Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Introducing Tito

Tito is my husband's new pup, one that was selected as a schutzhund prospect. He is a beautiful Sable male, from great working lines. He has a very sweet disposition and so far is showing great drive. It is fun having a puppy around the house again!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Schutzhund Club of Buffalo - Trial ~ Eros - Begleithunde (BH)~

I entered Arlo and Eros in the Schutzhund Club of Buffalo's fall trial November 22 / 23 2008, under American Judge Willie Pope Jr.. Arlo was entered for his SchH 2 title, and Eros for his BH & AD. The decision to take the boys to Buffalo to trial was one made after much thought and consideration. Both dogs had been entered at the Capital City Schuzhund Club's trial for October 25th, 2008, but this trail was cancelled literally last minute. The judge's late night flight was cancelled, and there was nothing anyone could do. It was a tragedy on many levels for many people. This Capital City club trial was the last local trial for the year in Ontario. I had worked very hard for a long time, putting in countless hours of practice time for the previous 8 weeks leading up to the October trial date. The dogs were both working great, and thanks to my friends and the gracious members of the Capital City club, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time at their club preparing for that trial. I had never trained or trialed on a different field before, so I wanted to make sure I was really confident going in to this trial. The members of the Capital group really went out of their way to help me achieve this confidence. The week before the trial date, both dogs were working well, and I was really confident going in. So, when the trial was cancelled, I was very sad, and in disbelief. I had worked so very hard, and then I didn't even get the chance to try. Also weighing heavy on my mind was Arlo's health. I know he has a serious liver disease, and I know that his time with me is limited, and I honestly could not say for sure whether or not he would be feeling well enough to compete come spring 2009. I thought that this may be my last opportunity to compete with him. And he had been working so great for me, he was really ready to compete. It was with these thoughts in mind that I decided to see what was available state side. The closest option was Buffalo. I was lucky to get in to this trial.

Because of the distance to travel, I only had 3 separate opportunities to go and practice on their field. They have a nice field, and super nice members there. They all were so welcoming to me and took the time to help me out when needed, just stepping in to offer advice. I felt like I was being treated like one of their own members. What a nice feeling for a novice competitor. I did not feel anywhere near as confident going into this trial as I did at the Capital club. On the trial weekend, we woke up to a light blanket of snow on the ground, and temperatures around Zero degrees celcius. Not really all that cold, but it felt very cold. I was panicking a bit, as I had not tracked Arlo in the snow since the year prior, and although we had snow at home for at least a couple weeks before the trial, I had not bothered to track him in the snow, as the weather forcast for Buffalo was not calling for snow! Arlo tracked great, getting 97 points. A "V" rating in tracking, awesome! His OB was a bit of a disaster. The only things he did well were his heeling (the judge loved his heeling), and his sit in motion. Everything else was either done poorly, or not really done at all. He broke his long down, not something I expected at all! We had to go and do the long down first, something I almost never practice. This is bad preparation on my part. There was snow on the ground, and I know he hates the cold, so this certainly could have played a role. For his down in motion, he did a sit. Again, unexpected. He stand in motion was completely missed by the judge, as he forgot I was doing a SchH 2, thought it was a SchH 1, and had his head turned away from me. Arlo broke out of his stand anyway, so we got to try it again. He broke the stand again, so it didn't really matter. His retrieves were not so good. He was not really focused, and he actually came around the frame on his way back instead of going over it.... completely unexpected, he has never done that before. I was thinking it must have been a bad throw, but I couldn't see it. His send out was a disaster, he went out nice and fast, but would not down. Then, I was waiting for the judge's signal to give my second command.... the signal from the judge never came, and Arlo ended up running right past me and out into the crowd, presumably looking for my husband who was hiding inside a building. In hindsight, I should have just given that second command to get him down, but I was trying to be proper and wait for the judge. I did manage to get Arlo back onto the field, but of course by this point it was all over. We ended up with 57 points in OB, and I think the judge was generous! His protection routine was not too bad. The running of the blinds did not go so smoothly, but he did manage to run all of them. We made it through almost all of the routine, then came the courage test. Now, the field at this club is really LONG, and I had to heel all the way up field. Was not expecting this. So, when Arlo went in for his last bite, he went in nice and strong, then he would not "out" off the helper. This time I did get signals from the judge... 2nd command, no out. 3rd command, I took a deep breath and gave it everything I had... "O-O-O-U-U-U-T!!!!"... no out. Arlo just hung on, front paws up on the helper, and he kept pulling, and pulling. No chewing, no re-gripping, just pulling intensely on the sleeve. I was flagged in to come and pick him up. I put the leash on, and then leaned over him, and it took at least two more out commands to get him off. Disqualified! Well, I'd rather get disqualifed for no "out" than having my dog run off the field, which I was most worried about, as he had run off the field looking for my husband in more than one practice session. Thankfully this did not happen! I was disappointed, yes, but took the whole thing as a great learning experience. I have absolutely no pictures of Arlo and me at this trial, as my husband had to hide during Arlo's time on the field. Arlo had been running off the field in several practice sessions to go and see Sean, and I did not have time to fix this problem before trialling. Another training issue!

