Welcome to the new decade! None of that "new year, new me" crap. I am old enough now to realize that passing midnight is not going to magically change me - make me eat healthier, exercise more, stop swearing, etc. But it does often feel like you wake up on New Year's Day with a clean slate. So, here is my clean slate...starting today! OK...drumroll...here are my 2020 short and long term goals. My long term goals probably shouldn't change much, but they do as things happen to make some goals now impossible.
2020 SHORT TERM GOALS
1. Finish Noodle's Open title in Jumpers
3. Earn Noodle's Junior Hunter Advanced title
4. Earn Pizza's Championship
5. Start Cadence under saddle and get a good foundation of riding
6. Earn Noodle's Rally Intermediate title
7. Earn Pizza's NSD and/or NRD titles
8. Compete again with Pretzel in agility
9. Compete in something new - new dog sport.
10. Earn Pizza's CGC title
11. Make Noodle more consistent in agility, get a hold of her behaviors, and get more comfortable with competing with her.
2020 LONG TERM GOALS
1. Earn another Top 10 at Congress
2. Earn Noodle's Senior Hunter title
3. Earn Pretzel's C-ATCH in CPE
4. Earn Noodle's Dual Weimaraner Award
5. Get a Pretzel puppy of my own
6. Compete successfully with Pizza in agility
I should mention that my 2020 training diary has a newer feature - you can click on any photo to enlarge it. Wouldn't want you to miss any awesome details! Plus I was bored and had insomnia one night, so I decided to figure out the code to do this. My sleeplessness can be very productive sometimes!
Never let your memories be bigger than your dreams.
It is so easy to get caught up in the past - woulda coulda shoulda! Regrets can wear a person down. This year - NO REGRETS. I am going to try to spend less time worrying about what happened, and more time making plans and then executing them. It is time to GET IT DONE. Keep dreaming, but put some action behind those dreams and drive them forward!
For a lot of years I had a New Years tradition of riding on January 1st. This year, for the first time ever, I have NO horse to ride, so I did the next best thing - I longed Cadence wearing a saddle
My goal is to make the working under saddle to be the easy part. I longed her first without the saddle because I knew she was going to be wild, and she was! Once she got it out of her system, I saddled her up, and then calmly asked her to walk, then trot, and then canter. The walk was easy, the trot wasn't bad, and the canter was a little tense but she didn't buck or act out. I could tell she was thinking hard about the saddle on her back, especially at the canter. My goal is to make this easy, boring, and quiet so that she forgets it is there. Tomorrow we may try longeing with the stirrups down, if she seems quiet again. I was really happy with how she handled it today! My big internal question is whether I should be the one to do the initial training under saddle? Seems like a weird question for me because I have always done my own breaking and initial training. But....I am not 20 anymore, and I have seen Cadence buck and I KNOW that she has a super powerful crack to her back when she bucks. Obviously my goal would be to break her without any bucking, but things happen...and I have to be prepared that she might. So I am torn. This is the part I enjoy the most - the training part. I just wish I was 20 years younger. It stinks getting old!
My heart is breaking this morning. I think it's the moment where the proverbial straw broke the camel's back. I am the camel, Noodle is the straw. Agility class this morning was disheartening...and that is a massive understatement. Honestly? I am exhausted. I am tired of this dog breaking my heart over and over again. I love her beyond words, but at some point I have to accept facts, and that is she does not have the mental capacity to handle the adrenaline of agility. I have spent thousands of dollars on training, hours, days, weeks, months, years of training and effort on my part to understand her and figure out ways to train through the issues. A dog sport should not reduce me to tears so frequently.
Noodle is so incredibly talented. No doubt she is the most talented agility dog I have ever had or probably will ever have. However, if her brain cannot handle the adrenaline rush from agility, is it really right for me to keep pursuing this damn dream? If I keep trying and trying with no real progress, am I doing a disservice to her? Square peg in a round hole? Not even that, more like a square peg in an ever so slightly rectangular hole...you can force it in the hole but it doesn't quite fit right.
The death of a dream, especially one that is SO damn close you can reach out and touch it, is probably one of the hardest things to deal with in training. It's one thing to have your dream snatched away from you, like when Pretzel had his accident and back injury. It's another thing to have it dance ever so slightly out of reach and no matter what you do or how hard you try, you cannot reach it. I have tried. I have left no stone unturned. I have done everything I can possibly do. I have failed. That's all there is to the story at this point.
