Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Maggie's a better agility trainer than I am.

Recently I've been reading my unread back issues of Front & Finish and Clean Run magazines, and have read a few articles about dogs learning from one another.  Certainly I've noticed that the dogs learn things from one another around the house (Maggie taught the boys that "comeonin" means come in from the outside, for instance).  I guess I've just never thought to much about the dogs learning agility or obedience from one another.

I am lucky enough to have the week between Christmas and New Year's off.  I'm also lucky enough to have "off-hours" access to our local kennel club building, so I've been taking advantage of these things to do some agility training during the break.  Maggie, Ziggy, and I have gone down to the club building to have some fun.  I'm mainly there to work with Ziggy, but I can't resist doing a bit of running with my agility "retiree" Maggie.

Since I had Maggie there, I thought I'd try the "learning from each other" training out on some agility obstacles.

I started by taking Maggie over the obstacles, through the weaves, and over a few jumps.  She was happy, quick, and enthusiastic!  I had Ziggy tied up so that he could see the whole thing.

Then I worked a bit with Z - mainly the channel weaves.

After Z had done a bit of work, I worked Maggie and Ziggy together.   Not a full course, but some obstacle training.  This worked WONDERS!!

Ziggy knows how to do the dog walk and A-Frame,working at lowered heights but he's very leisurely about the whole thing.  He has this cute little trot that he likes to maintain.  A great trot if you need to trot along after livestock all day.  Not so great for agility.  Maggie, on the other hand is fast on the obstacles - especially the dog walk (it's her favorite obstacle.  If she could have a whole course of dog walks she'd be one happy corgi).

First we tried the tunnel.  I lined Maggie up first, then put Z in a sit stay behind her.  I sent them both to the tunnel, and had a ball that I threw when they started to come out.  Both of them were fast through the tunnel, with no hesitation from Ziggy at all.

Next we did the dog walk.  Same set up - Maggie first, then Ziggy.  Maggie blasted over the dog walk and Ziggy galloped right along behind her.  This was the first time he'd actually run across the entire dog walk!  We did this a few more times - adding the ball as a reward at the end.  Ziggy ran almost every time.

We then did the lowered A-Frame, the chute, more tunnels, and the tire jump with Maggie as the leader. All went well, and all of us seemed to enjoy it.

We worked at the same things today.  I even let Z take the lead on some of the obstacles and he did great - the leisurely trot only made an appearance once.

I know that a few sessions won't take Ziggy from beginner to perfect overnight, but it does seem to be giving him more confidence on the obstacles.  My theory is that lack of confidence is what causes a lot of his slowness (as he's become more confident at the obedience exercises he's gotten quicker, anyway...) so I hope that the Maggie training will help.

If nothing else, it's alot of fun for all of us!

(I keep forgetting my camera, but I'll try to remember to bring it tomorrow so I can get some "tandem agility" pics)

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Holiday weeks are tough

We had a very Merry Christmas here in Iowa.  It snowed Christmas night, Boxing Day, and this morning.  Lovely, powdery, perfect-for-skiing snow.  Frapping in the snow and holiday festivities have taken their toll, and we're all a bit worn out.

These 2 photos do a good job of painting the picture.....

This is a photo of Maggie on Christmas Day.  Wrapping paper was all around her (including falling on her) and she didn't even flinch.  Maggie says, "There was nothing to bark at or eat, so why would I move?"

This is Ziggy on Boxing Day after a long off-leash walk in the snow.  Z says, "Ahhh, nothing like my favorite chair after lots of hard work."

You might note that I have no "wiped-out" photos of Denzil.  I don't think any photos of this type exist.  This tells you something about his personality.....

Also, I wanted to let the other Cardi bloggers know that I'm glad my pack can't use the computer.  Your dogs made out WAY better than mine did!  ;)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Novice Proofing Seminar

For Ziggy's outing this week we went to a Novice Proofing Seminar.  That's a seminar to teach how to proof for Novice Obedience exercises, not a proofing seminar for novices - but I guess it worked for that, too.

