Sunday, November 30, 2008

Its snowing!

Jeff put our snow tires on this morning, and not a day too soon. Nothing like fresh snow to make everything, including Misty, look pretty, fresh and pure.

I'd say Misty likes the table!

Oreo says, "If you take your gloves off for a photo shoot, you know I'm gonna have to bury one Mom. I'm a dog. That's what we do."

Vote for your favorite!

I took a video this morning of Misty doing a sequence using her new skill, the table.

Sorry about the lilac branch being in the way! I didn't notice it on the screen when I set up the shot.


Here is a video of Oreo doing the same sequence. You'll notice he is going a little bit faster, and almost trips me at one point.


Which dog is your favorite? Keep in mind Misty has been doing agility for just two weeks, while Oreo has had about 10 months (however we've only had professional instruction for the past 3 months)!

Oreo has been giving me some tunnel refusals lately, especially when I am on his left side, leading with my right hand. I have had to resort to tossing his ball into the tunnel to get him to go. Otherwise, he comes to a dead stop in front of the tunnel. If I am on his right side leading with my left hand, there is no problem. Strange. We'll be working on that this afternoon.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Misty learns to table

Misty learned how to "table" today.

Now, you'd think this would be an easy thing to teach a dog. All she had to do was hop up on the table. Misty hops up on the couch and the bed with no problem.

The way Misty was acting you would have thought I was asking her to jump into a cage filled with hungry lions.

I tried to lure her with treats. I patted the table. I put her on a leash and tried to pull her up.

None of that worked. So, I resorted to physically lifting her up, setting her on the table and feeding her treats.

Then, she jumped off.

Again, I tried to lure her up by patting the table. No dice.

I lifted her up again and fed her treats, saying "table, table", making it as happy a place as I could.

We repeated this several times.

Finally, I sent her through the tunnel, then said "table" and surprisingly, Misty hopped up on the table, sat and wagged her tail!

I was shocked. I said, "Jackpot!" Misty got a whole handful of treats.
Then Misty couldn't get enough of the table. She would run through the tunnel, and onto the table over and over.

She'd bark at the neighbor, then run up on the table, stand on it and bark.

Misty may take a little longer than Oreo to learn something, but once she gets it, she gets it.

Misty is just loving the agility game. This afternoon, I set up three jumps and the tunnel/chute all in a row. She adored running that over and over. Misty is even doing most things on her own now, without treats ~ a true sign that she is having fun.

I just love that little sparkle in her eye when she runs toward me out of the tunnel. It's like she's saying, "Let's do it again, Mom!"

a new role model

Even with a ton of distractions, Oreo had a good class today.

There were new people, new dogs, barking dogs in crates, heater fans blowing, and a junior handler showing us the ropes with her amazing border collie.

That was a lot for Oreo, but he handled it all with confidence. He only got nervous when the one crazy border collie was doing a definite alert type of barking.

Other than that Oreo was focused and relaxed. He even let one of the young girls get close enough to pet him, albeit very briefly.

Our teacher had invited the junior handler (she's 12) to our class, to demonstrate how to do a perfect 2o/2o contact on the A-Frame. All I could say was, "Wow". What amazing control she had with her border collie. It was really fun to watch. I think the dogs really like working with kids, because kids can run faster than us old folks!

Later in the class, the junior handler was working with a border collie she and her mom are taking care of temporarily. The dog has had minimal agility training. First, the mom took her through the sequence we were working on, and the dog did OK, but had to be rewarded with treats every couple of obstacles. Her daughter kept saying, "Keep going mom....don't stop to give her treats."

So, the next time, the daughter handled the dog on the course. She ran the dog through the whole sequence, without stopping to reward the dog with treats. The dog ran the course perfectly, and I've never seen a dog run through a tunnel so fast! They're not sure, but they think today may be the first time the dog has gone through a tunnel.

That young girl is now my role model! It was like she had that dog under a spell. I've never seen anything like it.

Oreo did good on that sequence himself. In fact, he had a near perfect class today. I think going to practice the day before really made a difference.