Cadence got a nice workout today. I went ahead and saddled her up first before longeing her. She did really well, almost no bucking or misbehaving under saddle. I'd say she is a light bit more comfortable moving with the saddle on her back. After longeing, I went ahead and did some ground driving with the saddle on. That went pretty well. Straight lines still seem to be the bane of our existence, but they are getting better. She has a lovely whoa, and back up. Eventually I need to start trotting her while ground driving, but I am just not sure I can keep up with that big stride!
The weather couldn't get uglier. I guess some people might thing a raging snowstorm would be uglier, but I am here to tell you that 40 degrees and solid rain for days is way uglier. Oh the MUD! We had to resort to indoor games today. I have started Pizza a little bit on the 2x2 weaves. We are at the point where I have two sets of staggered weaves set out, and she is going straight through the two sets. Taking our time... I will have to shoot a video later so I can track my progress.
I am working hard on Pizza's stack, trying to get her to hold it for longer periods of time (by longer, I am talking a bit longer than one second LOL!). We have another show coming up in a couple weeks...hitting a show in Georgia on our way back to Florida. I feel like Pizza is turning out to be very pretty, but I am really trying to tamper down my optimism and excitement because I am afraid of jinxing myself. Maybe the whole lesson with Noodle has turned me a bit superstitious? I am not sure, but after all of my positivity with her went down the tube, I am holding myself back a bit on this.
I had entered Noodle in a USDAA agility trial today, but after Thursday's fiasco I opted to stay home. My instructor messaged me and asked me to come and at least run standard and try it out today. We were the last class of the day and there was hardly any people there. Well, I knew it would be a disaster, but if I stayed home I would feel like I wasn't trying, so I decided to go and give it one last ditch attempt.
There were literally maybe 20 people left at the trial. Maybe even a bit less. You couldn't ask for anything more low key. It didn't matter. After the second jump, Noodle went running, did a couple drive-bys on the judge (but she didn't bark or jump on him, so that was a plus), then she ran around the ring just looking around at everything, almost as if she was in a strange place she had never been before. Weird, since she trains here 2-3 times a week, and has for the past several years! Eventually I got her back on track and we finished it out OK. I left, drove home in tears. I hate that this sport and this dog constantly reduces me to tears. I knew this would be a disaster.
Well later on, I sat down and watched the video of our run a few times. I guess "disaster" is a bit strong of a term. She didn't do anything other than run past the judge, and although she was extremely unfocused and distracted, she didn't do anything truly bad. But she just cannot handle the adrenaline of the agility ring. Such an amazing amount of talent that will now go to waste, because we truly are done. I will continue to train and take classes for my own benefit, but no more trials for her.
Tomorrow we will hopefully get to do some bird training, and then later Pizza gets a private agility lesson and possibly I will dust off Pretzel to do the other half of the lesson. I am keeping my optimism under wraps. Let's not get too excited or hopeful!
On a more positive note, here is Pizza on week #2 of her 2x2 weave training. We are taking it nice and slow, not too many repetitions. I just want her to get the basics, and plus it is good practice for her to focus on me and the job I am asking.
This morning I loaded up the dogs and headed south to do some field training. Today was Pizza's first experience with birds. She was very excited, and a little unsure at first, but once the lightbulb switched on she was all about the hunt! It was so cool to see. She was actually scenting the birds and pointing them when she found them. How fascinating to see a young puppy act on her instinct. Looks like some serious field training will be in our future!
Here is the shocker - Noodle was a rockstar! She hunted great, found every bird and pointed, and actually held beautifully through the flush. Once we started adding a gunshot to the mix, she started breaking at the shot. This is something we will have to work on. I couldn't believe the control I had - she would hold through the flush and continue to hold while the bird flew away, then I would ask her to heel away at my side...and she did! Where was this obedient dog yesterday? Oh well, I'll take it! Senior Hunter looks like it might actually be a possibility for us. We need some work on her retrieve, because she is a rather reluctant retriever. She is great with a ball or bumper, but not so great with a warm bird. More stuff to work on. I like having a plan.
But wait! My day wasn't over yet! In the afternoon I took Pizza and Pretzel over for a private agility lesson. Yes, you read that right - Pretzel!
Pizza's lesson went well, but she was pretty distracted. I have to work on getting her to focus on me more, and that includes using her tug toy - she is more interested in grabbing the toy than actually tugging with me. My goals for the next week are:
★ 1. Work on her spin in just one direction, and try to fade out the hand motion so it is all verbal.
