccidia is under control and not a problem The cold is in transition. It would be funny if it weren't messy. He snorkles and sneezes up snot like a small child. He is much better today than yesterday and the vet who examined him Sunday was thrilled with him. He told me that the puppy behaved as if he had been with me for at least a month. Yippee! I learned so much from all of my friends, including big brother Jazz.

He has been such a good boy so far. He sleeps quietly in his crate all night. He plays and cuddles and naps in nice proportions. Jazz was the first puppy I ever raised. I had no idea how difficult he was, or maybe how easy Coach is. Jazz screamed, threw tantrums, didn't care if he was petted, and was sick for the first two years of his life. Coach loves to be petted and cuddled quietly in my lap for the entire four and one half hour car trip home. He hopped out at rest stops and pounced leaves until he had to pee. Then back in the car and happily settled down. Wow!

He is a real problem solver. He has learned to sit, and he looks at me when I say his name. He comes when he is called. (That is an amazing experience for me.) He has been watching Jazz come and go through the dog door and he is the most patient little guy. First he tried to follow Jazz and got smacked in the nose by the plastic flap. No tantrums and not discouraged - he just sat there and considered that for a while. The next time Jazz went out he ran over and threw himself against the door barking. I really thought that would work, but he jumped too high and hit the door instead of the flap. He sat and thought things over some more. Recently, he touched the flap with his nose. By Jove, I think he's onto something! I could be nice and help him out, but I'm OK with him trapped in the house for a while. Besides, it is really fun to watch him puzzle this out. Again - Jazz had no patience. If he didn't get it the first time he had a fit. It's fun to see such a different learning style. (Also nice not to have to deal with tantrums and total impatience.)

Jazz and Coach are very similar in one area. Both were raised in puppy kennels and needed to be potty trained. (I hate the phrase "house broken." We have enough breakage without breaking the dog. The lamp is the first casualty, but is convalescing nicely.) I keep telling people, first picture me hugging my new puppy and smiling with joy. Then picture me in grubby sweat pants following him around with an enormous roll of paper towels and a spray bottle of bleach solution. So much pee, so little time. He is doing much better today. Maybe it's me that's doing better. Either way, we have only had two small puddles in the house today. Progress is being made. Poor guy, he really had no idea what he was supposed to do.

I was really excited to get a puppy and really nervous about wrecking my lovely life. So far - he is not really causing me too much grief. I am cautiously optimistic. We have a long way to go and I am positive that some of it will be more difficult than a little pee in the living room. So here we go again - hope you all get a chance to meet him soon. He is the next generation of agility boy at my house!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Just Like Christmas Eve

Remember the Christmas Eve feeling you used to get? That amazing excitement? Wondering what you will get until you can hardly sleep? I feel like that tonight. Tomorrow morning I am going to drive to St Paul, Minnesota to pick out and pick up my new puppy! I have been seeing pictures and videos of the six puppy dogs for the last ten weeks. I visited them once when they were just four weeks old, but they didn't have much personality then. Tomorrow I will choose, with the help of the breeder and my friend Betsy.

I think it might be hard to choose. I didn't choose Jazz, the breeder chose him for me, so I am a little curious about how it will feel to choose one. I am certain that any puppy I get will be perfect. I just hope he's healthy. Here is the entire group a few weeks ago so you can see how hard choosing might be.

I need to confess that I am not a big fan of puppies. I love other people's puppies, but the prospect of raising a puppy is a little daunting. They are so much trouble at the start. Jazz is so easy to live with these days. He has the run of the house and yard. He doesn't have "accidents" in the house. He doesn't chew up my stuff. He even walks fairly nicely on a leash. I think I will appreciate him a lot in the next few weeks and months. I hope he will appreciate his little brother.

I just have to concentrate on one hurdle at a time. The first is four hours in the car with a puppy. Maybe I should bring ear plugs.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Peggy's Question

My friend Peggy asks a very good question. What is your favorite part of working with your dog: The "light bulb" moment when your dog understands what you want him to do and does it, or the "dancing with your dog" moment when you and your dog are in perfect harmony as a team?

I have changed my answer to that question almost daily since she asked. I love the challenge of trying to explain to Jazz what I want him to do. He will almost always do what I ask, if he can understand what I'm asking. I get so much joy out of seeing him figure out what I want. That moment when he tests his theory by tentatively offering a behavior is so darn cute! When I say "Good boy" and give him a treat, he is so happy. Each additional time he gets it right increases his confidence. He loves to be right. So I think I love the "light bulb" moment the most.

Then I think about the first time we ran an agility course together. I saw him glance my way to get direction and continue on the course with me. I could not believe he was looking to me without being asked. I felt like I had a dog on a very fine string at the end of my hand. It was a wonderful feeling. We finished the course together and both of us were jumping around and grinning. The more experience we gain as a team, the better it feels. We are learning to trust each other and work together. When it works well it is such a comfortable and sweet feeling. So maybe I like the "dancing with my dog" feeling best.