Friday, November 28, 2008

better than the mall

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I have the day off, so instead of going to the mall, I headed to the farm to enjoy some peace, tranquility and run around with Oreo at the indoor agility ring.

Oreo had a lot of fun. There was a good course set up, so we were able to practice a long sequence using all the obstacles. I had planned to spend an hour there, and had brought my hat and mittens. I ended up spending only half an hour, never used my hat or mittens, and had to take off my coat! I think I worked off the pecan pie and am now ready for leftovers.

Oreo was thrilled that the full size teeter was set up. He did excellent work slowing down, and allowing the teeter to drop before hopping off. Oreo is so cute when he teeters. He knows exactly where to stop, and then braces himself while the teeter pivots down. He would teeter all day long if I would let him.

We worked on targeting on the dogwalk and A-Frame, and that went ok. Still not perfect, but he is hitting the contacts.
Oreo's main problem today was that several times when he got to the top of the dogwalk or A-Frame, he wanted to stop and look out the windows. I had to put a treat on the target in order to get him moving.
Did someone say ADD? Wonder if they prescribe Ritalin for dogs?

We'll be heading back to the farm for our class tomorrow morning. I am hoping that Oreo will acclimate himself quickly, since it will be such a short turnaround time this week, and he had a relatively stress free experience there today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

poor misty

I had to bring Misty back to the vet today. She had what looks like a human hemorrhoid, but dogs don't get hemorrhoids (lucky dogs).

The vet removed it and sent it off to the lab. She said it is either a benign polyp or a cancerous tumor.

The vet told me she has never had one come back malignant, so I am hoping that Misty's is just a benign polyp. If it is cancerous, she would need surgery that requires removing part of her rectum (ouch), which sounds complicated to me.

Unfortunately, with the holiday, we may not have the results back until Monday.

Let's hope its a slow week at the lab. The DHL guy showed up while I was paying my bill, and the vet techs made him wait. So, I think they may have been getting Misty's sample packaged up. Maybe, I'll know by Friday.

Regardless, she is eating, acting, and playing like her normal self. If the weather improves and the backyard dries up a bit, I will have her out doing some more agility, until the vet tells me otherwise. My vet does agility with her dog, so she understands.

Monday, November 24, 2008

warming up

It was a warm 40 degree day, so I took advantage of the one hour of daylight I have when I get home from work.

Oreo and I practiced slowing down on the teeter. Then, Misty got to play agility with us too.

In just one week, Misty has worked her way up to three jumps, a curved tunnel, and tunnel/chute. I am so proud of her. She's not winning any speed records, but I think she's having fun and enjoying her extra snacks.

Here's a video of her progress:

Its supposed to rain/snow tomorrow, so this may be our last outdoor agility for awhile. The backyard will likely turn into a mud put, until we get real snow.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Full chute for Misty~girl

It was a little warmer out today (32 whopping degrees), and the dogs were anxious to get outdoors. I set up a mini agility course in the yard, and ran with Oreo for about twenty minutes. That warmed me up, and Oreo had a blast.

I have to work on getting him to slow down on the teeter, because once he gets running he flies right off the end.

After I was warm, I decided to see if I could make some more progress with Misty on her chute work.

Well, within a couple minutes, I had the chute all the way out, and she was chuting like a champion. Had to run inside for my tripod!

Ya know, when Jeff bought the video camera, I think I said, "When are we ever going to use that?"

Well, I don't think he's ever used it!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

misty learning the chute

I wanted to make a video this weekend of Misty doing a three jump/tunnel sequence, because she has been doing that for the past few days. However, it is too cold out for me (don't think the dogs would care), and I think the camera lens would fog up.

So, I decided to start teaching Misty the chute in our hallway, which is where Oreo learned.

Here is a video of our progress so far. Not bad for our first go at it. The chute is out about half way. We worked on it for about 15 minutes, and by the end, both dogs were wiped out. I think it helped Misty to have Oreo going through it first(despite my efforts to try and hold him back), because he provided some "light at the end of the tunnel".

It was funny, because sometimes I thought I sent Misty in the tunnel, but Oreo was the one who came out of the chute. It was almost like they were performing a magic trick on me.


