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Did some obedience

Just Beginners Novice, with Pirate. We were not successful, and I'm a little disappointed, because I honestly thought he was ready. We did it exactly once before, at Rose City last January, with very little practice beforehand, and he did almost everything. He just didn't quite hold his stay long enough on the "walk around the ring", because I hadn't practiced that particular stay. (I use stays a lot in life, and figured he knows them).

So, I've been practicing with him. When Mercy was in season, I started bringing Pirate along to work, keeping him in my van, and at lunch break, I'd go out and walk him, take him down to the park, and do some obedience work there. Since she's been out of season, I've tried to keep that up once or twice a week. He was doing really well, his obedience skills sharp. I practiced the walk-around stay, lots of heeling, lots of recalls (I really wanted to improve his recall performance). I practiced working without treats (this is hard for me), and going for a jackpot at the end.

This morning, our first class was at 8, so we had to get an early start, and when I took him in the ring, it was obvious he had no idea what we were doing. He was flaky about everything, stood up on the "sit for exam" (that, I didn't have somebody to practice with, so not a shock), and on the recall, he basically came to me and then wandered off. His stay was solid, but nothing else. And I did expect some drop-off in the ring, but he was really not engaged. He was also trying to grab the judge's pen, or my hands.

Before his 2nd run, I took him in the practice ring, which seemed to help. And that run was a lot better. He engaged. He had some really pretty heeling. And some really not-pretty heeling at other moments, but I felt like he was trying. The first half of his figure-8 I was walking into him, after the first halt, he was suddenly a perfect little heeler. I didn't practice a figure-8, guess I should have. But he was doing alright.

Then, on the stay, he stood up and turned to watch me as I walked around. I don't know why it suddenly became more stressful, but it did. Also, on the recall he didn't stay, when I got out and turned around, he started to move towards me, then suddenly remembered that was wrong, and froze, with an "oops" expression on his face. That's the one part I understand, actually, anticipation is a Stafford's nemesis, and he has had the tendency to occasionally do that with the recalls. We've worked at it, I don't think I can eliminate it completely.

I did like that run a lot more, he was trying for me, and I felt like we were working together. He wasn't being as crazy, so I wasn't terrified of an explosion. But, still not a Q. And it's Beginners Novice, this is supposed to be easy!

I think obedience is just so different than anything I've asked him to do in the ring, and he's confused by that. He really does know the exercises we're going, but he's used to doing those in a variety of places that do not include a show ring. I don't feel that the environment is that stressful for him, he's been in that environment plenty, but the "now we do this thing in the ring, instead of giving you treats and having you look pretty. Oh, and there will be no treats. Also, I won't talk to you"... that is a big change, and it's confusing to him.

But, he did get better with practice, maybe he can figure this out still.

I was going to do the Farm Dog Certification with him, but they didn't take pre-entries, but ended up letting people that ran it yesterday sign up for runs today. And they filled up, so there was no room to add entries from people who weren't around yesterday. I found that annoying.

We did do some lure-coursing practice, not because they need practice, but they like it. The field was crazy muddy, so they didn't have it go far, and just zipped the lure back and forth. Pirate decided he doesn't like that, and wandered off, so probably no point in trying for the last CA leg. He's not a fan of turns. The girls had a great time, and we all got excessively muddy.

Mercy would have gone again. Right now.

No more competitions planned this month. I intend to do agility the New Year weekend trial, but probably just Sunday, unless the office is closed on NYE. We're planning a rebellion in the Novice class, though, between Mercy and another overly friendly young dog who is planning to debut at that trial.


Holidays are good for family pictures. I do love this photo. We had a couple extras at our Thanksgiving this year, so we got one to take a picture of the whole family together. Usually, we can't do that, because somebody has to take the picture!

All 4 Adams kids are here: myself, my 2 sisters, and my brother. My sisters' spouses, both here. And my Dad, looking very patriarchal in the front. He's 86, so while he's in great health, we'd best get our photos while we can. Only person not here is my niece, unfortunately it isn't really practical for her to come back from NJ for Thanksgiving.

For some reason, my brother thought that the Elvis potholder my sister gave me needed to be in the photo too, and my sisters and Dad are holding cupcakes. Not really clear on any of that. I was holding nothing. My sister Rhonda says she likes this photo, because it looks like everybody is following directions, and she just saw a squirrel.

So, that's my family.

Did some agility

Since I can mostly only do Sundays now (I can take a Saturday off by working Monday instead, but I don't want to do that too often, and anyway, Mercy has her class on Mondays), I try to enter anything I can. For that one day. Which it's hard for me to get into the game with just one day, and that might be affecting our non-existent Q rate. I ran all 3 dogs today.

I was slow starting, and got there with barely enough time for a quick walk-through of Premier Standard (Pi). As expected, it was a disaster. Then, after a bit, I had Mercy's JWW run. Sadly, the video service missed it. I was pleased with her progress. In that, she visited all the laps, and got at least one face thoroughly washed, but I was able to get some obstacles with her. She got the first jump, then I was able to get her back to take the occasional jump between barsetters. I just kept moving, as I'd said I would do, and I do think it helped. She finally made a wide loop looking for another barsetter, there wasn't one there, so she eyed the judge, I told her to tunnel (2nd to last obstacle. She was sort of in line for the weaves, which were before the tunnel, but I didn't feel that was worth attempting), she took the tunnel, and the jump after the tunnel to end on a strong note.

Then I had to run off and walk Pirate's Standard course, so gordongirls was kind enough to hold Mercy for me. Hopefully, Mercy doesn't now think that if she comes with me, I'm just going to give her away.

