Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Just because I didn't blog about last week's agility class doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it. And actually, I think writing about last week's class and yesterday's class in one post is going to work out well.

Last week was a jump box class. I dread jump boxes. I always learn a lot when we do them. I do like doing them. I still dread jump boxes. They're not Iris' favorite either. The course focused a lot on "switch." I know I've said it before but I'll say it again anyway, switch (back cross, changing leads, every aspect of it) is one of the hardest things for me to grasp in agility. We had trouble with it in the 5 directions class. We had trouble with it last week. I could not get Iris to go over the jump facing the right direction. Part of it was that I was on top of the jump and not giving Iris nearly enough space to change leads. I could not figure out where to put my feet or my hands or myself in relation to my dog. I did get her to switch a few times, but most of the night was a struggle. Iris was stressed because she couldn't figure out what I wanted, and I know she hates that. My brain was fried. Her brain was fried.

I've probably run that course in my head a hundred times in the last week. I set up a single jump in my little apartment living room and we practiced switch over just the one jump. I did get her switching very consistantly and without me trying to stand right on top of the jump (you know, just in case my dog doesn't see it. Iris gets a cookie just for putting up with me).

Now fast forward to yesterday's class. Iris was in such a bitchy mood. She's getting worse I think. Sometimes she's worse and sometimes she's better. Over the weekend we had a fun run-in with our reactive-dogs-on-retractable-leashes neighbor. One of her dogs (a Papillion, which happens to be the friendly one of the two) got loose. Without even thinking about it, I stepped on the Pap's leash so he wouldn't run out into traffic. Iris was really really good about the whole incident, including the challenge of passing the Pap's leash back to his owner who didn't speak much English and was really afraid her other dog (American Eskimo) was going to bite Iris. He was giving a pretty good show of barking and lunging. Even though nothing bad happened, incidents like that aren't really helping Iris. Once the weather warms up, I'm going to have to spend a lot more time working on her behavior around other dogs and people. She did settle down in class eventually.

No more jump boxes in class yesterday, but the course did have a couple of opportunities for a switch (back cross). First, Iris had trouble with the tire jump at the beginning of the course. She really wants to run under it. I'm thinking about building a tire jump so we can practice at home since that's not the first time she's had trouble with the tire. There were also two sets of weave poles with cages only on one side. I thought Iris did a VERY nice job with the weaves. This was the first time in class that I've noticed her really looking stright ahead while she's weaving. In the past, she's done a couple of poles and then looked up at me for reassurance before doing a couple more. I think she might have been looking ahead last time we did weaves in class, but I didn't really notice it then.

Most impotantly, I think practicing switch paid off. During Iris' last run we got in a very nice switch (at least I thought it was! VERY nice for us). Iris came out of tunnel and over a jump, then I got her to come in towards me to make it over the next jump (I have a bad habit of trying to point out jumps for my dog which really just makes her go wide around the jump), and then we pulled off the switch and backcross over the next jump.


Sunday, February 15, 2009

Beach Trip

Horray! Got Iris out to play at the beach today and she had a BLAST! Unfortunately, I am a bad photographer and forgot to pack the memory card for my camera. Brought everything else - camera, batteries, water for Iris, extra sweatshirt for me (which I didn't need - it was beautiful out), multiple leashes for my one dog... But not the memory card. So you'll have to make do with just words. At least now I can probably justify buying that second memory card.

We made the trip down to Horseneck Beach in Westport. My original plan was to try Goosebury Island first because it's usually pretty empty, but it was actually more crowded than Horseneck. Goosebury is a much smaller space, and too many people had the same idea I did.

It was the first time I've brought Iris to the ocean. She generally isn't interested in swimming, and once she'd determined that while the ocean looks like water it definitely does not taste like it, she was happy to play on the beach. After a little bit of walking, we got a stretch of beach to ourselves and I let Iris run. She was thrilled. She thinks the best game ever is if we both run in great big circles. Silly herder. She really got to stretch her muscles and tired herself out. People who have dogs that will hapily chase a ball up and down the beach have it easy. My dog? She wants to chase me. Goofy girl.

Iris was also a complete Saint with the other dogs and people. Maybe because she could see them coming from such a long was off? She met quite a few dogs and was polite with all of them. She even ran around and played with a Collie mix! I think maybe she misses her Beagle. Yeah, I was kicking myself for not having the camera. She said hi to a number of strange people, including men, with no hesitation. I think it's because everyone kept telling her how beautiful she is. Sometimes she's quite a ham. There were also a couple of horses at the beach, and Iris pretty much ignored them (in the past, she's been rather convinced that horses are the same as cows and probably should be herded).