Oreo's class went better this week.

We got off to a rocky start though. It is so cold today, that they needed to turn on the heater in the building for the first time. They use a propane blower that is quite effective, but somewhat loud, and it blows right at ground level. Great for warming up hands and toes, but it kind of freaks the dogs out. It was positioned right at the end of the tunnel.

Where did we start class? Doing a tunnel, A-Frame, jump sequence.

Oreo was skittish, and refused to do his target at the end of the A-Frame. I was disappointed, because I had worked so hard all week on targets at home. He had done so well, and I wanted to show it off.

My teacher was understanding and said, "Oreo always hits his targets anyway. He'll be fine once we get away from the heater."

She was right. Once we got to the dogwalk, he was on the mark with his targets.

Oreo was also a bit freaked out, because there was a new person in our class this week, with a crazy border collie. Every time she let the dog off the leash, the dog ran all over the place completely out of control. Harmless, but it made Oreo very uncomfortable. I tried to keep Oreo in a happy zone every time that happened by feeding him hot dog.

Once that dog was finally leashed or crated, and we were back to our original mellow classmates and away from the scary fan, Oreo was ready for action.

My teacher said, "I think Oreo's a dog that just needs to get running."

Hmmm, I think I've heard that before.

I wanted to get running to warm up! Even with the heater, it was still cold in the building.

This week, Oreo was able to do a long sequence with the group standing nearby. I was nervous, because we had to do a table, and everyone was standing within three feet of the table. Good practice, since a judge will be standing near the table someday. I thought for sure Oreo would run right by the table to avoid going near everyone, but he hopped up, sat and stayed for five seconds. I was so proud of him.

We only have two weeks left in this class, but our teacher said she was willing to keep going ahead if the group wanted. I was so happy to hear that. I couldn't ask for a better group of humans and dogs, and it would be great to keep working and playing together.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

double dog tunneling

Boy is Misty making progress! If you know Misty, this is just amazing. She gets scared when I carry the laundry basket anywhere near her head. So, the fact that she is running through a tunnel is a huge accomplishment for her.

Today, I got her to go through the big tunnel in the yard. Her confidence is growing by the minute. I even caught her going through it later on her own, when she thought I wasn't looking!

She also barreled through it while she was chasing Oreo around the yard.

I am so glad Lian encouraged me to try and teach Misty some agility. She seems to be enjoying it and likes the extra attention.

Here is a video of some "double dog tunneling".

Then, I decided to see if Misty would jump. She did! I kept the jump low for learning, plus she's not a youngster.

Then, Misty did a tunnel, jump sequence!

Can you believe it? I can't believe I doubted her for so long.

Maybe they can start a new agility category for running two dogs on the course at the same time! My dogs might win.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Misty Tunnels!

I have been working for the past few days on getting Misty to tunnel. She really has shown no interest in the past, but with the lure of a tasty morsel I think I have helped conquer her fear.

Today, she went thru my mini tunnel without me having to lead her with my hand physically!

I had to pull out the video camera.

Maybe my old girl will do some agility with me after all.

Warning: you may have to turn your sound off - my voice is bound to drive you insane!!!!

We'll keep practicing this for a few days, and then see if she'll do our longer tunnel outside.

I am so proud of her, and I think she looks happy. At least she's happy to get a treat.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

ups and downs

We had our ups and downs in our agility class today.

After taking some of your advice and practicing during the week, I think we did much better on our targets. For some reason, Oreo will not take the treat off the target in class. He sniffs, picks it up, and then spits it out. Perhaps, he doesn't like the fact that his treat has touched a spot where other dogs' treats/noses have been. Maybe I need to start bringing my own target from home. Regardless, his nose was on the lid. Yea!

For one sequence, I just could not get Oreo to focus on me. He was agitated, distracted, and uncomfortable. There was a "strange" man watching very close by, along with a new dog, and a young girl running back and forth right next to us trying to get a cup of hot chocolate. Plus all our other classmates were in the process of moving from one side of the building to the other to get to the starting point, and then we were all kind of crammed in a corner of the building.

