Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Now it's been a really long while

Well, so, my person figured out how to change the text color (and did so in irritating fashion). It's been a long time since I worked on my blog, but that's not to say that I haven't been thinknig about flyball. I think about it a lot. As is usually the case with things like flyball, I continue to make a few steps forward and a few steps back. I had made some really great strides last week and even went over a couple of jumps before hitting the box.

Last Thursday, I was really, especially good and went chasing over the jumps after my person and didn't veer away even once. Good for me.

Then came Sunday. Everything was wrong. It was too early for one thing (we usually practice at 1, but on Sunday we started at 9:30). There were also lots of people there, more than usual and I just couldn't help myself. I just wanted to see them (and really wanted to see them way, way more than I wanted to do flyball).

So, everytime I got brought in, I ran away from my people and ignored them when they said "come." Me ignoring them made everyone else give my people advice on how to encourage me come, but the more they tried, the less I wanted to come. And the less I wanted to do flyball.

So, ultimately I didn't get to play very much and my person was in a bad mood for the rest of the day, which is kind of drag. I know that she was trying not to be mad at me (and truthfully, she wasn't), but I could also tell that she was really disappointed.

I wish there was some way that I could tell her what I need to make me really into playing flyball. The thing is, I'm kind of scared of new things. Like today, we were playing on the box, but I suddenly got scared of it and didn't want to play on it anymore. In fact, I didn't want to go near it at all. I think that I'm in a fear period and nothing is really going to be very exciting until I get over it.

That's o.k., though, because I know that my people are patient and don't want to push me or anything (or only push hard enough to help me build my confidence).

Friday, October 29, 2004

It's been a while

Well, hey, it's sure been a while since I've written. Believe me it weren't for lack of trying--it's just when I'm dependent on someone with opposable thumbs for getting my entries in, I kinda have to go by her schedule and lately that schedule has had little on it but W.O.R.K. I'm glad I'm a dog.

But, the good news is that i'm really starting to make serious progress. Ever since my friend Brody came to visit, I've been getting more and more focused and more and more attentive to my person. In flyball practice (which I have twice a week--once in class and once when my team practices), I'm hitting the box pretty well--mostly always getting at least three feet on the box and getting four up there about 60% of the time. The way they try to trick me to really jump is by putting a really high board (it's got to be about 2 feet high) right in front of the box, angled based on the direction I turn. That way, I have to jump over the box to hit it at all. It didn't take me long before I was doing that, but I can still make that big jump and hit the box with only three feet. They keep working though and I keep getting better.

I'm also able to go back and forth over all four jumps without noodling away to try and visit folks. I'm still a bit unsure of myself and not feeling entirely confident a lot of the time, but I'm getting better. Yesterday, I was so excited to chase my person that I did forget myself and really let loose--I gave a glimpse of the potential I have by really stretching out and single stepping between the jumps. Overall I'd say it was a good practice and I'm getting very good at paying attention to my people (though I have to say, I still REALLY love it when I get to visit--I am just still such a wiggle worm).

Thursday, October 07, 2004


Originally uploaded by Pippin Noodle.
I guess the biggest news is that I'm starting to get all four of my feet on the box. That's important for two main reasons. First, having your back legs on the box means that you can get a good push off for your return. Second, and probably more important, having all four feet on the box generally means that you're actually doing a "swimmer's turn" and being able to do that makes it a lot less harsh on your shoulders and back. That, in turn, means that you can play flyball for a lot longer and when you do have to retire, you probably won't be as prone to arthritis and other ills that plague athletes of all species when they get older (just think about all the stuff that former pro football players have to contend with...)

I also finished my agility class on Tuesday. For the most part I did pretty good and I didn't have much trouble with any individual piece of equipment--but, boy, did I ever lose my focus trying to go through 13 one right after the other. It was just too much for my 11 month old brain.

The other big news for the week-end is that my buddy Renzo and one of my people have gone all the way to Memphis for a flyball tournament. And, one of our teammates is staying with us in his place. Brody (that's him up above), is a great big boy--he's a pit bull/lab/greyhound mix. His head is about twice the size of mine and he's all legs when he runs.

