Monday, July 30, 2012

Dean's Dream to Dance

I am currently taking an online choreography class with Dean called "From Dream to Dance".  This is with Judy Gamet through Dogs Can Dance.

It is very interesting to revisit Dean's Freestyle.  It actually didn't occur to me until today, when I noticed that his laterals are rather weak, that he and I have simply not worked on Freestyle in quite a long time.

I do think it is because I have gotten much more focused on Tessa's dance training.  After all, she is still learning so many of the basics, and she has such a natural desire to work with me in the ring.  She has soared from never having stepped in the competition ring to being one leg away from her Novice title in less than 5 months!  Dean's first leg of Beginner was earned in November of 2007.  To this day he and I have never even attempted Novice.

I guess it is rather difficult to keep up with any kind of focused training when he and I really have no goals.

But somehow that seems to be changing, and I think Tessa's success has as much to do with that as it did with the fact that I neglected Dean's dancing to begin with.  Tessa has shown me that all of the things that went so horribly wrong with Dean's dancing couldn't be helped any more than it can be helped that she has some natural quality that has made her successful.

And now Tessa and I can take over the goals that I originally had for Dean, and that leaves me free to take him where he can show off the best in himself.

Dean and I are now creating a routine that I hope to use for Advanced Classical Freestyle in the Dogs Can Dance Challenge.  Speedy earned the Beginner points for our team, and hopefully he will earn them in Intermediate.  If the routine that I submitted for the event in progress right now does not earn 100 points, Speedy and I will do the performance again to earn the rest of them.

But somehow it feels right to pass the baton on to Dean to work at the Advanced level.  That has never been Speedy's thing, and I think Dean is going to do some beautiful work.

The class is going well.  We got off to a bit of a rocky start with our first session at home when he became fixated on a mysterious scent coming from our air conditioner vents!!  But today we practiced at the training building and he did much, much better!

Here is a sample of our work today.  We were playing with bouncing moves off the sides of the ring.  This is not a choreographed portion of the routine - just doodling.  It will be very interesting to see what we develop this into!

I am very, very glad to be working on Freestyle with Dean again.  I am very eager to have portions of the routine to train and rehearse!  It won't be long now! 

Now back to our regularly scheduled Tessa . . . !!!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

At the Beach

I also have bunches of photos from the beach!

Speedy with his bumper, with the waves behind him.

Border Collie buddies being Border Collies together!

A really nice shot of Dean playing near the surf.

Tessa going for her Tessa Ball!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

More Bay Photos

Tessa swims out to get her ball . . . 

 Speedy looking goofy as he retrieves a bumper . . .

A super nice picture of Dean.  He is very happy after playing in the water.

Turning to swim back . . . .

A shot of the bridge from the Jellyfish Beach.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Down the Shore

Tessa, Speedy, and Dean are all having fun at Dewey Beach!  Sammie stayed with a friend, so I have, for the first time in many, many, many years, only three dogs to handle.

Tessa wasn't as confident in the suite this year as she was last year.  I think that Maddie being here last year helped her a lot along those lines, but she is more comfortable now, after a couple of days.

We took them to the beach on our first night here, and they had a great time playing in the surf.  They were eager, eager, eager to GO!  Speedy and Dean are old hands at this beach trip thing and they know what the best part is!

Yesterday we went to the James Farm Ecological Preserve.  Otherwise known (to us) as Jellyfish Beach.  The first time we were there with dogs, the tide was out and there were Jellyfish everywhere!  We try to go at high tide now!

It's a great place.  Apparently a wealthy landowner left the land to the state on the condition that it is to be open to the public.  Even when there are a lot of people there, as there were yesterday, it's not crowded.

You walk though the woods, I'd say for about 1/2 mile, before getting to the beach on the bay.  It's nice and clean and a great place for the dogs to play in the water!

On the way there - they have been constructing this bridge for years, and it is finally finished!

In the bay!  Tessa swims to shore with her ball.

Speedy and Dean swimming in with their bumpers.

Tessa doesn't just retrieve!  She shoves the ball into the sand, pounces on it, paws it, and has a great time getting covered with sand as she plays with it!

