Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

Pallo in his tux

Pallo as a squirrel

Koira in her tutu

Both dogs dressed up together

Monday, October 28, 2013

Monday Mischief: My Troublemakers

Off to make some trouble together.

Off hunting trouble

Koira has been seriously in squirrel and rodent hunting mode at the park ever since a large mole/vole creature ran almost directly over her feet, giving her a false sense of skill in the rodent hunting world. Unfortunately for her (and fortunately for the squirrels and other rodents) the squirrels can disappear up trees and the rodents into holes in the ground or massive stands of thorned blackberry bushes.

Darn squirrel disappeared up the trees

Pallo is a bit disappointed in her constant hunting and tries to get her to romp and play with him instead. His most successful way of getting that to happen is to wander off (like down to the river) and wait for me to call him. When I call him, Koira tends to take off looking for him or lay in wait to pounce on him once he comes barreling back.

Koira's gonna get you!

Ultimately, this pair of troublemakers ends up tired and soggy after a walk filled with romping and squirrel hunting.

The face of trouble when I call

Friday, October 25, 2013

FitDog Friday: Flyball box turns and striding

Here is a striding video of Koira this week. She is still moving pretty smoothly.

And then here is a box turn video from this week. We were losing the light, so the video is a bit dark. But, her turn is very nice, tight, and fast. We used a simple PVC prop in front of the box for it. You can see another PVC prop closer to the camera- that is one of our striding props, and is 5 feet from the box. We were starting from just behind that prop.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Throwback Thursday

Here are two of the first pictures I posted to my Flickr account, back in February 2012.

 92. "What's in a name?" Take a picture that tells us something about your dog's name or how he or she got it today. Feel free to embellish! - last day Feb 6

91. "Who's Got Game" Does your dog have a favorite game? Be as creative or literal as you want to be! - last day Feb 5

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Off to Flyball

Once again, me and the dogs are off to a flyball tournament. I seriously love the summer and fall when we have so many tournaments. There isn't an official "off season" for flyball like there is in football or that kind of sport. But it does seem like there is a big dry spell with no or very few tournaments for months on end every winter and spring.


While we're off running our tails off in Washington this weekend, I want you to enjoy a few fall photos of the dogs. I know I've shared about a million pictures of my dogs with the fall colors this year so far, but I can't resist. The colors this year are amazing, the weather is gorgeous, and I have always, in previous years, regretted putting off taking the fall pictures.


It might even be a bit counterintuitive to someone who doesn't live in Oregon, but I am also enjoying the return of the green. Over the summer, Oregon tends to dry out and get brown. When the fall rains come, but before the hard freezes, everything gets plenty of water and sun, and greens up again. So it is very typical for us to have orange and red fall foliage with a background of brilliant green grass. It is just another thing to love about living in Oregon.


Friday, October 18, 2013

FitDog Friday: Flyball Striding

Last Friday, I linked to a post about training striding in flyball. This week, I thought I would share a video of Koira running at practice. The video shows her from the fourth jump, to the box, on the box, then back to the jump again. You can see that she takes three strides between the jump and the box, and then three strides again from the box to the jump.

Her box turn is very sloppy. She is double hitting (repositioning her feet on the box before pushing off). I think her box turn is never going to be something to be proud of. But I seriously love this dog. She has taught me so much, and been so patient with all of my mistakes. Because of her, I will be a much better trainer when I get my next flyball dog.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Searching High and Low

While I've only once tried out Barn Hunt with my dogs (and they weren't all that good at it) and have never done more than basic Nosework with them, Pallo does love to use his nose to find things. He is actually pretty decently trained to find anything that smells like me. He has found my cell phone more than once after I've lost it on a walk or at the park.

Tennis ball hunt-0244
A hidden tennis ball
With an opportunity to use some stacked hay bales to work Pallo's nose, I couldn't pass it up. I put Pallo into a down stay outside the barn while I went inside and hid the ball somewhere in the stack of hay bales. Then I would go back outside and release him with the cue "go find it" which sends him off after his ball.

