Thursday, March 30, 2017

Enjoying Agility...All Of Us.


There was a recent discussion on the Fenzi Dog Sports Academy Alumni list about a couple of blogs going around (don't have the links...sorry, busy morning! But it mainly centered around sportsmanship, and trial behavior (for humans).

The discussion was excellent, lots of really good points. I ended up responding to this thread. I thought I would post it here. I haven't blogged in a long time, I know that. And I hope to blog more :) So here is my response:

Being that I have to coach people on their behavior now and then on World Teams (Assistant Coach IFCS 2014--Coach WAO Team USA 2015-2017 and I am re upping my contract for the next two years...I think?? ;-) I have maybe a different view of things.

World Team competition is a pressure cooker of expectation…we all have sides that come out when the heat is on. I feel mental management is very crucial to the success of an individual and a team.

Do they have more pressure than a person who just wants to compete on the weekends? I cannot say that. I think we ALL have challenges that trouble us. We all have goals. And we want to meet those goals. So this “us versus them” mentality…I think that creates divides. I do not like separation. I think every time a team steps to the line, they are all facing challenges. Who am I to say that someone’s challenges are BIGGER? I am not.

So here is some food for thought about behavior/sportsmanship/supporting others.

The things I tell people to ask themselves and think about:

If someone came to the trial and knew NOTHING about this sport, would they be ok with your behavior? If there is any doubt in your mind, assume your behavior is inappropriate and stop it.

Does you behavior resemble a toddler age child in ANY WAY other than pure joy and happiness when you exit the ring with your canine teammate? If so, stop it.

If you need to “process” please go somewhere that you can do that freely. AWAY FROM OTHERS. I have no issues with disappointment, but emotions do change those around you. And that includes your teammates/friends/dogs.

TEN MINUTE RULE: After a not so great run, you can go process for 10 minutes…if you need more time, take more time. But do not come back to the group until you are done processing and can emerge. LET IT GO. You have to or it will cause issues in your next runs. Work on getting that processing time down to 10 minutes or less (mental management).

Please PLEASE leave people alone after their runs. Give them time to process, to be with their dog (because what is agility without a dog?) and if they come to YOU and ask YOU…THEN you can talk to them. But unsolicited comments are not needed. Please refrain.

If someone doesn’t follow this rule (usually because they want to try to help a friend)…just nicely explain to them you want to spend time with your dog. I do this a lot and people completely understand. For the "thieves of joy" well...just understand that, their behavior is a reflection of them...not you. Still be kind.

BE KIND. ALWAYS BE KIND. To yourself, to your fellow competitors, to your dog, to the ring crew. BE KIND. You do not know what others are struggling with.

Your dog is the reason you are here competing. NEVER FORGET THIS.

These go for any competitor as far as I am concerned. We all want to have fun. It just requires some changes in behavior for many of us (myself included—I am human too!)

Agility is made of lots of new folks and people that are wanting to have fun. I love that. You should too!!! These people are the next stars! The next supporters of the sport! The next teams for World Teams! It starts with fun. So support each other. Be a community! When it starts becoming “it is all about me”…that is when our agility community suffers.

NOW…for the other part of the discussion…the “at the top folks”.

Here is what I tell my team members: If you are in the spotlight (one of the top folks as many are saying here in this thread) it is YOUR JOB to set an example. EVERYONE is watching you. And the price you pay for being at the top is that you MUST HOLD YOURSELF TO A HIGHER STANDARD. That is reality. You can accept it, or you don’t have to, but negative behavior from a person at the higher level will be scrutinized so much more. ALWAYS SET AN EXAMPLE. That is YOUR job. Not someone else’s.

Now, I will go back to getting ready for my next Fenzi Class AG 120: Agility Basics 2: Handling, click below to check it out!
It is going to be a blast!! FDSA is a really awesome, supportive online dog training school! 

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

What do YOU want??

 OK so now that we have that pesky housekeeping out of the way, time to get to some fun stuff.

If you are just checking in, go check out the previous blog post, What the Heck Happened so you can get caught up a bit.