 Little Miss Sandy Face!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tessa - CRO - 1!!!

Last Saturday Stephanie and I met at the training building to do some stuff with our dogs.  She wanted to work with her dogs a bit on BAT and I wanted to set up a Cyber Rally course to try to get a film of Tessa for her 3rd leg in Level 1.

The BAT session worked out well.  Even though Tessa and I were the decoy, I learned from it.  It was interesting to see Liam get the idea of what was desired, and to see the effect that putting space between himself and Tessa had on the learning process.

Afterward, we set up Course 5 from Level 1.  I had actually done this course with Dean, but when he did it, we had it squashed in the Rainbow Room.  It was really different out in the big room.

Tessa did a nice job.  We just did two takes, and I submitted the second one.  Here it is:

She really, really, really enjoys this.  I'm not sure why, but she finds it particularly delightful!

I love the way she moves when she comes up into heel and moves with me.  This is exactly what I am going for in our Freestyle!

We did get the Q, so this is her 3rd Leg, so she earned her CRO-1 Title!!

That means that she has earned two Tricks Titles, one Freestyle Title (plus two legs toward another), one Agility Title (and she is one leg away from 4 others!), and now a Rally Title!!!

I am so proud of her.  It's not just the titles, but they really mark how far she has come.

Congrats to Tessa - ITD, WFD-MF, CL1-S, CRO-1

Friday, July 13, 2012

More Walking Club

Yesterday I took Tessa and Dean out to Colonel Denning for Walking Club.  Usually, of course, Speedy goes, but Speedy has a bit of a sinus infection and I felt it might not be so good for him to take a walk through the woods in the heat.  So, Dean joined us.

Dean isn't the best leash walker.  I actually had to put his Easy Walker harness on him, but once I had done that, he did well.

We took the lower portion of the Nature Trail and walked along the creek. It was nice, except for the fact that there were tons of bugs!

On a bridge on the trail back:


And a nature shot!!

I love this park!!

Bits of Progress

This morning I worked with Tessa with the platform again.  She really has gotten perfectly comfortable with me moving all around her, so I went on to the next step.

I tossed a treat into the kitchen and as she scrambled to get it, I set myself up in position and then called her to position (on the platform) and c/t for getting into position and c/t for holding the position for a couple of seconds.

She did very well with that.  She did offer me 2 on 2 off a couple of times!  Hahahah!!  That's fine.  We are cross training, and it will actually do her some good to know that there are different uses for platforms.

I only did easy calls into position, and will continue with that for a couple more sessions.  I think that by the time I make it more challenging, she will be ready!

She wanted to do her pivots, so I got a low round pedestal out and we did those.

Then we worked a bit with the hula hoops, sans most of the beans that I removed last time!

She was hesitant to offer going through a hoop, but she did it.  By the time she had done a few, she was offering it a bit more willingly.  I think that soon she will be doing this quite eagerly!

Then we ended up with some short moving position work.  I got her into position - already her attention in position is markedly improved - and took a single step and clicked as she moved with me, treat stationary.  We did that on both sides, twice.

I am happy with her progress.  I think that she is going to be heeling beautifully, on both sides, very soon!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Focus on Training

Today I took time to do training with all four dogs.

As always, Speedy was first.  I got the platform out to do some platform work with Tessa (more on that below), so I let Speedy play with it a bit.  He LOVES to play with the platform.

After we did stationary position refreshers on the platform, I put him in front with the platform in heel to see if he could find heel on the platform.  That was amusing.  He got into position with his front paws, but didn't quite know what to do with his back paws!!  He wiggled around and tried to find where I was waiting for him to be.  He finally did put one back paw up on the platform, so he got a click/treat for that.  Then I helped him (with a treat) get his other back paw up.

After that, we did some moving position exercises.  I had a cone in the Fireplace Room and a chair in the Dining Room.  We did outside heel around the cone, through the kitchen, around the chair, back through the kitchen, switch to outside right side, around the cone, through the kitchen, around the chair, through the kitchen, and then the whole pattern again inside heel, and inside right side.  He did really well with it.  I focused on clicking when he was driving strongly in the correct position.  He still LOVES this work!

