Friday, October 21, 2011

Such Fun!

Letty and her rubber chicken

Letty and I both enjoyed her first puppy class.  I was a bit concerned about how she would handle all the dogs, but she did well and had a wonderful time, especially during the free time when the pups could run and play together.

I admit to being a dog snob, and I love watching beautiful purebred puppies.  We arrived early to watch the class before us, currently on week 5 of the 6-week class.  Between the two classes there were many lovely pups destined for show careers, as well as a number of obviously well-bred purebreds.  What a variety!  Letty's classmates included a Bernese Mountain Dog, a Standard Poodle, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi, a Pug, and two Goldens.  I noticed a lovely Bullmastiff in the earlier class, and recognised a number of show people in that class.  Each class had about 15 puppies and two instructors.

Our first night was spent working on getting pups to respond to their names, teaching sits, and coming close enough to be grabbed by the collar, the groundwork for coming when called.  Everything was done with treats, small tidbits dispensed by the owners as well as the trainers.  Every time the trainers came by Letty was expecting more treats of course.  We started just the basics for controlled lead walking which will be Letty's toughest exercise as she already wants to be out in front of me, leading the way.  You could identify all the little show pups who were already conditioned to pockets - they know where the treats are kept!  Letty kept free baiting for the trainers, watching them, squaring up, and waiting for a reward.  She handled everything very well and was totally comfortable about the other pups.

The most interesting part was the puppy play time, where the pups were divided into larger/older and smaller/younger groups.  I was given my choice and went with the larger pups because Letty is used to playing with Dals and Shepherds. Right choice.  She was the star of the show, the most playful and interested in other dogs.  We certainly resolved the nervousness with other dogs!  Letty and her largest classmate, a handsome red curly dog who was probably a Goldendoodle, had a wonderful time racing, leaping, and dodging amongst their slower moving classmates.  I suspect that next week the Standard Poodle boy will join in too, but he was just a bit overwhelmed last night.  Like her father, Letty used body language to invite other pups to play with them. 

The last few minutes were spent "passing the puppy", standing in a large circle, greeting the person to our left, telling them our puppy's name and handing them the leash.  We talked to our new charges, gave them treats, and passed them on.   Again, Letty thought that was great fun, something I never expected her to enjoy.

Our instructor is a show/performance person who told me several times how much she liked Letty, and what a great attitude she had.   Guess we found just the right place to train.  Can't wait 'til next week!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dog School

Monday was Argie's night to start school and he did wonderfully well.  Wish I had a picture of the expression on his face as we were heeling along with a group of silly teen-aged dogs, an "exactly WHY are we doing this?"  kind of expression.  He knows the exercises and did them willingly in class.  Project for this week is working on straight sits and fronts.  Because I have tendinitis in my left shoulder (thanks to the dogs of course, and all the times they have attempted to rip off my arms in pursuit of a squirrel) that will be aggravated by this, Argus is being trained on a prong collar.  Nope, it's not cruel when used properly and we refer to prongs as "power steering for dogs".  Ah, a great topic for a blog post!

Letty on the other hand will be trained on a simple buckle collar.  She's small and still a light-weight and doesn't pull much, but I'll still have to be careful.  Every time I keep a pup my shoulder gives me trouble, so I have to work around that.  Letty knows a number of commands already, sit, down, stay, stand, walk, and come, but we shall see if she remembers anything in the stress/excitement of a class.  I don't normally take my pups to puppy class, doing my socialization at pet stores and dog shows, but we have no more shows coming up and Letty needs more work.

My pups are generally what I would call "foolishly friendly" and love all people and most dogs.  The biggest problem I have is to keep them from mugging everyone they meet.  Argus has always loved everyone and all dogs, and most of his kids are like that.  Letty is not wired that way and takes a few minutes to make up to strangers.  I could "feel" that in her body from the time she was 3 weeks old, when it was quite obvious that she had already categorized people as "Sue" and "everyone else".   She's fine about situations and is not sound sensitive, just does not care to have people reaching for her.  The fact that she is so incredibly cute means that everyone reaches for her!  She really prefers her space.   She's the same way about dogs, although has gotten much better about strange dogs.  Letty does remember her friends though and covers them with kisses.  Our goal is to get her to assume that everyone is her friend.  Pups under the age of 4 months are incredibly trainable, so we are working to "modify" this part of her personality.  Puppy training classes are a wonderful tool.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

What A Weekend!

What a fun weekend!  Our trip to Kansas went according to plan.  We had a wonderful time, the dogs showed well, and we accomplished our goals for the weekend.   The Specialty was such fun.  Although the Saturday and Sunday shows were in a horse arena with packed dirt floor (fine for showing Dals), the Specialties were in a lovely bright, clean, modern building.  Back to back Specialty shows, morning and afternoon, with reasonable judging, nice entries, lovely trophies, an excellent luncheon, and the weather was perfect!  Friends from as far away as Texas and Canada made for a fun get-together, as many of us will not see one another until the spring specialties or the National in May. 

Our motel was so nice.  We've stayed there before and appreciated the large rooms, comfortable beds, lots of grass for walking and a wonderful breakfast bar.  We were about 20 miles from Lawrence, but traffic was never a problem, and the $1.60 toll for driving an excellent stretch of freeway was OK.  Jess and I even discovered an excellent and affordable Mexican Restaurant with very VERY good Margaritas - or rather Sally Forth, my trusty Garmin, found it.  Off the beaten path too, so the football crowds were not a problem.  We liked it so well we came back the next night with friends!

Letty had a great time as there were other Dal pups her age.  She particularly enjoyed spending time in the large x-pen with her sister Weather and another Dal girl of about the same age.  Letty was great in the motel room, never fussed in her crate, and learned to pee and poop immediately when taken out on lead - an important thing for future show dogs to learn!  Some pups are not comfortable in elevators, but she never missed a step.  The only thing she had a problem with were all the people in  costume who were staying at our motel and performing at the Renaissance Festival nearby.  She did have to stop and stare at some of the very strange looking people!

This was Eddy's first outing and he performed like a star.   I made the decision to show him when I saw him a month ago, but Jess had never seen him before and I'm sure was wondering about my sanity when I decided we would pick up an untrained 11-month old puppy boy on the way to the show, and expect him to be a showdog.  His owner lives in a small town with little access to training classes, but she has trained show dogs before, and while Eddie was staying in Canada last spring he got some good training.  What a little star he was!  He and Jess really clicked, Eddie caught on fast, tried very hard, and was such good little guy.  He did far more than we had anticipated!
Our goals for the weekend were finishing Lucy's championship, finishing Argus's bronze-level Grand Championship, training Eddie, and socializing Lucy.  Mission accomplished at the first show.  Lucy charmed the crowd and the judge, and went Best of Winners for a 5-point Specialty major, her second, and won the Award of Merit as well.  Argus went Select Dog and showed beautifully for a 5 point GCh major (he needed 3 to finish).  Eddie was the big surprise though as he went Best Junior In Sweeps, and Reserve Winners Dog in a major, topping that with Winners Dog for a major at the second show!   Good boy, Eddie!  We took show pictures, of course, but stopped to get some shots of Eddie on the way home.  Such a handsome little guy, and a fabulous temperament too.

Argus started his obedience class last night.  Stayed tuned!