Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The lazy dog-blogger says hello ...

I swear I've tried to post (twice!) but both times bizarre computer crashes occurred that ate what I had written and I was to ticked off and frustrated to recreate it all. Then I just got busy (doing dog things!) and didn't have the time or energy to write.

So I've been meaning to talk about agility, spcifically a NADAC trial I entered a couple of weeks ago. It went pretty well--two Qs for Gomey and three for Lucy. I only entered three events per dog per day because I'm saving my money for USDAA, which is what I really like. NADAC can be fun (I love the jumpers and tunnelers courses!) but I have some problems with the organization and the way it's all run (I'll rant a little about that below).
I like to enter Lucy in a few NADAC classes now and then for motivation--she gets really jazzed on the wide-open, easy courses (and for the most part the courses are extremely easy). Of course, that doesn't stop her from taking an occasional off-course, as you can see in the video below (the part where I say "here, here, here, here here! I was being a bit lackadaisical because ... well it's just NADAC):

My favorite runs were the tunnelers, because Lucy feels really confident (as if she's thinking "yay tunnels--so easy!). Here's one run (our other one was way better and faster but I didn't get it on video):

Gomey is still a goofball, but he's much better than he used to be (he's learning that if he keeps an eye on me he may find out what I want him to do next). But more importantly, I'm starting to figure out how to run him--he's so different from Lucy. Here's a video of a Regular class run--we didn't Q here (he missed the dogwalk contact and then even though I made him sit to regain control, I had to cross the "distance" line to get him into the weaves ... and then he still didn't complete them before I gave up):

This brings up one of the rants I have about NADAC: The way they have reconfigured their classes to include a distance challenge in Regular plus a Chances class, which is a less-fun version of "gamblers," is just backward. For one thing, why can't they have a Regular class without a distance challenge, now that they have the Chances class? My friend Louis says it's because they have to do something to make the courses a bit challenging, because otherwise they are laughably easy. He's got a point, but then wouldn't it make sense to put the really difficult distance challenges in the Chances class, where people specifically expect something a bit tough, as opposed in the Regular class, which people enter when they just want to do ... well, you know, REGULAR agility?

Instead, the distance work in the Chances class was laughably easy and I was kicking myself for not entering: it was just a line of jumps across a tape line (the distance between line and jumps increased at each level). meanwhile, in the Regular class--and I'm talking about NOVICE here--the distance challenges both days included either a set of six weaves or a dog walk. These two obstacles never appear in a starters gamble course in USDAA--and USDAA is designed to be much more rigorous and demanding that NADAC. Getting a dog to hit a weave entry or stick a dog walk contact with the handler 6 feet away is--or should be--an advanced skill. All I can think is that NADAC, which is entirely run by a single (seemingly insane) woman somewhere out in Idaho, has decided that dogs were advancing too quickly out of Novice competition, so they (she) decided to keep them there as long as possible.

Or maybe, like me, people will just think of NADAC as a place to practice for the real competition in USDAA. They do allow training in the ring, after all ...

OK, enough ranting. Coming soon (really!) I'm going to talk about sunshine, rainbows and PUPPIES!!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Dog park!

I've been lax in posting lately because I've been busy with lots of agility training and flyball. But a trip to my mom's this past weekend reminded me of a topic that I've been meaning to discuss: the dog park, specifically good dog park etiquette.

My mom lives in Myrtle Beach, SC, which is home to the best dog park I've ever seen (see photo above). Normally I don't like dog parks because they often function more as fight pits--they are way too small and the dogs get crowded together, and because a lot of owners have no idea how to properly supervise dog play things can get dangerous and out-of-hand rather quickly. But the Myrtle Beach dog park is huge (11 acres!), with two areas, each with its own entrance. it's got plenty of room for the dogs not to feel crowded, which helps keep down the level of nervousness or grouchiness some dogs feel. There's also a large pond in the middle for dogs who like to splash about or swim (my own dogs love that part!, and there is a wooded area with a few intrepid squirrels to be chased. I look forward to to this dog park every time I visit Myrtle Beach.

But even in a wonderful, huge dog park, owners need to supervise their dogs' play, not just for safety but out of consideration for others. What gets me every time are the people who congrate and chat, drinking coffee while completely ignoring their dogs. Of course, these are usually the same dogs who end up rushing the entrances when new dogs show up--making it difficult for some dogs to get into the park safely because they immediately feel defensive. I always run interference as I'm opening the gate, backing off the dogs who have gathered so my own dogs can feel comfortable entering the park. Allowing your dog to crowd and intimidate new arrivals is just downright inconsiderate, as is allowing your dogs to gang up on or bully another dog ... even though its just play to the bully it can be terrifying and traumatizing for the bullied, who may feel defensive enough to bite back.

Because a lot of people don't know how to recognize the difference between normal play and unsafe play, Val Olszyk, owner and training director of Pet Behavior Help (where I train and teach), has written a guide to using a dog park. Her advice can help dog owners not only protect their own dogs, but also avoid being the ones everyone else tries to avoid! I think the next time I go to the Myrtle Beach dog park I may print and laminate a few copies of here guide and attach them to the fence.

If you're going to Myrtle Beach and you'd like to visit the dog park, it's located on the former air force base at the south end of Myrtle Beach. To get there turn into the former AFB from Kings Highway and take a left at "Mallard Lake Drive." The park is the fenced in area on your left about 200 yards after you turn. (Here's the location marked on Yahoo maps ... anyone who knows how I can add an interactice Yahoo or Google map to this entry let me know. I know there's got to be a way, but I'm not geeky enough to try figuring it out.)