Then we did a trick.  I rolled treats in a mat, so he could work on pushing it to unroll it.

Finally, we went through a sequence that I hope to use in an improv routine.

Next it was Dean's turn.  He did the platform work, too.  He was funny about it.  I had to click fast or he started to offer paws off the platform!!  But he got it.

Then we did the heel work that Speedy had done.  He did well with that.  He also got lots of clicks and treats for driving strongly in the correct position.

For his trick work, I introduced putting toys in a basket.  I am hoping to train him to open the basket, put toys in, and close the basket.  For today I had him pick up a ball, and put it into the basket, which I was holding, and then go get the other one and do the same.  It was a challenge, but he seemed to enjoy it.

We also did a bit of distance work.

After Dean, it was Tessa's turn.

I got the platform out for her because I want to try using the platform to teach her clearer position.  Last year when I did platform work with her, I could not do the exercise where she stood on the platform and I moved from heel to side to front because my movement toward her spooked her.  Now she is really ready, and she did well with the exercise.  Last year she was suspicious and ready to bail off the platform if I moved into her space.  This year she had bright eyes, a waggling tail, and she seemed very amused by the whole proceeding.

After we had done that, I did the same exercise with her that I had done with Speedy and Dean, but Tessa is working with a food lure because she is just starting to learn to drive strongly in position.  I'm not sure if this approach is going to get me the results that I want, but I'm willing to give it a shot.  It certainly won't hurt.

For her trick work, we worked on backing.  This will also serve us in Freestyle.  She is starting to get the hang of it when I move with her, but I want her to learn to back away from me independently.  So, I set up two chairs and lured her in between them in front of me.  Then I gave her "back" cue (which she seems to understand), and she did take two steps back!  I clicked and tossed a treat behind her.  We did this about 5 times, and each time she took a step or two back.

After we stopped that, I put a hula hoop on the floor and clicked and tossed treats when she put her paws into the middle of it.  The sound of the beans inside the hoop still bothers the heck out of her, and I remedied that after the training sessions were over!

Sammie was last.  I played the hoop game with him, too, and I had him unroll the mat for treats, as Speedy had.  Sammie loves these trick training sessions!  He may not become fluent in any of them, but he loves the games we play to teach them!

After I was finished, I decided to drill a hole in my two hula hoops to take the beans out.  Yes, I could desensitize Tessa to the sound, but it's not something I want to make an issue of, so out the beans went.  There was a heck of a lot more of the stuff inside each hoop than I expected!  It took a while to get most of it out.  After I did that, I let Speedy hop through them!  He gets a kick out of that.

I'm hoping to follow up on this session at least two more times this week.  It's time to get more focused about training!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012


Tessa has a rather odd tunnel quirk.  She often runs to them, and into them, but then comes moseying out instead of running.

I had a theory and I tried it out tonight.  Nobody else came to Dean's class, so after he had done his work on the course, I took Dean and Tessa out together and sent Dean into the tunnel.  She not only ran in and ran out, but she kept right up with him.  And Dean is FAST on tunnels!!

When this super hot weather breaks, I need to get my tunnel out and play with this a bit.  Maybe she will learn to run in and out of the tunnels!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

How Far We've Come!!

I was thinking the other day - I forget about what, exactly - but within that train of thought I figured out how long Tessa and I have been competing in live events together.

Six months.

It doesn't seem possible.

On Sunday at the competition, I was eagerly anticipating going into the ring with her.  I knew that she knew her moves, and could give a solid performance.

That makes me think back to that day, back at the very end of December, when we were driving to our fist live competition - the New Year's NADAC trial.  It was only six months ago, but it feels like about two years ago!  I remember being so nervous, wondering if I was moving this along too fast.  Wondering if she was going to be able to handle the environment, if she was going to be able to function.

I was downright shocked at how well she did, and how comfortable she was!

And how I felt on our way to our first Freestyle competition, again, not knowing if she was really ready, although by then I knew that she would most likely do fine in the environment.

And she did her best and then some!

