Always Training. Always Learning.

Monday, December 31, 2012


Train to win. Trial to learn.
My new motto for 2013. I have a nasty habit of shutting down at trials and not seeing them for what they are, a great big learning experience. No more will I get frustrated at trials. I am there to learn.
On the flip side my training is no longer casual. I am training to win.

My goals are less about titles this coming year and more about being prepared.

We will be
1) Psychically prepared 
    My dogs and I should be able to work for extended amounts of time with out becoming tired. Right now   we can only work a total of 10-15 minutes before calling it quits. This also includes getting the dogs back on raw.

2) Mentally prepared
    Knowing the rules and exercises before showing in any current or new venues/sports. 

3) Prepared for anything
    Working in the rain, on grass, in crowds, tight spaces, anything I can think of we will proof for it.

I expect 2013 to be a very exciting and can not wait to get it started. We have many things to look forward to Obedience, Rally, Conformation and agility. There is also the possibility of Weight pull, Tracking, Dock dogs, Carting and IPO. The possibilities are truly endless.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Weave Update

I moved the poles up again. As you can see he is a little confused but starting to use a little weaving motion.

Training has been made even more exciting by the discovery of his brand new most favorite ball ever!

This ball has been great because it is much softer and easier to squeak than the Cuz or squeaky tennis balls. He loves to pick it up and squeak it over and over again. I don't think it would last long if I just gave it to him but as a reward and interactive toy I can see it lasting awhile.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Gifts

My family and I had a wonderful Christmas and we hope your holidays were just as great.

All I wanted for Christmas was a set of weave poles. Luckily my husband picked up on the 100,000,000,000 hints I dropped over the last few months and actually made a set. They are not the sturdiest things in the world but for now they are doing the trick.

Here is a video from his third session

I usually send him through ahead of me. I only called him through to get the video. Although he is not the fastest dog on the block he is picking it up nicely.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Play Time

At the park with Phlox and the kids (Sorry for the crappy cell phone pics)

The boy on the left was so sweet. He assumed that because Phlox's leash was dragging (I had to run and scoop up my son while holding baby girl so no hands) that he had gotten away from me. He quickly picked up the leash and walked Phlox back to my stroller. The boy and his four cousins all took time to love on Phlox and even made sure to tell him good bye before leaving.

I always get mixed reactions when I take Phlox to the park. I know that at times parents are concerned about Phlox. I try to be respectful by not allowing him on the playground unless my children are the only kids there and always keeping a leash on him. However, I do not apologize for my dogs breed or looks. 

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Predator and Prey

It's very easy to forget that deep down our dogs are predators. I mean most of us could not imagine Fido harming anything more than an occasional fly.

I experienced the predatory nature of dogs early on. When I was very little my family kept a handful of laying  hens. Stray dogs would often get on the property and chase down and kill our hens and chicks. We never really knew what we would find when we got home. We attempted to keep them in various enclosures but they were rather free spirited birds and wouldn't stay put. There isn't any reasoning with chickens you know.
But that was all many years ago and the memory had faded. Until yesterday Afternoon.

My sister had just gotten back from Florida and had most of her things at the facility. This included her sweet little rabbit. He was in his cage in the quietest room in the building just waiting to go home. The only other inhabitant of the room was a medium rescue dog who was boarding. The dog was quiet and also confined to his crate. 
None of us heard a thing until I noticed some scratching at the door. When my sister went in to investigate she found, well I'll just say that we got a reminder of the relationship between predator and prey.

It's easy to get comfortable and forget what our furry friends are capable of. The best things you can do are socialize, train, know your dog and always supervise.

Saturday, December 1, 2012


It finally looks like fall here in Houston (kind of). So here are a few shots of the dogs posing for me. Violet as always looks like she was beaten into taking pictures(she wasn't) and Phlox managed to pose with everything except his mouth and ears. Enjoy and happy first day of December! 

These two are the most fabulous boys on the planet.

There would be more pictures of Violet except she always looks like this.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Field Trip

Parking lot Obedience "But moooom I want to go in!"

I told him that mice were once dogs but they were naughty and didn't focus on their training. From the look on his face I think he believed me.

"Your going to buy it all right?"

More parking lot obedience on the way out.

"I swear I saw a squirrel"


Friday, November 23, 2012

Teaching Expectations

I decided at the end of the trial this month that I needed to start back at square one with Miss V. Not to reteach her what she already knows but to teach her what she doesn't. What I expect her to do.

My expectations
She must perform at her best with out rewards of any kind (food, toys, praise), as long as I want, no guidance from me(except commands) and in any and all environments.

