"Your life is made up of two dates and a dash. Make the most of the dash."

If I've learned anything from last year, it is that life is unpredictable. More than ever I recognize the brevity of life, and I am determined to make the most of every healthy, living moment I have! No moment is wasted, because you learn something with every breath you inhale. Breathe deeply!
Tuesday, February 1, 2022
   Back to the Field   

I finally was able to schedule some field training for all three dogs. It has been so cold and snowy, and temperatures have been way too cold to do anything outside, but today we hit the high 40's and sunshine...perfect weather for February!

Pizza got to train first, and she currently sits in the #1 priority spot. We worked her with a high-energy bracemate, and she was...dare I say it...perfect! Beautiful points, several really pretty automatic backs, I can't fault her on anything.

Dolphin was next. He started off by grabbing a bird in the woods...bad boy. With each bird following that, he got better and better, until he was holding really nicely. He is a work in progress, and I don't plan on testing him in senior hunter until fall, so I don't feel any need to rush. He doesn't understand the concept of backing at all, so that is something we have to work on.

Noodle got to work with a dog just starting to train for senior hunter, and she handled his mistakes perfectly. She held even when they flushed a bird literally right into her face. Her backing is not quite as automatic as Pizza, but it was pretty good today.

Noodle's bracemate was working on retrieving with the gun, so I brought Pizza back to work on honoring through the retrieve. She was excited, but held nicely. At the end, I got the dead bird and threw it for her for one practice retrieve. She did bring it back to me (after I gave her a very stern "COME!!!"), but she hard-mouthed it a little bit, which is unusual for her. What was really unusual is once she got it to me, she didn't want to give it up. Normally she has been dropping the bird about a foot away from me, which is a big no-no. I guess wanting to hold on to the bird is a much better thing. I am not going to push the retrieving, I am going to see what happens at our hunt test at the end of the month and see if the excitement of the test brings out a better retrieve in her.

Back to Top
Saturday, February 5, 2022
   Agility Trial after the snow storm   

What a week it has been! We had a major ice storm that arrived Wednesday night, followed by a snow storm Thursday through Friday. Our classes were cancelled, and the agility trial yesterday was cancelled. Today was on, so I spent a lot of time trying to heat the van up to get the doors unfrozen so I could get the dogs to the trial (luckily I only had to drive 3 1/2 miles).

It was a busy day, with all three dogs entered. The morning started off with Masters/Excellent Standard. Noodle was first, and had a really nice run, but knocked a bar. Boo. Pizza was next with her Excellent debut. She started off by ducking behind me at jump #2 and incurring a refusal. We corrected it and went on really nicely. For some reason she bobbled at the weave entrance, so that had to be restarted. She also took a wrong end of the tunnel, but finished nice and strong. Overall I was pretty happy with the run.

Noodle's Masters Jumpers run was nice and smooth, clean run for a Q! Only one more needed to finish out her MXJ (Masters Jumper) title. Pizza's run wasn't too bad - she took an off course jump coming out of the tunnel but I didn't correct it, just kept going. Then she missed another jump, and went directly to the bar setter in the corner to sniff her. I was able to get her away from the corner to finish the run. At the time I felt like it was a wreck of a run, but once I watched the videos I felt like there were many more good things than bad about her runs. Perspective!

Dolphin was the rock star of the day. He had his Open debut - in Open Jumpers, and had a beautiful clean run for a Q! We went back in for Novice Standard, and he had a couple baby mistakes but had perfect contacts and weaves and Q-ed to finish his Novice Standard title! Woot! The judge came up to me afterwards and told me that when Dolphin was fully trained he was going to be the best dog I had. He really really liked him. That was so encouraging to hear!

Dolphin's Open Jumpers run

Back to Top
Sunday, February 6, 2022
  Agility Trial Day #2   

Today's agility trial was good, bad and ugly. Wait - that's not really true, it was more like Great, Good, and a Hot Mes.

Let's just start off by saying that Noodle started the morning off awesome by pulling off a beautiful Double Q! Nice clean run in both Masters Standard and Masters Jumpers. In true Noodle fashion, she managed to put a lid on my enthusiasm by botching her Masters FAST run, and doing a drive-by on the judge...haven't done that in months, but it just goes to show you never really have dogs trained to perfection. They are dogs, after all! Noodle's Jumpers Q finished her Masters Jumpers (MXJ) title!!!