He's a really nice boy, though and we've already had good fun playing in the backyard. I don't think my person is going to be strong enough to walk him, though.

It's been pretty interesting to see how he reacts to the three cats I live with (and they to him). I just had to chuckle when Inci growled and swatted at him for no good reason other than he was in her line of vision. She does that to me and Renzo, too, and I've just always thought she didn't like us. I guess she just doesn't like dogs in general. Go figure

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Where to begin??

A lot can happen in a week....Since the last time I wrote, I had my flyball class, another agility class, went to a tournament and ate a kitchen sponge. It's hard to know which of those make for entertaining reading....My flyball class was pretty fun. There are 8 dogs in the class, five of us have had some initial training and the other guys are just starting out. Our jobs during class were recalls (never really my strong suit at the club) and hitting the box, which I did pretty well, but not nearly as solidly as I do it at home (but that's always the case--home is home and away from home is, well, distracting). My recalls weren't very good because I REALLY wanted to go and see everyone else. I could tell that I wasn't doing the right thing, but I just lost control of myself. By the end, though, I was much, much better and over the week-end, my person worked with me a lot on coming. We'll see what happens at class this week.

At home, we've been working with hitting the box for a tug and my person added a new wrinkle in--she put a traffic cone in front of the box so that I really have to get all my feet on the box and can't just hit it face-on. that's working--most important thing is that I get my tug! I tugged madly while i watched the dogs at the tournament--so hard in fact that it wore out my person's arm. I also got lots of compliments because in addition to being so excited, I'm not bad to look at. Our teams did pretty well. You can see a video of our "A" team doing each of the parts (going over the jumps, hitting the box and passing).

Agility last night was pretty cool--I'm finally getting the hang of the weave poles (though I still don't get the point), and we did lots and lots of jumps, which I love. Plus the weather was really great.

I guess that's it for now--we'll leave the kitchen sponge story for another time...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Flyball and agility

Well, last night I had my agility class (agility is like a doggie obstacle course). We continued to work on the weave poles--have to say they are not my favorite and I don't really get the point of them. My person had especially bad food last night, so that sure wasn't any enticement. Plus, three of the boy dogs in the class kept going after each other and since I like to flirt with all of the, I was just in a dither. Luckily, I was able to check each one to make sure he was o.k. We also got to do some mini-courses. The first one involved going through a tunnel and then over an A-frame and then through a tire jump. that was fun and I really, really liked it (if truth be told, I was kind of bummed that I didn't get to keep doing it). The second course was going over two small jumps and then over the dog walk. that was o.k., but I think the dog walk is kind of boring. Here are some pictures of BCs doing agility.

On the flyball front, my people got a flyball box for me to practice on at home and I'm really liking it. We work on it a couple times a day adn today for the first time, I hit the box with both of my front feet and not just one. I got to tug for a long, long time for that. It was awesome. Running back to the tug is pretty fun (I don't know why Renzo doesn't like it), so I think it won't be that long before I'll do it in practice too. I start my formal flyball class tomorrow and I can't wait. I wonder how different it will be from regular practice....

Monday, September 13, 2004

Things are starting off great this week

Originally uploaded by Pippin Noodle.
I just love my fabulous life. I have so much fun and am so excited about all the experiences I get to have. Me and my buddy Renzo just got back from playing at our friends Andrew, Nancy and Monty's house. Our other friend, Zuri, was visiting too (that's her chasing Renzo last winter--they do a lot of that) and we romped and played a lot. I'm still low dog on the totem pole, so I make darned sure that the big guys know that I know my place. Andrew may find me to be a pest, but I sure don't want him to think I'm dissin' him!

