Monday, November 25, 2013


Often in a Rally FrEe live event, "Non-Titling" runs are offered where you can use food and train on the course.

Just for fun on Friday evening, Tessa and Speedy both had a "Non-Titling" run!!  This won't be submitted or anything - it was just for fun.

Here is Tessa's . . .

I was impressed with Tessa on this "non-titling" run.  I sure wish that 360 Right Pivot had been in the Intermediate course instead of the back around!

You can also see in this "run though" where our laterals are in-progress.

I love her attitude and it is always so much fun to be in the ring with her!

Speedy and I had fun, too.  I did modify some of the course for him.  He wasn't doing back under weaves, even with food on his nose!  He also got to leg weave, which is an extremely rare treat for him!

I very much look forward to doing more of this with Speedy once we get training on a regular basis again!  Just one more week!!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Our Video Night

Friday evening we got together with our instructor and another friend to do our videos for the World Wide Video Competition for Rally FrEe.  Between us, we were entering every category offered.  I did Alt-Novice with Speedy and Intermediate with Tessa.  Our instructor did Intermediate and Advanced.  Our other friend did Novice and Intermediate.

We all got a useable take and Speedy's and Tessa's have already been submitted!

We started off with Speedy.  Even though we technically did not need an off leash run, I wanted to try him once off leash.  He did 2/3 of a beautiful run off leash, but when we got to the last 4 signs, which were all to be performed on the right, a dog started grunting in a crate on the sidelines, and Speedy melted.  I think if it had been left side work, he might have managed to muddle though, but his right side is so weak we hadn't a chance.

So, on went the leash, and we tried again . . . and again . . .

Thankfully, our fourth take was halfway decent.  It's not exactly stellar, but I think we got through well enough to scrape up 100 points, which is all you need in the Alt divisions.

This is the video of the run that we submitted . . .

Now that I am going to be able to train with my dogs again, I am going to try to see if Speedy and I can make something of a "comeback".  I want to see if, with regular training, he can build reliability to work off leash, and then try Alt-Intermediate!!

Why not?  Maybe some good fun for me and my retired boy!

Of course, we have to qualify in this one first.  We may be going for another Alt-Novice Q again . . .

Several dogs later, Tessa got a shot.  She was ready to go!!  Since I still had my Freestyle props from our competition a few weeks ago in the car, I decided to use them for her run.  So, her first FrEe Choice was a Figure 8 jump and a later one was the pivot platform.

I had fun doing this with Tessa.  Yes, her back around and laterals were non-existent, but I knew that going in.  She really did a great job on everything else.  I am able to use way less hands now and her heeling is really coming along.  No lagging - even a little forging!  She did get distracted down the last line - she was a bit concerned about the person with the camera.  She hasn't done a lot of video yet, so that is something we will need to work on.

Here is the run I submitted for her . . .

She is just so much fun!!  When the technical precision kicks in, we are going to do really well together!!  Really, it was only those two signs that I knew we didn't have that were a problem!

I know this will be border line as far as qualification goes, but I am happy with it.  Again, Tessa performed at the level of her training and I am happy with that.

All I have to do is think about what Tessa was like when she first came to my house and seeing her as she is in this video is all I need to be super proud of her!

If she qualifies, I will be pleased to start thinking in terms of preparing for Advanced, but no matter what the outcome, I am pleased with our effort.

This has gotten me back on track, mentally, after the Freestyle competition.  I LOVE Rally FrEe!!

Speedy and Tessa also did two "non-titling" runs (which can't be submitted), just for fun.  I will post those later on, as they are not yet uploaded.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Tonight, Tonight, Tonight!!

Tonight we are filming for the World Wide Video competition!  I am excited, and slightly apprehensive.  I am really NOT ready!

Granted, if we don't get a usable take, we won't enter.  Still, I really do want to be part of this.  Also, I would like to finish off Speedy's Alt-Novice title.

Speedy is simply out of practice.  Since he doesn't go to a class anymore, he rarely gets to train.  He knows everything that we will do on this course, but his skills are rusty.

Still, we will go, have fun with it, and do our best.  He is, after all 12 years old and retired!

For his Free Choices, I plan to use a pose where I kneel down and he puts his paw on my knee, a simultaneous twirl, and a stand walk-around.  For the fourth, I just may let him do a couple of leg weaves!  Just one time won't hurt anything!  If I elect not to use the leg weaves, I might have him get up on his hind legs with his paws on my arm.  He likes that.

