Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I'm beginning to think that the dog yard isn't big enough for 12 weave poles. The area behind my house is fenced for the dogs, but it's only a small part of the yard. Iris can't be outside of the fence because she's obsessed with cars. Really obsessed. Katrin noticed that Iris' ears prick up every time a car drives past during class. The arena isn't even that close to the street.

So, here's the dog yard with 12 poles set up. If you look close, you can see the dirt "racetrack" Iris is making as she runs from one side to the other to watch cars pass.

This is the part of the yard I'd like to practice in. It's the biggest part of the yard. I'd say about triple the size of the dog pen.

Here's the other side of the yard. Not quite as big as the first side but still bigger than the dog yard.

In both of those photos it's a little hard to tell, but the road is just outside of the frame (my house is on the corner). Even though it's a pretty quiet neighborhood, there's enough cars that Iris can't be loose. I'm trying to come up with an idea for some sort of temporary fencing. My dad likes the way the yard looks without a fence, so I need something I can easily put up while we practice and then take down when we're done. My dog breaks enough things inside the house, I probably shouldn't break the yard too... It also needs to be pretty inexpensive. Plastic snow fencing has potential.

Iris says "Let me out!"

Massage and Stretching

Last night I went to the first night of a two part seminar on massage and stretching for dogs (specifically targeted to dogs doings sports like agility). I really enjoyed it! Last night focused on stretching and warms up /cool down. There were dogs there to practice on, and I got to work with Makin. She is such a sweetheart! I can see why Neil and Leal have two Vizslas. They're great dogs. Makin was so good about being the practice dog.

When I got home, I got a thorough once over from Iris. I went to the barn and played with ANOTHER DOG! How dare I? Once I started practicing the stretches on Iris, all was forgiven and she lay on her back and fell asleep. Goofy girl! The only thing she resisted stretching was her knees, which I thought was worth noting since yesterday afternoon she was running around jumps that she won't usually go around. She didn't whine when I did her knees, she just pulled away. When I went even slower and gentler, she was fine. Her gait looks fine to me and she's doing weaves without hesitation today (I opted for jump bars on the ground today to give her a break). I'll just keep an eye on her.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Excellence Award

I meant to mention this sooner but wanted to have time to pass the award along. We got this award from Julie, Ike, and Carmen of Molasses Ain't Got NOTHIN' on Us! Thank you! I'm just glad others are enjoying our adventures as much as I am.

So now here's a list of blogs I think deserve this award. Some are repeats from other's lists, but I think they deserve it again. In alphabetical order since I couldn't decide which was my favorite:

By My Side - Iris's trainer keeps a blog about her two service dogs, Obi and James. Not only is it a great source of info on service dogs, but also a lot of the training and socialization she talks about is a good idea for any puppy.

The Daily Coyote - Who doesn't want to look at cute coyote photos every day? If you go through the archives, there are some awesome photos of him as a puppy.

Makin and Tessa - The adventures of two beautiful Vizslas and their humans. These guys are fun to read about and they have some really cool photos too. Makin is in agility class with Iris.

Molasses Ain't Got NOTHIN' On Us! - Julie does agility with two mini schnauzers, Ike and Carmen. Ike has been doing agility for a little while and Carmen just started. I enjoy reading about her different experience with the two dogs, who sound like they both have different training obstacles. Carmen is in class with Iris.

Monty's Training Diary - Iris' agility trainer's first blog. This is the blog that inspired me to start one on Iris' training progress. It's all about Monty, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, but the Flat-Coats get mentioned too.

Pet Connection - This was by far the most quickly updated and accurate website I found during the pet food recalls last year. They were much faster than the news websites, and really on top of the whole situation. They still do an excellent job of keeping up to date on current pet issues.

Three Woofs And A Woo - "The Food Lady" has a excellent sense of humor and three beautiful dogs. The photography is awesome. Mr Woo is a riot (and maybe part Aussie too?) and of course Tweed and Piper (and her Mad Teeth) are cool dogs too.

Agility Mouse

I'm really impressed by this little mouse. I hope he got a cookie at the end of this!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Weave Pole Class #1

Thursday was Iris' first weave poles class. Two of the dogs in class were also in ABC with us. So, we already know Makin the Vizsla and Carmen the Miniature Schnauzer. The other three dogs are another Aussie and two mixed breeds (I can't remember any of their names). One thing I like about the class is that it's a mix of more experienced and inexperienced handlers. I think I'm going to learn as much from watching the other handlers as I will from working with Iris myself.

The class is all about weave poles (surprise!) but we practice them in class as part of course. Katrin let me borrow weave poles so we can practice (thank you!) and at homes we'll be working on the weaves a little more individually. I do have some jumps though. We're training weaves using x-pens attached to the poles as guides. Gradually, pieces of the x-pen are taken away until the dog is doing weaves without guides.

Class was more obstacles in a row than Iris and I have ever done. Needless to say, Iris' brain was all over the place. There were new dogs, new smells, and new people. It was all very exciting for a little red dog. I had her hang out in her crate when it wasn't our turn, which seemed to work out for her. Next class, I think I'm going to try to have her out of her crate a little bit doing attention work while we wait.