Sunday's flyball practice

Well, despite my best intentions, I just wasn't able to focus on the tug at practice. There's just too much going on and so, so many people to see and greet that I lose track of myself. I did run over four jumps back and forth to my people. BUT, the only reason that I didn't run off to greet the other people was that the gating was up so that I couldn't go anywhere but over the jumps. Even though that seems like it should be a pretty easy thing to do, it's hard in such a new environment. I have to keep reminding one of my people that it'll all come together in due course. She sees how good some of my teammates (especially Cap, who grew up on the same farm that I did, but he's a week older than me--we are so proud of how well he's doing) are doing, but then I give her a quick lick and let her know that even though she may not see it, I'm soaking it all up.

tomorrow I have agility class, which I love 'cause I get to show off how athletic I am and be out in the late summer sun to boot. Even better, this week flyball class starts!! To get ready, my person and I practiced on the flyball box at home today. The flyball box is a box with a pedal on it. When a dog hits the pedal, it triggers a spring mechanism and a ball pops out. Having a "good" box is an important part of being a good flyball dog because, just like in competetive human swimming, the turn around can make all the difference. Also, like swimmers, flyball dogs tend to be fastest when they can do a "swimmer's turn". That's not always how it was, though. It used to be that the handlers actually walked the dog up to the box. Here's some more interesting facts in the history of flyball. As dogs have gotten better boxes, world records have also gotten faster. The earliest world record was held around 1985 by Canine Express and was 24.49 seconds. My team, Front Runners, were the world record holders in 1986 and 1987 (with times of 22.96 and 21.48), but now the fastest team is Spring Loaded and they just keep breaking their own records--most recently last week-end when they ran the course in 15.37.

I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to run the course in under 4 seconds--I just have to figure out how to ignore all the lovely people, other dogs, crazy barking, interesting smells and moving tennis balls. But, it'll come...

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

Flyball tournament

Big news from the week-end. My buddy Renzo ran in his first real race ever and did great (except for the last time when things were hectic and he was stressed--he crossed over the line and went to have a loud conversation with a dog from Pawsative Attitudes--he was mostly just full of hot air, but it sounded kind of scary, so he had to leave--but he'll be back).

The tournament was pretty fun and our teams got two firsts and a third (which was exactly how we were seeded). Spring Loaded broke the world record...again. This time with a run of 15.37 (or something like that). They sure do set the bar high, that's for sure.

My job at the tournament was to soak in the scene and watch some of the other dogs racing. when my person brings me to the ring, I get so excited and hyped that I need an outlet for my energy and she's always there ready to stick a tug in my mouth. I usually tug on that until the race is over and am so tuned in to the race that I tug harder than usual. i think it's as much exercise for my person as it is for me. I can't wait until I can run too--it looks like so much fun.

It was also fun to stay in a hotel--it's like being a camp. My people are very good about taking us with them, so that we don't bark in the hotel (well, we bark sometimes when we're playing, but it's not at night). The weather was pretty good, but it was hot and humid. I didn't mind that much, but I was sure glad when we got loaded into the air-conditioned car!

Our next practice is Thursday night and I'm going to really run after the tug so that everyone sees I'm read to take the next step in my training (or if I don't, I'll at least get to see some of my favorite people)

Thursday, September 02, 2004


Originally uploaded by Pippin Noodle.
And this is Mom--she's not quite as fast as pop, BUT she's also had two litters of puppies and has another one on the way (due late Oct. visit Moy Farms for more info)


Originally uploaded by Pippin Noodle.
This is my pop running flyball. He averages 3.9 (for those not in the know, that's pretty darn fast)

Eventually it clicks

It's been a big week for me--Tuesday I started my first agility class. I'm one of the younger dogs in the class. There's a pretty old Golden Retriever who's learning for the first time--she did a great job. We practiced a couple new things. "Target", which means "go out ahead of me"--my people couldn't decide on the command--first they used "get it", then "take it", then "touch", but each of those means something slightly different than "go out ahead of me" (Get it means 'fetch'; take it means "pick this up and hold it"and touch means "hit this with your nose). We also started learning to heel on the right side. My people are calling that "fuss" (the German word for "heel), because they are, well, pretty geeky, but I love them anyway.

