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.