Thursday, April 28, 2011

CPE Trial Take 2

This past Sunday, the girls and I celebrated Easter in our own unique way--with a trip to Milford, Ohio, for another CPE trial. I decided if I couldn't spend the holiday with my family, enjoying our customary Easter brunch, I would stay busy by running six courses with Dally and Mesa and get more experience under Mesa's collar.

The end results were great--Dally went 3-for-3, earning Qs and first places in Wildcard Level 2, Standard Level 3, and Snooker Level 3. This finally finished her Level 2 title (two years after we had finished everything else--Wildcard is only offered once a weekend, and when you go to a small amount of CPE trials, it's hard to finish up levels quickly). She ran very well, happily going through tunnels and allowing me to run different courses with her than I would with Mesa. Running Dally is so much more relaxing than Mesa, so I appreciate her "Dependable Dally" moniker she's been given.

Mesa also went 3-for-3 on the day, earning Qs and a first place in Wildcard Level 1, second place in Standard Level 1, and second place in Snooker Level 1. Mesa finished her Standard Level 1 title! In her Standard run, she got a little too excited about the A-frame and hopped on that, earning a fault. Also, the smaller dog walk was deemed "unsafe" right before her run, so they replaced it with a straight tunnel, thus allowing her to shoot out of the tunnel extremely fast and barreling through the next jump. So, with two faults, she broke her win streak and earned second place. Oh well, it was good experience and a Q is a Q!

Her Snooker run was actually two-fold. We ran one course, which was not very fluid, and she went to go into the tunnel that started the closing after her third red jump. The judge whistled us off the course, thus NQing our run, but thankfully someone stopped him and said we were still OK in our run, because I still needed a "color" before I started the closing and could have done that tunnel again. So we ran back to the starting line for a re-run, which was a blessing because this run was much smoother than the last. She earned 49 points and was beaten by one point for another second place. I was proud of my little girl, though, because before our run I had heard other exhibitors talking about how Snooker is for "controllable dogs" and it'd be "hard for a young, fast dog" to Q. Well, my "young, fast dog" Qd just fine! :-)

I came home with one more thing from the trial, though this was one not expected, nor invited...a stress fracture. Recently I have been increasing my running distance as I've started training for the Bluegrass 10K in July. Saturday I ran four miles (my longest distance ever), then walked the pups 2.5 miles. The next day was the trial, and after a couple of runs I started noticing sharp pains in my right foot every time I put weight on it. I had hoped it was just a muscle pulling from my hip (long story, but bad hip), so I gritted through the day. Monday night was Mesa's final class in the "puppy/novice/intermediate" level class at Goose Creek, so I gritted through that class and went to the doctor Tuesday morning. Xrays show a "slight" stress fracture on the outside of my right foot. I'm currently in the walking boot and will have Xrays pulled again on three weeks to see if the fracture has started to heal or progressed. Until then, walks with the girls are being done by Matt or my friend Merinda. I've pulled Mesa's Novice FAST entry at the Hamilton, Ohio, AKC trial May 21, but Merinda will attempt to run Dally in her Excellent B Standard and JWW classes all weekend.

So now I'm looking at things I can work with Mesa on to keep her training on the right track, but not put a lot of stress on my foot. We've still got the weave poles set in the back yard, and I can walk with long, fast strides alongside Mesa. I wish she was more set on the poles in line (yes, they are in line now!) so I can try to work on just sending her through the weaves independently, but she's still too green for that. Looks like I'll be searching the Internet for ideas of more things to train her...

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Weave Pole Boot Camp

Last week I was interviewed on the "Horse in the Morning" online radio show about doing dog agility with a Corgi. For some reason, the host didn't think Corgis were really that agile. I hope I changed his mind.

This brings me to the topic of tonight's blog post. Glenn (the host) had asked me how hard it was to train dogs for agility. I answered saying that most of the obstacles are things dogs do naturally--jump, go through tunnels, climb over things--except for the weave poles. The weaves are the one thing dogs (nor any animal, for that matter) do not do naturally. Training for the weave poles is mainly training muscle memory for the body. Because of this, it's the one thing Mesa hasn't been able to nail down in class.

The past three weeks Mesa has been in "Weave Pole Boot Camp" in the backyard. After the Louisville trial in March, I came home and set up my stick-in-the-ground poles in a thin channel with weave-a-matics (they were staked in at an angle) and ran her through all 12 poles. After a week I was able to put the bases in-line, but kept them at an angle to start teaching her to hop around/over the bases.

