Sunday, October 31, 2010

Becca's Northern California Adventures (by Donna Arcaro)

Becca and I decided to concentrate on her performance at the shows in Northern California, including the Northern California Greyhound Specialty. So I loaded up the vehicle (mostly with dog accoutrements!!) and headed north. I went up 2 days before our first event as I liked to have my dogs get used to environments that they don't visit often--hopefully to help with ignoring all the distractions and enticing smells. We went to the show grounds, wandered around, did some shopping and did a little training while there. Our first event was Rally Advanced which is entirely off leash (yikes!!). I did not feel like we were really prepared, but thanks to Helen's "persuasion", I had entered. I was most pleased AND surprised with Becca's and my first attempt since she earned her first leg.

I know what we need to work on (the left pivot was a real challenge; we finally went on to the next sign after two attempts. I can only blame myself and not Becca for this due to not much training on pivots.) I was also happy she did not look like she was interested in the leaving the ring. This is a real problem I had with Tess, my first obedience dog--I still remember this from the mid-90s. She would race out of the ring once she knew she was not on a leach. FINALLY was able to break that habit with training at match and people blocking the ring entrance. Also I changed the off leash heeling command to happy "let's go". She did earn her CD.

The next day at the Specialty, we were the only entry in Beginner Novice. I was really hoping for her second leg and I was not disappointed!! There was one part where she was most interested in the ring tape for some strange reason, but overall I was very happy with her performance, especially her recall. I made a handler error on returning to her on the wrong side after I walked the perimeter of the ring with Becca sitting in the middle. Fortunately it was only a few points off--I will NOT make that mistake again!!

It was a most successful, fun weekend for us; it's also always wonderful to see Becca's siblings and owners.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Rally Title

This past weekend was the Greyhound Club of Northern California specialty. All breed shows before and after the specialty gave up to 5 days of showing in obedience, rally, agility, and conformation. I decided to enter Echo in her first performance trials and decided on something easy-Rally Novice. We entered three days of Rally. She did better than I had a right to expect. In preparation for the trials we only managed to attend two Rally classes and never have we trained indoors. Never have I asked her to hold her attention for so long and with such distractions. Some of the signs we had never practiced. The first day of Rally she earned second in her class for her first leg.

The second day the rains came in so Rally was moved indoors. At least it was partially matted. I have never asked my dogs to sit/down on concrete so I was nervous whether she would. Not only did she sit on concrete she won her class of 22. Two legs down and one to go.

Her third leg once again was indoors. At the end of the video the judge came up and told me I had done the first sign incorrectly. Luckily for friends video recording our performances at the end of the class I could replay it and he changed his score. Once again she won her class for her third leg and Rally Novice title. So three shows three legs (two first places and one second place) and a new Rally title. Now she is Ch Aragon Black Ice RN.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cats and Greyhounds

My greyhounds have always lived with cats. Some have been harder than others to learn that cats have rights too. Cats are not to be chased, displaced from where they are sleeping or harassed. In fact they often learn that the quickest way to please me is to ignore the cats. Bacchus my new black cat obviously had never lived with dogs when I adopted him. He didn't want to be on the dogs level. His running away behavior was him causing to be chased. However with time he has learned to be more bold, less fearful. Now he sleeps on the dogs bed whenever he choses-and the dogs will not try to push him off.

However a dog on their bed is not be haressed either.Dogs and cats generally stay in their own bed/spaces.

Many years ago I had a greyhound Merlin who rid my farm of all living small creatures-skunks,feral cats and would try for coyotes, deer you name it. He was the ultimate hunter. I adopted an awesome dogwise adult cat-Sherman. It took Sherman a little while to establish the rules of the house with Merlin and my other greyhounds. However establish them he did. As much as they tried to run him he would sit still, hold his ground and stare at them. If the dogs were eating and he wanted to see what they were eating he would smack them away from the food bowl-and they listened.If they were laying on a bed that he wanted-he climbed up and laid with them-and they learned to accept it.

