Merlin.. my love

Merlin was my first APDT/WCRL Rally dog.. Everyone had tried AKC but I gave then APDT Rally a try in March of 2008 with Merlin. He did well his first trial, got his level 1 and I had a lot of fun. It was one of those “and I never looked back” moments. Today he completed his ARCHMX5 for those not in the know, there are 4 championship levels in WCRL Rally ARCH ( 5 double q’s and points from a and b) ARCHX 5 double q’s above 195, ARCHEX , 5 double q’s in levels 2 and 3 195 or better and ARCHMX, the only one you can earn multiples, 10 triple q’s level 1, 2, 3 195 or better at the same trial. Kestrel did this quite handily, ARCHMX6, she got an ARCH and an ARCHX one weekend in maine, she was solid and consistent. Merlin, well, Merlin is Merlin, he’s had times in his life where rally wasn’t his thing, or obedience wasn’t his thing (agility until recently has ALWAYS been his thing, that and the rats in barn hunt) He’s 11 1/2 now, has 133 titles covering all his venues… he’s titled in 5 venues of agility, 3 venues of obedience, 3 venues of rally… He loves to compete, he loves to go on the road on the weekends… However what I will say about Merlin, even if he’s tired, and he’s not really into it, he’ll give it a go because I want to. He’s a GOOD BOY, he always has been. He sleeps in heel position (no kidding, the dog is on my left leg in bed every single night).

Today he retires from upper levels of rally. He slogged through an RAE2 in AKC because I wanted to go to nationals. He finished his ARCHMX5 today because I like to leave no stone unturned. I’m sure when he got up this morning he didn’t say, wow, I would like a really nice ribbon today.. Nope he got up and said, she’s loading the truck and I better be on board!!!! She better not go somewhere without me. He will still have trials to do, veterans, some CDSP obedience, lots of nosework, some barn hunt and perhaps an agility run here and there. He will always “be on the truck”. I partially retire dogs but never retire them because I believe that if they’ve competed all their life, they retire and die. So I find sports that work better for their aging bodies, classes that suit their aging bodies. (and no worries about Merlin’s health, recent blood work shows him in perfect health, he’s just slowing down)

Merlin will still be seen in WCRL Veteran’s (and the occasional level 1 run because its good to heel on leash).. He’s the #1 Veteran for 2016 and may 2017 bring the same…. and if you are at a trial I am at, come say hi to Merlin, he’ll still be “on the truck”


Not sports equipment, didn’t sign the check

They didn’t sign the check.

I often say this when briefing a rally class. Our dogs don’t sign the checks, mine have a check book, but really, they don’t get to pick when and what they enter. I try to do a mix of things. If I put as much effort into one sport as I do into 5 sports 2-5 venues each. we’d be champions. And in rally we are, RAE2, multiple ARCHMX awards. because the dogs like it as do I.

I see so many handlers disappointed because their dog didn’t do x or y. they ran around a jump, they broke a stay, they didn’t retrieve, and that handler is mad at their dog. Head up, these are dogs, sentient beings doing the best they can for us humans. They are not sports equipment.

A broken stay is not the equivalent of a ski binding that got stuck. A run around the jump is not the same as a stovepipe in a pistol. That drop that didn’t happen, not the same as a broken bat.

If we have issues with our dogs, they are training issues, proofing issues, and method issues. I do know of folks that if the dog can’t do it competitively they get another dog. Really? If my dog can’t do it competitively, I work on my method, am I teaching it clearly and well, can someone else give me some insight into what is going on. Does my dog hate this sport?? Well let’s find one he likes or some other activity that is REWARDING TO THE DOG…

And the drilling. some dogs enjoy drilling, the late Kestrel could have been drilled till the cows come home, “you like this, you like this, you like this” on and on she had more persistence than I did…, other dogs , Merlin and Hawke, I did it twice, I did it right, what’s your issue human?? Did I trade them in on a more driven dog. NO I found what worked best for them. Again they are who they are, they are not sports equipment.

I guess at some point we either have to take ego out of the equation… I trained my dog, this test shows what I need to work better, or admit that the dog is an extension of who we are and how we are valued… and I feel sorry for the dogs in that position.

The best thing about my dogs?? They sleep in heel position, every night, dogs on the left.

Bottom line, you the human entered the show, the dog didn’t sign the check, they really aren’t volunteers in this process. They like to work, and/or they love you but they didn’t get up this morning fill in an entry and sign a check.. respect that. I try to.