Eros' BH routine was also a disaster! I had been working on his BH for two years, he was more than ready. He was working great for me in our practice sessions, and I was expecting to go out on that field and do a near perfect BH routine. This did not happen, not even close. He held his long down, so that was good. It took two commands to get him back up, not good. Our on leash heeling started out ok, but it quickly turned ugly, with Eros sniffing the ground, and casually walking out to the end of the leash, it looked like we were going for a walk in the park, I was in disbelief. For the group, he decided to go and say "hello" to most of the group members, stretching out to the end of the leash. When the off leash heeling came, it was just as bad as the on leash work. It looked like we were not prepared, and that we should not have been out there. I was so disappointed and confused... why was this happening? He did his sit in motion, but for the down in motion, he sat again, very weird for him! His front and finish were sloppy. We passed, but it was not pretty and I was really disappointed in our work out there. It left me wondering why it went so badly when he is capable of such nice work? I thought that there must be some fundamental flaws in my training and reward systems. He passed his temperament portion with no problems, even when the "neutral" dog that walked by him while he was tied up barked aggressively at him. If he had've reacted to that, I would have complained for sure, because there was no way that was a "neutral" dog. So, yes we had our BH, but it certainly was not what I was expecting. Eros did not pass his AD, he was about 1 lap from finishing when he had a severe limp in his left front limb, a nastly slice on his metacarpal pad was bleeding, as were some of the digital pads. He was pulled. Was a huge disappointment! This AD was run on pavement, and I knew going in that there was a good chance he would not be able to finish. I had been conditioning him at home for weeks prior to this, and he had problems running on the pavement. His pads are too soft to withstand that kind of surface. So, now we have to do the AD again sometime, I will wait until I can find a club that will run it on a grassy surface.

All in all, this was a big disappointment for me. But, I took it as a great learning experience. It exposed some flaws in my training methods that may have taken many more months to become apparent to me. I also got the chance to travel with the dogs, stay in a hotel, and prepare for a trial in a strange place, without having the comfort of home or our regular routine. I got the chance to do all of this at a trial that wasn't really a big deal. It wasn't a critical regional or a national event. I'm glad I have this experience behind me, so that when the time comes for me to travel and compete at a crucial competition, I won't be so stressed about being away from home and having to prepare to compete in a hotel setting. I was glad that I had the courage to do this, to take the dogs to a new club, have minimal practice time, and then just go out there and do it. Even though we were not so successful from a title standpoint, I feel I was successful at taking a chance and just going for what I wanted. Shortly after my experience there, I came across a quote that just seem so fitting for my situation. It was posted on my friends facebook page, and here it is;

"It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." --Theodore Roosevelt, April 23, 1910

We were able to get some pictures of Eros working;

Reporting in: Eros is on the right, next to me in the pink jacket... there were quite a few black GSDs there!

Heeling over to do the long down, notice the snow covered ground.

The pick up after the down.

Setting up, getting ready to start heeling.

Heeling starts off nice....

Then quickly turns ugly!

In the group.

Monday, October 13, 2008

WUSV 2008 Florence Kentucky, USA

My trip to the WUSV world competition in Florence Kentucky was the opportunity of a lifetime. This competition is almost always in Europe somewhere. So when we found out it was being held in the USA, a large group of schutzhund enthusiasts from Ontario decided to make the trip south and watch this world class event. It is hard to describe in words what it was like having the opportunity to watch so many dogs who are at the world level compete. It was breath taking, incredible, amazing, almost unbelievable. There may not be another opportunity in my lifetime to be a spectator at the worlds. And the chances of me getting the chance to actually compete at this level are far less indeed!

I did manage to get some photos of the Canadian team. They are not the greatest, but neither is my camera. One of my favourite moments was when the Canadian team member Darryl's dog Alon v. Alder Tal hit the helper so hard during the escape that he was able to knock the sleeve right off of his arm and prance back to Darryl quite proud of himself sleeve in mouth... the crowd went absolutely crazy at this point, as dogs that over power the helper in any way at a trial is always followed by clapping, cheering, and praise. It was a magical moment. My camera was not fast enough to capture this moment, but pictures of this are available. No other dog as far as I know was able to over power either of the helpers. Way to go Canada! It's hard to really describe the feeling in the stadium at that moment... And, to see the helper after the routine on his way back to the dugout with a huge smile on his face was just priceless.

Our hotel was filled with Canadian schutzhund people, and a few Americans. We also had the entire Belgian team staying in our hotel and ran into them frequently. We were lucky as our hotel was literally across the highway from the host stadium.