Finally, I've decided that the two are really part of the same experience. The joy of learning new things is what got me started training Jazz. The fun we have as we learn is wonderful, but would be less exciting if we were not building toward that great teamwork feeling. Each step of the way has been fun and exciting. I didn't think either of us was capable of as much as we have achieved. Every dog person I know keeps repeating the same thing. It's the journey that counts, not the destination.

Which part of the journey is your favorite?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Handler Error

Last weekend we competed in a NADAC agility trial at the Quad City Dog Center. Three of our friends were competing in their first agility trial and it was so much fun to watch. Gary and Lola competed at four inches. Lola is so much fun to watch. She seems to scamper instead of run and is so cute. She did a great job and so did Gary. Next tallest were Kenzie and Joe. Poor Joe had an injured leg and I was afraid he not going to make it, but he did a great job. Kenzie was spectacular. She is so fast, incredibly focused and cute as a button. The tallest of our new agility dogs was DeeDee. Peggy and DeeDee actually got an "ooh" from the crowd when she walked past four obstacles before she turned to DeeDee and asked her to start. Pretty long lead for a novice dog. DeeDee soon showed everyone why the lead is so long - she runs like a bullet. She did a great job and she is so very fast. All three novice dogs were great and I think all three handlers are hooked. It is a great sport.

Jazz and I had another odd weekend. Jazz ran faster Saturday than I have ever seen him run. We didn't qualify because he was too fast. There is no middle ground for us. He started his run and left me in the dust. His usual gait is a goofy, easy gallop. Saturday I was so far behind him that all I could do was run and hope! I could hear Jayne thinking "Run Kathy Run!" The best part of Saturday for me was a 5.22 yards per second jumpers run. We dropped a bar so it didn't qualify, but our normal run time for jumpers is about 3.8 yards per second. The judge told me that she has never seen a Samoyed run that fast. There may be hope for us after all.

Sunday was a slower day. He was a little tired and maybe even a little stiff. It's been a while since we ran NADAC. Six runs a day is a lot of work for him. The real problem on Sunday was his handler. I don't know what was wrong with me. Maybe I stayed up too late watching the Hawks win. I got lost three courses in a row! That is a record for me - maybe a world record for stupid handling. The low point of my trial was when Jazz got so disgusted with me that he went to the judge to complain. I got lost and confused and he started to bark. I think he looked around that ring and saw the judge. She looked like she knew what was going on and so he went over and barked at her. I could almost hear him complaining about his sad life and telling her how well he could run if he had a little direction. I finally got him to come to me and finish the run.

The high point of the trial for us was the last two runs on Sunday. We did a smooth tunnelers run and qualified. The last run of the day was a very nice jumpers run. We finished with six seconds to spare. There is nothing like a qualifying run to brighten my weekend.

Yeah for novice dogs, picking up speed and qualifying runs!

Monday, September 28, 2009

I Really Love This Dog

I really love agility. I really love my dog. I really do! What an agility weekend this was for Jazz and me. We love to trial at the Quad City Dog Center. It is climate controlled, completely enclosed, no horses or dust, and great people. I also love watching runs from the loft. The perspective is great for seeing how a course should "flow."

In spite of all that, it was a very strange weekend. Saturday was our usual wild first run on a standard course. Jazz was out of control and ran around barking. He came back to me and we did run the entire course eventually. I chalked it up to the first run zoomies and too much excitement in my voice. The second run was jumpers and it was a nice course, but a little challenging for me. I had to do two front crosses. (I had to do them because I needed to switch sides and because I am still unable to properly execute a rear cross! Practice, practice, practice.) Anyway - we did the jumpers course, front crosses and all, as if we knew what we were doing. I was completely thrilled. It felt smooth and happy. We finished the course with six plus seconds to spare and no faults. Jazz was very proud of himself and I could not stop grinning. I could hear my friends and teachers yelling in the loft when we finished. It was wonderful! The best part is that I have that run on film. From now on, when I get discouraged, I will watch that film and know that we can do it!

