Monday, February 13, 2012

No, dog, that's not the game we're playing now.

I went to an agility fun match yesterday. It was in a warehouse in the middle of winter, so I was bundled up accordingly.

On our first run I lined Cohen up, cued her focus-forward, and... decided that I should really take off my gloves before the run. Took them off, and threw them to where I'd left her leash. I re-cued the focus-forward, leaned forward and released. I expected Cohen to blast over the jump ahead of her and into a tunnel. Instead she decided that she needed to retrieve my lost gloves to me enthusiastically.

At least I know I'm building a lot of value into a retrieve...

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My dog, the bar knocker.

That's something I never thought I'd have to worry about, but now, well, I'm worried.

I went out for a semi-private lesson with Gary White today. To date, I've only ever taken lessons with the comp-agility trainer at my facility. So I've only ever known one way to train my dog. I figured I was in for a wake up call. I was right.

Basically Cohen was knocking bars left and right. Or, well, she was knocking bars at the apex of turns. Gary assures me this is not normal, and needs to be addressed quickly.

The biggest issue stems from Cohen not being accustomed to jumping 22". It sounds ridiculous, but she never jumps competition height except at competitions. If I were smarter I probably would have put two and two together and had her jumping higher in class. It was perfectly normal to have all the "big dogs" jump around 16" and the "small dogs" around 8" - I think partially due to laziness when adjusting bars and partially so we don't put undue stress on the dogs' joints. Gary pointed out that the way a dog handles a course varies tremendously on the height of the jumps (which again, makes sense and I wish I'd figured that out before). I didn't realize bar knocking at that rate was unusual, which I think was the most embarrassing part. It's not unusual for Cohen to knock one bar a night on our home turf. So I'm worried that there's a bigger underlying issue here. Ugh.

I'm really looking forward to continue with Gary on a regular basis. It's a long drive out of the city, but I think it'd be worth it. He seems quiet and kind, and will provide a fresh approach for my dog and me. I was completely overwhelmed at our first session but hope to really settle in as we progress.

Now, does anyone have any recommendations on where to get (or make) a flirt pole?

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Cohen with her new BFF, Sgt Pepper. 

My house is dogless. And spotless. 

We're currently trying to sell the house. We've gone all out trying to present the house in the most appealing way possible. We've painted, laid new carpet, rented fancy furniture, cleaned it from top to bottom, and done just about everything you're supposed to do when selling a house. And at the advice of the real estate agent we also got rid of the dogs. Megatron is back with Adrian's family and Cohen was boarded with a friend of mine (and her 2 Goldens and 2 Cavaliers). 

Apparently Megatron immediately reverted to the not-actually-housebroken dog she was prior to coming to live with me. It's frustrating to hear since I'll have to go back to managing her more hardcore once she returns here. Having "accidents" on the new carpets simply will not fly. Hopefully a week of booster puppy house-training methods will set her back on track. 

Cohen is reportedly having a blast. One of the Goldens (Sergeant Pepper) she's living with is a one year old, rambunctious, drivey, field-bred dog out of fabulous working lines. Needless to say, this dog is a handful. I was a bit worried about how he and Cohen might get along since they're both a bit socially retarded. Apparently I didn't have to worry though. During the initial greeting Cohen was intimidated for about 15 seconds, then got over it and started to play. And play. And play. I don't think she's stopped playing since she got there. 

It's given me something to think about: I've always thought that Cohen would be happiest in a single dog household. Her resource guarding can make for a stressful environment. But my friend is telling me that Cohen has fit right in with her pack, and says that my dumb dog seems to genuinely enjoy the constant presence of other dogs. That she has a constant playmate is of course icing on the cake for her. 

Megatron came to live with us because she's Adrian's dog, and Adrian has come to live with us. Megatron does not enjoy the company of other dogs despite being raised in a house with them since she was a puppy. She does not play with them. She seems to simply see them as things that might possibly rob her of her nice warm bed, and growls in response to them simply walking by. Cohen and Megatron need to pretty much ignore each other's presence in order for the household to remain peaceful. 

But perhaps one day I may be able to get another performance dog as a companion for Cohen. I have another friend who's pushing me to look into the Toller litters at Foxgrove Kennels - and she's VERY convincing. Perhaps one day I'll look into getting a sporty little male dog with whom to compete and play. It's just nice to know that I may one day have that opportunity and not worry about what it might mean for Cohen. 

So I'm thrilled to hear how well Cohen is doing, but the house is so empty without her! I miss her daily morning cuddles, and I find it disconcerting to not have a constant shadow that follows me room to room. Though I do admit, I like the quiet. But just for a little while. 

Monday, February 6, 2012


Cohen's most impressive trick is probably her handstand. It's also taking the longest to train. It's far from finished, but it's getting there. 

It's been a long process. I think I poisoned it to a degree a while ago: when I asked for a handstand she would turn into a barking, unfocused mess. I took a few months off from working on it, and have started it up again. 

Her form still needs a bit of improvement. She's finally developing the requisite chest muscles, and she can push herself up without the help of a wall. I didn't capture it in the video below, but sometimes she's able to windmill herself up into position in a doggy cartwheel. 

So anyways, this is Cohen's handstand. My final goal is for it to become a sustained walking handstand. We're a ways off, but even now it seems to be a bit of a crowd pleaser. 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Getting ready for competition

Happy heeling. 
So I've been talking a lot about getting my act together and getting myself and Cohen out to some competitions. Agility, rally, comp OB. Whichever. I don't care. I just want to gain a bit of structure in my training while I get out and have some fun with my dog.

Training for competition gives me some focus. Otherwise I get scatterbrained when I train, and lose sight of my priorities. One of my biggest priorities this year is to refine Cohen's heeling. She's great when I'm actively engaging her, but her attention will wane if she's around distractions (like microscopic food particles on the floor) and her head will drop and she'll begin lagging while she searches for a snack.

So I've enrolled in a competitive obedience class geared towards training students to get their CD. It's offered by my facility, but doesn't run often. It's a class entirely populated by staff, and taught by the head of the school who has a very sharp eye for obedience. It's wonderful.

Last week, two weeks in, I was told that Cohen and I should be out there earning our CD already -- and that our trainer couldn't think of any pointers for me since I was doing so well. I admit it wasn't a huge surprise. We do pretty dang well at the exercises. Cohen has had the ability to perform the basics since she was a pup. But it's always been me holding myself back. I'm nervous to perform. I want to get out there and not only pass, but pass well. I think Cohen deserves more than just eeking by. Hence why I took this class.

Since it's a staff class we also stay behind afterwards to work on CDX and UD exercises. Cohen and I are doing pretty well on those too. Though I admit I'm probably rushing her a bit too much, and should be breaking the exercises down more. Go outs, directed jumping, dumbbells, out of sight stays...

Anyways, the class has given me the confidence to get out to a competition soon. I'll be signing up for one within the next few weeks.

Cohen has become such a good dog. She's grown out of her puppy crazies, and has developed fantastic focus and enthusiasm while working with me. Now it's up to me to do the best I can for her. She deserves it.