Our days were filled with morning to late afternoon competition watching. We observed a large portion of the competitors perform their obedience and protection routines. None of us ventured out to watch the tracking portion.

My favourite team to watch out of all the dogs I was fortunate to see was the German champion, Javir vom Talka Marda with handler Michaela Knoche. This team placed 3rd overall at the worlds, but their performance was unforgettable. The obedience routine was comparable to a well trained dressage horse and was breathtaking. It left me wanting to see more and more. Javir's protection routine was a crowd favourite, as his super close jumping up at the helper's face during his hold and barks resulted in much cheering from the crowds. What an amazing dog.

I had many good conversations with some good friends and met some new friends. It was 4 days of competition and talk with like minded dog people. We also got some great deals on some dog equipment. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, perhaps a bit too warm for some of the dogs. It was an experience that will not be forgotten, nor equalled. It left many of us wanting to make the trip to Germany in 2009 to watch next year's worlds. Something to dream about!

Gabi & Yoschy

Ralph & Billie

Darryl & Alon

William & Greta (I did not get pictures of Greta's Protection - forgot my camera!)

Ken & Chevy

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Beauty of Fall

One could easily argue that fall has some of the most beautiful displays of colour.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Baxter Central Public School Doggie Demo

I was lucky to be invited to join my agility training group, Tamsu Learning Centre, to participate in an elementary school Doggie Demo. This is one of the benefits of being part of such an active and dynamic training group. I was really looking forward to it! I had never been part of such an event before, and was excited to "show off" my well trained and well behaved dogs.

The children in the school were grades 1 to 8, so a wide range of ages. I brought Blaze, my little agility star, and I brought Arlo. Although Arlo is technically my schutzhund dog, and not an official Tamsu student, Arlo is what I describe as my "all purpose dog".... I can take him anywhere and ask him to do anything, and he's all for it! And, he is a super social German shepherd dog, loves saying "hello" to all people, and he is such a great ambassador for his breed.

The demo started out with a talk to the students about dog safety, and how to properly approach a strange dog. Our head agility instructor, Sarah Mairs-Heaslip, was doing the talk, and Arlo and Cassie's male Rottweiler, Ely, were the dogs being used for the demo... There was a little bit of laughter just before we started... Sarah thought is was kind of funny that we were using the schutzhund trained German Shepherd and a Rottweiler as our dog safety dogs.

Next we did a heeling demo... well, what can schutzhund dogs do extremely well???? Yes, that's right, heeling! Arlo strutted his stuff, both on leash and off leash for the crowd along with some of the other dogs. He did great. Then we did some "barrel racing"... Yep, barrel racing. What fun. Neither of my dogs had ever done this before, so I was going to sit this one out, but I decided to try to get Arlo to run around the barrels just a few moments before the demo started. He already knew a command to run around things, namely "revier", the command we use to get the dogs to run around the blinds on the schutzhund field. I decided to give it a go. Well, it only took Arlo one try around the barrel to figure out what I wanted, and with the promise of a reward afterwards, he was all for it! So, when our turn came to run the barrels, I went up there, and used my "revier" command, and he ran the barrels as if he had done it a hundred times... Great! What fun... who knew that the "revier" command would come in so handy someday!

Next we did some doggy tricks for the kids. This is always a crowd favourite. Unfortunately, I did sit this one out... I haven't bothered over the years to teach my dogs any crowd pleasing tricks... I was too focused on teaching them the behaviours needed for their respective sport careers. The crowd loved the tricks the dogs performed. I was a bit sad I could not participate.

Then came our agility demo, what fun we had. Blaze came out for this one, this is where he shines. I am always amazed at how he can focus and have fun in almost any environment I put him in.

We also did a flyball demo, and I was the box loader for one of the teams. It was my first time box loading, ever! I must say, those dogs are so fast and I was a bit slow more than once.

At the end of the demo, which seemed to go way too fast, the kids wanted to say hello to the dogs. I brought Arlo over, and he was swarmed by kids. I put him in a "platz", and he was being petting, hugged, and kissed by many of the children. He loves being social. And, it gives me a great feeling inside knowing that my schutzhund titled German shepherd dog can also be a stable, social, well behaved canine in the community. One of the little girls said she had never petted a dog before, and was quite happy that she was able to do so. Part of this is training for sure, but a large part of it is simply Arlo's innate nature and his super stable temperament. I'm very proud of him.

I was not able to get great photos, mainly because I don't have that great of a camera (we're working on that!). Here are some of the better photos that I was able to get... Arlo at the end.

Sarah's border collie, Jiggy, during the agility demo.

Cassie's Rottweiler, Ely.

Blaze in the weave poles.

Blaze coming out of the tunnel turning for the dog walk.

Blaze on the teeter.

Cassie and Rottweiler Emma on the teeter.

Sarah and her Golden retriever Cutter barrel racing.

Arlo barrel racing.

Arlo barrel racing.