I was still grinning when we got to the trial on Sunday. Jazz was in fine form and seemed to be pretty full of himself. I was determined to stay calm, use my quiet voice and have a great day. We started with standard. The first obstacle was a tire followed by a dog walk. (After that things get a little blurry.) I told him to stay and began to walk past the tire. This is not a long walk and there is no reason why that dog can't stay for 10 seconds! He didn't stay. He went under the tire - apparently because I didn't have my hand up. My hand wasn't up because I didn't think we were starting yet. He went straight up the dog walk and then we reached an impasse. I think he was considering coming back down and I wasn't sure what to do. I finally decided to take him to the other side of the dog walk and continue the course. The judge then said I could take him back and start over. I should have cut my losses and kept going, but I am an optimistic woman. We went back to the start and Mr. Zoomie ran around barking a while before I convinced him to jump through that stinking tire! If you know my dog, you can predict the next part. He refused to walk the dog walk. You know - the one he just trotted over a few seconds ago? Barked some more, finally did the dog walk and I thought we were fine. He did a few more obstacles and then ran around for a while. He was having a wonderful time. I was not. We finally got to the middle of the course and faced the dreaded weave poles followed by the truly evil table. He barked about the weave poles and I just said WEAVE in a very firm, quiet voice. He considered running off, but decided I really meant it and did the silly poles. Then came the table and he was really throwing a fit. He barked, he trotted around sassing me, and he refused to get on that table. I finally convinced him to get on the table. At that point we were eye to eye and he was barking right in my face and refusing to sit. (This all sounds pretty bad huh? But wait - we're getting to the part where I finally felt like a dog trainer.) I calmly reached over, gently took hold of his ruff, looked him directly in the eye and said, "You sit." He jumped and yelped as if I had beaten him, but I am finally on to that little trick. That is not pain, that is a tantrum. I do not like tantrums. He sat. The judge blew his whistle and our fun was over for that run. I looked at that obnoxious dog and told him to come with me. He galloped around looking happy until he realized I was walking away from him. He then dropped into a fairly nice heel and came with me. I put his leash on him and put him in his crate. No treats, no party, no fun. Many people were telling me I should "forgive" him or not hold a grudge. I swear to everyone reading this - I really was not angry. I just don't think I am asking too much when I ask him to get on the table and sit for five seconds.

I have always laughed when people tell me that the dogs "know you can't touch them in the ring." Surprise! I can touch him in the ring any time I want. I understand the rules and I know that if I touch him I will be asked to leave, but sometimes a girl has to take a stand! I apologized to the judge for making a scene in his ring and he was wonderful. He laughed and said that he thought I did the right thing. He even suggested that he waited to blow his whistle until he was sure the dog was sitting on the table. What a great guy!

In case anyone is picturing my poor, abused Samoyed crying in his crate - hah! He was confused, but he is always up for new things. I came back after a few minutes and we went for a walk. He was still looking for the jackpot at the end of a run. He was disappointed there, but he is a very cheerful, forgiving dog. We ran a lovely jumpers course after the "showdown" in standard. I tried to do three front crosses and mistimed the last one. I got in his way and he dropped a bar trying to take the jump from a bad position. He was his usual happy, goofy self. I have no idea what will happen the next time we try standard, but I guarantee he will not get away with making his own course.

The problem I always have with him is that he makes me laugh. (I kept chuckling all the way home on Sunday.) He is such a brat and so silly that it is hard to stay annoyed long enough to make a point. I am very proud of myself for the way I handled his bad behavior. I just knew what I needed to do and I did it. I have often wondered what to do, or second guessed myself, but this was the right way to handle my dog at that particular moment. I wasn't angry, but I can't let him continue to do whatever he wants. I have made excuses for him because he is excited, or because he's a Samoyed, or because he really doesn't understand. I have been positive because I want a happy dog. I want a dog who does this because he is having fun. All of those ideas and approaches are fine, but there comes a time when he just needs to understand who's buying the kibble around here.

We learned a lot this weekend. We had a lot of fun. I really love that crazy dog! I really love agility.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Discouraged but Determined

Jazz and I competed last weekend at the Granger AKC agility trial. We drove up on Thursday evening and stayed in a motel for three nights. We have only stayed in motels a few times and never for three nights. I was a little worried about it, but he was such a gentleman! He was a much better traveling companion than my ex-husband - sorry David. He learned to ride nicely in the elevator and not to pop out as the door opened. We both learned that popping out of the elevator can startle little old ladies. OOPS. He never even considered jumping on the many people who stopped to pet him. He was even polite and reserved with the other dogs that were staying in the motel. It struck me as pretty funny that he walked beautifully in heel position while I lugged suitcase and dog stuff in and out of the motel. He walked placidly at my side when we went for our evening walks. Apparently, the only time he doesn't walk in heel position is in the obedience ring! What's up with that?

The agility part of the weekend was less successful. We did not qualify at all. I was very discouraged. I felt like everyone was zooming along, earning titles and being brilliant while Jazz and I are left in the dust. That was how I felt - the reality is much less dramatic. People learn and grow and try and fail and succeed and try some more. I don't know why I was so distressed by our performance. I need to summarize the good and the bad.

I already mentioned the motel behavior, which was really good. The other amazingly good thing was speed. Jazz is picking up speed with every trial. He ran in all six runs and seemed energetic and happy throughout. I had to remind myself that I have always had to beg him around the course by day two of a trial. This last weekend he ran and jumped and had a pretty good time. We had at least three runs that were very close to qualifying. He finished the weekend with no stiffness and seemed energetic the next day. This is great and I attribute it to better conditioning and Science Diet J/D dog food.

The things we are working on for the future are contacts, weaves and table. We have concentrated on jumpers courses all summer and neglected the other obstacles. Jazz jumped off the teeter before it hit the ground in standard the first day. I think he was surprised that it was a teeter. Some silly handler told him to "walk it" instead of saying "teeter" and the teeter itself had a solid base which looked different than any he has seen. He was very unhappy about the table all three days. He did progressively worse until the day three standard course went completely to pieces at the table. Worse yet - that course had a table and then weaves. Jazz thought he had died and gone straight to agility hell! He stood at the table and barked for quite some time. I was determined that he would not sass his way out of the whole deal. He complained, but he did get on the table, sit, get off the table and weave. By then we were way over time. He decided to help me make up time by blasting out of the tunnel, skipping the contact on the A frame and knocking the jumps down on the way to the finish line. Good heavens!

