Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas Countdown

Day 8

Our Christmas Countdown starts tomorrow! Check our new blog to see our daily red and green photos.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Drop on Recall

Diesel has been working hard on his drop on recall. Our blog has MOVED. 

You can see a video of him working at the following address...

Site will be redirected soon!

Monday, November 12, 2012


We have moved! Our life is changing in big ways, and to reflect the change we will now be posting at Our blogger hosted blog will re-direct to the new site. See you soon! 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Monday, October 29, 2012

His New Sport?

This weekend was the end of Rugby's introduction to Agility. In the four trials Rugby participated in over the last week and a half, he improved for each one. He got a little faster, a little more confident, and little more excited about being at the show. I think we started working better as a team and it is safe to say that Rugby thinks agility is a blast. We tried to get videos of all of our runs, but only ended up with two of each. I think you can see improvement between the two sets of videos.

First Trial

Second Trial

He finished his standard title on Saturday, and his jumpers title on Sunday. We tried our hand at Open Standard on Sunday and while the course intimidated me, Rugby did surprisingly well! We had to re-try the weaves when he did 11 of them and popped out at the end, then I forgot to tell him to take the A-frame and he walk around it and had to re-try that too. With a little luck, I think Open is also an obtainable goal.

He is entered in one more two-day Agility trial this year, but we are going to pull our entry and continue our agility trialing next year. Our goals for this year have been met, and we need to focus on preparing for the invitational now. This has been a nice change of pace and I see that there is a certain appeal to Agility, that is much different than Obedience. Rugby, the Agility dog? ...Yes! It is in his future!

OTCH Mister Rugby Sevens UDX OM2 RN NA NAJ

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Second Chances

Later this year, Rugby will have to do a combination of Open and Utility exercises in each ring at the National Obedience Invitational. It won't be new to him, but it will be something he hasn't been able to practice in a formal setting often. 

DSC_0218Versatility consists of two exercises from each class (Novice, Open, Utility) and is as close as we can get to our invitational experience. Showing in this class allows Rugby to practice his obedience in a different format, and to work on his endurance. I was surprised to find that what I like the most about this class is having a second chance when it is "game day."

While we have been unfortunate enough to NQ an exercise in either Open or Utility on two of the days we have shown in Versatility, we have been lucky enough to have that same exercise chosen for Versatility. It was perfect to reinforce the *proper* way to do the exercise in the same trial environment that he had previously failed in. Like directed jumping, the day Rugby decided he only took high jumps, or the drop on recall when he decided a sit was a better option. I am so happy we had second chances on those days! We will be using this resource in the future, even after Rugby has earned the Versatility title.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Thursday's Loot

Rugby made his agility debut this week and showed in Standard and Jumpers with Weaves both Thursday and Friday. He qualified in Standard both days and in Jumpers on Thursday (knocked a bar on Friday). He also had perfect scores for all three Q's. Still plenty to work on, but I am considering this a successful first time out!

After the show on Thursday, I realized that three years ago, Rugby debuted in Obedience at the same club's Obedience trial! We are very grateful to the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Greater Baltimore for putting on great Obedience and Agility trials, and for being Rugby's "firsts!"

Rugby's first Obedience ribbon.

Monday, October 15, 2012

His Tail


Rugby thinks having a tail flipped over his back can slow him down when he runs. The big open field at the end of our walk was the perfect place for Rugby to show just how aerodynamic he can be.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Cutest Tailgater

Rugby at the Football Field This photo of Rugby is up on's People Pets photo gallery. Go check it out! 

Talbot Kennel Club

The five day cluster of dog shows in Salisbury, MD next month is one we are entering to prepare for the NOI. Same as last year, we will not be attending the first two days of this cluster.

Below is a re-posting of "Why we did not enter."
Originally posted on October 11, 2011

In March of this year, Maryland passed House Bill 940.

This bill introduced a new licensing fee for dog breeders, and requires them to submit personal information to the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing. The proponents of the bill (H$U$) claim the data is used solely to identify puppy mills and further regulate commercial breeding. The problem is that they define a commercial breeder as anyone that owns or keeps 15 unspayed female dogs and has six litters a year. This count includes co-owned show dogs that are living off-site with other owner(s). This bill (now law) is unnecessary and detrimental to all responsible breeders that maintain a decent size breeding stock to pull from.

The bill was finalized and amended with the help of two breeders who represented Talbot Kennel Club. Both of these breeders are on the show committee for this club.