The seminar was good for Ziggy, and not just because of the in-class exercises.  There was lots going on at the training facility last night, so we got to proof outside of the ring distractions as well.

Here's an example:  "Alert! Mom! Alert! See that strange creature with the pointy head and small face?  Alert!  Alert!"  To us, this would be a woman who made the sensible choice of wearing a big hat and coat when out in the well-below-freezing temps.  To Ziggy:  a strange being from another planet.  Thankfully, my "check it out" command worked, and Z was brave enough to go over and sniff.  As this was a dog person, she had treats at the ready and dispensed them freely to brave dog approaching her.  Soon enough, the strange pointy-headed being was Z's best friend.  We won't be fooled by that one again!  Or maybe we will.  Ziggy is a Cardi after all, and vigilance is paramount.  We also got to practice ignoring dogs doing agility, dogs and people entering & exiting the building, etc.  Very good experiences for the Z.

Oh, so what fun proofing ideas did I take away?  My 2 faves related to the figure 8 exercise.

Something we practiced was using jump standards dressed up like humans as the posts for the figure 8.  Our instructor dressed the standards up in robe or long coat, hats, treats and gloves in the pockets, etc.  Great for proofing the figure 8, and proofing for attention.  Staring at mom is more fun than checking out the odd post - mom has treats & praise!

One of my classmates shared with us that she uses free-standing inflatable punching bags as posts.  This way she can bump them as goes around, causing them to move and become "alive" and "scary" providing good opportunities to proof attention whilst heeling.  Perhaps I'll ask for a pair of these for Christmas.  Would that be strange or wrong?  Probably.  Do I care?  Probably not.

Both of these exercises are also ones that can be done when training alone, which I appreciate.

Next week is an Open Proofing Seminar.  Maggie and I will be going.  I'll have fun learning more things.  Maggie will have fun getting lots of treats and praise.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Maggie finds a new sport

Now that she's retired from agility, Maggie has found a new sport to play.  Move over Beckham, here comes Maggie!

Here's how soccer with Maggie works:

Step 1:  Identify the person who got the ball rolling, and charm him with all of your might (the stare & swishy tail combination works every time!)

Step 2:  Chase after the thrown ball

Step 3:  Grab the ball and run as fast as you can - The Child will chase you, and this adds to the fun!

Make sure you don't run so fast and far that The Child gets discouraged and doesn't want to play any more, because what comes next?

Step 4:  Have the ball thrown again, but this time recruit another player to the game

Another player can help build your prowess....

and another player adds to the fun - especially when the other player knows who has rights to pick up the ball....

The game is on!

No more "Bend it like Beckham" - perhaps "Move it like Maggie"  (or "Maul it like Maggie" - the foam ball didn't look so happy at the end of the game)....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

An "aggressive chewer"

About a year and a half ago, Maggie got to go in for quite a lot of dental work.  The tally:  2 root canals,  one silver cap, and 2 extractions (both of them small front teeth).  The vet asked me whether she was "an aggressive chewer."

Yes, I'd say so:

So what is she eating in this picture?  Is that a big hunk of ice?  Yes, yes it is.  Freezing temperatures have come to Iowa, and yesterday I had the dreadful realization that my rain barrels were still outside and were still full.  Rain barrels don't like Iowa winters, so I went outside and drained them.  This resulted in many large hunks of ice in the backyard.

Ice is one of Maggie's favorite things, so she hauled off a few large chunks for herself.  The boys followed suit and soon all 3 of them were happily chewing away.  Did I mention that the vet said no ice for Maggie?  Bad for the teeth, apparently.

It actually got a bit above freezing today so I went outside (in thick gloves), picked up all of the remaining ice chunks, and stashed them out of the way on top of the compost bins.  Maggie will just have to wait for the snow to fall, melt & freeze again before she get her next fix.

Oh, and lest you think it's just ice that did in her teeth, Maggie also loves:  sticks (and not just to chew on  gently - she's like a canine woodchipper) and hard nylabones (which have been banned from our house).  When she was young I called her "The Corginator, Little Dog of Destruction" thanks to her propensity to demolish anything small left laying around the house.  She outgrew that one years ago, thankfully.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

What happened to our house?!?