So there is work to do and I am still feeling a little discouraged, but I love the dog and the sport. What can I do? I will have to keep learning and help him learn also.

Scott County agility here we come!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sick and Bored

I am sick AGAIN!! I don't get sick that often, but I seem to have the virus from hell. We used to call this a summer cold, but I have now been told that this is the flu. When I was a kid, throwing up meant you had the flu and colds involved nose blowing and coughing. Now a cold is the flu - what is throwing up? Anyway - none of it is pleasant and I am very bored with coughing, sitting, sleeping and pretending that I am all better.

This is one of the things I did while coughing.
First I brushed the dog:

Then I used my beautiful new drum carder to prepare the fur for spinning:

Then I used my lovely Babe spinning wheel to make yarn:

Finally - I knitted a lovely coat for Jayne's rat terrier Bridgette (modeled by a friendly bear):

And in a final startling turn of events - the bear showed that I am indeed the alpha bear in my house:

I have got to get out of the house!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Last Obedience until Spring

Jazz and I entered the Des Moines trial last weekend both Saturday and Sunday. I promised myself and him, that qualify or not, we will rebuild our heeling between now and next spring. We will stick to agility in the mean time.

We went into the obedience ring for Novice A on Saturday morning. I felt very calm and relaxed because I decided that if we failed to qualify, I could sleep in on Sunday. If we qualified - yippee! Jazz was mediocre in all of the heeling patterns. He did stay more or less with me, but did his usual lag around the ring about four feet back when the leash came off. He did a great stand for exam. He ran right to me on the recall and I was so excited that I took my eyes off him. He went right on by and galloped over to the ring gate. Bless the judge for waiting a while, because Jazz came back to see why I was just standing there. He sat down on my right side and poked my hand with his nose. I remembered my class teaching and signaled for a finish. He popped right around to a nice finish on the left. He did a very nice long sit and long down. I have taken to staring at him and grinning like a fool while he looks at me. The judge told me this is legal and it seems to help him focus on me. We qualified with a whopping 171! The judge apologized to me for such a low score and I just laughed. I am certain we did not earn any higher than that. It was a fair score for a border line performance. The Des Moines club gives very nice prizes. We got a lovely, handmade, wooden leash hook for third place. How very generous of them!

So - up at 5AM for the drive back on Sunday morning. Sunday was not very good. Jazz did an OK job of heeling on leash and the other exercises were fine. He sat in front after a slow recall and did a very nice finish. Unfortunately, his heel free was dismal. He was fairly tired of the whole thing. He drifted around, stood gawking over the ring gate, and eventually caught up to me for the end of the pattern. The best thing I can say is that I continued heeling at a brisk pace. I am very well trained and can follow the judge's direction. I wish the dog had come with me. Oh well.

The thing that makes me laugh is that I think we have turned some kind of corner. I have been rewarding volunteered attention from him at home and around the show site in Des Moines. If he looked at me and got close, I gave him praise and a treat. He now follows me around the house in heel position. I tell him how smart he is, make him heel a little way and then treat him. Today, I started teaching a "Place" command so he sits down in heel. This is the very first time in his life that he has volunteered to sit in heel and if the treat is slow coming, he sits closer! Hurrah!! Such joy over such a little thing. He is a good boy and will really come along now that I have a training plan. (Or he won't and I'll try another plan!)

Either way - agility here we come and we will keep training.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Small Victories and Big Ideas

Jazz and I did not qualify at the Amana trial this weekend. We entered Friday and Sunday. Friday was our usual terrible heeling. The judge was generous and we only lost 29 points in total. That would have given us a 171 and the barest qualifier you can imagine. I was feeling pretty confident after he managed to stay in a sit position for the whole long sit. (Our only problem in long sits and downs was occassionally laying down.) We started the long down with an English Bulldog named Rufus on our right and the Boston Terrier Reilly on our left. Jazz looked fine and I was really feeling confident. Then I heard a weird noise. It was the strangest sort of whine, strangled grunt, space ship kind of noise, I have ever heard. I finally figured out that the noise was coming from the Bulldog. He then started a froggy, squirmy, land swim in the direction of his handler. If I hadn't been so busy giving Jazz a happy smile and praying he would stay put, I would have been giggling hysterically. The looks on the other dogs' faces, the handlers, and particularly the poor woman that was watching her Bulldog lose his mind were really very funny. I was busy trying to show Jazz how happy I was that he was only watching Rufus and not practicing land swimming. Finally, Rufus got up and walked over to his handler. I saw Jazz wiggle a little and then settle down. I was still looking at him and thinking we had dodged the bullet when he got the most surprised look on his face. I honestly think he had been contemplating the Bulldog and suddenly realized he was laying on a mat across the ring from me. He didn't seem to have any idea why he was laying there, so he got up and wandered over to see what I was doing. I guess I should be grateful he didn't run off, disturb anyone else, or pee somewhere! I think we were about 15 seconds short of qualifying. To quote Charlie Brown - ARGHHH!!