★ 2. Make her work for each piece of kibble for her dinner in the next week.
★ 3. Get her to focus on playing with he toy and me, rather than just the toy
★ 4. Work on her "down" - she struggles with that command. Start fading out the hand motion and luring.
Pretzel did pretty well for his first lesson in over a year and a half. I am just having him jump 16 inches right now, easy-peasy. He was slow (which he tends to be when he is all by himself without any other dogs), but fairly accurate. I am feeling pretty good about things right now. I need to work on his strength - using the big inflated peanut for balance, and also a lot of backing up and backing onto the travel board to build up his hind end. which is still a little weak. We have a plan! Back to Top
Tuesday, January 7, 2020
On a roll
I longed Cadence under saddle again today. Unlike the other few days, today had zero bucking! She went around easy peasy. I could tell she was still a little more uncomfortable cantering under saddle. I even dropped the stirrups down and let them flop around a bit. She hated that, but she didn't act out, which is a good sign! I did some ground driving, and then called it quits. All in all a very good training session, I have to say.
Later this evening, I went to my friend's house to have a puppy training session with our puppies. It was a little frustrating for me dealing with Pizza's lack of focus on me. I have noticed that it is not nearly as good as when she was younger a few months ago. I know tat this will probably always be a struggle for us, and I am hoping to figure out what training methods work best for her that makes her want to work with me instead of focusing on outside distractions.
One thing we did that was fun was do a little more interaction with the skateboard. My friend Debbie got her to actually put her font paws on it and scoot it along...so incredibly cute!
Pizza had her puppy agility class today - first one in a month. At first her lack of focus on me was typical, but I did notice that as the class went on, her focus started to get better towards the end. By the end of the hour she was pretty brain-fried, so our moment of good focus was pretty short. We did some cone-circling, 2 on 2 off on the board, disc work (front paws on the disc and rotating with me), and the contact obstacles (all lowered as low as they can go). The best thing about today? She did the big teeter (lowered down) 4 times...two of those times we were just standing nearby and she went on it on her own!!! BIG improvement! She was pretty hesitant about the dogwalk at first, but each time she got more confident. Progress!
When I got home, it was time for everyone to go out and run and play on the property. It was about 30 degrees, but the sun was shining. I grabbed my good camera for some action shots. There is something so incredibly joyful about watching the three of them run and play and run run run just for the joy of it.
I could cry. Yes, cry...tears of joy. This morning I brought both Noodle and Pretzel to agility class. I left Noodle in the van and brought Pretzel in to try him out. I figured he would get tired really fast and I would change dogs, but I really wanted to see how he would do in agility after a full year and a half off. Well, it was so flipping awesome that I ended up doing the entire class with him! He wasn't the fastest or most accurate dog out there, but I daresay he was the happiest! It felt SO good to be running my boy again. And to be honest, it felt great to run without stressing, or fear of what might disaster might happen. I am only jumping him 16" right now. I will play it by ear and see how he does at this lower height for a while. Man, I am excited! Whoda thought after all he has gone through - 4 1/2 months of crate rest, major back surgery - and he is back enjoying agility again. I am so happy.
Today was all about the training. Pizza had a private lesson, Noodle had a private lesson, and Pretzel got to go to a make-up class since we will be leaving for Florida this week and will miss our regular Thursday class
We spent a lot of time working with Pizza and the Treat and Train, which is a remote treat dispenser that is used instead of having to hand the treats every time. It works with a remote, pretty cool. We worked on something very simple - volunteering to go into a crate and stay there even when exciting things happen outside of the crate. This worked really well for her, and by the end of the session, I was able to even be outside of the crate playing with another dog and she stayed put.
Noodle's lesson went very well. She is in a very moody, bitchy mood this past week, and although it makes her very hard to live with this is the time when our agility is usually great (as long as there are no other dogs or people around). She was super energized and did awesome.
Of course, the highlight of the day was Pretzel getting to go to another class. I think he did really well. We even got a few bypass commands in and he actually got them! That was barely solid when we had to quit agility a year and a half ago, so I was especially pleased at how he retained that.
Exciting day today...we are leaving for Florida, by way of a dog show in Perry, Georgia. Noodle will get to show, and Pizza will have her last shot at the 4-6 month puppy classes. I am eager to head south and avoid the bad weather that is coming in. Pizza and I have been practicing hard, and I have (dare I say it???) high hopes.
