Monthly Archives: July 2008

Equipment on the cheap and fun with toys

Lots of people build their own agility equipment using PVC, and there are plans for jumps and such all over the Internet. I was surfing around yesterday, and I came across an idea I can’t wait to put into use.

Instead of using different fittings and different lengths of PVC to build each jump standard and make it steady, I’m going to stick a spike in the ground a few inches and then put a length of PVC over it, so the spike makes the PVC stand straight. Make sense? So one spike and one 36″ length of 1″ PVC is all I need to make the side of a jump OR a weave pole AND I can also use a 36″ length of PVC as bars on the jumps.

So… Last night Jay and I went to Lowe’s. I bought ten iron spikes and four 10′ lengths of PVC, which I will cut into 12 (3 each) 36″ poles. From that I can use six spikes and six poles to make a set of weave poles, and then the remaining four spikes and six poles will make two jumps. (Each jump has two standards and a single bar.)

So I got a set of weave poles and two jumps for $50!

Those jumps, you might note, have no jump cups. No problem! I found online a product called “jump cup strips.” They slide onto 1″ PVC, and have premeasured, affixed jump cups. The cool thing about those is that I can slide them on and off, which means I can choose to dismantle my weave poles and create two more jumps and then just as easily convert them back into weave poles!

Jump cups are on order. Hoping Jay will cut my PVC for me soon.

Also did some training with Pax yesterday. I had Jay buy some tennis balls for me. Tennis balls don’t hold up to a lot of chewing from the dogs, but I plan to use these ONLY for agility, so they should be fine. I set up my “weave pole entries” outside. In the first session, Pax was more focused on those balls than those poles, but clearly he thought about it last night, because this morning he had it figured out: Run through the poles, and Mom throws a ball! He was even bringing the ball back to me.

I think I’ll wait until I get my PVC poles before I introduce the second set. I need to “reproof” going through the poles at different angles now that I’m using the toy because his drive is so much higher. I probably can’t do sharp angles until I get the PVC poles, because the ones I’m using now can be easily knocked over.

Oh, I watched a video called “Agility Foundation Training” by Greg Derrett. Loved it! I need to rewatch and take very specific notes. It introduces some awesome behaviors I can work on before starting my class in September. There’s another video series by Susan Salo on jumping that I’d like to work with, but it costs $70, and I’m not ready to spring for that yet.

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Weave pole entries

The first step in Susan Garrett’s method of teaching weaves is to teach the entry. She does this with two poles. Just two, set 20 inches apart. She shapes the dog to run through them, and then varies the approach and her position relative to them.

I worked on that with Pax last week. We worked down in the basement… I just sat on the steps and used food. It took him a little while to figure out exactly what I wanted, but he started catching on, and the mistakes got fewer and fewer. Friday was a really good day… but then I was busy all day Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday night Pax was begging for attention, so I grabbed the tuna brownies and headed to the basement. He was soooo excited! He was RUNNING those poles, and making almost no mistakes. It was so cool! He did so well. My brilliant boy. He was in such a great mood and so happy that I had time to play with him.

I don’t have a second set of poles to use in the basement, so I couldn’t move to step two in Susan’s method. So I decided to move the poles I had. Early this morning I took them outside, and we did a session on the deck. Then at lunch we went out into a section of the front yard.

Front gate was standing open AND I put the poles right where a herd of deer had run through a little while before, but still he stuck with me. He was distracted, yes, but it wasn’t a bad session at ALL considering the level of distraction. I’m going to get Jay to buy me some tennis balls I can throw as rewards until I condition a good tug toy that he’ll bring back to me. One or two more sessions out in the yard, and then move to step two.

I need a good place away from the house to work occasionally. I’m pretty sure Joene wouldn’t mind if I popped over and practiced in her yard. I need to start practicing basic obedience stuff in shopping center parking lots and at PetSmart again, just to get Pax’s mind back in the training game when we’re away from home. I don’t know any good off-leash places to work him though. I’m not a fan of dog parks. I don’t hate them, but they’re not especially safe. There’s a private one in Duvall though. Maybe that would be okay — fewer dogs, more supervision (I hope), and better screening.

I think I’ll start on the target training for the contacts today too.

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Purple

We discovered the most wonderful little cafe and wine bar this weekend. It’s called Purple. We went first to the one in downtown Seattle, but found out that there are also branches in Woodinville and Kirkland. We were shocked that we’d missed it in Woodinville, since it’s a pretty small town, and it’s our regular stomping grounds. But, yes, we had.