Saturday we went to a focus seminar in Muscatine taught by Nancy Reyes. This seminar was so perfectly in tune with the problems Jazz and I have been having! I learned so much about volunteered behaviors and we worked a good eight hours. Poor Jazz was almost asleep in the practice ring by the end of the day. I had worried about spending the money. Worried about wearing out his patience with another trial day to come. Worried about all kinds of things. It turned out to be so much fun and so helpful!

Sunday we went into the ring and I was feeling the glow from our seminar the day before. I was so much more relaxed in the ring than I have ever been. We began the heeling on leash with Jazz looking intently at my face! Those of you who have this experience in the ring on a regular basis have no idea what a blessing it is. I said, "Jazz heel!" and he did! We heeled a little ways and the judge said halt. Jazz wandered off, but came right back and sat. Again - it's the little things in life that can really make my day!! The very best part was a portion of the heeling pattern where I looked down and saw my dog trotting along, watching me and looking very proud of himself. He came to one nice, straight halt at my side. The joy I felt is ridiculous! He then fell madly in love the lovely young ladies that were the figure eight posts and tried to leave me for them. He did a perfect stand for exam. We got to the off leash heeling and he was kidnapped by the evil hamburger grill that was on the other side of the closed garage door. He just could not stop wondering how to get to the burgers. We weren't able to complete the heeling pattern. We did get the very nicest recall front and finish, but very slow recall. He managed to complete the long sit and down correctly.

I really can't tell you how great I feel about Sunday's performance. For a very short time, I felt the teamwork and sheer fun of heeling with a dog who wants to be there. I am so encouraged. I am marching briskly around the yard and if he falls behind or doodles, I just keep going. He is returning to heel position more and more quickly. I have so much hope.

Des Moines, here we come.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


It seems like only yesterday I was thinking I had weeks to prepare for the end of August and early September obedience trials. My plan was to work very hard to finally master the fine art of heeling. I was certain that I had tried everything. I was wrong. I don't think I ever really made up my mind to teach the dog to heel.

The biggest problem I had with heeling, was my unwillingness to ask the dog to look at me while we were heeling. I felt like I was making him ignore all the "fun" stuff out there and stare at me. It seemed mean or silly. (Don't laugh, I'm just trying to own up to issues that I think many people have!) I decided that Northern breed dogs just don't usually look at people while they are walking. I actually read that. Someone said that you can't expect a Samoyed to look at you while heeling, since he is bred to pull a sled and look ahead all the time. It was a great excuse and I used it for way too long. (I have heard owners of others breeds claim that grabbing your arm while walking is just instinctive in the breed and can't be changed.) It's no wonder we have problems with heeling. (Don't you hate true confessions?)

When I did try to train heeling, I got very confused. There are so many people out there with so many training methods. It's pretty hard to figure out what method to use. I began by trying to do exactly what I was told to do. Unfortunately, some of the methods I was told to use are not ones that I am comfortable with. (I will never be comfortable using a prong collar.) The other problem with all these training methods is that many of them are in complete disagreement with each other. I had a hard time focusing on a method and sticking with it. It seemed to me that I would try something and it didn't work, so I would go through a whole series of different methods or plans. I have no idea how many of them might have worked if I had executed them properly and been persistent.

So I started to really try to work this out. I have been breaking the heel into small parts. I know that at least ten of you told me to do that and I didn't appear to listen. Well, I heard you and am now trying to apply the things you have been telling me. I have worked on the watch command at the start. (Watch - treat - watch - treat. Boring but necessary.) I have worked on starting together. (Jazz heel - treat....) Each little piece. We are making progress. I just noticed that if I say ready, he looks away. I'm sure that has to do with too many trials where the word ready was a signal that I was a nervous wreck and no treats were coming! So there is another little part. (Ready - treat - ready - treat.) We were really doing well at home and I was having fun with it. I have been using a metronome because I discovered that I speed up on the turns - as if we don't have enough trouble! Lots of good productive work and lots of good things were happening.

I was feeling confident until this past weekend when two things happened. The first thing that happened is that I realized August is almost over and the trial is this coming weekend!! The second thing that happened was a run through that was truly terrible! I was feeling so proud of our work and I was looking forward to showing all my classmates how much we have improved. We were awful! YIKES!

One bright spot in all this. I modified Peggy's advice about back chaining the entire obedience trial sequence. She did recalls. Yippee all done, lots of treats!! Then she did heeling pattern, recalls, yippee all done, lots of treats!! All the way back to the beginning. I didn't go that far, but I did start doing recalls at the end of our training sessions. I do them as a kind of grand finale to the session. I am getting much quicker, more enthusiastic recalls. We'll see how that goes in the ring, but it seems to be a good thing for us.