We did three different courses, and other than being so distracted, I think Iris did pretty well. Initially, she had some trouble with me leading out at the start. She'd run straight to me instead of into the tunnel. This is definitely something I need to practice more with her. I've been working on rewarding her whenever she checks in with me. I think it was a combination of that and me not being clear about signaling her into the tunnel that was confusing her.

Iris was the only dog in class to turn around halfway through the weaves. She was convinced that Katrin had awesome treats and was hiding them. Then Iris decided that since she was already backwards, she'd try just going in reverse. Does she get bonus points for creativity? I also shouldn't have thought it was funny when Makin jumped on top of the tunnel because shortly after, Iris decided she also wanted to be on the tunnel. Maybe she misses the contact obstacles? Silly girl.

Iris is still a brat about the other dogs. Other dogs barking at her while she's running sets her off the most (even though I think the other Aussie is really cute, I'm worried Iris is going to antagonize that dog). Staring is also not allowed. I think she takes it as threat and goes on the offensive. In some ways, I'd like to get her more excited when it's her turn to play agility, but I'm always worried that it'll just made her more distracted and reactive (but I could be wrong, I've never tried it. Maybe she'd forget to supervise the other dogs).

I left her in her crate while we cleaned up. I should have run her up to the car. Iris was not impressed that there were other dogs running around while she was locked up. I know if she was on a leash and the other dogs were playing, it'd drive her crazy. I suspect that many loose dogs would push her over the edge, while one or two would be fine. She has played with Monty, my aunt's dog Louie, and of course Henry Beagle, although she thinks the Beagle is a chew toy and not a dog. I walk her at the state park and usually people have their dogs loose. She almost always greets dogs nicely on leash (rambunctious dogs who bounce right up into her face get a growl). Everyone else probably thinks I brought a ferocious beast to class. Nah, she's just kinda crazy.

I did get in some practice with her tonight. She was having so much fun! I have no problem getting her revved up at home, and she was doing a great job coming out of the poles at a gallop. I had her do a jump then weaves (or weaves then jump). She was doing a lot better about making the jump after I led out, but in her enthusiasm for running, she kept over shooting the weaves and having to turn around. By the end, she was doing better. At least she was excited about playing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Fancy Jumps

I decided that rather than colored tape, I'd use paint to decorate jump bars. My reasoning? I'd have to go out and buy tape, but I already have lots of paint. It's just cheap acrylic paint right onto the pvc. I sprayed urethane on when it was done because the paint scrapes right off otherwise. In hindsight, I should have spray painted it white first (as a primer). Oh well, this one was just the first experiment. I'll try the spray paint for the next one. I was being lazy and trying to save time. Hopefully with the spray paint, I'll be able to skip the urethane since it turns the white slightly yellow.

Iris wanted to help out and made sure the jump bar didn't try and run away while I was taking the photo. Such a good herder!

I'm not looking at you until you put that camera away!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Intro to Herding.... Ducks?

On Sunday I took Iris to an Intro to Herding Clinic given by Tenley Dexter. It was a 2 hr drive down to Connecticut and completely worth the trip!

The day started with Tenley giving a lecture about herding basics. It was perfect for someone like me who's never done herding before! She talked a lot about the difference between natural instinct and trained commands. I don't agree with all of her training methods - she talked about using correction to teach down, but I think my dogs have pretty solid downs after being taught with positive reinforcement (not always reliable with distractions, but I just need to work on building Iris up to that). Tenley definitely knows herding and a lot of what she said made perfect sense. I'd love to hear her talk about more advanced herding.

After the lecture, we went outside and saw demos from different dogs who were all at different levels of training. This was so cool to see. Tenley started with an Aussie puppy who'd only seen ducks a couple times. He was so cute, and it was neat to see the herding instincts at such a young age. Next was an adult Aussie who'd only been herding a couple times. Tenley said he was still "coloring outside the lines." At that point a dog is mostly interested in moving sheep, while dogs that have been herding for a while have learned that a bigger part of the game is keeping sheep still. This guy was having lots of fun moving his sheep around the small pen.

The next couple dogs were in a larger pen and had more experience. One was an Aussie who'd only been herding for about a year (I think) but lives on a farm with sheep. They demonstrated the different commands (come bye, away to me, out, walk up), and fetching and driving. Next was a Rottweiler who had a lot more experience. He was so much fun to watch and so different from the Aussies. The Aussies were full of bounce and did big running arcs around the sheep. The Rottie had such a big strong presence, he'd just trot toward the sheep and they'd move away from him. Last was one of Tenley's Aussies. We went over to a big field set up for stock trials. The sheep in there were mostly lambs, so they were a bigger challenge for the dog than the dog-broke sheep the earlier dogs had been working. Tenley had her dog go through the exercises of a stock trial. It was awesome to watch this dog work. She had excellent control of the sheep and was very attentive to Tenley's commands.

