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First try at a crate set-up

This is not necessarily the permanent solution, and I know I'll want different crates. I may end up using Pirate's fancy metal crate, though I got it as a show crate, because I suspect that I won't be crating inside very much with the new van. I might as well just keep the dogs in the vehicle. They will all now have big enough crates to keep them comfortable.

The 200 on top is to store treats & toys, the half a 200 is for any other loose things I might want to keep in the vehicle, but the dogs won't bother. (a pair of shoes, a towel, etc)

I was trying to keep a space to the side with the thought that I could put a mat in there and sleep, ie; if I'm driving to Vegas for our national specialty. I can fit in there, but it's a little snug, I don't know if there'd be room with other stuff I might want to bring. So, I might need to experiment more. Of course, I can always change my crate configuration depending on my plans.

I do think I want to maintain it as individual crates, that I can remove as needed, I don't want any kind of permanent installation or a large unit that is hard for me to remove. I want to be able to haul other things when I need to.

Bought a car

A cargo van, really, a Ram Promaster City. I'd meant to buy used, but sometimes I just get carried away, so now I have a brand new vehicle. It's a 2015, so I saved a few thousand based on Gresham Dodge wanting it gone.

Since it's a cargo van, I had to deal with the commercial vehicle sales guy, but he was nice enough and quite eager to sell me the vehicle, though he made no effort to push me into the more spendy models. I didn't want to pay for a lot of fancy features, since all the new vehicle features these days seem fancy to me. It does have AC & cupholders, which are the things I most miss having. Power windows & mirrors, Bluetooth compatible (salesman helped me get it set up with my phone), and steering wheel controls for the radio/Bluetooth thing. Those are all pretty useful features, and I'm happy to have them, I don't need anything fancier than that.

Here's some pics:

I did pay a few hundred for the cargo mat in back. The tiedowns are standard equipment, but the van comes with just the metal floor. I didn't want it damaged, and want it easy to clean, so I added the official Mopar cargo mat. I could have rigged something up, but I like having something properly fitted to the vehicle.

And yes, it's a bit of overkill with my 3 smallish dogs, I don't really need quite this much cargo room. But the vehicle price and gas mileage are as good or better as I could get with a vehicle with more moderate cargo space. So, why not get it, and have all the space I will ever need? It's also drilled for a roof rack, and can tow 2000 lbs if I ever want to haul even more stuff. It's not huge, it's footprint is minivan sized, just well designed for cargo moving.

It's also got just a little bit of ground clearance (not like a 4wd, but not a groundhugger, either), and a reasonably stout suspension, which was my other draw to this particular vehicle. If I want to drive down logging roads to go hiking, I don't have to worry too much about the car, it should be able to take it. I really don't need or want an offroad vehicle, but I do want something that can take a bit of rough road safely.

Of course, now I'm going to be mad if anybody hits my car. The truck was good because I didn't care. Hit my truck? That's your problem, not mine. But I don't want anything to happen to my shiny new car! Truck was being super weird on my drive to get rid of it, though, so I'm glad it's gone. The "check the gauges" light came on, I looked, and the temperature gauge was all the way up. Just when I was going to pull over and check the coolant, the light went off, and the gauge dropped down. But if I hadn't been trading it, I'd have had to get it looked at. Now? Not my problem.

Pirate tries hard

This part is about Pirate. Who tried really hard for me this past weekend. He knocked quite a lot of bars, but watching video, I don't think it's physical, and I don't think he's finding the 16" jumps too hard, I think he just needs better handling. The majority of dropped bars tended to come when we were out of sync for whatever reason, and I think when he's trying to figure out where he's going, he just gets careless and a bar comes down. When he's confident and knows where he's going, he jumps easily.

He was also a little crazy and frantic this weekend, but I have a plan for that. Anyway, he had 11 runs in the 2 days (though we didn't finish all of those, with so many, I chose to leave if it seemed pointless), and ran fast and enthusiastic for all of them, so a good weekend, I think.

So this is his first Masters Q, Saturday Gamblers. They started the video when I took the leash off, and then we were waiting for the dog before us to get caught, so there's 20 seconds at the start that is just bouncing Pirate. The gamble is so perfect though. I sent him to the tunnel on the other side of the ring deliberately, to get some momentum heading into the gamble, and it worked perfect.