Oreo always takes a long time to get accustomed to new people and surroundings, so I think this setup and all the movement around him just threw him for a loop. After a few attempts to get Oreo started, I looked at my teacher, and told her that this just wasn't going to work. So, I ran with Oreo to the other end of the building, and ran him through a couple sequences away from everyone else, and fed him lots of treats. That seemed to perk him up, we were able to get back to his classmates, and he was playful for the rest of the class.

I am so lucky to have such a supportive teacher, who understood that Oreo needed a mental break. She also knows to back away, and give Oreo his space, whenever it is his turn. She really is wonderful at looking at each dog's individual needs. It is like she is the special ed teacher for dogs!

Oreo's behavior made me wonder if I will ever be able to do an agility trial with him. We may be able to do a perfect run by ourselves, or with a small class, but will he be able to do it in a strange place with strange people around?

I guess time will tell, but I will never put him in a situation that is just going to stress him out. If he's not having fun, we're done. Back to the backyard we go.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Misty Portraits

Misty often gets the shaft on this blog, while Oreo gets to be the celebrity.

Oreo, like a celebrity, loves the camera. I can get super close up with my camera, and it doesn't phase him. Oreo even poses for me; he'll tilt his head left and right. He grew up with my camera in his face, so I guess he's used to it.

Misty, on the other hand, turns around the moment she hears the auto focus beep, or runs away if the lens gets too close to her face. As a result, I've been unable to capture the close up portraits of her that I really want.

Today, the outdoor lighting seemed perfect (not that I really know much about photographic lighting). What good lighting means to me is the sun isn't shining in my eyes, but its bright enough not to need a flash.

I decided to attach my telephoto lens. That way I could close in on Misty, without getting in her face, so to speak.

I haven't had much practice with the telephoto, so out of 40 shots, I only had about 8 keepers. Thank goodness my camera is digital!

Here are 4 good enough to share. Misty is so gorgeous. I love the nose shot.

Our photo session was cut short by our pesky celebrity dog, who was jealous that the limelight was not on him. He stepped in front of the camera, blocked my view, and proceeded to lick the lens. Ick.

So, quickly we were back to agility and ball throwing, while Misty resumed her post at the corner of the fence to keep an eye on the neighbors. Oreo always gets his way.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Target Practice

Here is a video of Oreo and I doing target practice on the A-Frame. We also do one "running contact", which we learned in our previous class.

Comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. I feel like I may be clicking too late sometimes, but I don't want to click until I know his front feet are on the ground. I also have a difficult time managing the clicker and treats sometimes, since I am unable to use my left arm.

OK, I admit I have no physical reason why I can't use my left arm. There is nothing wrong with my left arm, but for some reason it just hangs there like it is unattached to any actual brain activity. Therefore, I render it useless. I think it needs therapy or training of some sort.

Here is another video with some jumps and tunnels thrown in. There is a tunnel on the right, which unfortunately doesn't appear on the screen (the disadvantage of a tripod -its stationary).

I learned by watching this video that I need to keep running after the A-Frame. I don't want Oreo to get in the habit of stopping after the obstacle. Again, any suggestions are greatly appreciated!

I also noticed that anytime my face pops up on the screen I have a big smile on my face. I didn't realize that I am smiling the whole time.

It reminds me of this summer, when Jeff and I drove past my Dad riding his bicycle in Maine. My Dad had a huge grin across his face. I would have been grimacing in pain, but he was loving his ride (for those of you who don't know my dad, he lives to ride his bike). That's how I feel when I do agility with Oreo.

Now I get it Dad!

A-Frame practice photos

Had the day off from work today for Veteran's Day. I always find it ironic that I have the day off, while Jeff, an actual war veteran always has to go to work.

I took the opportunity of extra free time to bring Oreo out to practice some agility in the indoor building. We had a lot of fun being in the building all by ourselves. I brought Misty along for the ride, and she seemed to enjoy sniffing around. It was good to be able to do a lot of repetitions on the A-Frame, and I was glad it was set at a relatively low level. Oreo is really beginning to get confident on the A-Frame, and so am I! I think it is becoming one of his favorite obstacles.