I have decided not to panic. I have promised myself and my poor, long suffering dog that I will not be a nervous wreck at the trial. I broke down and bought hot dogs. I am saving them for trial day. If they don't get his attention and get him interested, nothing will. I have entered two weekends in a row. We will be at the Amana trial on Friday and Sunday and we are entered Saturday and Sunday in Des Moines. I am publicly promising that if I do not get my CD by the end of the Des Moines trial, I will stop torturing myself and Jazz. I will go back to basics and wait to try obedience again until next summer.

I hope to see you all this weekend. Happy heeling.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Life and Death

I guess that's a pretty ambitious title for a silly little blog. I often bite off more than I can chew.

I was thinking the other day that I have been very fortunate. I have a lot of four legged friends. Their lives are so much shorter than ours and I have not lost very many of them so far. I know that will change.

Someone commented that children who become very close to dogs may get their hearts broken when the dog dies. I expect they will. (Adults too.) This person felt that maybe it would be better for the child to have a lesser relationship with the dogs so they are not hurt. I am tired of that kind of thinking about pets and love and life in general!

Every one of us will die some day. My clients often begin an estate tax conversation by saying, "If I die..." Evil person that I am, I always correct them. "When you die..." I think we all need to face death more honestly. I don't want to sit around thinking about it all the time, but I think we could be a healthier society if we were less terrified of growing old and dying. I believe that one of the millions of things our four legged friends teach us is that death is part of the deal. I am willing to have my heart broken any number of times if it means that I can love and be loved by dogs and people.

Stepping down from my soap box. My friend Tootsie died recently. She was a few months younger than Jazz. They had been linked in my mind because I first began noticing Beth and Tootsie at the same time Jazz and I began training and competing in Rally and Agility. The two dogs were of a similar size, so it seemed for a while that it was either Jazz on the line and Tootsie on deck or the other way around. Neither dog started their career as a star, but I know Tootsie was loved for her gentle soul and her extreme good looks.

I just wanted to say goodbye.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Another Agility Weekend

Jazz and I had a great weekend at the Quad City Dog Center. We entered the Ready Steady Go NADAC trial and had a good time as usual.

My plan for this weekend was to try to be smooth and not to get too far in front of Jazz. It seems to slow him down instead of speed him up and we really need to speed up. We had an almost perfect jumpers run Saturday and we even made time, but I distracted him at the finish and he dropped the very last bar. I heard groans from the spectators and probably one from me. We did salvage the day by getting a qualifying run in Hoopers. It seems really easy to me and I like having a chance to get a qualifier in something.

Sunday was a better day. We got our first Open standard qualifying run - only 5 points because we are too slow as usual, but at least we qualified. We ran six runs on Sunday and four of them were clean. I am very proud of our nice clean runs, but we were over time on every one. We got the 5 point qualifier, but nothing else. I hope to find ways to increase our speed.

I still have a problem with my mouth. The problem would be that I don't know when to shut it - as in hollering "here" before Jazz finished the final jump in a perfect jumpers run. I told him "no" to keep him from taking a wrong tunnel and that is just dumb. He doesn't like to be told no and then goes slow so he will be sure that I am not going to yell at him again. What a mistake that was. I need to really practice hard on what to say and when. Also - what not to say.

We also accomplished some good things. I think our timing and teamwork are improving. I think I am handling more smoothly. I ended every run with lots of praise and lots of tiny little treats. He seemed happy to be there and content in his crate. I believe he ended every run with a sprint for the finish so he could get all that praise, attention and those treats. He followed me around this morning and stood by the car for a while, so I think he was ready to go again.

We need to get faster. I think some of the problem is that I am still giving Jazz too little information and I criticize him when he is wrong. I cannot tell him no and expect him to run top speed. He will slow down and try hard to be right.

Things to work on for next time:
1. Begin working on out and close, or left and right, or some clear signal to help him know which way to go.
2. Stop saying no and here. I will only use here at the end of a run if he isn't coming back for the leash. I will not tell him no unless he is running for the door or attacking someone.
3. Say his name when I want his attention. He will look and I can give him direction.

There is one other odd item from this weekend. I have been at so many trials and people leave things laying all over. I have never heard of anything being stolen. I am now positive that there was a thief in the crowd. The thief may have had two legs or four, but someone out there stole my frosted sugar cookies right off the top of my crate!! I suspect human rather than dog because the cookies were in a plastic bag. Anyway - whoever you are, you must be in league with the Wii Fit lady. My long drive home was sugar free. Very sad.

Wii Fit - or humiliation by cartoon

My daughter bought a Wii Fit. I thought it sounded like fun and decided to give it a try. When you start using the machine, it lets you design a little cartoon person to represent you as you exercise. I had such a good time choosing her clothes, hair, glasses, face shape. It was like paper dolls when I was little. I was feeling really good and she was a cute little woman wearing leg warmers and a blue dress. How fun is this?