First, Pizza and I had a puppy agility foundations class. I was thrilled with her enthusiasm! It actually got better and better the more we worked, and her focus started to really improve. Man, that was a blast! We might just make an agility dog out of her yet! I was especially happy that she did the lowered teeter and the lowered dog walk with no hesitation. I am very glad I was so patient with her this past month. Patience, patience, patience...something I always struggle with but am working hard at.
I got home, we loaded up the motorhome and the dogs, and the five of us headed south, stopping just north of Knoxville, Tennessee for the night. Bring on the sunshine, I am ready!
My life rule: NEVER get too excited or optimistic about ANYTHING. This is Pizza...after a 6 am accident and visit to a Knoxville animal emergency vet, stitches in her right armpit and cuts on her left foreleg. We got a total of about 6 hours from home, and today we turn around and head back, show and vacation cancelled. My poor little girl is hurting pretty bad.
To the right is a tiny picture of her armpit wound. I shrunk it for those of you who do not like to see gory photos, but if you are interested, you can click on it and it will enlarge. The emergency vet was very good, got us in immediately. Within a few hours she was stitched up and ready to head home. Then the fun begins...crate rest, keeping her dry and quiet to help those stitches heal. They are in a spot that does not get any air and is constantly moving, so keeping her still is of utmost importance.
Pretzel, as usual, was wonderful with her. He hovered over her like a little old grandma, wanting to comfort and protect her. They rode most of the 6 hours home cuddled up together. As for me, my mood is pretty dark right now. Dark as night. I feel like I am being punished any time I get a little optimistic or confident, and look forward to something. I thought 2020 would be different, but it seems to be going the same way of 2019. How do you stop the train of your life from constantly derailing? I wish I had an answer.
We got home by 8pm. I set up a crate in the spare bedroom downstairs so I could sleep next to Pizza and monitor her. I have to keep her from messing with the stitches or her leg bandage. This will be my life for the next few weeks. I will do what I gotta do to make sure she heals perfectly.
Pizza is handling her crate rest pretty well, as well as can be expected for a 5 1/2 month old puppy. She is on anti-inflammatories, an antibiotic, pain relief, and trazodone to keep her quiet in the crate. That is a lot of pills to be pushed into a puppy twice a day! Good thing she has decided she likes cheese. Wrapping pills in cheese is the ticket.
This is me. This is my life. Sitting by her crate 24/7, keeping her happy and quiet. Tonight she would only settle down if I sat on the floor in front of her crate and held the bone for her to chew on. Yeah, guess what? I did it. She's got me trained well. I am trying to stay out of the darkness, but at times I feel so down it drowns me. So many things in my life happening right now - crumbling and decaying dreams. It's hard to live with me. I'd like to get away from myself for a while, but I can't. So I sit here, crateside, and stress.
I managed to do a total reset of my brain today. What's done is done, and reality is what it is, so deal with it. Pizza is keeping pretty quiet in her crate, so we let her out a little bit in the evening to lay on the couch with us. I can never understand how Weims can sleep in such odd, uncomfortable positions. I swear Pizza has a neck like Gumby.
Pizza had an appointment with my vet yesterday morning to check the stitches and to take the bandage off of her front leg. I won't show you the photos, but I was surprised at how deep the one puncture on the front of her left leg was. It still wasn't completely closed up, but my vet felt that it needed air to heal, so we will leave it uncovered and watch it carefully. The stitches are looking pretty good, so he said she can have some limited activity. Stitches will come out next Monday...yeah!
I finally got a chance to go out and work Cadence this afternoon. As expected, she was pretty wild on the longe line. She did settle, but when I dropped the stirrups she hated it - would balk and not move, and then take off bucking. That is going to take more work, for sure! Once she settled, I did some ground driving under saddle and she was great. I think I might try to sit on her next week, if all goes well. It is time, can't keep putting it off forever! Stay tuned...
It has been raining/sleeting for 3 days straight. The property is flooded, and the dogs are going stir-crazy, especially Pizza. I decided to rent the training building this afternoon for a half hour and do some groundwork practice with her. Time to tire out not only her body, but her mind!
I was really happy with Pizza's enthusiasm. She has almost ZERO impulse control, and our biggest training hurdle is the "stay" command - it just doesn't happen! For two months I have been working on it, and often I cannot even move a single step before she breaks. Mark reminded me that I need to just keep plugging away, and one day the light will switch on. I sure hope so!
Other than that, the training session went really well. I put the jump bars on the ground and worked sending her through and around the jump standards, along with going in the tunnel and hitting the target board for 2 on 2 off practice. It was fun to get back to doing stuff with her. I was very careful of her stitches, but my vet told me I could go ahead and let her move around and get some exercise. Stitches come out on Monday...yay!