Here are some photos of Oreo practicing the A-Frame.

Here he is heading for his target:

Here Oreo discovers he can see out the window when he is on top of the A-frame (that's not so good.....there are cows out there)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

oreo gymnastics

Here is a video for my nephew, who likes to watch videos of Oreo doing "gymnastics". I thought he might like to see Oreo coming through the tunnel, so I started with that.

It is pretty much a video of us just playing in the yard with our agility equipment, we are not working on anything specific. I think some days you just have to play and frolic.

In the end, you'll see Misty just can't stand it anymore and has to get Oreo involved in a good chase around the yard. That's Oreo's favorite activity, so he was happy to give up the weave poles, and run from Misty.

Sorry about all the barking. Our neighbor was in the yard raking, and it is Misty's job to bark at him.

I am just loving my tripod!

Hope you liked the video Miles!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

agility class 3

Had another great class today.

I started using a clicker with Oreo this week, and have really focused on using it with his target training. I was excited to see if it would carry over in his class today, because it was working quite well at home.

We got to try it out on the A-Frame. Oreo went up over the A-Frame, I said, "target", and Oreo stopped with two paws on and two paws off the obstacle in perfect form. I clicked, and he got his hot dog. Our practice paid off. Love when that happens.

We worked our dogs mostly off leash today, which was great. Oreo was very responsive, and for the first time in a class setting he seemed to really be enjoying himself. I actually had to hold him back, because he was so excited and had trouble waiting his turn. Oreo kept positioning himself so he could watch the other dogs doing the obstacles, and then tried to inch his way up in line, so he could go next.

Guess I need to work on his manners a bit, but I was thrilled to see him relaxing.

Our teacher's husband always stops in for the last few minutes of our class, and he said that he can see Oreo's confidence building already, even in the brief moments that he has seen him.

That made me feel good.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Thank you to everyone who sent get well wishes to Misty.

She is doing great, and making sure all the neighbors know she's in the yard by barking at everything that moves. That's her job.

I got the blood work results back from the vet yesterday. She said everything looked fine, except one item was slightly elevated. She said it could be due to a GI issue, liver, bone, etc. She is hoping the antibiotic Misty is on, will clear it up, and suggested we rerun the blood work in a month to see if the level returned to normal.

So, it sounds like she is not too concerned, and as long as she didn't mention the dreaded "C" word I am happy.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

silly elephant movie

I took some more video of Oreo and I practicing our elephant trick yesterday.

This morning, I was playing around with video editing software, pressed the "magic hat button" and this is what the software created:

It has music for those of you who turn off your sound sometimes (like me). Although the music makes me feel like I have spent a few too many hours at a theme park.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

snakes and poles

Here's a quick video of Oreo and me practicing our snakes/serpentines in the yard. We start off with our "baby snakes", and then move on to the jumps all lined up. It is really so much easier after practicing with the jumps angled slightly.

Make sure to catch the one time I actually work Oreo on my left side - as it is a rare event and so awkward for me.

Here is Oreo doing some weave poles, just because he looks so darn cute when he weaves and I never get to see it!

a warm meatball

Oreo and I had another great class today. I just love our teacher.

Every so often, she would bang the teeter on the ground, in an effort to desensitize the dogs to the sound. Some dogs get spooked by the loud bang, and it echoes due to the acoustics in the building. She was worried Oreo would be scared of it, because he is such a shy dog. I assured her the teeter bang has no effect on him at all.

The teeter bang did really scare one of the collies. He got stressed out, and his owner had to take him outside for a romp around. When they came back, our teacher got down on the ground and fed him a handful of warm, fresh meatballs, and talked sweetly to him. The teacher makes the meatballs herself, and keeps a microwave in the agility building to heat them up for the dogs, when they need that extra special reward.

This class just gives me that warm feeling, that I had when I was in nursery school myself!

The dogs are just loving it, and are learning so quickly. Even the dogs who have had little experience with the obstacles were flying through the sequences.

It is amazing what positive reinforcement, and a warm meatball will do for a dog.