After this weekend, I have no doubt that The Husband has assimilated into American culture.

For those of you who don't know, The Husband became a citizen of the USA about a year and a half ago.  He says that he became a citizen so he could vote (he was tired of taxation without representation... wasn't there a war about that?!?), so that the entire family had citizenship in the same country, and other equally as noble reasons.

Noble Schmoble.  Now I know the truth - he just wanted an excuse to take part in our great Thanksgiving weekend traditions without feeling ashamed.  This weekend he:

  • Decorated our house with more types of Christmas decorations that I've ever seen ("but I got them on sale after Christmas last year for 75% off" he claims)
  • Got up at 4:00am on Friday to hit the early specials, and came home with something we didn't really need (although I do admit that the new vacuum does pick up the dog hair better than old one did, and our kennel club will be thankful to get the old vacuum to use in the club building)
What could be more American at holiday time?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thank you, Cardi Claus!

And what to our wondering eyes should appear?  

A package with a cute brindle dog on the return address! Cardi Claus arrived!

Cardi Claus sent us many fun things including dog stickers, a Cardi notepad and a kaleidoscope (which all of we humans love!!).

AND of course, a very cute ornament - a Cardi no less!

Denzil wants me to buy some white paint to make it a half mask, but he's still happy that it mostly looks like him.

Oh, and one of the Iowa Cardi Claus elves sent off a package to a warmer climate today - to a place where corgis who aren't careful can get cactus stickers in their paws....

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Trio and I would like to take this opportunity to share what we're thankful for.

I'm thankful for:  Family, Friends, Health, My Job, Dogs

Maggie is thankful for:


(note from human:  not sure this is the best combination.....)

Denzil is thankful for:

Messy eaters

(note from Denzil:  this is the best spot - food rains from the sky!!)


Ziggy is thankful for:
My Chair
(please see my previous product review for more info)


Monday, November 23, 2009

Trio Product Review #1: Pottery Barn Kids Chair

Ziggy wanted me to post a product review for one of his favorite products:

The Pottery Barn Kids Anywhere Chair 

Originally, we bought this chair for The Child (human).  It's kid-sized, and light enough for a kid to haul around.  An armchair all their own.

When Ziggy arrived, he thought it was the "AnyCardi" Chair rather than the Anywhere chair.  Here's his review:

I have loved this chair since I arrived at my new home.  It is perfectly sized for a puppy - a chair of my own!

I laid in chair, and I played in the chair...

I even chewed on the handle of the chair and drug it around (mom didn't like that, though):

What could be better?

Then I started to grow, but my love for the chair did not diminish.  It just became a little more challenging to sleep in the chair.  I'm a Cardigan, though, and we're nothing if not determined.  I just had to find new ways to fit.

This one didn't work so well.

Maggie tried to show me a new one.

I thought that one was too prissy.

I found that the curl method works best.  Look at how comfortable the chair is if you just curl up really tight.

Throwing your head over the side works well, too.

In fact, if you lean on one side of the chair enough, it will start to flatten out to make it easier to sleep in:

The chair is also comfortable when it's knocked over.

The chair can even become part of frapping - just jump up quickly, bark, then jump down.

My brother and sister like the chair, too - but not as much as me.

Cats even like the chair (but I don't consider this a selling point):

Sometimes mom pulls the cover off and washes it.  I don't recommend this, but she just keeps doing it.  I guess if it means we get to keep the chair, then that's ok.

I highly recommend this chair for all Cardigans.  That's the end of my review.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mr. Bouncy: Dog About Town

Ok, so given my choice of title, maybe I have been reading a few too many kids books lately.  But the title does sum up 2 of the key things I've been working on with Ziggy.

Mr. Bouncy
So I've mentioned a few times that Ziggy can be a little hard to motivate.  Thankfully, I've found something that he does like to do.  And, it's something that I can take into the obedience and rally rings with me:  Bouncing!