Then the little woman asked my age and height. I am not ashamed of either, so I was happy to tell her and she was so cheerful. Then she said she would weigh me....uh oh. Still - I am a brave person and waited for the results. This would be a good time to mention that I already know I am overweight and was feeling self-righteous about exercising to correct the problem. Anyway - cute little Mii announced my weight and said, "You are obese." Then the beautiful little cartoon woman inflated to a pot bellied, chubby cartoon woman. What the heck is that?! I cannot believe that I was insulted by a cartoon! Even more unbelievable is that I didn't shut the thing off. I let it keep going.

Next is the part where the machine (no longer a cute little woman in my mind) tests your balance in order to determine your "fitness" age. I stood as still as I could and the machine said, "Oh - your fitness age is 5 years older than your actual age." I believe at that point I also became 5 inches shorter than my actual height! I thought being called fat was bad. Now I have been called fat and old by a snotty little cartoon girl on a TV screen! I think I'll just see what comes next.

Really - too dumb to quit. After the initial insult period the snotty little thing asks you to set goals and offers trite little "tips" on weight loss. Fun. At long last we got to the exercises and they were fun. Just when I was really enjoying playing the games, snotty little machine says I have been exercising for 30 minutes and had better take a break. For crying out loud! Hopefully, even thin, young people have to take a break at 30 minutes.

All in all - ignore the mean machine and the games are fun. Unfortunately, the next time I signed on the snotty girl told me it had been two weeks since my last session and implied that I would be fat forever at this rate. What does she know? (Well - she knows my actual weight, so I guess I'd better be nice to her.) She did offer me a sort of booby prize by telling me my fitness age is now 10 years younger than I am. I am totally baffled, but if I try this a few more times, maybe I can figure out how to cheat and it will tell me my fitness age is 21. Hey - maybe I can only put one foot on the scale and the Mii will go back to her orginal cute size. Maybe I should just stop obsessing about a machine.

Monday, June 29, 2009

NADAC Agility

Jazz and I competed in the NADAC trial this past weekend at the Quad City Dog Center. That is such a great place to show! They keep the temperature at 69 degrees. Jazz loves that and I do too - no hot flashes at that temperature!

I think our first love is NADAC agility. I really like being able to compete hourly (approximately) for a whole day. We always enter all twelve events over two days and I think I learn more in a weekend at a NADAC trial than in two weeks of training. This is our first agility trial since Jazz has been eating Science Diet J/D food (that's joint diet for you young pups!) Anyway - I think he ran more smoothly and seemed to have more fun running than he has in recent months.

I believe this is the first competition of any kind that I can honestly say went wrong solely because of me. We started Saturday in chances. I gave him poor direction, he went over a wrong obstacle, and I was totally unable to figure out where we were supposed to go next! He gave me at least 10 seconds and then ran his own course. His was a nice course, but the judge failed to appreciate his creativity. We had the same problem in the regular run that came next. I just felt dumb and disconnected from the dog. We managed to qualify the second regular run with a sloppy five point qualifier, but it was our NADAC novice regular title! I love those purple qualifying ribbons!

We finally came together again as the day went on and I think the problem may have been speed. It felt like Jazz was running fast, then slow, then fast. I kept finding myself sprinting and then getting too far ahead of him. Very odd. He usually blasts off and runs like a nut for one run, then settles into his fairly slow lope.

Last run of the day was jumpers. We were waiting our turn as it began to thunder. Jazz is terrified of thunder. I used the wait time to pop a piece of cheese in his mouth and say Yay every time the thunder rumbled. It was still pretty distant, so he seemed OK with it. We ran such a nice jumpers run. He ignored the thunder, ran with me, and I even managed a front cross without anyone getting hurt! I was so happy with the whole thing. We failed to qualify by 1.05 seconds. Still a nice run for us.

We weren't out of the ring very long before the rain came pouring down. Well - not actually down - more like sideways. What a storm! Lights were flickering on and off and there were a good number of scared dogs. I think a few scared handlers as well. Luckily, we were pretty close to the end of the trial and the storm blew through and ended quickly.

Day two of the trial was lovely weather, happy dog, and handler with her brain turned back on. We managed to run a correct chances course, but knocked two bars. We competed in open regular for the first time and I love running more challenging courses. We had a nice tunnelers run that was 3 seconds too slow and a jumpers run with two front crosses, on time, and one dropped bar. It's always something. I am happy to say that we salvaged the day by qualifying in novice hoopers. It's a silly event, but novice is pretty easy and no jumping or great speed is required.

Peggy and Judy came to watch us for a while. It's so much fun to introduce people to a sport that I love. Judy was kind enough to take video for me, so I can see what went right and what went wrong. All in all a lovely weekend. I think I'll do it again in two weeks!

Lessons learned this weekend. Watch the dog. Run the course the way you know it should be run, instead of trying to play it safe. Watch the dog. DO NOT try to speed him up by telling him to hurry - he doesn't go faster, he just knocks down bars. Watch the dog. Jazz really responds well to lots of tiny treats, praise, petting and fussing at the end of a run.