Talbot Kennel Club has two shows coming up in November (11/9 - 11/10). These shows are the first in a cluster of five total shows. While I have entered Rugby in the Obedience Trials held on the three remaining days of the cluster, I will not support Talbot Kennel Club with my entries.

I refuse to enter a show hosted by a club that so closely associates with H$U$ and one that supports any bill that is detrimental to the local dog fancy.

Monday, October 8, 2012


It is the challenge of each competitor to minimize, prepare for and work around all the variables that will effect your dog's performance. That is why how you handle your dog outside of ring can be more important than what you do inside of the ring. As Rugby went from Novice, to Open, to Utility, the variables have changed and we have had to adjust. Age, maturity, training level, training schedule, mental and physical stamina, warm up, down time, acclimation to the trial environment, stress of travel, etc. are some of the things I take into consideration when entering Obedience trials.

Since Rugby earned his Novice, Open and Utility titles at a young age, it seemed that each time I took him out for a new title, I had a new dog. Our OTCH/UDX journey earlier this year was the first time that Rugby was showing consistently enough to reduce the number of variables we were working with. His age was the same, his stamina was the same, and his training level didn't change much in the week or two between trials.

I know that Rugby does better on the second day of trials, like three weeks ago at the Hyattsville Dog Training Club trial where Rugby had a horrible first day, and came back the next to earn a 199 in Open and a 196.5 in Utility. I know he doesn't do well if he is not worked the day before a trial. I know that he needs to spend the time during and after a trial resting so that he has plenty of energy for his 15 minutes in the ring.

Still, there is a lot I don't know about Rugby. Now that he has the OTCH and UDX experience as a foundation, I think it is time to start narrowing down even further what variables will lead to Rugby's best performances. What has he learned from showing this year? Can he do three classes in a day instead of two? Can he show three days in a row (he has had trouble with this in the past)? Can I change his response to some of those variables to make him more confident and successful?

I started to ask some of those questions when I entered him in Versatility this weekend, in addition to Open and Utility B. We had mixed results. We had a fair number of NQ's, but he did place in the class the times he  qualified. He only came away from the weekend with one Versatility leg, but it was very valuable in helping to fix his all-of-a-sudden directed jumping problem (only taking the high jump). We have a few more trials left this year and we will keep trying new things in an attempt to keep Rugby's Obedience fresh.

Thursday, October 4, 2012


I was lucky to have the help of one very talented Maltese while I made a tire jump yesterday. Since it is an essential part of his agility work, he was eager to help. Rugby went to the hardware store, assisted in the assembly process and put the jump to good use once it was finished.

The picture at left shows Rugby pre-tire jump. And I know what you are thinking. Yes. That is a lot of duct tape. If you make your own at home, you can get away with only one roll, or two or three if you want a multi-colored jump.

We got some help from the internet for dimensions and did some improvising to avoid using power tools. I won't be opening up an equipment making shop any time soon. Parachute cord, a carabiner and some strategically placed knots make the jump adjustable to regulation heights. Bungee cords that attach the tire to the frame keep it secured in place. Rugby tried it out, and says it works just fine.

This 5' 4" tall tire jump is proving to be a nice addition to our living room furniture.DSC_0293

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

JWW Run Through

We couldn't pass up an opportunity to practice agility at a new location, so Rugby and I went to our third agility run through last night. This time it was a jumpers with weaves course, a first for us. I was happy to see him running for this course since the contact obstacles are usually the ones that motivate him to go fast. He did two runs, they are both in the video below.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Learning Experience

Rugby went to his second agility match yesterday. I have learned a lot from watching the videos of his run, and I know there are lots of things we need to work on.

I expected him to need help with the closed tunnel and the tire, since he has only seen those obstacles once before. He did need help. The tire was in much worse shape than the closed tunnel, for Rugby. We need to get busy making one so he can practice more frequently.

Hi first run wasn't bad, but he was a little distracted and did some sniffing along the way. I was happy to see that he didn't balk at the "new" teeter or weaves like he did at the last match. The course ends at the tire jump in the first run, then we re-did the bad parts (closed tunnel & tire).

Before the second run, I have him a verbal correction for sniffing outside of the ring, and raced him a little bit to get him fired up. I think it helped with the sniffing and distractions inside the ring. I realize now from watching the video that I am not doing the best job of helping him on the teeter. We will work on that. Tire was still a problem in the second run. No surprise there. Again, we need to build one so we can work on it.

Still a work in progress, but it is getting better!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Main Street


It is hard to believe that Rugby has never gone on a training field trip to Main Street, since that is one of our go-to places when I have a dog in for training. He was finally able to make the trip last week, with Derek.