Many dogs learn to live with cats in the house but outside is a different matter.
Since my cats are generally inside/outside if they choose it is necessary for the dogs to learn to leave them alone outside as well. Odd but the dogs do know their own cats. Mine will still attempt to chase neighborhood cats but are learning to leave their/mine alone.

Sherman and my greyhounds would go for walks with me around the farm, sometimes upwards of a mile. Although the dogs didn't wait for him to catch up to them they knew he was there and didn't attempt to chase him. A tolerate nonreactive adult cat like Sherman makes training the greyhounds to live with cats easy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bowed Tendons

Last weekend while training obedience in the local park I had all three dogs with me working. After working I play ball or frisbee and let each one run for a few minutes. I was just finishing with the last dog Echo letting her run and play when the local police drove up and came out directly to me. Busted for dogs off leash I thought but no they wanted to see what the dogs were doing and wanted to see the greyhounds run. So I took Whisper off leash and did a few Open exercises then let her run. To show off I let Echo off leash too and the two of them went racing around the park. After about three minutes I called them in and Whisper was lame. Of course two weeks before our specialty with one day of obedience and three days of agility for her.

Swelling on the right side of the right leg.

Normal left foot for comparison

Both legs for comparison

She damaged her flexer tendons behind the metacarpal region-an injury called bowed tendons. After weeks of rest she should be okay but no agility next weekend-and maybe no obedience. Just goes to prove if you want to show off-don't.. bad things happen.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Well Traveled Man(Dog) by Lisa Stine

Cruddy weather did not plague us any further than Ohio, the weather for the Eastern Specialty was blue skies and sunshine. With over 60 greyhound entries, it was a very long day. We watched Sheila judge the Sweepstakes classes until it was our time to run our first-ever performance class (Rally Novice). There were 3 entries, and with trying to help Sheila with photos of here Sweeps entries I only had time for one very rushed walk through. I was a little shocked to learn there was no course map to study prior to going into the ring. And we were the first entry. No pressure there! No time for much of a warm up, just a little heel, sit, down, heel and our number was called....are you ready? Heck yes we were!! Darby Crash did me proud and scored a 97 out of 100! We got our first leg and a close 2nd place, I was so proud of us!

After a lot of hurry up and wait, we went in for Best of Breed, a class with over 20 dogs entered! Once again the handsome boy did me proud by showing well, doing everything I asked of him and made the first cut!

The competition was really heavy with quite a few very nice hounds showing at their best, unfortunately we did not make the final cut.

The next day was Morris and Essex, one of the largest dog shows in the country. There were over 45 Greyhound entries! Since we didn't really get a second glance from the judge, (I could that possibly be?!?) instead I will provide a glimpse of the hats that were on display at this show.

It seems it's a tradition for everyone, men and women alike, to sport hats (fancy ones) at this event. It wasn't quite the Kentucky Derby, but it was about as close as it gets in New Jersey!

The remaining shows were fairly uneventful. Darby got sick to his stomach on the way to the Hatboro show (the first time on the entire trip), but he was okay the next and thankfully last show day and showed well enough to get Select Dog. 4 days of showing after 5 days of driving is enough to wear any dog out, so we were glad to be done with it all by then and headed straight for Dewey Beach which was only a few hours away.

We visited Sarah and her booths (multiple!) of sculptures. My favorite remained unclaimed/ sold upon our arrival.

We got up wicked early the next day to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean. Keep in mind the sun comes up at 6:40 am, that's 3:40 am our time. Painful but worth it.

And then we turned west and started home.

Virgina and West Virginia were our favorites.

The fall leaves we almost in full color, so we got a few fall portraits at an especially colorful rest-stop in West Virginia.

Onward, westward, home.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Whisper and I earned our first Open obedience leg with a 196 and a first place at an all breed obedience trial(14 dogs in her class). It is our fourth show-and finally our first leg. The first was at our specialty-she didn't drop but otherwise was excellent and was carrying a 198. The second time was two weeks ago and she went down on the sit just as I was back in heel position. It shouldn't have been a fail only points off but the judge thought I might have been moving so she failed us. The third show was the day before-she went down two minutes and fifty seconds into the three minute sit. She was carrying a 196. It is frustrating to be so close to qualifying and have a second here or ten seconds there fail the whole performance. But that is obedience.