Both Sylvia Bishop and Celeste Meade are big on the bouncing to keep their dogs "up" in the ring.  My obedience instructor also likes her dogs to bounce between exercises to keep them engaged.  So I decided to give it a go.  The first time I tried bouncing with Ziggy he acted like his owner had gone crazy.  So I trained the bounce.  "Yippee"  means one big bounce, and "Bouncy, Bouncy, Bouncy" means bounce in place -- if he were a horse "Bouncy" would be like a horse rearing just a little bit many times in a row.  I trained these with food (jump up to get the food, click, treat) and with a toy (want this really cool squeaky toy?  you've gotta bounce to get it).

Ziggy now really likes to bounce.  I have him do "Bouncy, Bouncy" when I get home from work.  He's happy to see me, and he gets pets and attention if he bounces.  In a way, I'm doing the opposite of what most people want - I'm training him to bounce if wants attention.  But he loves it, and now "Bouncy" and "Yippee" really do pep him up and make him want to interact with me.  Fun!  A small step, I know, but Fun!

Dog About Town
When I first got Maggie, I was single and living alone.  Maggie went nearly everywhere with me - coffee shops, dinner at friends' houses, even to work many days.  I also trained in many new places - on the weekends we'd go to the park, do a bit of training, then take a hike.  Or we'd go to Home Depot or Petsmart and train.

My life is a little different now.  Husband, Child, more demanding job, trying to get back in shape, etc.  All of this is wonderful, but it makes pre-planned training junkets rather difficult.  So I've titled my new approach the "dog about town" approach.  If I have an errand to run (e.g.:  getting coffee, quick trip to the store) I'm taking Ziggy with me.  It's cool enough now that he can stay in his crate in the car.  All I have to do is grab some string cheese, the dog, and my training bag and do a bit of training when I get to my first stop.

Today's outing was to pick up The Child at daycare.  Ziggy and I spent about 10 minutes playing on the lawn outside the daycare before I went inside.  We did bounces, short bits of heeling, and worked on "close" (getting into heel position at the sit and watching mom) interspersed with cheese, cheers, and chasing a squeaky toy.  Sure, the other parents now think I'm insane, but both Ziggy and I had FUN!  His attention was good, and his attitude was great.  The other benefit is that The Child was very excited that one of the dogs was waiting in the car for him, so all 3 of us were happy!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

It's official!

I know I've posted about it already, but now it's official, so I couldn't resist!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Greetings, Conformation People!

In my blog trolling, I came across a great post on Susan Garrett's agility blog.  There, she has a post from Helen King, an expert in canine structure for performance, share some insights into what  she thinks makes a good, structurally sound agility dog.  I thought it might be of interest to performance and conformation folks alike.  Here's the link:

In my former life as a horse person, I studied a lot about how equine structure related to the horse's ability to move well, perform well, and stay sound.  Since attending a Chris Zink seminar last January, I've been a bit obsessed about structure of performance dogs as well (thanks to Carolyn for helping me learn more about shoulders when I saw her at this year's specialty!). 

I highly recommend attending one of Chris' seminars.  In the seminar I attended, she talked about canine structure as it relates to performance events (especially soundness for agility), helped us evaluate our own dogs (I took Ziggy, and she liked Z's moderate angles and good balance), taught us about conditioning our dogs for performance events, and helped us understand how to use cavaletti as a training tool for better movement and jumping ability.  I think it would be great to have someone like Chris come to one of our national specialties and talk to both performance and conformation folks about corgi structure for performance events.  A girl can dream, can't she....

Saturday, November 7, 2009


It's a fantastic day today here in Iowa.  High 60's, blue sky, light breeze.  Ahhh, if only every day were like this.

I took the dogs for a long walk mid-morning, then we spent some time enjoying the sun in the back yard.  The whole family was out - even the geriatric white cat.  I decided to take some pictures of the dogs.  Then The Child decided he wanted his picture taken with each of the dogs licking him.  Here are some pics....

Denzil & Ziggy managed to score more licks than planned....

Denzil also scored a tummy rub (shameless little flirt that he is):

And finally, a handsome photo of Ziggy.  He's such a "grown up" now...