I want to know...what do YOU want me to talk about? Ask anything in the comment section please! Then I can take those ideas and run with it! I think this could be fun.
© Loretta Mueller 2016. All Rights Reserved. Do not use without permission.
Apparently I have to put that on all my photos now as there is a person on Instagram who has been stealing my photos, and putting them up as her dogs. With some very interesting stories! Lynn is blind and her name is Secret, and Even is deaf. WOW...and here I am doing AGILITY with Lynn! 

I mean...LOOK AT THIS ABUSE!!! Forcing a blind dog to jump a tire!
© Great Dane photos 2012. All Rights Reserved. Do not use without permission. Just in case...

I mean, how did this dog win a regional and run at Nationals?? ;-)

Does this mean I have made it big when people steal my dog photos and post them as their own? Not to mention she has been entering contests with the photos. AWESOME!

So I guess I have arrived...I think that is the lesson here. Or something...

So...I am looking for your questions! Pertaining to dog training of course :) ASK AWAY! I am excited about what you all come up with!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

What The Heck Happened?? has been a VERY LONG TIME since I last blogged...why you ask?

Well...LIFE. Life happened.

And not just normal life, but IN YOUR FACE, DO NOT IGNORE IT life...that kind that really makes you stop, center yourself, and BREATHE THROUGH IT because that is all you can do.

These kids don't care...they just go with the flow.

"Fear is only temporary. Regret is forever."

This has been a time of change for me...

I faced my fears, I jumped when my brain told me "NO" and although a tough road...I am finally feeling like I have things in some kind of order.

Now that life is a bit easier...I  am hoping I can blog more. So let's start.

I haven't competed with my pups this year, after being involved in a car accident with Gator, Lynn and Gig, it took many months for everyone to come back. Then Lynn cut her foot badly, damaged an ligament, now healed. And Gator...he had some major back issues...
Gig, she wasn't ready. So no trialing for us.

But in a way, that was a good thing...I explored my teaching more, I explored my coaching more, and had time to really evaluate my life. Which was very needed.

I miss trialing now...I really am excited about going! The dogs are all healed, Gig is ready, so forward we go!

I live in a new place...which I really's ME. And I am happy about that.

Now onto agility...

I would like you to ask yourself, if you had ONE YEAR where you could not do agility...what would you do? 

Would you take up hobbies, travel? What would be your answer? I would love to know in the comments section if you have time.

This year off has really changed my thoughts on competition, training and just the dogs. 
Because really, it is all about the dogs right?
My dogs have enjoyed training. The trialing is for ME.

I am staying busy teaching seminars, online classes, and my weekly students who I adore.

But for is time to come back to something I missed but, it had to be put on the back burner for awhile.

So HI EVERYONE! I have missed you all! 

I also have a new website up! It is still being updated, but I thought I would share!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Threshholds and Gig