Pizza was a mess. Jumpers was a mess, she started off really good and then for no reason she left me and took off to go sniff the bar setter in the corner. I finally got her away, and the middle section of the run was pretty nice. She came out of the tunnel near the end and ran to the bar setter in that corner, and I had to try to get her back to finish the last jump. It went downhill from there - in standard she ran off the A-frame and went across the ring to sniff the bar setter in the corner. When I finally got her away, she ran to the bar setter in the other corner. At that point, I had to collar her and walk her off. Same thing in FAST - ran to the bar setter in the corner, and by the time I got her back, we ran out of time. I am at a loss as to how to fix this, it's been happening for the past 4-5 months. I know it is a stress thing, I am not correcting her in the ring and I am being 100% positive but she seems to stress even more. Not sure what to do...going to have to think hard on this one.

Dolphin came and renewed my day by having a nice Open FAST Q, and a beautiful clean run in Open Standard. He was doing awesome in Open Jumpers until I accidently pushed into his path causing him to run into the jump standard, knocking it over. BAD JAN! We went on and finished well, I made sure that he didn't think he did anything wrong...it was all me!

In recap, Dolphin finished his Novice Standard title, and earned a Q in Open Standard, Open Jumpers, and Open FAST. Noodle finished her Masters Jumpers title, and earned 2 Masters Jumpers Q's and one Masters Standard Q (Double Q!). I'd call that success!

Back to Top
Tuesday, February 8, 2022
   Baby, it's cold outside   

It's 20 degrees and the ground is covered with snow. Sounds like perfect day for field training!

Pizza was first to go, and she was wonderful. I get a thrill every single time she slams on her brakes to honor a pointing dog all on her own. One time she was across the field, and I called her to me as the other dog was on point near me. She came barreling across the field towards me and skidded to a stop about halfway across as soon as she caught sight of the stopped dog. So cool! My biggest worry with her right now is her retrieve. It is iffy, and that is confusing to me as it used to be pretty solid. I think her retrieving went the way of her agility...downward.

Dolphin had some significant training today. He started off by trying to chase his bracemate to play, and I had to get after him for that. Then he grabbed a bird...bad boy! He melted a little bit when I yelled at him for that, but then tried to grab the next bird so he recovered quickly LOL! He did have some nice, steady points, but those were generally when he was a few feet or more away from the bird. When he caught the scent right on top of the bird, the temptation was too much. He also has a LONG way to go in backing/honoring. He has zero clue. I guess it is just a matter of repetition, showing him what I want him to do when he encounters his bracemate on point, and do it over and over again until he gets it. Today was not that day. Maybe next time?

Noodle was great, super steady on her points. She was definitely trying to avoid backing the other dog, which was getting frustrating. I can see her glance at the stopped dog, then she turns her head and pretends like she doesn't see him so she can keep hunting. We worked a lot on that today. I can't tell yet if we made any progress, I think our next training session will be telling.

Back to Top
Wednesday, February 9, 2022
  The mystery I call Pizza   

Dolphin was really good in our puppy agility group this morning. We worked a lot on front crosses, and especially front crosses with a collection and bend recall. yeah, collection is not exactly Dolphin's forte, but he was doing better today. He will never wrap like a border collie, or even like Noodle, but he has enough power to make up for time on wider turns.

In Pizza's class we ran two tough courses. She was awesome. She made a few silly mistakes, but stayed with me and stayed focused. In the second run I even had people go sit on chairs in the corners to act like bar setters, but she completely ignored them. I guess there is no fooling her, she knows this wasn't a trial, the atmosphere was much more low-key, and she wasn't stressed. How the heck can I train in the ring at a trial when she stresses to the point of not being able to come back at all? Even at run-throughs, she can tell the difference. I am not sure if this is just something I need to keep plugging away at and it will resolve on it's own over time or if I should be doing something specific. No one seems to have any answers. My little girl is a puzzle, but I will keep working at it!

Back to Top
Friday, February 11, 2022
  A for Effort   

Today Dolphin and I headed to Zanesville for an agility trial. It was an...um...educational day.

Our first class was Open FAST. I had a definite plan, and it worked! Unfortunately, Dolphin knocked a bar in the Send bonus, so our run was an NQ.

Next was Open Jumpers. It was a rather twisty course. Dolphin started of great, had a beautiful rear cross that he read perfectly, but on one of the pinwheels, I got a bit too casual and dropped my arm as I moved laterally, and he pulled off the jump. One refusal, no biggie. There was a nice flowing line of jumps to the weaves, but I did not decelerate enough and while Dolphin got the weave entry, he was moving too fast and slipped and fell out of the weaves so we had to restart. Refusal #2, still OK. Then the very last jump, I had my arm out and clear direction, and for some reason Dolphin went around the jump. Ugh...that one is on him. A big NQ for us, but overall his run was pretty good.