Notice the bars stay up. Not as many jumps, of course, but also, he was pretty confident about where he was going.

Sunday's Standard run. I got this one partly because I thought it was cute when he almost broke his startline, and thought better of it. And he was ahead of me for almost the entire run. It was scary when I was running it because I was relying on verbals, and wasn't sure how much he knew them.
Then we reached the part that was hard for me to handle, he got confused, and knocked a bar. I never looked at the results, since we didn't Q, but according to the trial results I received, this was a 1st place run, so apparently no 16" dogs got the Q.

(also, I really wish I'd done a blind cross at the beginning. You'll see where.)

Finally, I also got the Jumpers run. A nice run, just a little wide a couple places, and one early jump that I think was just a miscalculation on his part, but he didn't knock it. Then I called him over a bar, and caused him to knock it (I'd seen other dogs go off course there. Shoulda just trusted my motion cues.) And he knocked another bar because of a challenging bit in the course that needed him to bend in a way he can't bend. I needed to handle that some other way. Don't know how.

He did not Q in any of Sunday's runs, though he did have some nice stuff. His Fancy Jumpers was a bit bad (he was apparently not into collection for that run. He opted not to turn with me for the first real turn, continued a bit, and then he missed the weave entry. So we left.) Other than that, I felt like he was really trying for me the whole time, he's just hard for me to run well, especially when he's that raring to go. And I LIKE happy, fast Pirate, just not easy for me to run.

We've been struggling with a lot of stuff lately, I'm leash walking him separate from the girls to work on his leash manners, and he's had a tendency to get over the top and crazy in a lot of situations. I was super frustrated by it. It really came to a head at a lure coursing event the previous Sunday, where I had to line up and wait with him, and he was almost unmanageable. So I was talking to a friend about the PITA Pirate was being, and had a revelation. Which is simply... Pirate stresses up. Pirate has always stressed up, and I've failed to recognize his stress behavior in the past. It's hard, because of course, stress can be positive as well as negative, and when you've already got an enthusiastic, energetic dog, it's not as noticeable that the crazies aren't just happy happy dog (which they are, with Mercy), but are actually a stress reaction.

So he gets hard to manage, I get frustrated and yell at him, and try to make him lie down so he'll settle. Both of which are rather stressful things ("down" is not intrinsically stressful, but it can be if he's already stressed). We are therefore working an endless feedback loop of stress.

I had to think a little to come up with new strategies, but I'm trying some, and already seeing positive results. The first is simply to monitor my own behavior and be sure I don't resort to yelling at him to lie down, which is the opposite of helpful. (I'll still yell at him to stop jumping on the crates, but then immediately switch to a lighter tone before asking him to lie down) Asking him to lie down before his treats after a run, which I had started a few months ago, is actually a good, positive way to encourage control, so that stays. I'm trying to keep a lighter, encouraging tone when getting him ready to run, and he is responsive to that. One thing that has always been hard for him is that he doesn't like a collar being slipped over his head. I know that, and I have no choice but to use such, since my tremor won't let me clip a leash after a run. But what I was doing at this trial is letting him out of his crate, with treats in my hand, asking for a lie down in a loving tone, and then putting the leash on with one hand, while popping a treat into his mouth with the other.

By the end of the weekend, he was offering that down. Also, after an agility run, I've always had to grab him to get the leash on (since he doesn't like having the leash put on). He goes to the leash, and he doesn't try to leave the ring without me, but he doesn't hold still for me to put it on, I have to hold him with one hand while I slip on the leash with the other. Until the last run of this trial, where he went to the leash, and stood calmly while I put the leash on. I'd call that a positive change!

Anyway, I'm thinking that some of the sync issues, and the bar knocking, could be related to the little bit of franticness that he gets, which is probably stress related. So if I can work through these stressy things in our relationship, it should make his agility better, too. I'm pretty hopeful, since he showed noticeable improvement in a week, that we can work through this and he can be my good, sweet boy again.


Okay, I'll post about the others later, but this is the Mercy post. She is quite ridiculous. Here is yesterday's run. You want to watch this, trust me.