Tessa's back around and front laterals are going to be hit or miss.  She really should be able to do everything else, but those two are a shot in the dark!  I still have the props from her Freestyle competition in the car, so I think I will use both of them on the course!  She can do a figure 8 jump over the jump prop and a pivot on the pivot platform.  In addition, I will probably have her do a simultaneous twirl and a sit and then put each paw on my knee, in turn.  She should rock her Free Choices!!

I know I will enjoy myself when we get there and start filming.  It is, after all, quality time with the dogs.  And it is always fun to take Speedy.

I will post videos once I have them!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


I am planning to take another class through the Fenzi Academy, this time with Tessa.  I plan to take a class with her on relationship and play.  I am hoping to snag a gold spot.  This is something I really hope Tessa and I can start to run with!

The dog who came into my house three years ago had no play in her whatsoever.  She was all about survival and keeping herself safe.  It actually didn't take very long before she started inviting the other dogs to play.  Unfortunately, none of my other dogs have ever accepted her invitations to play.  I'm not sure why, but Maddie, who got on very well with Tessa and used to hang around with her for hours, refused to play with her.  Dean, who used to play vigorously with Maddie, refused to play with her.  Sammie might have, but he was too old and really beyond dog-dog play by the time Tessa came along.  And Speedy doesn't play anything but ball games with other dogs.

Tessa also started, rather early on, to grab a ball and run around with it.  She will caper with it, drop it, pick it up, pounce on it, and even tease the other dogs with it.  But this ball play is always in the context of interaction with the dogs.

Play with me was a different matter entirely.  If I tried to join in the game, she would cease and desist immediately.  She might plop down on the ball and lay there.  Or drop the ball entirely and move off.  After quite a while I was able to pry the ball from her mouth and throw it for her to retrieve, but she has never really become a dog who loves retrieving.  Tessa has always stopped, gathered herself into herself, and backed off when I have tried to play directly with her.

The only place Tessa really lets go and plays with me is at the beach!  At the beach, she loves to bring the ball near me so I can send it flying for her!

Tessa and I play, of course, in a way, when we work together.  When she is running Agility, that is a form of play.  She had to work very hard to get to the point where she could relax and enjoy Agility.  Even tricks and Rally FrEe and Freestyle are a kind of play between us.

But she and I have never gotten to the point where we could really just engage with each other and play.  She doesn't have little games that she plays with me for fun like Dean and Speedy have.

One might wonder why this matters so much.  She is happy.  She trains well for food.  Does she really need to play?

It may not be an absolute necessity, but I honestly feel it would be very good for her to be able to really let down her guard and play with me.  Knowing her as I do, I really do think that if she had not experienced what she experienced in her life before she was with me, she would have been a dog who thoroughly enjoyed play with a human.  I am pretty committed to helping her become as much like that dog as I possibly can!  I want her to be the enthusiastic, fun loving, and confident girl that she really is by nature.

With the goal of taking this class in mind, I have been experimenting a little with play with Tessa. 

Sometimes when she comes in the door from being outside, she is very playful!  She will puppy bow to me and caper around a bit.  Instead of just petting her, or sitting down on the sofa to get her to jump up and snuggle, I've been starting to engage at this point.  I'll turn away from her and run a few steps, and she runs along with me.  I'll touch her lightly and then turn away.  She has responded very positively!  I am eager to learn more about how to progress with that sort of play in the class.

Last night at the training building, after teaching, I played a little with Tessa with food.  Instead of asking for a behavior, releasing, her, and then tossing food as a reward, I used the food to rev her up a bit, threw it, and then, with some excitement in my voice, called her to me.  As she came running, I asked for a leg weave!  The first time, she hesitated, but after that, she would come flying toward me and weave right under.

This is major progress!

We did leg weaves and twirls and spins - all in the context of the food and her being more "up"!!

She didn't want to stop!

It occurred to me afterward that my attitude toward play with her is very different from my attitude toward play with my other dogs.  The fact that Tessa will play with me is an incredible sign of her trust.  She is allowing me to interact with a side of her that she normally keeps carefully hidden.

It is an honor to be able to play with Tessa!!  An honor that she has finally come to the point of being willing and able to grant.