It has been a VERY long time since I have blogged!!! It has been a very busy summer, fall and winter here in Full Tilt land. Many seminars, and working with my puppy.  It feels great to get back to blogging and I appreciate your patience in my absence!
I have started teaching classes for Denise Fenzi!!! It is a BLAST!! So far I have done some Basics of Handling classes and a Foundation Jumping class. It is a blast and I am so inspired by my students! You can see the class I am teaching this session starting Feb 1st!
There are also many other classes available! Go check it out!
Ok back to Gig!!!
Sadly Gig ended up getting her leg caught in a wire kennel while running around like a crazy dog and tore her Supraspinatus muscle in her right shoulder. 4 months of rehab, and now we are working her back up. She is doing GREAT! We are just working on getting her back to her full potential in regards to fitness. Thus...this didn't leave me much I could do in the training department. Which then brings me to today's blog post. I was asked by a person on FB how I approach problem solving this type of issue with a dog. So here goes!
Gig is 10 months old. She is totally sound now, and is taking walks with the pack. She is a VERY motion sensitive dog...which is normal and expected for a herding bred Border Collie :) Unfortunately, I normally get this under control as a young puppy, but I guess Gig didn't really time her injury so that I could get this dealt with :) SO...Thanks Gig :)
Gig's main issue we are currently working on is getting her brain to engage on tasks OTHER than finding motion in her environment. When she is working on skills by herself she is WONDERFUL, focused and we introduce distractions she is GREAT, until we get to dogs :) Gig spent most of the past 4 months in an x-pen. She didn't get to play with dogs and I couldn't allow her to even walk with the dogs on leash as she would go crazy...she is super friendly and loves dogs. Great!!!! BUT...I need that connection to me when they are present.
So as you can see in this video...she can for sure recall. But then wants to redirect to the pack.
 Which is normal her breed has been bred for HUNDREDS of years to work motion. I am asking her to go against instinct! Tough choice for this girl!!
So I break her behavior into levels of thresholds that she can or cannot manage, this is how my brain processes every issue I have with a dog (they all have issues BTW)...
The definition of a threshold is: the magnitude or intensity that must be exceeded for a certain reaction, phenomenon, result, or condition to occur or be manifested---in this example, for Gig's grey matter to ooze out of her ear canals. Figuratively speaking...I think :-)
NOTE: Red Zone here does NOT be aggression!!! It means that she just is mentally so immersed into the motion she cannot take ANY rewards and doesn't have a clue I exist!!!
So the diagram is showing you were we have started (so boring dogs and then rewards). We are now going to the GREEN ZONE...or a variation of this. The rewards I have available (for the sake of me taking video of this myself and trying to reward I have not used a tug toy) cheese (HIGH REWARD) Zukes (medium reward) and kibble (lower reward). I can use this to see where Gig is mentally. If she takes the low value kibble, she is in a very focused and happy state. If she stops taking the kibble, I will then up the reward because we are getting into the threshold that starts bothering her (aka the motion is too much and she wants to disengage).  If she stops taking the medium then I know I am really starting to push those boundaries (necessary at times!!!!) and I will go to a high reward. IF I am in the high reward circle, I have to be VERY careful to keep that short!!! If she won't take anything, I have pushed her way too far. I need to back up.
NOTE: Because I have 7 dogs, I will say my dogs name before commanding them.
Here is an example of Gig's M.O...motion happening, she KNOWS she needs to come when called...but likes to take the treat and then IMMEDIATELY disengage...but THIS TIME she actually makes a HUGE step forward!!!! Doesn't leave AND then actually gives me a slight wave!!! Think in terms of the "Smallest Change, Slightest Try"...she gave me a TINY wave, I need to acknowledge that!! If I don't she will just not engage because she is TRYING SO HARD TO BE RIGHT! GOOD GIRL GIG!!!!
Remember after all these little decisions, she is released BACK to the pack. So she starts understanding that this not only gets her high rates of reinforcement, but it also gets her permission to engage back with the pack!
Here is a good example of me putting Gig way over threshold and also being a bad trainer and missing a try. There are dogs running around...she is doing all she can to stay engaged.
 AND, I should have been happy with that, but I wanted the wave, asked for it in fact (where as before I was wanting her to offer it) response but her trying to stay connected to me. I SHOULD have rewarded that! I upped the ante here, went into a higher threshold point and she couldn't handle this. She then offers me a TINY wave and I did not reward!!!!!! I MISSED THAT MOMENT! BAD LORETTA!!!! GOOD GIG!!! We all make mistakes.
 Luckily for me she offers that slight try again :) And the stupid human rewards :)
So I back off all the motion...and go back to a place where she can function. I do say the word NO here...but for my dogs that just means you won't get a reward :) It doesn't mean evil things :)
Yes I do believe in JACKPOTS!! Her entire demeanor has changed :) She is focusing, she is offering. GOOD GIRL GIG!!!!
 So now I am getting the focus I need...I then will up the ante a bit as you can see. Gator does this for me and Gig cannot catch treats while focusing her energy towards following commands :) That is OK. You can see how she focuses, then as I add movement from the other dogs...she loses it for a second. But regains it :) GOOD GIRL GIG!
She is thinking through all this and working on centering herself! I love this process and seeing all those little changes!!!
 This was just on one walk...using cheese and zukes (the kibble would not have been a hit here).
Sometimes I will use toys, in that case the toy breakdown is: HIGH LEVEL (ball on a rope and tugging), Medium level: This weird stretching armed toy (tugging) and finally Low Level: squeaky toy.
The idea is to observe and react to what your dog is saying. I LET her tell me what she is capable of. What she can do mentally. If she gets overwhelmed we back off and then work up again. THE DOG CONTROLS how we proceed. She has only been able to go on walks with the pack for about a week. And we have already progressed to the Orange level! Just by working her thresholds. Yes my other dogs are behaving well and that does allow me to work on this with her. But all my other dogs have went through the same things as puppies. Fortunately for them, they got this understanding EARLY in life, rather than 10 months like Gig.
Those of you who are familiar with the Full Tilt Pups will notice Crackers isn't included in this equation, there is a reason. LITTLE WHITE TERRIERS are so freaking amazing that if we get focus in the room with the terrier still, it is a good thing. SO NO NEED to try to add him to this problem :) Someday he will be integrated into these sessions! But little white terriers are THE MOST AWESOME THING TO STARE AT EVER. Little steps :)
I will be attending a trial this weekend and bringing Gig. Agility is the MOST AMAZING thing ever, even though she doesn't know it. Dogs running FAST!!! Working thresholds again with this environment can be even tougher! So I break the behaviors down even more. See below:
This has been updated several times since the first trial she attended. Because the red zone just used to be GIG AT A TRIAL. We have moved on from that :)
Again, RED ZONE doesn't mean aggression, it means I am useless to get my puppies attention :)
In this example, I am only able to work in the Salmon level. She cannot go up to the ring with a dog running. The noises made scare people and other dogs. And it is useless to keep her there. In the salmon level...she can only do this for about 6 minutes. I will not take her past this level until she can work with me, doing tricks etc...very important.  Yellow can be about 10 minutes, Green and Blue for as long as I want (max has been about 15 minutes as that is a LOT to deal with mentally!!!) I will give her breaks often and when she tells me she is mentally done, I will call it a day and let her rest.
I have High, Medium and Low rewards, so I can gauge her arousal level.
I hope to get some video of this during the trial this weekend! So stay tuned!!!
I hope this helps some of you that are dealing with motion sensitivity, it CAN be worked through. Think small steps!!!!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dog Agility Blog Action Day----Success