In hindsight, Snooker was not the best choice with a distractable baby dog.

I did kind of suspect that she might not have a great run when I was warming her up at the practice jump, and she kept running off to look for friends. I couldn't get more than a jump or 2 before she'd take off. But, we tried anyway, and I do feel like it's an improvement over the AKC trial. People asked me, "but what about the score table?" And I'll give you the score table, but I did manage to get her to come back and work with me several times, which didn't really happen until the end of the AKC run.

The fact that she got a 3rd place ribbon for that run is still hilarious.

Today she ran Jumpers, and I do think it was better.

She really, really wanted to see Kitty, though. Jumpers was better for us, because I could carry out my original plan of running the course with or without her. I mean, I tried to get her at least looking my way before moving on, but no hanging around waiting for her to take an obstacle, just get her attention and get moving. I think it helped, and is what I'll do when next I run her. She's entered in an AKC run in a couple weeks, though she could come into season, I don't know.

I really appreciate the fabulous Judge Dale Mahoney for being so patient with us and letting me work through this. And also for being encouraging and supportive. "She's getting better!"

Now, though, I feel that Mercy needs an agility slip embroidered with the word "SHENANIGANS!"


Well it's CAT USDAA weekend. In honor of which, when the orange pet dye I bought arrived yesterday, I took the time to dye Tess last night. Just her chest, and a splash to the toes on her white front foot. The idea was to have her be orange & black for Halloween. I thought of putting dye on her greying muzzle so it would be frosted in orange, which would be cute, but the dye says to keep it away from their mouth, so I did not risk it. I also didn't fully do the foot, or bother with the back feet, because she tends to lose her balance if I pick up a foot while she's in the tub, and it wasn't worth it. I didn't want to make it miserable for her. Pirate & Mercy seemed quite jealous, though. Pirate actually jumped into the tub too, which he has not done before.

So today, with my kinda orange dog (she could be oranger, I didn't leave it on as long as you're supposed to), and the other 2, we went up and ran USDAA. Poor Pi, I couldn't decide what to enter, so I entered him in everything. Girls each got one run per day.

Tess got the very first run of the day (8" veteran, and the only veteran), in Standard, and kind of did whatever she wanted, but I think she had fun. I'd actually like to run her at 8" more, I think she likes that height now. Also, I bought her a sequined body shirt, because I have no restraint.

I liked the one I had for Tully, I feel like it's a nice garment to keep the older dogs more comfortable while still allowing full movement. Mine feel cold more as they age, and I like keeping muscles & joints warm.

I was pretty happy with Pirate in his 6 runs, I thought he did as well as he could. My handling wasn't great for him. He was a little crazy starting out, and between that and my handling errors, our runs in Standard & Fancy Standard were rough, but he was happy. Several bars down, but I felt they were handling related, his jumping looked good on video. Gamblers, his first time in Masters Gamblers, he ACED! A really nice run, solid gamble, Q and 1st place. (only 16" dog to get the gamble). It helped that part of it was an A-frame/tunnel discrimination, where they needed to take the AF, and Pi will always choose a contact over a tunnel if he has to guess. Steeple & Snooker came up pretty close to each other, and I didn't handle remembering both courses well, so we E'd early in Steeple, and I left. With so many runs, and not a lot of time before Snooker, I didn't see a need to stay. Also screwed up Snooker. Not his fault, but it did nicely reduce the amount of running he had to do. Finally, Pairs, which we ran with Anne & Wyatt. I knew the WyPi pair wasn't going to struggle for time, and they did not. It was a nice solid run for both dogs, so a Pairs Q. If I had to pick 2 Q's, Gamblers & Pairs are the ones I would want, so that was a great outcome. 4 more, and I can stop entering those.

Finally, Mercy had a run in PI Snooker. Let's just say it was entertaining. And I'll buy the video tomorrow. She did do a few more jumps than in the AKC run a couple weeks ago, and actually got a score of 8 points. 3 reds, a 2, and a 3. After the 3rd red, I had her backjump it because it was decidedly time to go.

However, since she got a score, she got a placement- 3rd. And I picked up the ribbon, which I wouldn't usually do with a non-qualifying placement, but it's her first agility ribbon. And getting a ribbon for that run is really, really funny.