The thing that rattled me so much was the feeling that I really didn't know what to expect from her in a competition setting.  Speedy and I started trialing in 2005, and I know what to expect from him in the ring - the good, the bad, the ugly, and the stunning!  I pretty much know what to expect from Dean - brilliance or brain freeze!!  And Maddie was like an old shoe.  As long as she was in the mood to run, I knew I could depend on her to be solid and consistent.  And if she wasn't, I knew that pretty much right up front!

Tessa was such an unknown.

The Agility was probably harder because I was missing Maddie every time Tessa and I trialed.  It wasn't until this last one, right here at our home training facility, where Maddie and I had never trialed together, that she and I moved beyond that and finally found our chemistry as a team.

Freestyle has been easier because Speedy is still with me, and dancing.  Rally, too, because Dean is still at it.

I am getting to the point where I know what to expect from Tessa.  Not every detail - of course, that is always a surprise.  But I know she is going to be attentive.  I know she is going to try her hardest to do what I ask.  I know she just may be a little creative!!  I know that tail will be waggling!  I know that if something spooks her, she can recover.  And I know that if a mistake is made, it is probably my mistake!!

And, when I think about it, the fact that this has happened in six months is extraordinary.  And I'm not tooting my own horn here - I'm tooting Tessa's!!  I'm the same handler who slams into brick walls with Dean on a regular basis.  Tessa can do things after less than two years of training that Dean can't do after almost six!  And I don't say that to put Dean down - a lot of his difficulty stems from an anxiety disorder that neither of us chose.  Dean and I make the best of it, and I am very, very proud of him.

But it does make me appreciate Tessa.

If she doesn't go into the higher levels and succeed, it will only be because I didn't do the work.  I don't know if I'm equal to that challenge, but we're going to try!!  I guess if Tessa can survive life on her own for 3+ months, learn to trust again, learn to find joy in life again, and, after all that, put her heart and soul into learning, performing, and running, I can acquire some discipline and do the training!! 

I couldn't ask for a better training partner!

More Cyber Rally

Because today is July 4th, the classes that I teach this evening were rescheduled.  My Rally class and I met yesterday morning and, because it was our last class of the session, we did a videotaping session.  I did the course with Tessa to give them a chance to run the camera and I ended up getting a take that I could submit.  Actually I ended up with three of them!

The first take is the one that I chose to submit.  Tessa did a really nice job - her tail waggling almost the whole way through!  She made one mistake - on a 180 left turn, she sat and raised her paw!  It's very cute.  I noticed that she did that, also, in her Freestyle performance, when I paused to cue a spin.  Something that I am doing is obviously sending her a cue to do that - she is offering it very eagerly, as if she thinks that's what I'm asking for!  Retries are allowed in Cyber Rally, so we just backed up and redid the sign and all was good!

Her heeling was good - she came up and moved with me really nicely.  That is something that we have been working on in training, and need to work on more.  Her movement is lovely when she heels up next to me and raises her head just a bit.

We had a funny moment on a finish loop wait.  I cued her to sit after the finish and, instead of sitting, she stood there and waggled intensely at me!  A stand wait is acceptable there, so I did accept it.  The odd thing is that she did that exact same thing on all three takes!  Didn't do it anywhere else.  How did she know she actually didn't have to sit there . . . ?!!?

Here is the video of the run that I submitted:

I did our second take off leash.  She did a nice job on that, too.  The one mistake in this one was actually mine!  I started to walk past the second cone on the serpentine (must have thought it was a spiral for a second), and I saw Tessa look between the cones, where we were supposed to go and remembered that it was a serpentine!!!  She had only done the course once and she already knew it!!!

The second run is good, too, although I didn't see as much of the really nice heelwork.  There was a good bit, though, especially coming toward the camera near the end of the run.  I really, really, really need to practice heelwork with her.  She's very stylish when she hits her stride.

I did go ahead and submit the on leash run, and it was a Q!  Now she only needs one more to finish the Level 1 CRO title!!

We are in that boat with a bunch of titles now!  We need one more Freestyle Novice Q, one more CPE Standard, one more CPE Fun, and one more CPE Handler Games (all Level 1), and now one more CRO Level 1 Q to get the titles.  How fun would it be to finish all of them this year?!!?