Another awesome Dog Agility Blog Action Day topic!!

Success is not final, failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts--unknown

My mind stewed on this subject for many weeks actually, as it is really tough to define what success means to me. Do I have ultimate goals...yes I think?

I always tell people, I am for SURE not a Type A, more like a B+ in personality. I want to do well, on those things I care about, otherwise, I am content at sucking at stuff if that is how the chips fall :)

Maybe that sounds weird, but that's how it is. My psyche is that of a person who is really passionate about a few things...and I throw my energy, my heart, my soul into those passions. If it is not a passion...meh :)
 I think success, like we as humans, is constantly evolving. It's a living, breathing entity...which can either feed our souls, or destroy us. A very wise herding person once said "there is no room for ego in dog training"...and that is very true.

We also, in turn, either feed the success by CHOOSING to see the good in things, or feed that lack of success by focusing on the bad. Things must always be in balance...that is life, homeostasis really is happening in ALL things. 

One of the things that we, as humans have a tough time doing, is self assessment. We want to believe we are wonderful, that we have all these amazing strengths, and we are going to win. Am I saying that we aren't all wonderful, nope! But we all have things to improve to become a better person. Sitting down and being honest about what you are, about what you want, and the toughest, what you are NOT happy with (that usually can be helped with a glass of wine ;-). I want to wake up every morning and become a LITTLE bit better than I was yesterday. In agility, in herding, in LIFE. 

So I do self assess...I look at myself as if I was an outsider...and there are times I see things that make me very disappointed in myself...I failed. Whether it is in agility with my dog, my communication with someone, how I handled not getting that last GP Q I needed. I failed. But I reassess, and I tell myself I will do better. And I let it go, I don't stay in that mindset (I try to really mimic my dogs in that thought process).  Failure is not fatal. Failure is feedback, failure is a chance to start again, fresh, with a new plan.

In return I forgive others who have failed in their quest. Many people are fighting battles way worse than dog training. Sometimes it seeps into a trial with them. We are all human
 Lynn is a saint :)

Success is not final...what a very true and honest statement. There are so many paths to success for so many people, so many stepping stones to that would do us ALL good to be able to embrace each others goals of success. So that we can support each other, instead of tearing down progress. I see people who are working through issues, sometimes met with a lot of resistance...please let the judge in the ring do the judging. 