Agility day

Since I'm working Tue-Sat at my job now, I only have Sundays available for agility. I can actually take a Saturday off if I need it, but at this point, I feel like that is unnecessary for most things. So, I entered Sunday only at the PAC trial.

Wasn't a very successful day on many counts, though fun. I had all 3 dogs entered, which is a lot (though Mercy only in JWW). I had to get there early to get Mercy measured, so that made a long day.

Tess damaged a dew claw fence fighting last week, so I was concerned about her soundness. She was limping for a day after the injury, though she'd been moving fine for some days. When I walked her at the fairgrounds, she looked like she was limping a little again, but she was in long grass at the time, and I thought it might be catching on the damaged dew. (btw, can I just say, I HATE it when you mention your dog damaged a dew claw, and people say "that's why I hate dewclaws!" The worst injury one of my dogs has had in similar circumstances is a badly sliced stopper pad, that bled everywhere, had to be wrapped, and required time off agility until the pad regrew. Should I have the stopper pads amputated?)

Anyway, the standard course, which we started with, was a fairly challenging course with a ton of off course options. No tight handling, just needed the handler to be in the right place all the time to cue the dog correctly. Tess, of course, didn't care about that. By the time I got the leash off her at the start line, she'd picked the dogwalk as the 2nd obstacle, so as I ran towards the weaves, saying "weave!", she cut behind me and took the DW. When I stopped and looked at her, and she realized she was wrong, she jumped off the DW. I wasn't going to keep running with a nearly 11-yr-old dog, with a potentially sore toe, who just jumped off the top of the DW, so I took her and left. She was not happy about that. I did run her in JWW later, and she was okay. Had a good run, qualified, and was moving out confidently. She was fairly slow, though, which I didn't really notice until I watched the video.

Pirate didn't get the Standard course either, though mostly it was handler error. I was concerned about the potential conflict with Mercy, and had to grab him out of the crate and go, with not much time to settle, so not ideal. I'd also planned to see how it handled with Tess (I didn't think I could get her past all the off courses), and use that to advise my run with Pirate, but of course, she didn't get to run it. Pirate's JWW run was decent, but he knocked 3 bars. When I watched the video, his jumping looked terrible for the whole run. I had him adjusted and massaged, but if he's going to need that every time he runs, I can't afford to run him.

Mercy's first AKC run was... not so much like agility.

That's actually what I expected when I first ran her, but she'd been doing not so bad, and refocusing pretty well, so I had hope. This was a big step backwards, though.

I'm not as sure I should keep running her if she's going the wrong way. I'm going to tentatively plan to continue though, with a new plan for how to deal with it. I think that me standing there, trying to call her back, is not very motivating, so my plan with her is that I'll call her, but I'll go ahead and run the course by myself, and see if she decides to join me. If not, I'll get the leash and collect her. If she does join me, we'll just keep going and finish the course from wherever we are.

The plan for Pirate is conflicted. I think he does need to have more bodywork. His bar knocking in JWW might not be related to that at all. I think he needs better warm-up before I run him. I walk the dogs for a warm-up when we arrive in the morning, and the Standard run, he looked fine. Afterwards, he was crated until his JWW run, and that might have just been too long. So I think he needs more warm-up. A Back On Track coat was suggested to me, and that's something he may need, too.

If I can't get him doing better, I may have to move him to preferred. I felt like he jumps 16 fine, and wanted to keep him at that height, but if I can't get him to consistently keep his bars up, I may have to move him down. He jumps well, except when he doesn't.

Tess may have to be retired. I had wanted to finish her PACH, then ease her out with one run a day or weekend. She needs 6 QQs for the PACH, though, and I'm not sure she's going to run that much longer. I don't like how slow she was in JWW. And granted, there were extenuating circumstances. I'm not going to retire her immediately, but I'm thinking about it hard. She has definitely lost speed in the last year, but that was pretty dramatically slow. (less than 4.2 YPS) I know she doesn't want to retire, but if she must, she must.

At this rate, I'll soon have no agility dog at all.

It looks exactly like her!