Where went wrong
I got lost in an attempt to create a happy looking, golden style heel. I lost touch with the fact that Violet is an 10-11 year old pit bull and simply does not show enjoyment in the same way. Don't get me wrong she really does enjoy the work her body, face and personality just express it differently. Even at home she is not what you would call "perky". I ended up not working on anything except "attitude".

What I am doing about it
Short random sessions with no feedback during exercises. Put her through her paces in random places. Work "Heel" and "Go out" until she knows what I expect in all situations.

End result
I hope to achieve a reliable maximum expectation of behavior. The next time we enter the ring I want to know that we will qualify and that I will have the confidence to make it happen.

V Happily sunning herself.
V happily posing for a picture.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

New Title, Fun Match and Utility B

Phlox finished his Rally Novice title on Friday night. He earned a 98 and fourth place. The judge was he kind who didn't miss a thing and she knew exactly what she was looking for.
Phlox really worked it for all but the last two signs. He was eager to get into the ring and didn't lose focus.

On Saturday My brother in law showed Phlox in a conformation match. He won his breed and then took a group 1. The judges liked him a lot.

All of his winnings from the weekend.

Violet hurt her back this week so she sat out most of the weekend. This morning she was feeling so well that I thought I would give it a go.
Due to some mix up we were entered in Utility B and not A. We were having a pretty good run until the judges book blew off the table and onto Violet. She was shaken but recovered. Then on the moving stand an armband blew into the ring next to V and the woman reached in to pick it up. That was the end of that. We NQed but I felt like it went pretty well. We are getting closer

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Family Fun

It's Halloween time again. This year I'm not suffering from unbearable morning sickness so I get to enjoy holiday activities with the family.

Last Saturday the family went to a Halloween party put on by the city of Houston. Usually Pup Scouts has a booth there and we hand out information and candy to the kids. This year there was just way too much going on to organize a booth in time. So we just went to enjoy it.

I took Phlox along to work on his manners and focus. As usually we had many people commenting on how beautiful, smart, well behaved and awesome he is. Because he gets so much attention I get to educate a lot of people on what these dogs are really like.
The party went so well that Phlox will be accompanying the kids trick or treating.

Enough talk here are a couple of pictures

He was really getting into the Halloween spirit with those laser eyes.

My little tiger with Phlox.


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Weekend Recap

Day 1:
Violet completely and totally NQed in Utility. She did however bring back the right articles one small victory.

Phlox is still getting over excited in new places so it was a rough start. I was pretty sure everything was going to fall apart in the ring. He ended up doing a pretty good job and coming away with a score of 100 and first place!

I was pleased with the score and our placement but not at all happy with his performance. He was distant and distracted.

Day 2:
Violet was fabulous! Her heel kind of sucked but we went through every exercise with out incident and as we neared the end I really thought we would qualify. On the very last go out I gave a bad hand signal and she ran off to the corner of the ring. She took the wrong jump and there went our qualifying score. Oh well she really did do a fantastic job and I am very pleased with her. I'll be increasing the training in new areas so that next month we can get a few legs.

Phlox was a little more calm today. Unfortunately that did not translate well in the ring. It didn't help that the judge could not hear my reply to "Are you ready?" so we just stood there staring at each other getting frustrated. Phlox lost focus and that was that. We ended up with a 96 and our second rally novice leg.
It may be hard to understand why I am not happy with Phlox's performances this weekend even though his scores were pretty good. I just know that he and I can do so much better as a team. I've tricked myself into thinking that training in 3 or 4 locations regularly will be sufficient. It isn't and I won't make that mistake again.

I'll post videos later. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

Show And Go

Since Phlox has his very first Rally trial this weekend I thought it was time to try him out in a new environment. So a show and goin' we did go. Phlox did really well on Saturday. We ran a Excellent course due to time. I was a little confused by some of the new signs and Phlox didn't know all of the exercises but we hobbled through it looking pretty good.

Something I did notice is that Phlox is getting over excited when he enters a room with dogs already in it. He whines, snorts and fusses whiling standing a little too tall for my liking. All Saturday Phlox was distracted and wanted nothing more than to get to the other dogs and people.

Sunday I ran Violet through the Utility exercises. She did pretty well but I totally fudged the signal exercise by getting it confused with the stand for exam. I also kept stumbling on the ring matting.
No video because I ran out of memory.

I brought Phlox back later for novice and beginner novice.
Novice was nice. Not great. Not stunning. Just nice. I love seeing the video because it really points out what needs work.
I was going to break it all down for you but chances are you can see what needs fixing.