2015 in Review 2016 goals

At the end of last year I set some goals “Goals for 2015 (I always set goals.. keeps me moving forward)
Kestrel: CDX-CCH and her CDSP Versatility title, PCDX, RLVX12-15, ARCHMX6, RATS
How did we do?

Kestrel: She got her RLVX12-15, and her ARCHMX6, and RL3X8, RL2X10, RL1X10 and her PSD SD-ND novice Distance.
not bad at all
And Elf who joined us in February got her RATI, RATN, and CGC

Goals for 2016
Merlin: CS-ATCH, ARCHMX4, RLVX7-10, CDX, CDSP Versatility, RATM
Kestrel to enjoy some of 2016
Elf: CDSP Starter, BN, RN, RA, ARCH, CPE level 1 and 2, start AKC agility

Merlin Gets his CT-ACTH

Merlin got his CT-ATCH on February 22, 2015.  This is the CPE agility trial champion title, and its a CT-ATCH instead of a C-ATCH because he runs as an enthusiast!  Now that this is complete, he’ll be running as a specialist, jumping 12″ to make it a bit easier on his bodymerlin ctatch  Here he is with his new ribbon!  He also wants it known, he’s enjoying being a specialist, and has finished Level 1 already.


2014 Year in Review

For 2014 – we had some goals

“For Hawke, getting up to her RLVX20, and finishing her CD-CCH4.  Seeing some libraries and enjoying her senior years. For Kestrel, finish off that ARCHMX5, get up to an RLVX10, RATN, CD-CCH, CDX-CCH work towards it, and train for utility.  And for Merlin – hopefully getting into the AKC Rally National (they only take 100 RAE dogs), ARCHMX2, that elusive CDX, and U-CDX, URO3, finish his RATO, finish that CT-ATCH, and maybe do some AKC agility. “
Some came true… some didn’t.
Hawke retired in late 2013, but did get one more honor, posthumously: Her THDX, Therapy Dog Excellent
Kestrel: (14) PCD, CD-CCH, URO3, CGCA, RLVX8 thru 11,ARCHMX5, RL1x9, RL2x9, RL3x7, RATN, RATO, THD, TDIA
Merlin: (11) RAE2, a trip to the AKC Rally Nationals, CGCA, RL1x9,RL 2×7-8, RL3x5, RLV, ARCHMX2, His UKC ALCH and URO3, and RATO
Great year, Merlin’s one jackpot from his CT-ATCH in CPE agility,
Goals for 2015 (I always set goals.. keeps me moving forward)
Kestrel: CDX-CCH and her CDSP Versatility title, PCDX, RLVX12-15, ARCHMX6, RATS
Lets see if we can make it happen… off to go train!

Merlin Does IT!!!

Merlin Earns his ARCHMX2, along with trial chair Chris Argento and Judge Rachel Brostrom

Merlin Earns his ARCHMX2, along with trial chair Chris Argento and Judge Rachel Brostrom

ARCHMX2 – His WCRL/APDT Rally Master title, Again! another 10 triple q’s level 1, 2, 3 with scores of 195 or higher.

What did I learn from this, perseverance and training pay off!!!  Heel like you’re going somewhere and the dog will join you.
Keep my face in my space, make him responsible for his part of the teamwork!

She’s Back and Thank you AKC

Last Sunday the 31st, Kestrel went back into the AKC open ring, 4 years to the weekend of when she last competed in open. Four years ago, she refused a jump, people ringside said Proof your Dog, I called my vet. When Kestrel refuses a jump, there’s a problem. Her issue turned out to be the long plaguing iliopsoas strain.

Kestrel went on to compete in venues where she could have a lower jump height as jumping seems to aggravate the issue. She does WCRL/APDT rally with a jump height mod, and CDSP Obedience with a jump height mod.

The AKC started the pre classes. For some, the advantage in novice and open is no group stays, the long sit and the long down. Kestrel views the advantage as the 1/2 height jump height. She can manage one 10″ jump without issue. And this past Sunday, Kestrel did so.

She was so happy, and so was I. She heeled, albeit with a bit of nose rubbing and dancing around, she figure 8’d, she dropped on recall like she slammed on the breaks. Sure she forgot that you aren’t supposed to autofinish on every return, she retrieved on the flat, and retrieved over that little high jump and leapt with joy over the broad jump. Happy dog, Happy handler!!! Great fun.

Thanks AKC for this class, that is so great, and tailor made for Kestrel!