Every night we've gone into the backyard and run through the weaves, entering on both the "off-side" and "on-side", as well as with me on both sides. She took to the routine quickly and really enjoys working the weaves. Last week I brought back a jump to add more to the weaves, making her enter the weaves from a 90-degree angle and collect into the weaves. I've even put out a small "puppy" tunnel on one end to use as a discrimination.

She's taken to the poles so naturally, it amazes me. I decided to train her on all 12 weaves, not starting out with six and then adding on after she moves up to Open. I started Dally on only six weaves and it was hard to get her to continue through all 12, so I didn't want that to happen with Mesa. I wanted to start her on all 12, then she would be ready for the transition into Open whenever she earns her Novice titles.

As of now (4/14) the weave poles all almost totally straight, in-line and Mesa is nailing it. Merinda came by tonight to see her in action and was just as excited as I have been, especially to see her doing the "patented two-footed hop" you see most fast small dogs do in the weaves.

I hope to get a video soon of her training in the backyard.

I think I might have to add the wires once the weaves are all straight and in-line, just as an added reassurance to keep her in the weaves. But, I might just wait and see how she does independently.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mesa Tries Herding

I know this blog is titled "Agility on Stumps," but it's basically my way of chronicling Mesa and Dally's training. I've thrown a few posts in about their Rally experiences, so why not share Mesa's most recent experience outside of the agility ring ... herding.

I was lucky to have been forwarded an email from Joyce Burnham of Custom Stock Dogs, a Border Collie/stockdog trainer based out of southwest Illinois, saying she was doing some herding lessons and instinct tests at a farm in Cincinnati in April. I quickly signed up for a herding instinct slot for Mesa, knowing she already had a strong instinct when it came to herding the horses and myself (including Matt, who is still sporting a bruise on his calf from a nip last week). I wanted to see what she'd do turned loose on sheep.

(Side note: Anyone that knows Dally well already knows she doesn't care for sheep. She loves to chase after the horses on the farm, and herds me around the house from time to time, but after a trip to a Central Kentucky Herding Group Club working meeting, where she completely ignored the sheep, I have already decided she did not feel the need to run around the smelly, fluffy beasts, when she can sit next to people and be told how pretty she is and be petted. So, while Dally came along for the clinic, she hung out by the fence waiting for the return trip home. The documented proof can be seen in the photo above--Mesa is barking at the sheep while Dally chooses to ignore them and my instance to "Look at the sheepies, Dal!".)

When we first got to the site, Joyce told me she wanted Mesa to stand by the fence while Joyce worked with some of the older dogs so we could gauge her interest in the sheep. Let me tell you, there was no doubt how excited she was from the get-go. She barked and barked, having herself a great time. She'd bark at the sheep, bark at the dog herding the sheep, then turn around and bark at the group behind us as if to say, "You see those sheepies? I'm gonna get those sheepies!"

(Another side note: My two were the only non-Border Collie/Aussie dogs there. There were a few owners who wondered if Mesa had the drive to run around the big field. I just laughed thinking to myself they don't know what a little firecracker she is. Needless to say, her performance hushed them up about her size.)

Finally Joyce took Mesa into the small pasture with her. I was nervous that Mesa wouldn't want to work with Joyce and would stay by the fence by me. To my amazement, she only ran back to me a couple times, as if to say "Are you watching, mom?? Isn't this fun??"

Mesa ran around the field, circling the sheep tightly around Joyce, even changing direction when asked to do so, and chasing down any rogue sheep that dared to separate from the group. There were many comments about how she was the Energizer Bunny and many were amazed at her strong instincts, even though she was only 17 months old and had never seen a sheep in her life. I was grinning from ear to ear while I was recording the whole thing--Mesa was having the time of her life. We finally ended the session when she ran back to me for a fourth time, this time limping (most likely due to slipping on the wet grass, since the storms were moving in...she's back to 100% now). She was out of breath and chugged a bowl of water down, but she looked like she had had the time of her life.

Mesa's excitement with the herding has sparked a new interest in me to maybe give herding one more try. Unfortunately, my time and funds are limited, and I'm not sure I can devote the time needed to properly train her to be successful in the AKC herding arena. I know the time my friend Merinda puts into training her Cardigan, and I hear the horror stories of the difficulty of what some might think are simple tasks, and I wonder if I would be able to do such things. However, I know she loves it, and I would love to be able to hone that instinct for good, especially when I'm around horses, I don't want to have to lock her in a stall every time I ride or work near them.

Here are the videos of Mesa's instinct work. I did them in three separate videos because I wasn't sure how long the session would last and I worried about uploading them to YouTube. I uploaded them in order, though.