Last was Open Standard, and it was a wreck. There were two out of control dogs that ran right before us, and I have a feeling Dolphin was feeding off their nerves and energy. We had a refusal at jump #3, missed the weave entrance, knocked a bar after the weaves, and then went off course to the dog walk when I was trying to send him to the teeter. I did a fix-and-go and brought him back over the jump to send him to the teeter, and he went straight to the dogwalk again. Then, he came off of his contact, so I walked him off before we could incur any more mistakes. Train wreck! However, he had fun, and he ended happy and positive, and 100% that is my #1 goal for him, so it was OK. I can't stay mad at him, heck I can't even get mad at him...he is the happiest boy on the planet and he tries so hard!

We will try again at Zanesville on Sunday. Tomorrow is a day off for all of us - we are just going to relax and play all day.

Back to Top
Sunday, February 13, 2022
  B+ for Effort   

After a relaxing day off yesterday, Dolphin and I headed back to Zanesville for the agility trial. It was an...um...educational day!

We started the morning off with Open FAST. Dolphin did great, got the send, my bad handling caused him to knock an entire jump over, but he had enough points for a qualifying run! Open Jumpers was OK - had a pop out of the weaves at the beginning that we had to restart, and then he was so fast and got ahead of me on several occasions, and pulled off the jump ahead because I was behind. We definitely need to work on his "go" command and his jump commitment! Lastly was Open Standard...hot mess all around. Wrong courses, refusals, hopped on to the teeter from the center, it was all over the place. Back to the drawing board...back to training!

Back to Top
Friday, February 18, 2022
   Agility trial for just the girls   

Today at the agility trial it was just Masters/Excellent dogs, so only the girls got to play. And play they did!

Noodle started off by wrecking my morning with a terrible Masters Jumpers run where she misread my terrible blind cross (my fault) and then left me to do a drive-by past the judge (her fault). That is unacceptable, so I made her lay down and then collared her off. She earned the Crime Scene Collar for that run!

Pizza was a mess, going to visit the bar setters after she knocked a bar, but after I got her back she finished beautifully! That girl has so much talent, just need to get her focus and confidence up a bit.

Master FAST was next, and it was only Noodle...she did OK but missed a jump in the send bonus so no Q. We went right into Standard, and Noodle had a beautiful clean run going and decided to pop out of the weaves around weave 9-10. She NEVER does that, she is usually so solid in the weaves. Ugh!

Pizza managed to visit the bar setter behind the tunnel, but the next obstacle was the jump to the left so she did not get a refusal called...and she went on to finish fast and clean for her first Excellent Standard Q!!! Although the run wasn't truly clean, it was a step in the right direction. We will try again with the girls on Sunday.

Back to Top
Saturday, February 19, 2022
   Agility trial Day #2   

Today was all about Dolphin at the agility trial, as I gave the girls a day off and focused on him. Dolphin had two runs today - Open Standard and Open Jumpers. Open Jumpers went really well - he had a fantastic slide into a good weave entry from speed (we've been working on this!). Unfortunately he had two refusals, basic baby dog mistakes, so no Q.

Open Standard was going well, but he came off of his A-frame contact before I released him, so I sacrificed the run to do a fix-and-go and make him do it again. I promised myself I would not let him get away with mistakes like this, I need to train in the ring when necessary even if it means sacrificing a Q...trying to work towards a successful future! We fixed the A-Frame and ended happy, so it was a win for me.

Back to Top
Sunday, February 20, 2022
  Yes yes yes, a triple kind of day!   

Fantastic day at the agility trial! Let's talk about Noodle first - she wore her Crime Scene collar all day and totally redeemed herself! She had a beautiful FAST clean run in Masters Jumpers, clean run in Masters Standard for a DOUBLE Q! But wait, there's more! Even though was highly aroused and distracted by rude people letting their dogs wrestle and play right by the ring gate, she managed to hold herself together (and believe me, that was incredibly difficult for her) and Q in Master FAST...TRIPLE Q!!!!

Pizza stressed a bit in her Excellent Jumpers run and visited two bar setters, but finished nice and strong. I wish she could start as confidently as she finishes. It seems most of her stress-visits to bar setters occur in the first third of the course. Something to think about...

She had another good Excellent Standard course where she went to visit the bar setter but managed to not get a refusal called, finished clean for her second Excellent Standard Q! I'll take it. Her Open FAST was ok, but she took the wrong end of the tunnel in the send bonus so NQ. Ugh!