I am very much looking forward to the play class!  Not only will it prove to be a training asset, but I know it really is going to serve to deepen the bond of trust and affection that Tessa and I share.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Crash Course

Tessa's crash course on laterals in front began yesterday evening.  I managed to catch a few minutes to train after I had fed the dogs their supper.

The problem that Tessa and I are having with front laterals comes from her pivot platform work!  She is so attuned to my body language for pivots in front that when I move to the right, her rear end goes left!  And when I move to the left, her rear end goes right!  Trying to convey that I want her rear end to move in the same direction that I am going has been a challenge!

Of course, I don't want her to doubt her pivots - they are so strong!  So, I need to find a way to communicate to her that I want her to move differently, but only in certain contexts.

Last summer I had done just a smidgeon of work with her using a straight square bar on the ground at the training building.  I had her stand with the bar directly under her so she would have to move sideways , at least for the most part.  It worked pretty well, so I set up the closest thing I had at home - a ring gate with just the bottom bar attached.

It didn't work so well.  She kept trying to pivot.  She would pivot so well that she would neatly step right over the bar!

After that I switched to lures, but she kept pivoting!

Finally, I tried faking her out.  I thought if I wanted her to go to the right, I would step a little to the left and then quick start to move the way she was going.  Little stinker pivoted in the opposite direction of the way I wanted her to go every time!!

Of course, I know I need to go back to square 1 with this and take time and really build her understanding, but I was really looking for a way to get the behavior quickly, so I tried one last thing.

Years and years and years ago when I taught Speedy to sidepass, I used a dowel to get the sideways movement in front of me.  He would stand in front, and I would hold the dowel out to his side and move it toward him in the direction I wanted him to go.  I didn't even touch him with it - it was just a guide.  It worked beautifully for him - he would neatly slide in the direction I wanted him to go every time.

I had tried this with Tessa a long time ago, but she was rather bothered by the presence of the dowel.  But she has come a long way, so I decided to try it again.


At first she tried to grab it with her mouth and then she pawed at it.  I liked that because it showed that she was not bothered by it.  After that I lured her into front with a treat and then moved to the right, moving the dowel toward her.  She got it!

We practiced just a few and quit!

Granted, it is highly doubtful this is going to transfer to a dowel-less behavior by Friday, but at least we are on our way!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Prep for World Wide Video Competition

In honor of the first anniversary of Rally FrEe, they are having a World Wide Video competition!  Courses have been posted and we are going to video on Friday.

Speedy will attempt the Alt-Novice course.  I'd love for him to finish the title, and he should be able to.

I have been up in the air about what to do with Dean and/or Tessa.

Dean is really not ready for Advanced and I don't want to fudge the exercises he doesn't do yet, so I am probably going to sit out with him.  Although, I am sort of thinking about doing the Intermediate course with him even though he has his title and doesn't really need another leg.

Tessa isn't really ready for the Intermediate course, but I am more inclined to give that a go with her.  I don't want to do video with her so much, but because of the nature of this event, I am thinking we will try it.

So, a crash course on laterals in front of me and back arounds off the right is in order!  We probably won't quite get it done, but we will have fun trying!

If Tessa did do the Intermediate course, she would title if she got the Q.  That would put her on track to be in Advanced at our competition in March.  I'm not sure if she could be ready for that, but I think it is reasonable to give it a shot.  On the other hand, if she does not Q, we would be in Intermediate in March and that would be OK.

Class went well last night.  Dean, who has been having to take it easy due to a muscle pull in his back leg, was absolutely thrilled to be in class working.  He did a beautiful job on the course, which was the World Wide Video Intermediate course.  He did struggle on the back around, and his front laterals aren't exactly straight.  He always leads his laterals with his rear end and he ended up moving it too far!  But overall he did a nice job.

Tessa was a little distracted by the floor, which is unusual for her.  But she worked through it and also did a very nice job.  Aside from the lateral in front and the back around off the right, she really did a fantastic job.  And those things aren't her fault - I simply haven't trained them yet.

As always, the two of them just loved being there and having the chance to work!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tessa's Freestyle Weekend

It's a week later and I have a much better perspective on our Freestyle competition.  No, I wasn't as prepared as I would have liked to have been, but Tessa deserves something of a shout-out because she was awesome!!