I love this picture so much. I want to have it on everything. I think it should be an illustration in a children's book, though I don't think Adrian actually wants to do the rest of the illustrations for the amazing adventures of Mercy. Even if I include a Tasmanian tiger, and a honey badger, which I'd kind of have to.


Almost there with Mercy's weaves. She's been a little more challenging than my others, because we did so much cone work that when I started her on the weaves, she wanted to run out, wrap one, and return. But we're almost there now. Next step will the the straight line, then we'll try them at the barn.

(videoed in poor light, and I let YouTube lighten it up, so it's not very high res, but I think you can still see her well enough)


Started Mercy on the formal retrieve tonight. Which, there's a story behind this. Somebody shared a truly awful video of a "dog trainer" showing off the training of a young Lab that he's been working for 6 weeks. I won't share that video here, it's heartbreaking. He's using an ecollar, and doing some "retrieve" work, and the dog is so shut down it will barely move. A Lab. He trained a Lab to be afraid to retrieve.

To reaffirm myself in the joy of dog training, as well as to prove a bit of a point, I decided to introduce Mercy to the dumbbell. We did a few minutes with it, I liked what I was getting and quit. Some people wanted to see it though, so despite my messy house, I shot some video:

No actual retrieving yet, of course, just a good grip on the bar, and then reaching for it, since she got the grip right away. She was having a great time, but no need to rush it. She's already about halfway along where that poor terrified Lab is, and there'll be no need to try and coax speed out of her. Speed, we got.

I shared the sad video on my FB, and the discussion got a little heated, which was odd. A person expressed a dislike for the forced retrieve. I hadn't wanted to debate it, but I just said that I couldn't bring myself to use one when a shaped retrieve works so well. Another friend commented that her dog's shaped retrieve was more reliable and happier than many dogs forced retrieve. Still a pretty easy comment, since "many dogs" encompasses some really badly trained ones, so nobody being shamed. And then someone took it personal, and got pretty rude. (rude enough that I eventually deleted a comment, which I rarely do) I told her flat out that I won't tolerate being rude to other commenters on my FB page, and will unfriend if she can't behave. I may not be 100% consistent in that policy, since it's easier to notice rudeness when you disagree with somebody's position (and if someone is provoked, I won't criticize them for snarking back). But I really prefer that people commenting on my FB page treat each other with respect.

I knew somebody was going to comment in favor of the force retrieve, and I didn't want a battle about it, but since I'm not much in favor of it myself, I'm not giving the proponents a lot of leeway. (the horrifying nature of the poor Lab's training wasn't just because of the use of the ecollar, you can have a less shut down dog while still using force, it was just bad training. But I still prefer a shaped retrieve.)

But Mercy... super cute. And apparently going to learn a retrieve before she even starts to learn how to heel.

Cute puppy runs fast

I decided a couple days ago to try taking the pups to the UKI trial held today at the Cash arena. I thought it would be a nice practice option for Mercy, since the Cash arena is great for baby dogs. I ended up running all the dogs, because if she was playing, might as well bring Pirate. I entered him in the Masters series. I was not going to enter Tess, because I'm trying to wean her off of agility. She's been pretty demented lately, though, so I decided it would be in my best interest to let her run off some crazy. Not able to decide what to enter her in, I finally just entered her in the regular Agility & Jumping.

I entered Mercy in Novice Jumping and Speedstakes. Which was a bit of a mistake, because I'd forgotten that there are weaves in UKI Jumping. I mean, it's called just "Jumping", so I was thinking it was like USDAA Jumpers. But no, we had a nice baby dog course, with weaves that Mercy is not familiar with. I had to just take her by them, which caused her to disconnect a bit. Despite her over-excited zooming at the beginning, and that disconnect, I was pretty happy with her effort.

Later, we did Speedstakes, the longest course she's run, I think. Still some crazy moments, but I felt like she tried hard for me. She's not experienced enough to figure it out if I'm not really clear with my handling. Also, she's very fast.

So, that was fun.

The more advanced courses were also fun, and hard for me to get through. Tess says she is NOT old, she's seasoned, and doesn't have time for my nonsense. Pirate was just very, very wound up. I did start my new work schedule this week, so was gone more hours than they are used to. Maybe that was where the crazy came from. They were sure hard to run!