There is no video of Beginner novice. It was an ok run but by that time Phlox was tired and distracted.

We did make huge strides in his excitement on Sunday. I went prepared to work through it. I spent a few minutes working with him entering the building and walking past the crated dogs. It worked. He was calm and quiet the rest of the afternoon.

Now for a week of training before the upcoming show. Violet will be doing scent articles every day and Phlox will be working out doors on many different surfaces.

Monday, September 24, 2012

I Guess He's Not So Bad

Charlie did a good job on Sunday. We were the highest scoring team in Rally-O with a 99 and first place.
Obedience was a bust Charlie went around the jump on the recall. Oh well, more training is in our future. I will be teaching him all of the jumping exercises in obedience just to make sure he really gets the idea.
I was just proud that he did all his sits and downs on the wet morning grass!

All in all it was a good experience. However it is the first time I have seen some one purposely break the rules. A man brought a tennis ball in the ring in his pocket. I thought that maybe he had just forgotten he had it until he pulled it out to play with his dog when he left the ring. He then placed it back in his pocket and went back in for stays!
Because it is a new venue for me I thought that maybe the rules were a little different. Nope. But I was not able to pull the judge a side and ask until after judging was finished. She said she wished I had mentioned it sooner. I just really didn't want to make a scene.

Now to get ready for Rally Novice and Utility. Can't wait to get Phlox into the ring and show off a little.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


Charlie has his UKC show this Sunday. We are NOT ready. I have only managed to work in one training session since I signed him up. Luckily he took to the jump immediately making my job a lot easier.
After Sunday my attention shifts to Phlox.

I just signed Violet and Phlox up for a two day show Oct. 6-7th. Miss V will be back in the utility ring and Phlox will be doing Rally.

My goal for Violet is 1 Q out of two shows. I know we still have a few weak spots but overall her confidence and enjoyment has increased so much since July that unless there is some freak accident I believe she can pull it off.

My goal for Phlox is 95 +. This is easy for my other dogs. In fact a 95 is a low score for them but this is Phlox's very first performance show.
I think my nerves are going to kill me. Unlike my other dogs he is almost purely a product of my raising/training. I have never started from a puppy before and I want our relationship and training to demonstrate just how far I have come as a handler and trainer in the the last few years...All while making it fun...and remembering the new signs...

I'll leave you with a few pictures from last week.

Saturday, September 8, 2012


In the beginning I was determined to compete in UKC obedience and not AKC. I wanted my dogs to be APBTs and not those inferior Amstaffs. The way things turned out the UKC just did not have any clubs or events close enough to me.
To be honest I like the AKC a lot and I'm happy that I started in that organization. Also, It turns out those inferior Amstaffs are just APBTs with an uppity name.

Now back to the topic at hand. I just signed up for my very first UKC obedience and Rally trial. Unfortunately Charlie is the only one I was able to register in time. He is signed up for Rally and Obedience on the 23rd.
This will also be my first outdoor obedience trial. It is going to be a great test for Charlie. He has come a long way but I usually do not trust him off leash out side. The recall over the jump will be another challenge. I don't train jumps with him almost ever and because of that they confuse him.
I have my work cut out for me but I think it will be a wonderful experience.


Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Matter of Timing

I have been thinking a lot about different types of training and why and how they are effective. The one thing that jumps out at me is timing.

I have never seen a good trainer who did not have wonderful timing. Knowing when to react or reward, Knowing the precise moment to release and praise can make a world off difference between success and failure.

As an example I will use client A and B. They are father and son and own a medium sized mixed breed dog, Red.
A is very unsure of himself and tends to hesitate before giving a command or verbal correction. The dog will listen to him to an extent but tends to be very un reliable.
When B takes the leash he is just as unsure but pays attention to Red and both rewards and corrects in a timely manner. Because of this Red is capable of doing off leash exercises while handled by B.

Same dog, two unsure handlers. The timing makes all the difference.

It really doesn't matter what style of training you practice timing has very large part to play.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Cassin decided to help me out at an adoption event last weekend. She is getting so big :)

Sorry I lied about the wordless part.

Monday, August 6, 2012

If A Toddler Can Do it

My son always wants to help with the dogs. Since he has trained with Violet in a few classes and listens very well himself he has earned the privilege of walking Violet. Don't be fooled by Violet's extensive obedience background if she smells a sucker on the other end of the leash her manners fly out the window. My son has worked hard teaching her to listen to him. 

"Viowet down"
My son is only 3 years old. If a toddler can do it theres no reason you can't.

Note: For safety reasons they stay close enough that if needed I could give Violet a verbal command just in case.