I always enjoy spending a competition weekend with Tessa.  I don't have to worry about anything with her.  Dogs can bark, things can fall over, and Tessa is just Little Miss Blasé about the whole thing!  And, if she is bothered, she gets over it very quickly!

I knew going in that we were not quite at Intermediate Level and my goal was "respectable effort".  We, in fact, did make a respectable effort!

Tessa went out there on both days and danced her heart out!  She really puts all of herself into her performances and I can never ask for more than that.

I have put together a bit of a "highlight" video of some of the best pieces of Tessa's performances.

Over the weekend we did some training and I am very eager to do some more!  I think we can really make something cool of this routine and I am looking forward to getting to work!

Friday, November 8, 2013

In the Blink of an Eye

I have struggled over the past year with training for a very non-training related reason.  My husband was working a night job.  Pretty much every day, he is sleeping when I get home.  And he gets up to leave either just before or a little after I have to go to bed for the night.  There is simply no time for me to be moving about the house, making any kind of noise.

There have been times when I have been able to "catch" short training sessions, but for the most part, I have had to reserve most of my training for class.  I did get a good bit done over the summer, of course, and then that ended when school began in mid-August.

A bit part of my frustration last weekend came from the fact that I knew that we would have progressed much further if I had been able to train with Tessa on a regular basis.  We have so many started, but unfinished, behaviors, solely because I can't dedicate the time to finishing them!

Well, in the blink of an eye that has changed.  My husband has a new job that is going to have a much better schedule.  No more of this.  Most days when I get home from work I will have all the time to train that I could want or need!

I am overjoyed!

It won't start until the beginning of December, but I am fine with that!  There is light at the end of the tunnel and I am very excited to get back to regular quality training sessions with my dogs!

Maybe this is one of those things that will make me really appreciate the chance to train when I have it!

Now I am very excited about the places we may go!!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

At the Discoteque!

A couple of months ago, I had sparkly collars on Dean and Tessa after Rally FrEe class, and Ben commented that it looked like they had been at the "discoteque"!!  Since they I have jokingly called that class "the discoteque".

We had class last night and it went very well.  Instead of doing a course, we spent some time on five of the Advanced Level exercises.

Tessa's favorite, of course, were the pivots behind me!  That girl looooooves her pivot platform work!  I did not work Dean on the pivots because he pulled a muscle in his leg at Agility last week.  Even though he is doing a lot better, I thought pivots might aggravate it.

Dean did well with the two backing exercises.  One is easy peasy for him because we've been doing this for years!  He backs four steps away and then does a behavior out at a distance.  He did spins, twirls, curtsies, and even a splat with his chin to the floor!  The other was new - he had to stop after backing four steps away and wait while I returned around him.  He actually did fine with the wait, but when I tried to return around, he kept turning toward me.  We need to work on that part!

We also did the exercise where the dog turns away and backs under the handler's legs.  Dean almost has that one down.  He still needs a hand target for the turn, but he really is ready for that to start to fade!

The other exercise we worked on was an alternate position.  I haven't decided on which one I want to train, so we played with "crosses".  That is what I call the position where the dog turns across the front of me.  I'm not sold on this position for Dean.  I need to play around with this to figure out what he will enjoy the most.

The backing exercises are still new to Tessa so we worked just on backing away.  She isn't quite going four steps yet.  She will go two and stop.  Then she will lay down or paw at the ring gate!  Basically, she is offering behaviors.  So, we need to work on duration of backing.

I also introduced distance to her by putting her in a box of ring gates and then I had her do spins and twirls.  At first I was right by her, but I was able to move up to a foot away.  She seemed to kind of like it, actually.

She is getting the turn of the turn and back, but we have quite a lot to do with that.  And I think the cross is a nice alternative position for her and I am fairly certain that I am going to work that one with her.

It felt really good to work on some of these detail type exercises.  Both dogs enjoyed themselves and it was great to have a chance to do some quality foundation training.

Night life on a Monday!  Perfect!

Monday, November 4, 2013

On a More Positive Note!!

Now that I got that last post out of my system, I am in a very positive frame of mind about something else.  Rally FrEe!!

The way is free and clear now to our next event - the Rally FrEe competition that we are hosting in March!  Tessa needs one more leg of Intermediate and I know she and I can get ready for that, even if we are catching training time by hook or by crook!!