Even though the pictures would lead you to believe that Rugby and Derek got carried around, then put on top of things the whole time, that is not the case. They walked down busy sidewalks, across crosswalks, met Laurel's resident cow and cowboy and stopped by the post office.

Rugby enjoyed this walk Leash Free. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Our First Try

The end of the year is steadily approaching and time is running out for our goal to complete Rugby's novice agility titles before 2013. It is time to take the next step if this will become a reality. With that in mind, we have been reading the agility rule book, watched our first agility trial and went to our first agility run through in the past few weeks. He has been introduced at least once to all of the agility equipment. I am hoping that it will be enough to get us three qualifying scores.

Here is a video from Rugby's first agility run through. He wasn't as confident with the teeter, or the weaves at this new location. I know those skills need to be generalized more, but we just have to find places to do that.

I was really happy with his performance. I liked that he was running (even if it wasn't that fast) for the whole course. I liked that he was able to work off of my right side, and was comfortable with me switching sides. I also liked that he is starting to pay attention to my body language and not wait for a command for each obstacle. It gives me hope that we are on the right track. There is still room for improvement though, so we will keep working until he makes his real debut in the agility ring next month.

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!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Pet Poodle

Since Rugby has proven himself as superior in the dog training department, we gave him his very first dog to train. Rugby spent the first day teaching Shadow, the Toy Poodle, how to walk on a leash.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Soft Mouth

Our trainer issued a challenge to one of our classmates and his Newfoundland, to demonstrate that his dog had been taught to have a soft mouth. After his demonstration of Leo retrieving a small log last week, it was very entertaining to watch him successfully retrieve a raw egg this week. The egg was perfectly concealed in his mouth until the 'give' command was given and out popped an entire, un-cracked egg.

Rugby couldn't be left out, so I grabbed one of their extra eggs just to see if it would fit in his mouth. When it did, we moved out onto the floor and tried the following sequence with him. You can see the egg fall out of his mouth the first time he tried to pick it up in the video. Lucky he didn't break it! 

I already knew that Rugby had a soft mouth. This just confirms that he is willing to do seemingly pointless and ridiculous things for me... and have fun doing it. What a nice dog! 

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Lip Licking


The sacrifices of getting a decent posed photo of the dogs is a little lip licking. I keep replacement squeakers for squeaky toys in my camera bag to grab the dogs' attention, but today I was using a small treat. Luckily, the sacrifice is not that big and there are plenty of tongueless pictures to choose from. Sanity and Rugby agree that it was worth every bit of the suspense, and they didn't mind my tongue pictures at all.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

An Award


We were given an award by our friend Vertigo, an Australian Cattle Dog with a sense of humor, who competes in the Obedience ring and has fun with his housemate, Cookie. It took us a long time to figure out who we wanted to pass the award on to since there are so many worthy blogs, but we finally narrowed it down to just five. It was hard to tell about the whole less than 200 readers bit... here they are anyways.

The rules... 
1. Thank the giver(s) and link back to the blogger who gave it to you.
That would be Mr. Vertigo himself. Thank you very much! 

2. Reveal your five picks (with less than 200 readers) and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog.  

Amstaffs in the Garden We have a short supply of Amstaffs where we train, thanks to breed specific legislation. It is so nice to be able to follow along with some very nice looking dogs, and even better that they are active in dog sports too! 

Life with Joey No list is complete without a Maltese on it, and Noa and Joey are more than worthy of the award. This little Maltese does it all, Tracking, Agility and Obedience. They just had a very successful debut in the novice ring too, so go over and congratulate them! 

The dogs are really in charge More blog dogs that compete in agility and obedience. Right now I am really enjoying watching videos of that too-cute-to-be-real bear cub she is training. 

The (mis)adventures of Sherpa T. Dog You are all familiar with Sherpa by now. That is her blog tacking her training and progress. The thing that makes Sherpa's blog extra cool is Rugby's occasional appearance. 

2 Brown Dawgs Blog A blog about three Chessies and their life and training as field dogs. I didn't know much about field work before I found this blog, and it has been fun following along and learning what it is all about. Not to mention you get to watch all three dogs have a blast doing what they were bred to do. 

3. Copy and paste the award on your blog.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Towel Boy

I tried teaching Rugby to pull my towel off the towel rack to bring to me. We got as far as him standing on the wall and grabbing it. Then he was stuck. Rugby is such a gentleman that he could not possible use the force necessary to pull the towel from the rack.

He stood for a long while holding the towel in his mouth, half covering his face wagging his tail wildly as I encouraged him to pull. Tail wags don't pull towels though, so we had to try a different approach. 