Dolphin was his usual wonderful self, but made some baby mistakes. I had a beautiful clean run going in Open Standard but he released himself off his A Frame contact so I had to sacrifice my Q to do a Fix-and-go and make him to the contact correctly. Ugh! In Open Jumpers he was fantastic, but knocked a bar. Ugh again! I can't blame him for the knocked bar - he slipped HARD on the turf and tried his hardest to still jump clear, but didn't have his footing secure enough. He managed to squeak out a Q in Open FAST, and I didn't realize until I got home that he actually finished his OF title with that run! Oops! I will keep him in Open FAST for a while until he gains the skills to be able to do the harder distance requirements for Excellent FAST. My goal is to train train train, and keep his confidence up at all times. So far so good!

Back to Top
Tuesday, February 22, 2022
   Weather? Whatever!   

Today was a cold and rainy day. Our property is severely flooded. Sounds like a good day to go field training outside, right? Well, with the hunt test coming up this weekend, I couldn't afford to waste a single day. I took just the girls (Noodle and Pizza) to train. Noodle was stellar, and did some nice honors. Pizza actually made a few mistakes that I had to correct, but on the plus side we did two decent retrieves. Improvement! I have no idea what this weekend holds for us, all I know is that I have trained as hard as I could possibly train, so it is what it is.

Back to Top
Friday, February 25, 2022
  Ratings Test - Jackson Springs, North Carolina   

Welcome to North Carolina! Today it was sunny and high 70's, definitely not what we are used to in February! Today was the WCA Ratings test, and both girls were going for their SDX title (Shooting Dog Excellent) - which is similar to Master Hunter.

Noodle went first, and we had a rocky start in the back field when she went on point, and I stupidly kicked the bird up right into her mouth! She spit it out and never moved her feet, so we went on, but man I feel stupid sometimes. My bird handling skills are awful.

We went on into the bird field, and Noodle was picture perfect. In SDX we do not have to honor unless we are in the area when the other dog goes on point, so I just stayed off to one side and she was great. She had a beautiful retrieve straight to hand like a bullet, with zero verbal commands from me...so cool!

Pizza did a great job, had a rock solid dramatic point, and a retrieve that was really good - right to me with me only having to command her twice to "come"...and she didn't put the bird down, delivered it to hand in clean condition. Progress!

We went through a lot of water in the field today, my dogs are not conditioned to this sort of heat yet and it really got to them. As for me, I loved every minute of it! Tomorrow starts the actual hunt test, with Noodle's Master Hunter Advanced debut and Pizza's Master Hunter debut...so excited!

Back to Top
Saturday, February 26, 2022
   Hunt test Day #1 - Jackson Springs, NC   

Today the weather was much cooler - 50's and off and on cloudy. Perfect hunting weather! Noodle was first to go this morning, and I needed scores to average 8 or higher for a Master Hunter Advanced pass. We had one nice point in the backfield, and I managed to flush and blank it without kicking it into her mouth this time. Early on in her brace, Noodle had a beautiful point, with a nice clean shot and a super fast direct retrieve. She ended up with great scores, and earned her first Master Hunter Advanced pass!

Pizza's brace went a little less smoothly. She went on point early in the bird field, and the bird flew over her head and the gunners missed. She was insistent on going over to that area to hunt because she saw the bird land, but the judge cautioned me to yell at her and do what I needed to do to make sure she didn't go after that bird. It was tough, but I finally managed to get her off that bird and went on to hunt. She went on point for her next bird while the other dog was on point, and this bird was out walking right in front of her...and she had to stand on point the entire time that her bracemate was out doing his retrieve on the other side of the field. I am super proud of her self-control!

Finally the gunners came over and it was her turn. The bird had walked a good 30 feet away, and I made it fly but the gunners missed. Pizza went on point for a third time rather quickly, and this time I was able to get the bird up and away from her. The shot was pretty far, and they got the bird but it was a pretty long distance for Pizza to retrieve. I sent her, and she actually got the retrieve and did rather well! I had to command her a couple times and she did put the bird down once and pick it back up (I think she just hates the feathers in her mouth). All that was left was the honor...they planted a bird for her bracemate and Pizza was off running when he went on point. I am so proud, she was way across the field from me and saw her bracemate on point and stopped beautifully from a distance. She scored a 9 for honoring! Overall, her scores were almost as high as Noodle's, and we have our very first Master Hunter pass!!! What a day!