Tennis ball hunt-0249

Then Pallo searches low.

Tennis ball hunt-0234

And then Pallo searches high.

Tennis ball hunt-0246

He has no problem at all climbing up and over and around the hay bales, or using his nose to find his ball. However, since he is just searching for my scent, it is very distracting to him for me to touch the hay anywhere else, such as previous hiding spots or leaning against the bales to hide the ball.

Tennis ball hunt-0254

Overall, he is a very thorough searcher. He hops up and down and around on the bales, searching in the nooks and crannies, searching high, searching low in all the places. But, he doesn't really search in a grid pattern naturally, so kind of hops around spot to spot checking. Which means he sometimes misses the right spot for quite a while.

Tennis ball hunt-0253

But he always finds the ball again.

Tennis ball hunt-0259
You can see the ball hidden in the hay right next to his nose. In the next instant, he grabbed the ball and brought it back to me.
After finding the ball, Pallo gets his reward in a quick game of fetch.

And for everyone who was wondering why Koira was pouting on Wordless Wednesday yesterday- it was because I went out to the barn to play with Pallo and left her inside!

Friday, October 11, 2013

FitDog Friday

I honestly have no pictures to post today, and no awesome fitness information to share. However, one of my favorite flyball training blogs put up a new post about jumping in relation to flyball. I thought it was an enjoyable read, and very informative.

SPECTRUM DOGS: Jumping for Flyball

I agree with her point about using gates for teaching jumping in flyball. I've always thought it was a rather cop-out method. Yes, it works with some dogs. But it shouldn't be necessary if you properly train the jumping, either the way she describes it or by doing a simple back chaining.

I'm also super interested in trying out some of the jump grids she talks about. I've never liked using extra props to get dogs to do things. Adding props means you have to then wean off of props. This is true for box jumps, stride bumps, etc. The more things you add, the more things you have to wean away from. So, if using jumping grids can help with teaching proper striding, it would be one more step to not having to use, or to minimizing the use of, stride bumps, while still ending up with proper striding.

I wish I had more indoor space to practice. My house is too small to do much- even doing basic up close box work requires moving stuff to get enough room. I'll just have to take advantage of dry days as much as possible I guess!

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Its just a beat-up-Pallo kind of a day, I guess.

Snarls of fun

Good thing Pallo has plenty of loose scruff on his neck

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Ruben's Autumn Photos

After one of my flyball team mates saw my photos from Koira and Pallo's fall photo shoot, she mentioned that she wished she had photos like that of her dog Ruben. So I offered to do some fall photos of Ru for her. I think they turned out pretty good, myself. Of course, Ru was an awesome poser. Some jerky and string cheese had him putting his feet up on the rail and looking at the camera like a dream.








Monday, October 7, 2013

Run or Dye

On Saturday, I went and did a human thing. I ran my first 5k, the Run or Dye in Redmond, OR. It was a ton of fun. The race wasn't timed, so I don't actually know how long it took me to complete. I ended up running some and walking some, and I know I could have pushed myself to run more of it. However, I still had a ton of fun. I want to do another fun 5k (a themed one like this, though maybe a different theme), but I think a timed one would motivate me more to really run and give it my best effort.

A bit dye throw in the "dye zone" after the finish of the race

Overall, though, I had a great time and am happy with how I did. After all, even though I was training for it, I did sprain both of my ankles three weeks ago, and get shin splints, both of which really put a cramp on training. Not to mention that Redmond (3000 ft above sea level) is a much higher elevation than where I live (250 ft above sea level)!

Just after the big dye throw

And, I got totally drenched in dye! Some people walked away barely touched with a few splotches of dye. I was drenched head to toe.