I wasn't originally going to try for Advanced with Dean by March, but now I say "what the heck!"  I think over December I am going to go through the Bridging the Gap exercises in depth, using Rally FrEe with Dean.  I think going for Advanced at our event in March is a very reasonable goal for him.  He can crate out of the car at that time of year and that will make it do-able!

Really all we have to do is finish off most of the exercises.  I've not trained an alternate position with him, but that won't be difficult.  We started backward weaves, if he gets his circle back, then me moving won't be a difficult addition.  He has had the basis of turn and back under for eons.  Really, it is a matter of finishing this off.

The bigger challenge for him is comfort level in a live competition environment.  Well . . . it's now or never!  I say we go for it!  We have the tools.  It's time to see how far we can take the progress we have made in recent months!

At a Crossroads

This past weekend, Tessa and I went to the Barkaritaville Freestylers competition to attempt Intermediate Musical Freestyle.  I knew going in that we are not quite at Intermediate level yet.  I was actually rather disappointed that the newly created "C Classes" were not offered at this competition because Novice C would have been the perfect division for us right now.  Tessa and I still have quite a bit of work to do on fading hand cues and moves behind me, and those elements are required to qualify in Intermediate.

I also had not done a whole heck of a lot of work on our routine.  I re-vamped our routine to "Espana Cani" that we had used for Heelwork to Music in September.  I added a jump that had a decorated fabric panel attached, and the pivot platform sat directly in front of it, toward the judges.  It is a routine with a lot of potential.  Tessa performs it with enthusiasm and flair!  But the choreography was lacking quite a bit of . . . something.

So, I went in knowing that if we did happen to qualify on either day, it would be a fluke, and really - I don't want flukes for Tessa!  She has the potential to perform at a very high level and I really do want to develop that potential adequately.  Therefore, my goal for this competition was not to try to qualify, but to make a respectable effort.  I figured that if we successfully made a respectable effort this year, by next June, we should really be ready to be successful at this level.

We met the goal of respectable effort!  Even though we did not qualify either day, we came very, very close!  We only missed it by two tenths of a point on Saturday and one tenth on Sunday!  And while it would have been absolutely heartbreaking to have been that close and to have missed it if our performance actually had met qualifying criteria, it was perfectly fine when I knew that we really weren't quite there yet.

There is one thing that bothers me, though.  And it bothers me a lot.  While Tessa performed at the level of her training and I am absolutely 100% proud of her, and I agree with the assessment of the judges in not qualifying either performances, I am disappointed in myself for failing to prepare as well as I could have.  Granted, I know that my life circumstances right now, which are completely beyond my control, do not allow for me to put a lot of time into this.  When I think back on how I was able to spend time training, rehearsing, and preparing with Speedy all those years ago, I long to be able to put in a quarter of that effort with Tessa!  I waited a long, long time for a dog with this kind of temperament and now that I have her, it is incredibly frustrating that we have to wing it.  She wings it like a pro, but we can't deliver the kind of competent and polished performances that I know she is capable of if I can't put in the time and detail to really do this well.

I know life is life and that there are times when circumstances simply are what they are.  I know there isn't much I can do to sneak in more training, and that what I am able to catch as catch can on the fly won't be of the greatest quality.  But I really do need to figure out a way to put more into Tessa's Freestyle training.  It would be a crime to let her potential go untapped.

And, really, if I am not going to do this right, I am at the point where it isn't really worth doing at all.

I'm not saying I want it to be that way.  I absolutely don't.  But something has to change, or else we need to give up Freestyle altogether and just focus on Agility, which we can manage to do very well with just weekly classes.  Freestyle is not a sport you can really succeed in without a good bit of dedicated and quality work once you get into the Intermediate level.

One competition where I came face to face with the fact that lack of proper preparation will only result in missing the mark is enough.  I have no problem with coming up short if we do our best.  And Tessa certainly did her part in that regard.  But if I can't put my best into it, it is pointless.

So, we are at a crossroads.  Figure out a way to put some quality work into Tessa's Freestyle training, or let it go.

I seriously hope a way can be found.

Edited to add - so, I just did something.  I am going to try to arrange to rent the training building one evening each week during our break from classes between Thanksgiving and New Years.  That's a nice chunk of training time and we should be able to make a plan and get off to a good start during that time . . .