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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?

Easter 2019

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Happy Birthday, Twinkie

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Happy Birthday, Twinkie.  Twinkie was my first dog and the center of my universe. Because of her, I fell in love with this amazing breed. Although she has been gone for almost twelve years, I still think about her every day.❤️

‘Twas the night before Christmas

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Happy Birthday!

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My Min Pins turned 11 years old today.  I cannot believe how quickly the years have gone by.


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Quest waited patiently for her cake.

 

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Aspen waited patiently for her cake.

 

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Malibu was not patient and grabbed her cake before the plate reached the floor. Fortunately, the candles were not eaten.😳

 

Happy Howloween

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Snow White and her tiny super heroes

Full of Crap

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IMG_2749My dogs are full of crap. Literally. All three of them are totally full of it. And guess who gets to clean it up? Yep, that would be mostly me. My husband is definitely a part timer when it comes to scooping poop. How such tiny dogs can create so much poop astounds me. Where does it even come from? Well, I know where it comes from, but how do they stockpile so much of it?

Since puppyhood my Min Pin crew has kept me ever vigilant whenever they are outside in our backyard. It seems like one of them is always about to poop, is pooping, or has just pooped. Therefore, I am on a constant state of poop patrol. Poop must be dealt with immediately, or else. (If inquiring minds want to learn why this is an urgent matter, read my post, Dirty Little Secret.) Luckily, we live on a wooded lot and can just toss poop on the other side of our fence. It is much more convenient than bagging all of their poop.

Speaking of bagging poop, on walks I carry plenty of poop bags. I can’t just simply leave my house with a couple of poop bags in my pocket like a normal person out walking their dogs. If I am taking just two of my dogs out for a thirty minute stroll I can easily return with seven (yes, that is 7) poop bags. To be fair, some of the bags may only hold the tiniest piece of poop, but I am a follower of our township ordinance and pick up anything that can be picked up. Of course, some poop just can’t be picked up if you know what I mean. That does happen frequently and I always feel guilty about it. If I could carry my garden hose on walks with me, I would.

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One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when fellow dog walkers do not pick up after their dog. How difficult is it to bend over and pick up your dog’s crap? And I don’t want to hear excuses about not having a bag or that poop bags are too expensive. In a pinch, I have used an empty Starbucks cup (My apologies for that visual 😳). My point is that you do not have to spend any money in order to pick up poop. Be creative and find something that works for you.

Myself, I like a sturdy poop bag. I don’t want anything too thin or flimsy. I usually buy a ten or twelve pack of bags and they last for awhile. The latest bags are even scented. Honeysuckle, I believe. That may come in handy for a random bag of poop that gets left in my car overnight. That happens at least once a month because our local state park has a “carry trash out” policy. So being the law abiding citizens that we are, after a nice walk my husband and I pack up the dogs and their poop into the vehicle. Once home, bagged poop is sometimes forgotten about and left in the back of my SUV. The next day, upon opening my vehicle’s door a noxious odor hits me, and I immediately remember the forgotten poop. Ugh!

With our dogs being such avid poopers it is not easy to take them places that are populated with many people. Due to their reactive behavior we try to walk in areas that are desolate anyway so it works out for the best.

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Cheesequake State Park – April 2017

 

If you happen to see me while I am walking my dogs you will easily recognize me because I am the one with leashed Min Pins in one hand and multiple bags of poop in the other hand. Feel free to say, “Hello!”

 

 

Happy Dogust!

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Bad Dog

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When my dogs were puppies I purchased an agility starter set for our backyard. It was summertime and I thought it would be an exciting activity for my high-energy pups. Fun was had by all as they learned to jump, run through the tunnel, and work the weave poles. I soon knew that I would look for an agility class once the girls were older.

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Aspen and Malibu enjoying a tug in the tunnel.

A year later Malibu and I began attending weekly classes and I immediately fell in love with the sport.  Initially, Malibu’s reactivity was kept at bay because her food motivation kept her focus on me. But it wasn’t long before Malibu began to make it clear that she did not enjoy playing with other dogs nearby. A few new dogs joined the class which worsened the situation.  Malibu would lunge at most of the dogs that got too close to her. Whenever Malibu went over threshold, the instructor, who I will refer to as Cindy, would ask me to take Malibu off to a corner of the room. While there, I would use attention games to calm Malibu down and regain her focus.

In short time, Malibu’s behavior began to put a damper on our group classes. It was hard to concentrate on the agility tasks while managing Malibu’s reactive outbursts. On top of that, I was embarrassed and wished that my dog behaved like the other dogs in class. I cannot say enough kind words about the other members of the group. Despite Malibu’s issues, I was never made to feel unwelcome.

In fact, I became close friends with another woman in the class. Joanne attended class with her Shetland Sheepdog, Charlie. For some reason, Malibu never reacted towards Charlie. In fact, she was so comfortable with Charlie that they could take walks together and even share an ex-pen.  Joanne was able to empathize with my situation since her other dog had reactive tendencies. Once in awhile Joanne and I would rent the agility facility or field for private practice. When it was just Joanne, myself, and our dogs, it was perfect. Malibu was able to relax and practice the agility skills that would be required if we were to begin competing.

 

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Malibu works the weave poles during a private practice session.

 

Over time Cindy, the instructor, began to lose her patience with Malibu. During one class Malibu stole a treat off of another dog’s target plate so Cindy picked Malibu up, rolled her on her back, and held her there. That really ticked me off because another dog had done the same thing and it either went unnoticed by Cindy or it didn’t warrant a consequence.  After that incident Cindy no longer suggested that I separate Malibu from the group. Instead, Cindy wanted me to correct Malibu the way she had demonstrated, but I was not comfortable doing that to my dog.

Cesar Milan’s show, The Dog Whisperer, was popular during that time so Cindy’s technique was not foreign to me, but I preferred that it not be used on my seven pound dog.  At the time it just seemed mean to do that to a dog. Being naive, I did not understand the emotional and psychological damage that is inflicted upon a dog when they are on the receiving end of an individual who utilizes dominance theory in order to change a behavior.

The final straw broke during an agility workshop at Cindy’s house. It was a hot summer morning and we had decided to take a brief break. We all knew that Cindy had recently gotten a puppy, but I had no idea that she would bring it out while we were there. As soon as I saw the puppy enter the backyard I became nervous. I knew  how Malibu would react if it came near us. There was no time to exit before Cindy began to proudly parade her puppy towards the group. Malibu lunged and growled as soon as the puppy invaded our space and Cindy went off on us in front of everyone. She screamed, “You’re not going to do that to MY dog”. There were a few more words from Cindy as all eyes were on me. I stayed for the rest of the workshop, but my heart wasn’t in it.

Looking back, I wish I had just taken Malibu and left with my head held high. Why did Cindy need to show off her puppy while Malibu was present? Cindy was fully aware of Malibu’s reactivity and should have known better. If she had asked me to take Malibu and leave the backyard for a few minutes while she brought her puppy out to meet everyone I would have been fine with that.

After that experience I knew that I would be ending my relationship with Cindy. Malibu deserved better, and so did I. From the beginning, Malibu was treated differently than the other dogs in our class. She was bullied by Cindy and I allowed it to happen. To this day I feel tremendous guilt when I think about Malibu’s first agility class. I assumed that the instructor had Malibu’s best interest in mind and knew what she was doing. This was my first foray into any type of dog sport, so what did I know? Since then, I have learned that it is my job to be my dogs’ advocate. If something doesn’t seem right I need to speak up, and if deemed necessary,  take my dog and just walk away.

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