This morning we back up a few steps, and worked on just retrieving the towel off of the ground. Even the weight of dragging the towel was hard for Rugby, not to mention the fact that it took some time to figure out he could not retrieve the towel if he was standing on it.


He has a great sense of humor and was pleased with the joke I was playing on him, so he kept trying until he figured out where to put his feet. Even with success, I think this task is too hard for him just yet. We will go back even further and start with a hand towel, then build up from there. He will be a towel boy soon enough.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Raw Struggle

aDSC_0033Rugby is fed a raw diet. He has been fed this diet since he was 6 months old. He will continue to eat a raw diet for as long as I am willing to prepare it. I like the teeth cleaning effects of his chewing, the increased coat growth, good smelling breath and smaller excrement size. I like that I have complete control over what he does and does not eat. I like that when I put down a bowl of food for Rugby, all the ingredients are identifiable, whole and of a quality that I approve of.

There is a down side to the diet too though. Remembering to take food out of the freezer, cleaning pans and dishes constantly and for the extra bloody meals, cleaning Rugby's face off too. It is an inconvenience. I completely understand why people feed kibble, and for the average dog, high quality kibble will give you some of these same effects. While kibble is much more convenient, it is in no way safer than raw food. Check out Tom Lonsdale's book, Raw Meaty Bones, or the extensive dog food recall list for proof.

I was informed by that the AVMA will be voting on a new policy concerning raw feeding next month. You can read the policy HERE. They don't want people feeding raw. Their logic seems a bit off, but I do understand that naturally fed dogs require less vet work (so less $$ spent, and less $$ earned by vets) and I understand that they face huge pressure from the pet food industry to support the product that they sell.

The AVMA has tried to console my fellow raw feeders with the fact that the new policy is just that - a policy, not capable of changing your dog's diet and not a law that will be enforced. I get that. However, as dog professionals, they are a source that legislators and animal control officers look for guidance. This policy is an open door for raw fed dogs being seized from their homes on the grounds that they are not being fed proper food. It won't be an immediate result, but it is a very real possibility.

My question to the AVMA is this. If they aid in the destruction of our rights to keep and raise dogs, how will they make a living when the animal rights people succeed?

This is the first step on a dangerous road. If this policy is approved, it won't be much longer until I will have to hide my dog's diet from insurance companies, therapy dog organizations, my veterinarian, animal control and the general public. If you have a moment, visit the AVMA site and post your comments on their proposed policy. I hope they can be convinced to vote no.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Great Leap


He did it. Rugby took the giant leap off of the life raft and into the pool today. No leash necessary to get him swimming this time, but it did take lots of coaxing and me stranding him on the raft in the middle of the pool to make it happen.  Some little part of Rugby wants to be a water dog. I am sure of it.

DSC_0041 DSC_0042DSC_0054 DSC_0059

After he had mastered his pool entry from the raft, I asked him to swim to me from the steps in the pool. He was tempted to just leave all together but came to me every time I asked! With his polished swimming skills, he won't be needing any more rescue missions in the near future! Don't worry Sherpa, we still need you for other things, like being Rugby's personal taxi service

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The First Week

It has been fun watching Rugby explore the basics of agility this week. Our current go-to agility book had a list of sequences that we have made our way through while we build/find/buy agility equipment. It is safe to say that Rugby is enjoying the sport. 

As the week went on, it took Rugby less and less time to warm up and start running through sequences. Interestingly enough, he also started to make more mistakes as the week went on.  This was due entirely to the fact that he was anticipating my commands. After two days of work he is back to waiting for my direction. So far, this has been our only challenge.

We found parts of weave poles at Applewoods and used those to get started with the 2x2 method. Today we finally made it to the hardware store and built a full set of weave poles (with some help, of course)!

Since we are novice weave pole builders, assembly took longer than expected and a training break was needed. The video below shows Rugby on day three of his weave training.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Office Dogs

DSC_0022 (2)

Watch your step if you are visiting Applewoods. You wouldn't want to trip on any of our hard working staff.

DSC_0030 (2)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Good Deed


I used Rugby as bait to catch this little dog we found wandering loose by our house. Rugby's shoes string leash turned very quickly into a kennel noose, and the curious mixed breed dog practically caught himself.

I am amazed at how Rugby handled this dog who was right on the line where excitement turns to aggression. He pushed at the right times and backed off at the right times to keep the loose dog from crossing the line into aggression. I was really cool to watch him work!

The little dog was returned safely to his owners. Hopefully they keep a close eye on him, he may not be as lucky next time he gets out.