The thing that's finally started to click for me is running after my person while she dangles the tug and then getting to play tug as a reward. For flyball, it's really good for there to be something to motivate the dog to run as fast as they can back to their person. Some dogs (like Renzo) run for food, some run to get a tennis ball, some run for a tug and some run back just so they can turn around and do it again. I'm pretty focused on tennis balls, but this week, I've started to see that tugs can be fun too. My people have been working together on this--one of them holds me back and the other one runs ahead. She starts yelling my name and says "come" and then I get released and get to run to her.

This week-end is our tournament in Vassar. I can't wait to see what's going to happen and what kind of fun we'll have.

Monday, August 30, 2004

Real competition

Originally uploaded by Pippin Noodle.
This is our team's logo--pretty neat, huh?

So, I just found out that Mom and Pop's team Rocket Relay won the Flyball competition at ESPN's Great Outdoors Games. You can read all about it.

I also found out that the A team on my team (that's Front Runners) is in the top 25 in the world rankings. Pretty cool--and we've got some awesome dogs just starting to compete (Darby the Whippet and Cajun, an All American mix--I can't always remember what she's a "mix" of, but I know that her pop is a staffordshire bull terrier, are two dogs who we're pretty excited about).

Sunday, August 29, 2004

A rainy Sunday

Well, I'm pretty excited because one of my people took me on a really long walk even though it's rainy and yucky outside. One of the tasks I'm learning (which is hard) is to not pull on the leash. The problem is that in my mind, it's pulling that gets me where I want to go, so my people are supposed to stop anytime I pull so that I learn that pulling makes me stop (one of my people sometimes does a variation on this by pulling me gently backwards so that pulling is associated with losing ground--but it really doesn't work that well). The problem is (as it almost always is when people try to train dogs) that they aren't entirely consistent, so sometimes pulling makes me go forward and sometimes it makes me stops. As one of my trainers likes to say, "dogs are gamblers, if it worked once, it might work again", so I keep hedging my bets. One thing that works well for me is getting lots of praise.

Normally, we have flyball practice on Sundays, but today the club where we practice is busy with an agility trial. We were going to go out to a teammate's farm, but it's so wet, rainy and especially muddy, that the captain decided that we should cancel.

Doesn't matter to me one way or the other since I wasn't going to get to go anyway. Since I'm still not entirely focused on going over jumps, I can't be trusted in the open.

I'm looking forward to Tuesday, when my first agility class starts. One of my teammates' person told my people today that they'll have to be careful about training me in both agility and flyball because each has slightly different expectations of how the dog-person team should work together. That was a good reminder, since I want to be first and foremost a flyball dog (though my people would also like me to be a therapy dog, but we'll have to wait a year of so before we'll know if that's something I like. One thing is that I'll have to learn not to jump on people if I want to be a therapy dog. Not sure I'm into that--jumping on people is REALLY fun and so much more polite than just standing there...).

I also heard a whisper that I might get to go to work with one of my people on Tuesday--I love that because there is a whole new set of people to greet.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Thursday is my favorite day of the week

I just love Thursdays!!! That's the day that my team has practice for new dogs (like me), so that we have time to really practice our skills. Our team is getting ready for a tournament in Vassar (I don't know where that is, but here's a link to their local newspaper. The flyball tournament, hosted by Ballistics, can be found at the "area happenings" link in case you'd like to come out and watch).

I didn't know that yesterday was Thursday and thought is was going to be another bust day. Both my people went to work--one of them came home to let me and Renzo out at lunchtime, but she left again right away and I had to go back in my crate--with no Kong or anything (I know the "crate" command pretty well, but sometimes I like to hold-out to see if I will get something enticing to keep me company. I've been trained entirely using positive reinforcement and "clicking"--check it out at Karon Pryor's website.)

Anyway, I was SOOOO excited when we got loaded into the car--I even barked along the way.

I got to have three turns. On the first one, I was pretty flakey, but it was kind of my people's fault because they tried to get me to run over the jumps facing a group of people, who were busy cutting my teammate Darby's nails (she's a shiba inu, kai inu mix--very rare indeed). Way more interesting than the jumps and the not-so-great treats that my people brought along. Plus, some of my favorite people in the whole world were there. Then, our captain suggested that my people use the ball as motivation--talk about cool. I LOVE the ball and so I got to show off a little bit and prove that I'm not a total ditz.

On my other two turns, I did pretty good. On the last one, I got to "push" on the box. That's the command flyballers use to let us dogs know that we're supposed to bang the box so that the ball will come out. It's basically a command that means "stamp on this spot". My person used the "push" command to teach me to shut cabinet drawers. It's related to "touch", which means "hit this with your nose".

It doesn't really matter, of course, what words you use as long as you know exactly what they mean. Even though we are pretty smart, dogs don't have the ability to generalize semantics (though we may be able to do "rapid mapping", as a recent study about a BC named Rico suggests) and a lot of training mishaps occur because our people think that we understand language the same way they do. We're pretty good at making it look like we understand everything they say, but really, we mostly rely on pattern recognition, which we are very skilled at (so we figure out pretty quickly what kinds of expressions and behaviors elicit what kinds of responses).

When we're learning flyball, we use a target (a CD wrapped in duct tape) to show us where we should hit the box. My person wasn't quick enough to let me know that I was doing it right, but the captain told her to tell me just as I hit the box. Once she got her timing down, we were a pretty good team.

At the end of practice, all the dogs who were still there got to have free playtime while the people cleaned up. That was great--I love running with the pack (even though I'm not so sure of myself yet that I really race everyone--not like those Jack Russell's--boy, they really, really want to have the ball. I usually give it up to them--seems like the polite thing to do and I know I'll get another chance at it).

My people like to go out to dinner after practice, but yesterday, it was pretty hot and they were tired (and for some unknown reason wanted to spend time with the *cats* who live with us), so we just went home.

Big woofs to my buddy Renzo, who did great at practice. He's been training for a long time (about 2 1/2 years) and it looks like he's starting to get pretty close to running. I'll keep you posted...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What'd I learn today?

Well, today was kind of a bust for me because my people were off at work (one of them was at home, but all she does is work on the laptop--it'd make me nuts to sit still for so long...). I did have a good long walk and do some complicated fetch games.

I also got some practice running to the tug. That's one of the skills I have to learn. There are lots and lots of others and I've got a start on all of them, but haven't yet mastered them. My buddy Renzo, can play the whole game, but he's still working on ignoring other dogs. I think when I get that far, I won't have as much trouble as he's had--but then again, we're all different.

Flyball requires attention to several different tasks: running, catching the ball, jumping over hurdles, jumping on a weird box, passing another dog, catching the tug. And basically, you learn it backwards. So, you start by running to your person, then you add in going over jumps, then you add in the box, and then you add in the ball last of all. I'm at the stage of practicing running over the hurdles to catch my people. Here's a step by step guide

Before you can do any of it, though, you have to learn to pay attention. My people have been working with me since I was 8 weeks old--I've been to four obedience classes and I'm about to start an agility class and a flyball class in the fall. So, I know a lot of commands, but right now, the world is often far more interesting than the jobs my people think up for me (isn't that often the case?). So, they are working hard to make themselves more interesting to me and I'm working sort of hard (well, at least I'm working) at being interested in paying attention to them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004


What's flyball? A totally wacky, frenetic relay race between teams of four dogs--the best antidote to academia and politics that there is. You can find out about it here . My team is Frontrunners. You can find me on the "dogs in training" page along with my good buddy, Renzo. I am 91/2 months old and have been going to tournaments since I was 8 weeks old. Both my parents play flyball. Their team is Rocket Relay in Ontario Canada (the website isn't super up-to-date). My pop is N-R-G and Mom is Ness from Moy Hall Farm. In fact, my full name is Pippin Moy (but at home I'm known as Pippin Noodle).