Then we got a break for lunch. All of the dogs had stayed in their owners' cars during the lecture/demos. I kept Iris in her crate on the backseat so I could leave the windows down for her, and luckily it wasn't too hot out. I'm sure Iris didn't relax much. Even with a sheet blocking her view of the world, she'd bark when the dog in the next car over would bark. I need to work on getting her more used to being crated in public. She loves her crate at home.

After lunch, Tenley started introducing dogs to sheep. Owners didn't go in with sheep, but if their dog ended up working ducks, then the owner could go in. We were #18, so it was around 4:30 by the time we got our turn. It was really cool to see how the other dogs reacted to the sheep. There was a huge range of responses. There was an Aussie who's been chasing goats and horses at home and all he wanted to do was chase instead of herd. There were a couple of Bernese Mountain Dogs who were really fun to watch and mostly wanted to hold the sheep in a corner of the pen. There was a few Aussies who "got it" right away, and a Corgi who was so interested in the sheep Tenley said "there's nothing else in his world right now." There was one dog (looked like an Aussie or a BC mix) that just wasn't interested. The thing that I was most impressed with was how much Tenley tailored her style to the different dogs. She could be really encouraging with the hesitant dogs and really assertive with with pushy dogs. For the over zealous dogs, she's use a rake to move them into position or push them back. Even though she called it "hitting" the dog with the rake as a correction, it was a plastic garden rake and "hit" isn't the word I'd have chosen. She was using it more as a way of getting the dog's attention and redirecting the dog and never actually hurting the dogs.

Iris was so good about waiting her turn. I left her in the car during most of the dogs before us and only had her wait outside through about 7 dogs. When I had her out, she never barked at the other dogs. I could see her thinking about it a couple times and got her attention back on me. I was proud of her! Other dogs were walking pretty close to us. Iris lay down next to me while we waited and was so good.

Now the biggest surprise of the day came when Iris went in with the sheep. I fully expected Iris to "bust in the like Kool-Aid man" and run the sheep around. She's pushy with my other dogs and determined to chase cars (the bigger the better). Plus she's already killed livestock. Before I handed her over to Tenley, I told her a little about Iris. I explained that I'd only had Iris since last summer and was her fifth owner. I also told her that Iris was surrendered to the shelter for escaping and killing two ducks. Tenley wasn't at all concerned about the duck incident.

Iris was in the the sheep for about 30 seconds. She was so afraid of them! Poor girl. She came running back to me, "Mom! There are monsters over there!" My tough little b*tch isn't so tough when she's out on her own. In her defense, there were about 30 strange people and strange dogs outside watching and I sent her by herself into a pen with a stranger and three monsters. But that does tell a lot about Iris' personality. She's definitely of the mindset that the best defense is a good offense, and she's not as tough as she makes herself out to be. I've suspected that all of her huffing and puffing is really because she's just nervous.

Tenley suggested that we try her on ducks (so now I'm thinking, "Great. I'm going to have the only dog who goes out there and eats the livestock.") Iris did awesome! I got to go in the pen with Iris, Tenley, and the ducks. Iris never tried to use her mouth on the ducks. She did run over to the fence a couple times to check what the people outside were doing. But she was really happy to move the ducks around. She was being goofy and bouncy when she first realized that she was allowed to chase ducks. A couple times, she got excited and stepped on the ducks when trying to run after them. Oops! A little too much enthusiasm. She did check herself and even walked after them to make them move. It was so cool to see what she could do with no training. She also came and checked in with me a couple times (not something that she was supposed to be doing for herding, but it is something I want her to do for agility, so I can't complain!) At the end, Tenley said "Iris would make a really nice duck dog." That was such a big compliment since Tenley definitely wasn't telling everyone their dog would do well at herding.

All in all, the day was definitely worth the drive down to CT. I was so proud of my little duck dog. While I have no intentions of stopping agility, I think it'd be fun to do more herding with Iris. She really enjoyed working the ducks. I'd also like to see what she'd do with sheep in a less stressful environment, maybe after she's worked with ducks a few times.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What Breed are You?

I'm stealing this quiz from Juile's blog.

What dog breed are you? I'm a Border Collie! Find out at

Border Collie - The Achiever

You've heard about this "second-place ribbon" thing, but really don’t ever plan on getting one. Not a chance. Highly competitive, you keep one eye on the Best in Show prize and one on the rest of the pack, making sure you're always at least one paw ahead. You love your family and enjoy the company you keep, but you'd trade all of them in a heartbeat for a corner office and some meaty stock options. When you're not licking your professional coat, naked skydiving and triathlons keep you entertained. You idolize the top dog and will do so until you sniff out a way to take over the company and do a little "restructuring."

While I don't think I'm quite that type-A, BC isn't too far off from Aussie so Iris is probably proud of me. Christopher from over on Border Wars has something to say about the "famous border collie" people. Let me just say, I'm highly amused by the choice of Bob Ross and that I'd end up in he same category as him. I will give the guy credit, he is successful.