Pirate's Standard run was lovely, except for the part where I didn't show him the right line and he missed a jump

So I made sure to do better with Tess, and then I had to do a hard call to stop her from continuing on that line, and she dropped a bar. Not that it mattered, since she didn't have a lot of time to waste out there.

This was a slow course, and Tess' time on it was very fast in comparison to the other dogs. Which admittedly, would not have been as much the case if she'd felt she had time for the DW contact and the teeter, but still... part of my reason for thinking I needed to retire her was that she was slowing down. This is not slow. Maybe she just needed a rest?

I was hoping I'd finally get a Q in JWW, but I developed a charlie horse in my left calf while running Pirate. It was minor, so I tried to push through it, but it ended up with me suddenly grabbing my calf, and Pi going off course. Because he didn't know that move. I hoped I'd be better for Tess' run, but both calves were twitching almost as soon as I started. I managed to hold it together, and she was doing a great job of carrying the team, but finally, it just didn't work. As soon as she went off course, I just hobbled out. Feeling bad, because she did her part, and then I had to walk her off.

I thought I probably shouldn't run Pirate's Premier JWW, since I didn't want to be unfair to him, but I drank a bottle of water, and tried running a bit while I walked the course. I was doing okay, so I attempted it. I could feel the charlie horses trying to come back, so I ran it easy (it was a course I could handle with very little actual running), and managed to make it almost through. Just a couple bars down because I had to use my voice instead of motion.

He is a good boy.

He really is. I'm super pleased with the effects of spending some one-on-one time with him, and doing some light obedience work. His agility runs today were very responsive, and his overall behavior is so much more controlled and thoughtful. When I walked him at the fairgrounds today, and he was zooming around offleash, another agility person with 2 Belgians was walking towards us, and Pi looked like he was going to run ahead to them. I called him back, he instantly came (and got a pet, as I had no treats for him), and then proceeded to check back in for the rest of the walk; every time he ran ahead any distance, he'd come back to me and get a "good boy", before zipping off again. Of his own accord, I only called him the one time.

I guess he just needed a little special Pirate time. That's fine, I can do that.

Good dog day 2

Mostly I just wanted to share this photo, because I really like how it came out

Thanks to the ducks that started quacking and got his attention, since he was just standing there looking discontent. (I asked him to look tough, but that went nowhere)

He was not quite so good walking around, though still quite good. His formal heeling when we practiced that, though, was spot on, so it's like he has so much heel position to give, and if he is closer to it walking around, he'll be further when doing formal heelwork. Or something.

Good dog Pirate

Not that long ago, I was expressing concern about Pirate's crazy, and now it's the opposite.

Mercy is in season. She's been in season for about 11 days, and though Pirate still isn't paying that much attention (kind of weird), they've been separated for several days. I figured that being around that all the time must be tough for him. Plus, Mercy went to a dog show on Sunday, and she & Tess both went to Mercy's agility class yesterday. So, I decided Pi needed some time, and I brought him along to work today. He didn't actually go to work, of course, he just stayed in his crate in the van. Perfectly comfortable. For my lunch break, I went out and took him for a walk.

And he was perfect. He walked beside me on a loose lead except when I released him to sniff around and pee, and even then, he was on a loose leash. Granted, when he was walking beside me, I was using verbals, but he was responding readily. A person admired him, so I told him to go to her for a pet, but he only went on cue, and was polite and calm. I was walking him around historic downtown Troutdale, which has a fair number of pedestrians, and people in quaint little shops & restaurants, so there were plenty of people to see my dog embarrass me, but he didn't, he was a perfect gentleman. I also took him into a park and tried to do a little obedience work with him. The heelwork was a little confusing to him since he'd walked there on the vague heel, and suddenly I wanted real heeling (maybe I need a different cue for one of them), but he tried, he did a nice beginners novice type stay, and then he went back to politely walking with me through Troutdale.

Pirate posing in Troutdale:

Really, it's like I get him away to just the 2 of us, and he's the best dog ever. This is the Pirate I knew was there, I've had this Pirate before, other times it's been just us. I need to figure out how to have this Pirate the rest of the time.

Meanwhile, I'm going to bring him with me for the rest of the time Mercy is in season, and I may start bringing him along once or twice a week after that, so that we can have some one-on-one time.

Van a success, agility, not so much

So our first trial day using the van was flawless. Though I was only running Pirate (Mercy in season, Tess not entered), I brought all the dogs so they could ride in the new van. The crates remained securely tied down, the dogs were easy to get in & out of the crates, and seemed comfortable:

It was rather warm today, so I kept the slider open. In hot weather, I can open all the cargo doors, put a sun blocker in the windshield, and use a shade cloth. That should keep it cool enough. In cold weather, if I shut the doors their body heat should be enough to keep it comfortable.

Pirate had 4 agility runs, and Q'd none of them. His first run, Premier Standard, was challenging, and he was a little over-the-top, I couldn't even get him started properly, he wanted to go too much. I normally would either leave, or just go with what happens, but I chose to stay in the ring and make him come back for stuff he missed, because I felt like he needed to try a little harder to work WITH me, and we still had 3 more runs.

His other runs, he gave me good effort and I was pleased with what he did, so either fixing stuff in the first run worked, or he just needed to get that out of his system. He did knock one bar in each run, and I'm still frustrated with this issue, but it also still feels like the bar knocking happens when we're out of sync, so I feel like it will go away with getting the handling back into control. And I don't know when that will happen, because I feel like it's hard for us when we can only run one day a weekend, and that's mostly how it's going to be for awhile.

He's a good boy, though, I do love him, so I guess we just won't plan on Q'ing again any time soon.

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!"