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure, in the mind of another--unknown

Failure is not fatal...THIS one has taken awhile :) Having measured success in Q's in the past, it has taken me time and experience to understand it isn't ABOUT those things, it's about that connection and those amazing runs where you and your dog felt like you were one. When I started on the path of training the running dog walk, I had people that wanted me to fail, said it couldn't be done.  And for awhile I wanted to let them win. What IF I fail at this? Will people see me as pathetic? Will I be viewed as a failure? There were many times I told myself I was a failure during the training process. But I wanted the experience, I wanted the challenge, so I stuck with it. Even when people chose to tell me when she jumped, but never cheered for us when she nailed a contact. I told myself this is my journey, and I want it. I wouldn't trade it for the world. In many ways I failed and then picked myself back up and became that much stronger. I found my courage to continue.

I have realized that sometimes my best isn't going to be good enough. That sometimes just being able to just take my pups on a walk is the success of the day. I've learned to be happy with what I can give, and not beat myself up over it. My dogs don't care, those that care about me don't care. And that's good enough for me :)

Always remember success comes in many forms. And don't expect the world to celebrate your success! You celebrate it! You embrace it!

When I was asked to be the assistant coach for the IFCS team this year in the Netherlands, that was a great time for me. Helping the team, being there with me that was a wonderful experience. I love teaching/coaching, to see people blossom, change and evolve into better handlers and's what I live for. It is a huge success point in my teaching career. And it was unforgettable. I cherish that. my success is getting Gig to take treats when a new dog is around, or teaching a student how to teach and use verbals. The focus is always changing.
And for ME, the biggest change in success has been, I look INWARD for my successes, instead of OUTWARD.

Outward: Q's, Ribbons, Titles, Medals, Placements, others opinions of me, of my dog, of my handling and training.
Inward: Connection, handling to the best of my abilities, challenging myself, being loving and fair to my dogs, being a better person, giving that knowledge to my students so they can succeed, LETTING GO OF THINGS (huge huge huge) etc.

If the inward is at peace, the rewards of good handling, good training will happen. 

Are medals and ribbons nice? Sure, they are a picture of that moment in time you had the best run. But they are not the be all. While sitting in a briefing a judge said something that will FOREVER stick in my head "No one will remember who won Grand Prix at this trial, but EVERYONE will remember who was an ass to their dog". So very very true. 

I have become very much like my dogs in regards to life and success, if I don't like it, I ignore it :) If I like it, I embrace it!

The courage to continue on, to step to the start line with our dogs and be OK with whatever happens. To not worry about the "what ifs" and "how will I look" but to just be there with my dog, running...that's my success.

Go visit the other blog postings on this topic! Lots of great stuff!!!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Giggity Update :)

Miss Giggity is growing up up up! She will be 13 weeks this Friday! And she has really learned a lot in the past few weeks :)

First off...she has a neck...a VERY LONG neck :)
 And she is getting lots of leg :)
 Gig and I have been working the past few weeks, I had goals for her and I. I think we did very well meeting those goals.

Things we have been working on: 

RECALL: with or without the dogs around---very very good. The only issue I am having right now is if the other dogs are running like crazy, but she will get to that. I am impressed with how solid she is already! She has done recalls very well at lots of different locations, with distractions, etc etc. Love it!
 Crate games: ok...well MY version of crate games...get into the crate and wait while the door opens...that's really all I do. But she is ROCKING it :)

Retrieve (see below for proof): Miss Gig didn't believe in retrieving a toy, she LOVED chasing, but the returning part she thought really sucked and was useless...but now she has really made some huge strides in that realm :) She is bringing back her toys quite well!!! YAY!!!!!
 Biting (rather NOT biting): yeah,'s getting better :) Little victories!! I will be so happy when those little puppy teeth fall out!!! She is doing better when she WANTS to bite though...she is starting to grab toys when she gets the urge. My ankles are grateful for that :) 

This little girl knows how to get what she wants :) She has figured out the toy is the key to controlling the pack. Bugger ;-)
She's like...YEAH DUH!!!!!
 Handling: No not agility handling, I would be doing that for a LONG time...more dealing with restraint (I teach my dogs to be restrained in a positive way---makes vet visits super easy) trimming nails, touching paws, checking teeth etc. She is doing awesome with all that. SCORE!
 Experiencing the world, check...she doesn't care about anything really, lawnmowers?? So?  Crowds? So?? Strange dogs and people?? Yeah....big deal? Loving her solid temperament!!! 