Now I need to find a weekend to bring her back. Horseneck closes their beaches to dogs on March 14th. I think this is because of the Piping Plovers who return to nest in late March. Goosebury Island might be more leinent about dogs. Otherwise we'll have to look for somewhere new. I definitely want Iris to see the beach again soon. She's slept solidly since we got home!

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Dolittler's Valentine's Day post suggested making a list of your pet's nicknames. Here's a list for my gang including Henry, mostly because Henry's nicknames usually make me laugh.

  • Iris Aussie Dog or just Aussie Dog
  • Red Dog
  • Crazy Head (my roommate came up with this one. She says Iris has crazy eyes, crazy ears, crazy fur around her neck that sticks in all different directions, and sometimes Iris is just plain crazy)
  • Poofy Butt (because it is poofy!)
  • The Kool-Aid Dog (do you remember the old Kool Aid commercials when the Kool-Aid Man would bust through the wall and yell "Oh yeah!" Iris is like that. Often.)
  • Snot Head
  • Goofy, Goofy-Girl, Goofball
  • Trouble
  • I do use a lot of the "standard" terms of endearment too - honey, beautiful, sweetie. Those just aren't as much fun to list.
  • Henry Wenry
  • Stinkey Muffin (this one makes me laugh every time)
  • Chubby Wubby
  • Chubs
  • Beagle Boy
  • Beans for Brains
  • My sister also likes to tell him how sexy and handsome he is, probably to balance out his other nicknames.
Seamus (parakeet)
  • I almost never use a nickname for him. I have no idea why, I've had him by far the longest (over 10 years!) Sometimes I call him Seamus Keeper, Pretty Boy, and Sweet Bird.
Sammy and Asani (Ball Pythons)
  • The Kids - I use this almost more often than I use their names. I got them as eggs and they ended up hatching while I was living at school for RA training (RAs are those kids who are supposed to enforce rules in the dorms, including the no pets policy). I needed a code name for them since I couldn't risk anyone overhearing me mention "snake."
  • Sammy is "The Mighty Hunter."
  • Asani is "The Pacifist." I've had him for 2 1/2 years and he's never eaten indepenently.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Agility and Zoomies

The red dog had a blast at agility on Tues. She certainly seemed less stressed in general than she has been the last few weeks.

Julie posted the course map on her blog. Thanks Julie! I had trouble remembering the course while we were running it, so it helps seeing it now. The course started with a tunnel. I admit it, I thought Iris was going to run around the tunnel. Nope! She had absolutely no problem with it. After the second tunnel, I needed to front cross in order to get Iris into the next tunnel instead of the a-frame. Well, I got the front cross in, but I kept losing my dog. After I would do the front cross, I'd be so relieved I pulled it off, I was pausing. I needed to look where I was going and keep moving. Iris was not really in the mood for pausing. She says, "I don't know what you're doing, but I's doing agility!" If I wasn't going to tell her what next, she was going to make it up herself, and she says a-frames are fun! Then the zoomies kicked in. Which had me laughing, which I'm pretty sure only encourages her. But hey, she was having a blast out there and considering how stressed she's been lately, I'll take it. She did sit when I asked her to (good girl!) and I got her attention back.

Towards the end of the run, Iris ran over to the other dogs to grab a drink from Carmen's water dish. (Iris says, "What are you guys all stressed out about, I only wanted a drink!" Hey, she's earned her reputation as a trouble maker). I just got her some new dried salmon treats. I think they smell bad, so of course Iris thinks they're awesome. They're really dry so I think they made her thirsty after all her zooming. Once she was back in her crate, I gave Iris some water and she actually finished it. She never finishes it. I may have to use the salmon treats at home and come up with something else for agility. Maybe back to string cheese? The little snob doesn't like it if I use the same treats too many times in a row. She says I'm B-O-R-I-N-G.

Iris' wait on the teeter was perfect (and she really thought about flying but didn't). We had a little trouble with waiting on the A-frame, but as soon as I remembered to turn toward her, she had no problem. She hasn't seen the chute in a while, so she did have trouble with it at first. Once she figured out the she could push through it, she did much better the second time through. I might try and come up with something chute-like to practice with at home. Once she goes throuigh it a couple of times, I bet she won't have any problems. She's nicknamed "the Kool-Aid dog" for a reason.

Now that she had such a fun time at class, I have to see if I can keep my red dog relaxed and happy. I'm hoping to get her out somewhere to play this weekend (maybe the beach?) Hence the color changes to the blog - I really didn't like the way my photos looked against the dark green, and I might try and get some new photos of the girl this weekend. Hopefully this will work better (snobby artist, I know).