2012 Dog Year in Review

2012 was a pretty good year now that it is in the rearview mirror. Hawke, at 12 1/2 has partially retired. She started the year with a partial cruciate tear, but due to her willingness to rest and rehab – dodged the surgeon’s knife. She came back quickly to complete her RLVX10, RLVX11, RLVX12, RLVX13! in APDT rally. In September she finished her APDT Rally ARCHEX! In CDSP (Companion Dog Sports Program) Obedience she earned her Novice championship TWICE, CD-CCH, CD-CCH2. She took a little time off at year’s end to recover from some minor surgery.

Kestrel had some accomplishments in 2012 despite spending much of the year laid up with an iliopsoas injury, another cruciate tear, more iliopsoas, and a bout of year end lameness. She was pulled from more trials than those in which she competed. She had a great November, taking a perfect 210, taking High Combined in a CDSP trial. She got halfway to a CD-CCH this year, and earned a CDX-C leg. 2013 promises to be a better year for Kes.

Merlin earned his CD-C and his 7th RAE leg. He completed his CDX-C. He’s been plagued by an inability to wait – but that’s been a benefit in his agility career.

2013 plans:
Hawke RLVX14 or 15, CD-CCH3, lots more libraries! lots more walks
Kestrel: BN, some good Nov B runs, and finish that ARCHMX3..
Merlin: CDX, CD-CCH, CDX-CCH, close in on his CPE agility CT-ATCH, and finish that ARCHMX.

Tall order…. but its fun , and the training is as much fun as the competing.

never ceases to amaze me

Hawke is the most dog appropriate dog I know….

case in point, yesterday we went to visit a friend with a fairly new rescue dog.  He has possibly a history of growing at other dogs, and got into a tiff at the dog park.  My friend really wants him to be well adjusted and to have dog friends.  We came in, he LEAPED the baby gate.. not a high energy dog, he’s a very large dog, this was a surprise.  Hawke and he sniffed a bit, then he growled… we put more space between them and moved to the kitchen.

Hawke curved, and submitted and gave all the good calm reassuring dog body language she could.  She’s great at that.  The part I never realized she was truely great at, making sure she doesn’t get backed into a corner, she wiggled and lept to reposition herself with at least 2 exits.  Nice to know my dog is not a dope, happy to help but not going to be the sacrificial lamb.  My friend and I had tea and lunch, and the dogs gradually moved closer to each other. 

After a bit, we went out to the wading pool as new dog doesn’t know what to do with a pool (or much else, he’s pretty socially inept, not his fault, just his upbringing)  Hawke jumped in and out of the pool, jump in , swirl around, lie down, jump out shake.  Her new buddy watched with great intensity.  He put a foot in, she put a foot in , a second foot, he followed, she jumped in and swirled, he jumped in and sat!  WOW! who says dogs don’t learn by observation.  They had great fun going in and out of the pool, no growling, no issues.  I think he is just afraid, and getting big and growling gets EVERYTHING out of his face. 

Hawke had a great day, made a new friend, and is planning more dates for the future.

I’m glad and honored to have a therapy dog who can also be the very appropriate dog in a behavior situation.  What a great girl she is, yeah Hawke!

Its all tricks……

Really, its all tricks. Obedience, heeling, jumps, rally, agility, loose leash walking. I don’t know why I have to be reminded of this so frequently 🙂
I’m doing the Wag It Tricks Challenge, an online class with Wag It dog training center from Lincolnville, ME. Tricks, we know tricks. Lots of tricks, or so I think. Hawke can do paw, other, sit, down, whisper. Kestrel does those and a crawl. Merlin does What do you say? , merlin get a toy, sit, down, chin, cheek, and get close. And they all do all the performance competition stuff…. really those are tricks too. In the Wag it challenge, we’re doing more… challenge 1, move something with the paw. I’m going to teach Merlin to close doors. He opens doors all the time with his head, so I figure I’ll teach him to close doors. While I’m at it, maybe I’ll teach him to wave, or high 5.

I often tell my classes to teach some tricks, sometimes we’ll have a trick competition, by the end of the class, prepare a trick to share. Do I follow my own advice? not often.

A few weeks ago, I was attending the Dogs of Course ITC, Instructor Training Class in Consulting and Problem Solving. We talked a lot about play, do I play with my dogs? not much. New rule, teach them to tug. Teach them to play, then play with them darn it.

Why tricks? they are fun, but even better there are many advantages

  • they are a light hearted way to teach the dog to learn
  • its cool to show off with your dog
  • both you and the dog feel clever
  • and most important they are great for your relationship with the dog

Sometimes, well maybe all too often, I get too serious in my training.  Tricks are a great way for me to break that habit, and just have enjoyment.  And well planned tricks can enhance the fine tuning needed for Rally or Obedience.


and you know what?  the dogs like doing tricks…..

a lot