Yesterday my friend Deb brought her golden retriever puppy over to train with Pizza and I. It was tricky keeping the two of them from leaving us to play together...or I should say it was tricky for ME to keep Pizza engaged with me when Dazzle was in the room also working. It took a lot of work, but eventually I did get some nice moments of focus and training with her.
Today Pizza had a private lesson. Her focus was seriously lacking. My assignment is to use her meals - breakfast and dinner - as focus rewards. Instead of getting fed in a bowl, I am to take her food and make her work for every piece. This proves to be almost impossible when she is getting 6 cups a day of food! Not enough hours in the day for me to do that much training. However, I did manage to work with a cup and a half tonight and worked a lot on the "down" command - which seems to be our nemesis (next to the "stay" command!). I am using her food to get her to lay down, and then remain down for more food. By the end of our little session tonight she was laying down and staying down for periods of time. I also managed to get her to sit on verbal alone, and stay sitting for 10+ seconds. Sounds like no biggie, but believe me that is progress!
Part of the training is impulse control. I sit on the floor with her while she is in a "down" position, and hold a handful of treats in one had, hand open. If she tries to help herself, my hand closes. When she looks at the hand but makes no move to grab the food, I take a couple pieces up in my other hand and reward her with them. That was working pretty well, which amazes me. I need to have more faith in our partnership, I guess!
Other things to work on - cone circling (circling the cone or jump wing twice before getting a reward), and going down on a verbal command only.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Cadence goes to college!
I made the decision...it was tough. I just don't feel like I have the skills, flexibility, or personal support anymore to break Cadence by myself. It is kind of weird having to remind myself that I am over 50 now, and it's time to be realistic. 50??? I feel so immature and irresponsible, mentally maybe around 24 (the biggest age of irresponsibility!).
That being said, I loaded up Cadence in the trailer and took her to Darla and Brian's place for training. Loading her up was easier said than done. She hasn't been in the trailer since we came home from Congress. It took a while, a lot of patience, and a chain under her chin, but I convinced her to load up quietly and she finally did. I feel very comfortable taking her to Darla and Brian - they are a couple of the few people I would trust to do right by my horse...meaning they will train in a way that is best for Cadence and not the quickest win. I am excited to see how the next month or two goes. I have made the personal decision to go big or go home. What I mean is that I am going to pursue this horse dream with Cadence 110%, and hold nothing back. I want to see how high we can fly. I hope that in maybe 2 years I can come back and read this post and smile at my accomplishments. Only time will tell...
Earlier today I had a puppy class with Pizza. Kind of funny, but the same things I talked about on January 6th that needs work are the same things today. There have been minor improvements. I have to face the fact that patience is going to be my #1 training tool with her. She doesn't have the desire to work like Noodle or even Pretzel, but this just means I have to find different ways to motivate her, and have different expectations. I will say that her stacking is going wonderfully, in preparation for our first "real" show next week. She is so easy-going that it is a lot of fun to take her places, and after the stress I've had the past few years this is VERY welcome! I am excited to take her to Indianapolis next week...3 days with just Pizza and I, the bonding will be awesome.
HAPPY 6 MONTH BIRTHDAY, PIZZA! Pizza turns 6 months today, and that means she starts showing "for real". Our first real show is coming up next week - Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Indianapolis. This will be our big learning experience. She has the basics down pretty well at home, but add the excitement of the show, dogs, and people, and standing still might become a hard task for us. Pizza just gets SO excited when someone approaches her, she can hardly contain herself. Tough for showing, but I really love that attitude. This is great potential to work with.
Amazingly, Pizza stands around 23 1/2" already, well in standard. She just looks so small to me compared to Noodle and Pretzel. I will be interested to see how she stacks up (no pun intended!) to all the other bitches she will be showing against. I guess when I see her, I still see the floppy, goofy puppy...but she is really maturing into her body slowly but surely.
Today Pretzel and I spent the day with my mom. We make a trip up north about once a week to spend the day with her and take her to dinner. My mom, who is NOT an animal lover, LOVES Pretzel. He loves her also, and it's interesting to watch how he can tell when she is having a pain-filled day. When she is having a bad day, he stands in front of her and stares at her, looking so concerned. He doesn't want to leave her side. He was the same way with my dad when he had cancer. I love my empathetic dog, he is truly one in a million.