Well, enough blogging.  Time to go back outside!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Chute Teeter

Thanks to my travel schedule (India + 2 more short trips this month), right now I'm not taking any training classes.  Sometimes  I go a bit "adrift" when I'm traveling a lot and not taking classes, but I'm trying to change that.

So what am I doing?  I've decided to concentrate on Ziggy until the next set of classes starts up.  To improve his agility preparedness, I'm working on a few obstacles that are easy to work on in the basement (the frost and short days have come to the Midwest, making it hard to train outside).  The obstacles we're working on:  Chute, Teeter & Tunnels

Ziggy was really not a big fan of the chute in his beginning class.  He never got to the point of doing this obstacle without someone holding the chute open.  And, being a Cardi, he was suspicious of that woman at the end of the chute (just what is she up to?), so went slow, to boot.  In the past, this has been an obstacle I've struggled to train at home, as holding the chute open requires a helper.  I love them dearly, but The Husband and The Child are really not the best training helpers (Husband = disintersted; Child = unreliable and easily distracted).  So what's a girl to do?

I was stumped until I ran across a short article in Clean Run magazine.  The author suggested using a collapsible  yard waste bin to hold the chute open.  Great idea!  And, it involves a trip to Lowes - what could be better?

Unfortunately, Lowes didn't have a collapsible yard waste bin.  So I decided to wander around the store to see if anything else would work.  After much time wandering (I'm easily distracted in Lowes - so many things we could do to the house!), I figured it out - a rope handled utility tote! (found in the storage aisle near the trash cans):

I brought the tote home and cut the bottom out of it using a utility knife w/ a new blade.  I then cut the rim off of half the top so it wouldn't sit up so high.

Finally, I used duct tape of of the cut edges to make sure that the Cardis (or The Child) didn't get snagged/cut/injured on the cut plastic.  Or maybe I did it because I just love duct tape.  You decide.

Here's what it looks like "installed" in the chute.  I'm using the sandbags to keep it from shifting too much (it still does a bit, but not enough to bug the Z), and the small clamp to keep the fabric from shifting.

Here's the "full chute" view:

The tote can be moved with the sandbags (or shifted more into the tail of the chute - towards the entrance) to open the chute up more - giving the Cardi a more clear view of where they're going.

Here's a Cardi-eye view with the chute mostly collapsed:

So how is it working?  REALLY well.  I took Ziggy downstairs and did a few clicks & treats (throwing the treats a bit forward into the chute) when he showed interest in the chute entrance.  After a few times of that, he ran right through!  I clicked when he hit resistance from the top of the chute, and treated when he made his way out.  Ziggy already likes the tunnel, and I think being able to see "daylight" at the end made him more confident.

After a few tries with it open, I slowly moved the tote at the end so that no daylight could be seen, and Ziggy had to push his way through a few feet of chute.  He was happy and smiling and wagging the whole time, so we quit there for the day.  I plan to work on it a bit every day, slowly moving the tote until he can push all the way through.  What fun!

Ziggy and I are continuing the work we were doing in class.  We're working with a lowered teeter (you can see how high it is in the background of the 2nd to last photo - behind the chute - we've worked our way up to this height).  I've adjusted the teeter so that it doesn't pop back into position after the dog is done.  This allows us to run (what fun it is to go fast over the teeter!) back and forth over the teeter.  We're working on this so that Ziggy gets used to the banging and the dropping motion of the teeter, all while continuing to move on the teeter (instead of stopping at the middle & riding it down).  Z has always gotten clicks & treats on the teeter, so he thinks this is really cool.

Maggie had a slow teeter performance.  She was VERY consistent and seemed to enjoy it, but she stopped shortly after the pivot point to let the teeter go to the ground before she'd move again.  This is my fault (I trained her this way) not hers.  I didn't want to make the same mistake with Ziggy, and lose precious time on obstacles, so I'm trying a different method this time.

If I ever get more of the basement cleaned out, I'll start working on jump grids again.  I'll let you know when I get that done....
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