The thing I love best about working with Tessa as my sport partner is that she is so willing.  She really wants to learn and work with me out there.  I love watching that waggling tail, and I love the look in her eyes when she is figuring things out!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Second Novice Leg

Yesterday Tessa and I went down to Beltsville, Maryland for the Star Spangled Swing.  It was certainly one of the more interesting competition experiences I've had in a while, but it was very much a positive one.

This past Friday a lot of severe storms moved through Maryland.  We actually had just a tiny bit of it, as we were at the tippy top end, but compared to what they got to the south, we got nothing.  I was surprised, as we got near the competition site, to see a lot of tree branches strewn all over the roads, and one tree down that covered half of the road.  That was my first clue that the storms that had gone through there were a lot worse than normal "bad storms".  When we got to the competition site, we were met with an even bigger surprise - there was no power!  That meant no lights, no air conditioning, and few ways to keep our dogs cool in the close to 100 degree weather!

I have to give major credit to the host club, though.  They made it work.  The facility had sky lights in the ceiling (never even noticed those before!!), so there was plenty of light in the rooms.  There were battery operated lanterns in the bathrooms and changing rooms.  There was running water.  They couldn't run the sound system, but they had a battery operated boom box for our music.  And a small pool was set up outside under a tent, so we could have our dogs dunk to get cool.  Everyone was cooperative, accommodating, and supportive, and I actually think I may have enjoyed myself more.  There was a real sense that we were accomplishing something good together.

I got there at about the middle of the first group, and we were close to the end of the second, so I had plenty of time to bring in my stuff, get set up in the crate building, and then Tessa and I went into the performance building to watch some of the other competitors.

Tessa loves lying on her mat, listening to the music, and watching other dogs perform.  She is just an absolute delight to have with me at a competition.  Her one and only "problem" is that I still have to have someone sit with her while I used the restroom or got changed.  But she is making great progress with being left in her crate.  I can do it at our regular training building, and I don't think it's going to be long before I can do it at competitions, too.  I will take that "problem" any day of the week over a dog who is bothered by other dogs barking, or has issues with noise.

When our turn came, Tessa was a bit on the warm side.  I did cool her in the pool, but she wouldn't lie down in it like she does at home.  She did put her feet in and I splashed the water on her belly.  But warm or not, when our turn came, we were all ready to go.

I was very, very, VERY pleased with her performance.  She wasn't as animated as she usually is, but she was willing, she enjoyed herself, and she did almost everything I asked her to do.  And when she didn't do what I asked, she was trying.

We even got applause when Tessa did her pivot on her pedestal!!  That has been one of the tricks that we have been working on in Tricks 2 class and it is becoming one of her best!!

Here is the video of her performance:

I knew that the performance had a chance of qualifying, depending on whether or not the judge considered the content sufficient.  In a way I didn't care if it did or not, but of course I was thrilled when I got my scoresheet and saw that we had!!  8.0 Technical and 8.3 Artistic.

The judge recommended using the prop more, and even doing our ending on the prop.  I had actually been considering that, so I think I might.

After lunch we watched more of the competition, and at the end we had our Innovations performance.  We did her jumping routine.  She did a really nice job.  Again, she was warm.  She did stop at the jump on the Rally Move jump, but she did take it.

At the very end of the day, after everyone had finished, almost everything was broken down, and we were waiting for awards to start, the electric finally came on!!!  It was nice to have air conditioning, even if if was just for a little bit at the end!

I don't feel ready to be thinking about Intermediate with Tessa, but apparently that is where she means to go!  We only need one more Novice Q to finish the title, so we will be working on getting ready for that for Barkaritaville in November.

There is a lot of work to be done.  After watching the video several times, I have these goals:

  • Work more on prop tricks.  Lengthen the duration of the pivot, and teach a few more
  • Re-choreograph the routine, breaking tricks up somewhat to create more interest
  • Work on bringing more "bounce" to duration heelwork
  • Work on moving cues she knows to verbal
  • Work no backchaining to teach her to move from one move into another without needing to think a lot about it
I think I will stick with this music for this routine.  I don't want to create something entirely new for just one leg.  But I do mean to change it up a bit and try to make it more fun.  I might even add a second prop . . . .