I’m not a drinker, so even though it’s really a wine bar, that aspect is wasted on me. The food, however, is not — and it’s outstanding! They have cheese flights, a tasting bar (in Seattle), incredible appetizers, and salads. They also have sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and appetizers, but those are heavier. We mostly ate a variety of selections off the cheese and appetizer menus. We ate way too much food, but we are in a much better position to go in and order a reasonable amount now because we have a pretty good feel for what and how much they serve.

I highly recommend it. I can’t wait to take my mom when she visits next month. We were supposed to go to The Melting Pot with friends this weekend, but Jay wants to go to Purple instead. I was kind of looking forward to The Melting Pot, but I’m okay with Purple again. It’s definitely a new favorite!

The rest of the weekend was… variable. I got my hair cut and colored, and it’s always great to see Garry and Melanie, my stylists. Saturday afternoon and evening I hung out with Joene, and we went to a presentation on “Everything You Want to Know About Agility Trials.” Very entertaining, plus I love spending time with Joene.

Sunday during the day was less fun. Jay bought a huge weight set on Craigslist, and we had to borrow a truck and go pick it up. The process was way smoother than I expected it to be, which was good, but it was still a LOT of stuff to load — and, of course, it was all in the basement of a basement (!), which meant carrying it a long way, all uphill! Nice weight set though — dumbbells and barbells, bench and racks — and I’ll enjoy using it. Just wish we had a treadmill too.

We’re going to put the exercise stuff on the mezzanine for now. That meant we needed to clear some space there, so we finally got around to moving the sofa and a couple of desks back into the basement. All I have to do to be officially moved back down is move my computer and chair.

I’ll do it sooner or later.

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A PAX for Pax?

Last weekend I attended an agility trial and found out there’s an agility title called a PAX — Preferred Agility Excellent. Excellent is the highest level of AKC agility, but Preferred is a lower jump height. I would soooo love to put a PAX on Pax. Wouldn’t that be seriously cool?

I’ve attended enough of these things that I’m finally convinced to take a class with Pax. The two classes nearest me both start their foundation classes in September. I sent in a registration for Pax at The Dog Works. Haven’t heard yet if there was space in the class. Hope so!

I don’t know how they teach weaves and contacts (and they, annoyingly, haven’t returned the e-mail I sent that asked). I want to use Susan Garrett’s and Greg Derrett’s methods. Joene told me today that Argus Ranch down in Auburn teaches according to their methods, but that’s wayyy to far for me. I’m hoping Joene will transfer down there, and then she can teach me what I need to know!

Since I have a couple of months before Pax’s class begins, I’m going to work on teaching weaves and contacts the way Susan Garrett outlines in her book, Shaping Success. I’ve been working on weave entrances down in the basement. At this point I’m just using a set of two poles. I’m varying their angle relative to me, their distance to me, and my position relative to them. I haven’t been keeping formal records — bad me!! — but it has been fun watching Pax figure out what I want him to do. He just wasn’t getting it initially, but his correct percentage is much, much higher now — consistently so.

Eventually I’ll add a second set of two and teach the “2×2” method that Susan Garrett invented. (At least I think she did. That’s certainly where I learned it.) I’m going to wait until I have the two pretty solid in the basement before I take it outside. When I go outside, I’m going to be working on speed using a thrown toy.

That’s another thing I need to work on before the class: I need to condition a motivating toy and teach him to play with it *with me*. That’s the crux — he likes to run around with his toys. This has to be a toy we play with together, even if I throw it. And he needs a solid “take it” and “out.” It’ll be fun!

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Sad news!

Well, no puppy related to Pax for me. I found out this week that the only black girl in Moxie’s litter is promised to someone else. It’s been such a long, frequently disappointing search that I’ve learned not to get my hopes up too high. Still, I’m sad. That was my last chance to get a puppy closely related to Pax. Perfect Pax.

God has made it perfectly clear that that door is closed. So I have to look for a window somewhere. As far as curlies go, that means I can widen my search. There are some dogs/kennels I like here in the States, but there’s one in Finland I really like as well. I have no clue how much it would cost to import a puppy though. Hopefully I can find one I like in the next year or so.

In the meantime, Jay has made it clear that he misses Rain, so I have put us on the “list” for a puppy from Denise Castonguay’s December litter. Denise was Rain’s breeder, and she lives just a few hours away in British Columbia. The bitch she’s breeding is Rowan, who is breathtakingly gorgeous (and who has a personality similar to my filly). Sounds like fate to me. If that doesn’t work out, we can look at getting a pup from Kilyka in New Jersey.

I really miss having a youngster around!

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