Settling: I have 7 dogs in the house, I don't like dogs throwing toys at me...there is a time for drive to be engaged and a time for it not to be. So she has been taking naps with me in the bed, she is chilling in her xpen or crate during training sessions with the other dogs (she thinks that sucks and vocalizes a LOT but is getting better!) Just learning how to she doesn't want to stop...EVER :) I admire it! But I want her to understand that it's part of life. She settles WONDERFULLY now in the car for trips. I only ask her to really settle right now when she is mentally  and physically tired :) Makes it much easier for her.
 Relationship: She has a very independent nature and is a headstrong little girl (I am IN LOVE!!!!) So she wasn't choosing me all the time. The past week she has come a LONG LONG way!!! She is choosing me every time over the pups!!! She is engaging me! She is seeking me out. I am beyond happy about this! She is such a go getter in life, which I love, and I want to make sure she includes me in the equation ;-) She is PERFECT in that area now!!!! I will for sure keep on rewarding this! I think she is really bonding though...not just because there is food, or toys involved...she is seeking me out for petting (petting...who had time for petting!?!??!?!?!? she had the world to conquer!) which I think is great. She is for sure my puppy...loses it when someone else has her and I leave. It's neat seeing that happening!! What I am MOST excited about!

Grabbing the collar, sit, down, backing up, tugging (no issues) and food drive (pretty good but she does love her some toys!!!) restrained recalls, tug-sit-tug, shaping getting into a box etc. Lots of little things.

But to ME, the big things are looking amazing, the connection, the life skills, etc. Those are the most important to me at this point. She is really settling in. I absolutely adore this puppy...she has a lot of heart, she is damn smart, she is just so amazingly cool.

She was made for me, loves her picture taken..and never wakes me up in the am, what puppy loves to sleep in?!???!??!?!?!? MINE!!!
Just so brilliant...I know I know...she's just a puppy, but she is more than that...I don't know where this journey will take us, but I am excited about every morning when I get her out of her kennel. She stretches out of her kennel, comes up to me all soft and sweet (as she is still asleep) and she cuddles for 5 minutes...kisses my face, snuggles in my neck. It's one of the most amazing things in my day. As she saves that JUST for me. 

And then she starts biting, game on Loretta :)

How do you not absolutely fall in love with that??

Friday, May 23, 2014

Giggity---11 weeks old :)

Miss Gig is 11 weeks old today! What a fun week or so it has been! It's nice to be back from Europe and spending time with my puppy!!!

We have been working on things, lots of life skills stuff...and socializing her to lots of new places and people. She is very naughty and also has an independent streak :) Which I having a wonderful time working with.
 She tugs, she bites, so toy play is rockin...she is working on a fetch...but she has her own ideas on where the toy should go AFTER she gets it :) So toys are on leashes right now. Gotta love the naughty!
 Her recall is going very well, she can recall in the pack of dogs already, which is great. She loves her some cookies :) She sits, she kennels, she is starting a stay, sends to toys, potties on leash, all that boring stuff that is necessary :)
 And we are just spending a ton of time together. She is taking in life...nothing has spooked or bugged her, she is a very confident little bugger :) Loves any and all people, all dogs, all noises, all of LIFE :) 

How do you not fall in love with that? This girl is so damn fun.
 She wants to herd the sheep, and cars...which we are working on :) 
 Will be starting more trick training...but the life skills need to be solid :) She rocks her x-pen skills, barks to get out to potty, otherwise has figured out how to play with her toys without constant attention :)
 Right now it's about getting to know her, letting her see and absorb the world...and for me personally, letting rules develop and happen when needed. 
Such a raw being right now, full of curiosity, only doing what seems natural. We can learn so much from them at this age. It's fun just sitting back and letting her show me all she has :)