Back to Top
Sunday, February 27, 2022
   Hunt Test Day #2 - Jackson Springs, NC   

I woke up this morning to rain...heavy, solid, pouring rain. Rain, and it never stopped all day. That's OK, we trained in the rain just last week, so I felt we could do it!

Noodle was first to go in the morning. She actually ranged a little closer today than she did yesterday - not too close, but just close enough that I felt like I had a slight bit more control over directing her. Early on in the backfield, she was ranging out in front of me hunting when her bracemate came running perpendicular and smashed into her, causing her to yelp loudly and knocking her off her feet. I called her to me, and I checked her over, she seemed OK. I sent her on and she kept hunting. It was a scary flashback of when Pretzel was t-boned by another dog and went down and couldn't get back up...

Noodle disappeared over a hill, and when I caught up to her she was standing staunchly on point. I flushed the bird, blanked it and she stood perfectly, heeled her away and released her and off we went!

The judges were busy talking to my bracemate (I think he might have broke at the point, not sure?) so they called to me and told me to head on into the bird field and they would catch up. Of course, I got into the bird field and within seconds, Noodle was on point. The bird was standing upright right underneath her nose, and started walking away. When it was about 20 feet away, Noodle crept forward a couple inches so I cautioned her. The judges took a while to get to me, so by the time they reached me the bird was quite a distance away. I had to leave Noodle and walk that distance to flush the bird, and I am so proud of how steady she stood on point while I did that. I flushed, they shot it, and I calmly walked back and released her to do a perfect retrieve to hand. It was beautiful!

The brought my bracemate back on point so I could do an honor. This has never been Noodle's strong suit, but we had worked on it a ton this past month. Noodle raced by the dog and stopped on her own, I was walking to her when I fell into a hole (graceful me LOL!), she moved a little bit but stopped again, and we stood while the other dog did his retrieve. Noodle is getting a little "creepy" while the other dog retrieves, something I am going to have to work on.

After the honor, we went on and pointed another bird, which the gunners missed. Time was up, we were done, and ended up with a score of all 8's and a perfect TEN in Honoring! How awesome is that - to score a perfect 10 on the one element we have been struggling with and have been working on so hard? YES!!!

Next it was Pizza's turn. Early on in the backfield, her bracemate went on point. When the judges and I came over the hill, there was Pizza honoring him. It was such a thrill to see that! Her bracemate broke on the flush, chased the bird, caught it, and raced around with the bird in his mouth, and Pizza held still the entire time.

We finished up in the backfield, headed to the bird field where she went on point. This was another walking bird, she handled it beautifully. I flushed, gunners shot, and I sent her for the retrieve. The retrieve was ok...barely. She put the bird down a couple times - she did NOT like the wet feathers in her mouth and kept trying to spit them out. Crappy retrieve, but she eventually brought it to me. The judges then decided to set up her bracemate on point so we could honor. My stupid luck - on the way over to honor, wouldn't you know she went on point? Ugh. I flushed the bird and the gunners both shot the bird, lots of feathers flew everywhere. I sent Pizza on the retrieve, and she raced out there and picked the bird up, put it down, and proceeded to keep putting it down, ending up about 5 feet from me and put it down and would not pick it back up. Unfortunately this means she failed. Damn.

When I picked up the bird, it had a big gaping hole in it. I know she hats it when the bird is bloody or icky, but still...so frustrating, and I am not sure what to do about her retrieve or how to make it better. She is very soft, and any serious pressure on her makes her shut down. Time to do some research and really think things through and hopefully find a solution.

Back to Top
Monday, February 28, 2022
   Coming up with a plan...kinda   

As usual, I couldn't sleep last night. Partly because I had just driven 8 hours home from North Carolina, and partly because I was stewing over Pizza's retrieve issue. My obsessive nature cannot let things go. I spent half the night looking at YouTube videos on fixing retrieving problems. I came up with a loose plan, and had a great conversation with my field trainer on the phone where she boosted me up and helped me think things through.

I know with Pizza - when you start putting pressure on her, she tends to lock up. I think by really getting after her and yelling at her during the retrieve when she kept putting the bird down, I made things worse. I am taking a huge step back for a while and am going to make the retrieve fun again. Back to a tennis ball, which has no training significance, and just letting her chase it and bring it back to me without pressure. Only 2 retrieves at a time, with loads and loads of praise when she comes back, and just making it silly and fun again. We will see how this goes. The hardest part will be myself - staying upbeat and happy even though inside I am dying of frustration. Patience.... We can do this!

Back to Top