Thursday, August 30, 2012

Three Big Dogs

The Trio

Rugby doesn't know he is little. Don't tell him. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Being Agile

Yes, we are continuing with our Agility goals. Our biggest obstacle in teaching agility is not having all the equipment available to us just yet. We did make a set of weave poles, we have a tunnel and several jumps. This has given us a pretty good start. The occasional visit to a local agility facility to use their equipment has kept us moving in the right direction.

This week, when he was running a course on the agility equipment... he was going fast. I had to run he was going so fast! It only lasted as long as two runs before he started to get tired. I think some more swimming is in order to build up his stamina. This is the change I was waiting for. As he continues to learn agility, his confidence will grow and his speed will increase. 

I have a short video of Rugby's weaves over the last few weeks. He is doing them correctly about 70% of the time. He is doing 6 poles now, and I will wait till that percentage is higher before adding any more.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cutest and Smartest

(c) SSP
I am absolutely positive that Rugby was the cutest and smartest Maltese at this years All Stars Obedience Championships.

The style of the tournament was similar to the National Obedience Invitationals since he did a mix of both Open and Utility exercises in each ring. There were a few differences, like the extra set of stays and more exercises in each ring at All Stars that took a little adjusting.

I wasn't quite so nervous about the format, or his ability to make it through the weekend this time. He has gotten so much more experience under his belt over the last six months that he is hardly the same dog in the ring than he was back in December. We did learn from our NOI experience and had our "doggie crack" treats ready (with 60% fat) so he could stay energized. I still haven't perfected the timing, and he might have been too exuberant for a round or two.

While he was not precise, he was consistent and happy in the ring. Rugby did not fail a single exercise, and even managed to make me laugh a couple of times. I excused his mistakes to the fact that the tournament required a large amount of mental stamina that I did not prepare him for.

Rugby finished the weekend in 7th place, out of 27 in the Super Stars class. I'm glad he made it into the top 10, and given that his name is Mister Rugby Sevens, he couldn't have gotten a more appropriate placement.

We have already signed up for the next tournament. We will work hard to get ready for Orlando, Part II.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Obedience Maltese

(c) Steve Surfman Photography
Since Rugby earned his OTCH in June, I have had a hard time staying motivated to train and compete in Obedience. I am a goal orientated person and now that our ultimate goal has been reached, where do we go from here?

My solution was to try a different sport. We have started agility training and Rugby seems to like it. I am amused with his enthusiasm for the obstacles (and sometimes lack of enthusiasm). This should keep us busy and continuously working for some time.

This past weekend, I was reminded why we did Obedience in the first place. We participated in the All Star Performance Dog's Obedience Championships. Rugby was entered in the Super Stars class, where you perform exercises from both Open and Utility each time you enter the ring (a total of 5 times over the course of two days, plus two sets of stays).

Since we haven't been practicing much, I didn't have high expectations for Rugby and the pressure was off. We were there only to enjoy ourselves and to cheer on our fellow "Team Applewoods" participants... and maybe to do a little shopping too. This relaxed approach gave me the opportunity to use the tournament to see Obedience for what it really is.

The exercises in Obedience are generally, not self-rewarding for the dog like they are in agility. Rugby did not start doing scent articles, or heeling, or signals because he thought those things were fun. He did it and continues to do it because I ask him to. Somewhere along the way, he learned to appreciate the work and to enjoy a job well done. Now he thinks they are fun and looks forward to the chance to practice each day.

I realized this weekend that training your dog to do all three levels of Obedience, and to do it well will give you a relationship with the dog that you will never get out of Agility. We had a great time at All Stars, and honestly, agility seems much less appealing in comparison.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

5 easy steps to the CGC


CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen. It is a manners test, put on by the American Kennel Club as a way to get people started working with their dogs. As a manners test, it represents the minimum amount of training that is necessary to safely live with a dog (almost all dogs need more!). It also provides a gateway into involvement in other dog sports and dog centered activities. A well trained dog is an enjoyable one.

DSC_0082Since I have been a CGC Evaluator for the past year, I have had the opportunity to see some of what works and some of what doesn't work when people take the test. While every dog is an individual, I have noticed a not-so-subtle pattern in the dogs who pass the test. The passing teams have all taught their dogs a variation of the same thing.

To become the proud owner of a dog that has earned his CGC certificate, teach him these things before signing up for the test.

1) To say no to distractions.
Your dog will have to say no to other dogs, people, noises, smells and sounds during the CGC test. As a carry over into real-life situations, if your dog can't say no to distractions, the dog will never be able to self regulate himself and will require close and careful management for the duration of his life. Rugby learned this lesson by doing longe line work, an exercise taught the first week of each of our programs.

2) To sit.
A reliable sit and sit/stay will get you through the accepting a friendly stranger, sitting politely for petting, part of the appearance and grooming station, part of the sit and down on command and staying in place, reaction to another dog, and reaction to distraction. That is more than half of the CGC test. Make sure your dog will sit in all environments and with lots of different distractions.

DSC_00833) To stand.
This is used only for the appearance and grooming test to provide the dog with a comfortable and stable position to receive grooming and for their feet to be picked up. Both dog groomers and vets require dogs be in a stand, and it is useful for wiping off muddy feet. If you haven't taught your dog a proper stand and stand/stay, you are doing him a disservice.

4) To down.
A reliable down and down/stay will be used in the sit and down on command and staying in place and can also be used for the supervised separation as an out of sight stay if you wish. Since you can use multiple signals and commands, dogs that have been introduced to, but have not mastered the down can still take and pass the CGC test (although it would be difficult to live with that dog).

5) To come when called.
Most dogs will come to you with some encouragement. Provided that you have taught the dog to say no to distractions and to hold a sit/stay, you should be OK for the test. If you have a dog that for whatever reason won't come to you, some recall work will be required. Even though you don't need extensive recall training to pass the CGC, you still need to teach it! This is crucial for all dogs to know.

Earning the Canine Good Citizen certificate is a respectable goal, and I encourage those who pass to use it as a stepping stone to other things. This training is the foundation needed to do anything and everything with your companion. Good luck!