Monday, October 26, 2009

Silence of the squirrels

Squirrels are great little sprinters and it's always impressive when a dog can catch one. After the catch ... maybe not so much fun. Definitely no fun for the squirrel.

Yesterday I was out with my three, and I guess I had a moment of inattention because Tally lunged for a squirrel and her leash just jumped right out of my hand. At first I thought "No biggie. She'll tree it then stand barking at the base of the tree and I'll go get her." I was a little flabbergasted that she caught it with absolutely no problem. She's an amazingly fast little dog.

For a second it looked like the squirrel would get away, because Tally released it ... no, then she caught it again, wounding it this time. She kept catching it, releasing it and catching it again like a cat would, and I couldn't stand to watch. So I let go of Lucy and Pinky, knowing that Lucy would go straight for the kill and end the poor squirrel's suffering. She did, with one quick bite.

So then I had three dogs playing tug-of-war with a dead squirrel, and I was hoping to creep in and grab their leashes before ... too late. Tally gained control of the squirrel and took off with the other two in pursuit. I became the crazy dog lady running down the street screaming her dog's names in vain. It was a nice day and neighbors were out, too.

Lucky for me Tally wanted to enjoy her prize on her home turf. She led us all straight home and when I caught up I only had to open the gate to the back yard and everyone ran in. Tally proceeded to take victory laps around the yard with her treasure while the other two chased her.

I didn't want to have to go searching for the squirrel or its bits later (when it was likely to start stinking) so I needed to get Tally to drop it. A while back I got Pinky to drop a dead rat (killed by Lucy) by throwing cheese at her, so I went in to get some food. I grabbed some meatballs--perfect for throwing! I also grabbed the camera, and here's what followed:

And no matter how many times I do it, I can never get over my squeamishness and revulsion at having to pick up a dead critter ...

In other news, Tally is adorable, if occasionally annoying:

Friday, October 23, 2009

My little stick of dynamite


It's been almost five months since I got Talladega, and I'm really amazed with her. When she first showed up it was hard to even live with her. She was terribly rude and ill-behaved, and thought the best way to get a human to play was to bite a face or appendage. She wasn't house trained and couldn't be trusted out of my sight at any time whatsoever unless she was in a crate. Now she's house-trained (provided I make sure she gets out at the right times), only slightly rude and occasionally ill-behaved, and can be trusted out of my sight for minutes at a time! She still tries to nip the occasional face, but we're working on that.

But all that will come and I don't mind it so much because I think she's going to be a kick-ass little agility dog. Our major problem has been focus. She's so into everything and everyone (she loves the world and the world loves her!) that it's been hard for her to stay working with me when there are possibly exciting things around. Over the past six weeks I've had her in two classes designed to work on exactly that, and she's made remarkable improvement. She's not 100 percent yet, but she's good enough that I think can "mainstream" her into a normal agility class.

Meanwhile, on my own, I've been working on obstacle performance, and she's a dream. She learns so quickly and seems to really have a great time. She also overcomes her fears quickly; she's gotten a little startled by the teeter, and flew off the dogwalk once, but she's always willing to give it another go right away. This is a huge contrast to Pinky, who gets really shaken at the smallest scare. She was startled on the dogwalk once and I couldn't get her to approach it again. I had to start all over again on a low contact trainer and work all the way back up.

I've still got a lot of work to do on her jumping skills, and the weaves are a work in progress, but I've got time; based on the vet's age estimate, Tally won't even be old enough to compete in USDAA until next April. And I'm trying not to even focus on that, because I really want to enjoy the process. Now that I'm really getting her attention, training her is amazingly fun.

A great side effect of Tally's success is that she's made me completely relax about training Pinky, because now I know I'll have a dog to run when Lucy retires. Pinky can stay in training for years. This has had a wonderful effect on her training. With me relaxed, Pinky relaxes and we make good progress. Duh! I actually knew this would be the case, but it was getting myself to REALLY relax, as opposed to just pretending to relax, that was the key. Dogs notice!

It's a game. It needs to be fun!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Do our dogs gripe about us after a run?

I had a good time doing USDAA this past weekend. Lucy was fabulous and I wasn't too bad either. We got a few Qs (2 Snooker super Qs and 1 Jumpers) and missed a few, but we were a good team all weekend.

But I've got a little rant inside me that I need to let loose ...

Over the weekend I got really sick of listening to people bitch about how something their dog did ruined their run. I felt like if I heard an indignant "S/he knows better!" one more time I was in danger of slapping whoever said it. It's almost heartbreaking to see someone out on a course with a dog who was trying hard to do the right thing, getting confusing, late or no instructions, and then getting lectured by the handler ("what were you doing? You're not listening Blah blah blah!") as they come off course.

If our poor dogs could talk amongst themselves they would probably be saying stuff like "What was s/he thinking waiting until I was on the landing side of the jump before telling me I needed to turn?" or "All of a sudden s/he moved in a way s/he never does in training, and it just threw me completely off and I popped a weave. She never does that--I don't know what got into her!" or "S/he was driving right toward that jump so I thought I was supposed to take it. Then s/he started screeching in a panicky voice 'Here here HERE HERE!!!' and it frightened me out of my wits. I slowed waaay down after that and hesitated before the rest of the jumps because I wanted to know for darn sure I was supposed to take it so s/he wouldn't yell at me again ..."

Full disclosure: I used to blame Lucy for stuff that was my fault all the time. So I'm not holier than anyone. (And I really hope I didn't make too huge a fuss about it to other people because god, it's awful to have to listen to!) At some point, however, I realized what a stupid dope I was and that Lucy was actually really, really good at this stuff and I was the one who sucked. And after that we just started getting better and better. I really wish I could share that revelation with the people I hear bitching about their dogs, but that would amount to saying "hey, your dog is great but you suck!" And that's pretty much an awful thing to say to anyone. I probably would have cried if anyone had ever said it to me even though it was the truth.

So I don't know if there's much a of a solution for me on this issue, aside from turning away and refusing to listen to anyone who's dissing their dog. Or maybe I should try sarcasm (I'm really, really good at that) and say something like "Yes, it's a shame that your dog keeps screwing up when you're always so perfect out there."

Or maybe I'll just come here and rant whenever it gets to me ...

But now a fun bit to counteract all my negativity! At one point over the weekend, Derrell Stover "got" me with a little joke: He asked, when I was bar-setting, whether I had raised the chute. I actually stopped, thought and looked toward the chute before I realized it was a joke. I had a good chuckle and decided I'd have to try it on someone else. So before our Standard run on Sunday, after table legs and whatnot had been changed for P 12", I asked the judge (Melanie Behrens) if she had lowered the chute. Yeah, I got her! But then in our run that followed, Lucy apparently decided the chute wasn't low enough: