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Batman Day

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Quest – “Why are we wearing costumes when it is not Halloween?”

Malibu – “Mom already told us why. Weren’t you listening?”

Quest – “No, I was tuning her out because she talks too much! 🙉

Malibu – “Why is Aspen sticking her tongue out at Mom?”

Quest – “Aspen is mad because she never gets to be Batman. She always has to be Robin.” “Oh, btw, I was just kidding about not listening to Mom. She said we are wearing these costumes in honor of Batman Day.”

Happy Batman Day!

 

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Going for the Q

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Once Team Malibu had finally earned its first qualifying AKC agility run in JWW (jumps with weaves) I was feeling more confident than I had in a long time. “We can do this”, I began thinking. And we did, but only in JWW. The Standard courses were stressful for Malibu and I began to feel like I was forcing her to do something that she didn’t want to do. While at trials Malibu definitely enjoyed her one on one time with me, but she lacked the joy that I hoped she would experience during her time on the course.

The AKC environment was tough on both of us. Tension runs high in the AKC world of agility and it permeates the atmosphere. Many competitors take the sport of dog agility very seriously and sadly I witnessed dogs being verbally abused if they didn’t perform well in the ring.  I too wanted to do well, but I certainly wasn’t going to berate my dog if we didn’t earn a Q (qualifying run). Sure, my goal was to qualify in our events otherwise I wouldn’t be there. Most AKC agility competitors dream of earning a MACH (Master Agility Champion) title and I was no different, but I soon learned that not all dogs can withstand the pressure of performing in such a stressful environment.

Malibu loved agility in our backyard, so it was sad for me to see a different side of her while running a course at trials. Not a social dog to begin with, I was not very surprised that Malibu was no fan of the trial environment. I thought that over time her desire to play would supersede her fear and anxiety.

We continued to compete in AKC agility and I was incredibly proud of Malibu when we earned our first AKC title, NAJ (Novice Agility Jumpers).               Malibu's first agility title2

We went on to earn our OAJ (Open Agility Jumpers) title.

We were then competing at the Excellent level in JWW, but still had not earned a Q in Novice Standard.  Despite having no issues at home or in our classes, the contact obstacles and chute (which is no longer used by most agility venues) were scary for Malibu at trials. In hindsight, I wish I had stopped entering Standard events since Malibu had made it quite clear that she did not enjoy running those courses.

At some point, I began entering less trials and even stopped going to agility classes with Malibu. I was frustrated and disappointed, but also experiencing guilt for expecting too much from my sensitive Malibu. We just could not get past this roadblock standing in our way. She could not get through a Standard course at a trial and despite our qualifying runs, did not seem too keen on even running the JWW courses. I didn’t want to quit, but I recognized that Malibu was never going to be comfortable in the AKC trial environment and began to accept that reality.

By now, we were mostly competing in AKC agility. CPE (Canine Performance Events) is another agility organization and our very first trial experience. Although we did not leave that trial with a ribbon, the venue proved to be more to Malibu’s liking. The vibe at CPE trials is much friendlier and Malibu usually performed well. It was almost like competing with a different dog when I ran Malibu at these events. Unfortunately, CPE trials were seldom within a reasonable driving distance for my anxious canine passenger. Ninety minutes was usually the maximum amount of time I would drive to a trial due to Malibu’s nervousness while riding in the car.

Malibu CPE titles

Malibu, the CPE Rockstar

I don’t recall how I learned about TDAA (Teacup Dogs Agility Association), but I was interested in learning more and seeing if it would be a better fit for Team Malibu. There was an upcoming trial and I planned to attend. Maybe this venue would allow Malibu to finally enjoy agility away from home and show off her talent. If not, then it was time to walk away from a sport that I had grown to love for a dog who I loved more.

 

Patriotic Pups

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Happy Mindependence Day 2019!

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Half Birthday Celebration

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On Monday, June 17th, we celebrated the Min Pins’ 11 and a HALF birthday.

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I would have preferred a photo of  just the kids with their cake, but Quest was not in the mood to sit with her sisters. I seem to be the only one smiling, if you consider my expression a smile.😬

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Yum!  This is a rare treat for this crew!

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This is the second time I have purchased this cake mix from Amazon for my Min Pins. They LOVE it!  Leftovers are frozen and enjoyed for weeks.

 

 

Banking It

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Waiting patiently in the bank drive-thru for their cookies.  🙂

New Beginning

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Despite our disappointing first trial, I did not want to give up my hopes for competing in agility with Malibu. Our previous instructor had not instilled confidence in Team Malibu. On the contrary, she stole our confidence and left me feeling doubtful about our future in the sport that I had quickly grown to love.

After leaving Cindy’s agility class, I decided to register Malibu in a class taught by Ann, Aspen’s instructor. Aspen and Malibu would be in separate classes, not just because Malibu had more experience, but I did not want to deal with the stress of having both dogs in the same class. I also enjoyed the one-on-one time spent with each dog.

It was fantastic to have Malibu in a class with an instructor who was fun and positive. Her style was never intimidating or authoritative and I didn’t have to worry about Malibu being alpha rolled or verbally abused. Unfortunately, I could see that the emotional damage from Cindy’s treatment was already done. Malibu appeared less certain of her abilities and lacked the enthusiasm that she once had while running an agility course. I felt incredibly guilty that I allowed Cindy to use punishment-based methods on my dog.

Managing Malibu during Ann’s class was easier even though she was still dog reactive. I had learned what worked best for Malibu and that was space. Providing Malibu with distance between herself and other dogs allowed her to feel more relaxed and less threatened.

We soon began entering AKC (American Kennel Club) trials. It did not take long to realize that AKC trials were highly charged environments where I could feel the tension in the air.  At trials I could never let my guard down and remained focused on Malibu the entire time. Although the indoor trial locations usually had crating rooms, I crated Malibu in the car while we waited for our run to avoid adding to her stress.

We NQ’d (did not qualify) over and over at our trials despite doing a great job in class. Our Standard runs were mentally hard for Malibu. She would frequently avoid contact obstacles and the chute (AKC no longer uses this piece of equipment for safety reasons).  Our JWW (Jumps with Weaves) runs were not as bad, but Malibu was still not focused enough to show her potential.  I realized that even though Malibu was an agility rock star in our backyard and had solid runs in class, the trial atmosphere added additional layers of stress that may prove to be too much for Malibu.

In February 2011, almost two years after enrolling in our first agility class, Team Malibu earned its first Q (qualifying run) in JWW at Dream Park in South Jersey.  It was an amazing feeling.  This achievement, that at times seemed unattainable, filled me with incredible joy. I was extremely proud of Malibu for her commitment and dedication.

 

I left the trial that day with renewed confidence and excited that we were finally on our way. Team Malibu had jumped a hurdle, both literally and figuratively, and was ready to move forward in this fun and addictive sport.

 

 

Game On

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Malibu’s agility class experience was problematic almost from the very beginning. In my article, Bad Dog, I detailed our first class and instructor. When I look back at that time, I always feel a sense of “if I knew then what I know now”.  As soon as I began to have doubts about Cindy (our instructor), I should have left that class. Instead, I allowed Cindy to bully Malibu for months.

About six months after Malibu began taking agility classes with Cindy, I registered Aspen for her first class at the same facility, but with a different instructor.  Ann was a kind and patient teacher. She did not favor certain dogs or grab dogs and alpha roll them in an attempt to dominate them. I instantly wished that she had been Malibu’s first instructor.

From a very young age Aspen was an ideal agility dog. Fast and fearless, she had no issues with any obstacles on an agility course. “She’s very athletic”, commented Ann as Aspen flew over the jumps with ease.

Unlike Malibu, Aspen was not reactive in class which kept my stress at bay. Although I did not have to micromanage Aspen as I did Malibu, I did have to deal with a different issue. Aspen seemed to enjoy running agility courses, but she also showed great interest in going off sniffing and exploring the building. At times, I became frustrated. Here I had a dog with huge potential, but she would sometimes prefer to sniff. I was familiar with displacement/avoidance behaviors that dogs may exhibit when they are stressed, but it truly appeared that Aspen took great pleasure in the joy of sniffing. Unless I was able to get Aspen to remain focused on agility we weren’t going to get very far.

During this time, Malibu was still taking classes with Cindy. Things had not yet come to a head. By now, Malibu and I had been taking classes for almost a year and thoughts of entering our first competition began to enter my mind. A CPE (Canine Performance Event) trial was coming up in a few months and I decided to enter. About a month before the trial, I severed ties with Cindy. She had finally gone too far and I was finished with her and her delusions of dominance.

The day of the CPE trial arrived and I was both excited and nervous. No longer taking classes with Cindy, I was a bit on edge when I spotted her at the trial. She was not competing, but present to support another student from my former class. We did not speak to one another which was probably for the best.

After the judge’s briefing, I walked the novice agility course with my fellow competitors. It was a simple beginner course that appeared easy since our practice courses were typically on the challenging side. Not wanting to miss my turn, I kept a close eye on the running order as I anxiously waited to run the course with Malibu. Watching the dogs before us run the course I was confident that Malibu could successfully complete the course. Then, something happened that changed my mind. The dog running one or two places ahead of us stopped and urinated on the course. I had a feeling that this would be trouble for us, and it was.

It was finally our turn to enter the ring. Malibu began the course and was doing a fantastic job until she got near the spot where the dog had urinated. (Ring crew had diluted the grassy area with water as is customary when a dog eliminates). Malibu became distracted, and like a magnet was drawn to the area. Ugh! I couldn’t believe it and was so disappointed. Since Malibu stopped running and went “off course” we had officially NQ’d (did not qualify).

Unfortunately, this was to be the first NQ in a long list of agility NQs for Team Malibu. Not a quitter, I knew we needed a fresh start and planned to enroll Malibu in one of Ann’s classes.  Her personality and teaching style would be a better fit for us.

Although our first competition was not a success, I enjoyed the trial atmosphere and looked forward to competing again. But which dog would be ready, Malibu? Aspen? Or, both?

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