Finally - watch the dog.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Qualifying in Novice Obedience for the First Time

I had always supposed that the first qualifying run in novice obedience would be a joyful experience. As usual, things didn't turn out exactly as I had hoped.

Jazz and I entered the Hawkeye Kennel Club trial last weekend. We were entered both Saturday and Sunday in Novice Obedience A. (The A means we are totally new to the obedience ring.) We have tried several times to get a qualifying score. Sometimes we are a total train wreck. Sometimes we get very close and one little thing goes wrong. Saturday was somewhere in the middle. We failed the recall. Jazz came straggling across the ring, but went right past me to stand and stare over the ring gates at .... something. He eventually wandered over and sat at my right heel. I have no explanation for this. The judge was trying to be kind and said that we had lost so many points during the heeling exercises that we needed a perfect score in everything else to qualify. That wasn't as comforting as she seemed to think it would be!

We stayed late to practice in the ring Saturday evening in hopes of showing improvement on Sunday. When the Novice A class was called on Sunday, we were the only team that showed up. I don't know why that bothers me, but I hate it! Usually there is at least one other team as bad as we are, and misery really does love company. The judge was very nice. This turned out to be somewhat of a problem. We began our heeling pattern and Jazz was wandering around and refusing to sit when we halted. Not new behavior, but I had hoped we were correcting this. Anyway, I won't go into all the painful details, but the judge basically said he wanted us to qualify. He kept telling me to relax, because the only way we could fail was if we completely screwed up an exercise. We ended up doing a little better at heeling than we have in the past. We did the stand for exam and the recall perfectly. The judge talked to me during the long sit and then went to write up the paperwork while we were still doing the long down. We did both of those correctly. He then came over and told me we had qualified. He warned me that another judge might not have seen it as a qualifying performance.

I was not overjoyed. I was not even very happy. I felt as if I had cheated. I did not want to be "given" a qualifying score. I wanted to earn it. Oh well. Every time I think we have reached the ultimate in ridiculous experiences in the ring - something tops it. This day just kept getting better.

I was leaving the ring with a blue ribbon (first place of course) and the lovely green qualifying ribbon and a nice squeaky toy for Jazz. The judge called me over and said the photographer was coming over from the breed ring and I should get a picture taken to commemorate this wonderful accomplishment. I declined. He insisted, while making charming remarks about getting his picture taken with a pretty girl and her handsome dog. I thought maybe we were going to get a 20 year old blond and a conformation Samoyed to pose for the picture. No such luck. I finally agreed and when the photographer was ready for us we went into the ring. I got all set for the picture and the photographer said, "You don't take a picture with the leash on the dog! JEEEZ!" So I took off the leash and had no idea what to do with it. I tossed it behind us. The lovely photographer said he couldn't believe what an idiot I was and went and picked up my leash. Then he started yelling at me to look at the dog's feet. I looked and there they were - big furry feet. He said they were in front of my feet. I was clueless. I tried to rearrange him and the photographer then said, "Do you suppose you could put that dog in the same zip code you're in?" I kept telling the guy to just take the picture. I would have walked away, but the dang judge had hold of me and the photographer had my leash! What a nightmare. I have not seen the picture yet, but I'll bet the look on my face is one of confused misery. Even the dog was having a lousy time by then. I have spent the last three days thinking up brilliant remarks to make the photographer feel as bad as I did. Alas - too little, too late.

I doubt if I will hang the picture on the wall when it comes. I would like to hang the photographer from a wall!

Thanks to everyone at the trial for your support and congratulations. See you in the ring.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A little history

I am a novice dog trainer. I have a Samoyed named Jazz who is six years old. I did not plan to enter the "sport of dogs." (I love that phrase - Ron Reagan uses it during his commentary on Westminster and it sounds so impressive!) I really didn't even begin training my dog with any kind of plan. I've tried to figure out how I got into this, but it all seems kind of blurry!

What I know is that I am now hooked. Jazz and I have completed our Rally titles - novice through excellent. It was an enormous struggle. Jazz jumped the ring gates and galloped around the building the first three time we went into the ring without a leash. Completing those titles was a very big accomplishment for us. I should have stopped there, but I am not that smart.

We also began training for agility trials. That is our first love. I think agility is much more difficult for me as the handler than it is for Jazz. He just runs and jumps and has a great time, except for the parts where he has to do what I tell him. Even those times wouldn't be so bad if he could figure out what I was trying to tell him. We have many misunderstandings. We are making progress and have actually earned a novice agility jumpers title. We could continue to work on agility and all would be well. Again - I am not that smart.

We are also working to earn obedience titles. Titles plural may be a little optimistic at this point, but I think it's clear that I am an optimistic sort of person. We have not yet earned any obedience titles. (See the definition of the phrase "you are excused" above. It's possible that the examples are real life experiences. They might even be MY real life experiences.)

I plan to write about my experiences as a novice dog trainer. Maybe my experiences will serve as a warning to others. At the very least, others who read this blog might end up feeling pretty good about their own accomplishments in the dog world.

See you in the ring.