At the end of the race

Friday, October 4, 2013

Releasing Your Flyball Dog

This past weekend's flyball tournament was a lot of fun. I was boxloading for one of my club's teams and running Koira on the other one. I also was trying to get some pictures during the tournament as well. Something that has fascinated me for a while is all of the different methods of releasing a dog when playing flyball.

In the past, I have used many different starting positions with my dogs. Most recently before this weekend, I simply put the dog between my legs, bent over to hold onto their collar, then let go when the time was right.

Releasing Pallo for a pass

Releasing Koira in start

While this method actually works really well with Pallo, it kind of fails with Koira. Koira gets very excited and barks up into my face, while Pallo hunches down and stares down the lane. The looking up ends up making Koira really unreliable when starting with this method, which I learned after the X-Fidos tournament.

This past weekend, I tried out a new method.

Releasing Koira in start from my lap

Instead of standing over Koira, I am kneeling and pulling her back legs up onto my thighs. This gives her a solid launch platform and seems to focus her attention forward down the lane rather than back or up at me. I actually settled on this release method after trying three different ones and having people watch Koira launch from each of them. Then we decided which one she looked the most balanced during, which ended up being the one you see above- her front legs on the ground, back feet up on my thighs, and me holding onto her hips.

It might not mean a whole lot to you if you don't play flyball, but I'll say it anyway. Changing out starting position like this caused Koira to be much faster (good push off) and more consistent (no waiting for her front feet to hit the ground). So much so, in fact, that we had to back up 6+ feet to start this past weekend versus the weekend before.

Of course, after spending a lot of time thinking about starting and releasing positions and methods these past few weeks, I ended up getting quite a few pictures of other peoples' starting techniques.

Down on one knee seemed very popular. I actually tried a down-on-one-knee method for Koira, but didn't like it as much for us. From the pictures, though, many people obviously really like this method.

Down on one knee, dog pulled back against other leg, with back foot perpendicular to the racing lanes. This is the closest I have to a picture of the one-knee method I tested with Koira 
Although it appears that there are a number of different variations of the one-knee method as well.

Down on one knee, with the dog pulled back against the leg with the knee down.

One knee position, dog loaded back against the leg with the knee down, kept in place facing forward by the other knee

Then, there is this two-knee method. It appears different from the method I use, because the dog is pulled back between the knees with the back feet still on the ground, where as I pull Koira's back feet up onto my thighs.

Both knees down, dog loaded between the legs with back feet still on the ground

There are also a number of ways to start your dog while staying standing. I will say that these tend to be easiest on the handler, because you don't have to get up quickly from these. If you have a short dog, though, your back can get sore from leaning over so much.

The first of the standing positions is more of a crouch. The knee isn't actually on the ground, but is certainly bent.

Somewhere between a one-knee method and a standing method, this crouch is none-the-less quite effective for this team

And then same thing here, only with the legs a bit straighter. Also, this whippet appears to be pulled back against the leg that is farther back, to give a better launching platform.

This whippet is obviously very forward focused, and you can see how it is crouching down a bit, anticipating being released to run.

The straddle method is very popular as well.

Lacey, the dog here, is super mellow while waiting, but runs really well once released. All her handler has to do is let her hands drop away from Lacey 

And this dog is obviously incredibly excited and raring to go. 

Last but not least is the side release standing position, with the dog fully off to one side of the handler.

This little shiba was also very obvious about wanting her turn as well. 

All of these positions can work great depending on the specific dog/handler team. I'm also positive that there are plenty of other release methods that I didn't get a picture of! Some dogs need a really steady launch platform on or against their handler, while others crouch down to the ground or simply dig into the ground with their feet. While there might be a right way for a certain dog and a certain handler, there is definitely not a right way for all dogs and handlers. If you are struggling with how to release your dog, get a training buddy and practice. Try out the different methods while just doing recalls with your dog and see which ones feel the best for you and look the most balanced for your dog. As I found out this past weekend, it can make a huge difference in how your dog runs if you find the right release.