In addition to winning her class, she earned High Scoring Breed Champion, High Scoring dog from the A class and High Scoring Hound. Had I signed up for the special agility award(I forgot) she would have earned High Scoring Dog with an Agility title.

Obedience is the basis of good manners and can be so useful. The dogs can be left on a down stay for photos and know they won't break. Echo went along for the day but was bored. She got to practice short heeling sessions and recalls and was excellent. For the distractable puppy that she was she is finally starting to focus on working. Lyric was entered both days as well in Open A but since she just came out of heat I didn't expect much. She forgot to drop all the way on the first day. She thought going down on her elbows with her rear in the air was good enough. Otherwise she was qualifing with a nice score. The next she couldn't manage the retrieve on the flat, otherwise she would have qualified. Hormones in the girls can be a frustrating thing, however Lyric did better than I had hoped.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


After getting a taste of the road with Darby Crash in March when we traveled to Ft. Worth to the GCA Southern Specialty (where he finished his Championship at the tender age of 15months!) it was apparent that he was a dog who loved to travel. He rides easy with no cares: no panting, anxiety, car sickness, etc. He just gets in, lays down and goes to sleep until we stop. Sometimes he'll come up and 'touch' my arm with his nose to ask for the side windows to be rolled down, whereupon he sticks his head out to surf the wind for a bit, and when he's finished he goes back to napping.

He eats meals at rest stops or even on the road, he's comfortable 'doing his business' anywhere at anytime and he's trained to lay down in the back of the van before I'll put his leash on (so he doesn't bolt or crowd the door when I first open it. This has been the most practical and often used obedience lesson he's learned to date!)

When the opportunity to travel to the Eastern presented itself to me the decision was pretty much a no-brainer. Circumstances allowed me the time, H and GM had allowed me the dog; we were going! I tried to keep it a secret from H and GM, until H asked me point blank if I was going and the truth came out. When GM sees the blog, the cat will be completely out of the bag. Sterling Darby Crash will be going to the Eastern to 'represent' for Aragon and Aroi! It's extra special because, as H informed me, no Aragon dog has ever been to the Eastern! Darby is the first.

The trip is long: California, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and finally New Jersey.

We started in California and met our travel partner Cat and Ivana (greyhound) in Reno, from there we drove and drove and drove across the desolation that is Nevada and into Utah. We arrived very very late (a curse on Sacramento traffic that put me back 2 hours almost) in Park City Utah. Three states down, 8 to go!

Day 2 was Wyoming and Nebraska, both open and flat and fairly desolate (although they both have their charms)

At rest stops Darby meets and greets Joe American and family, charming everyone, of course. It's his nature!

We stopped for a potty break at the dinosaur museum in Nebraska and he got to pose with a 30 foot T-Rex (well, the T-Rex's feet)

Day 3 covered all of Nebraska and Iowa.

There's a lot of corn in Iowa, we've decided that Darby's color is officially 'Dilute Corn Brindle', he's practically camouflaged!


Day 4 (getting a little tired of driving at this point) we crossed Illinois, Indiana and Ohio (phwew!) There wasn't a lot of picture taking, we mostly concentrated on driving with the occasional brief potty break.
We got pulled over in Illinois for failing to observe the speed limit (it wasn't our fault, the speed limit changed abruptly and the officer liked our California plates I guess). The officer was really personable and LOVED our dogs so much, we didn't get a ticket! He joked with us and talked about his favorite kind of dog (Neopolitan Mastiffs) and wished us luck at the shows. He cautioned us to be extra careful in Ohio because the police in Ohio aren't as friendly as the ones in Illinois. Well, duh!

And today, day 5, is Pennsylvania to New Jersey. Ivana and Darby are curled up together all warm and snuggly in the van as we drive. It's raining and pretty cold, so needless to say we won't be taking many photos outside the hotel room. Hopefully the weather will be better tomorrow for the specialty!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Becca and the Dumb Bell Retrieve (by Donna Arcaro)

With my limited experience with teaching the dumb bell retrieve, it seems to me to be a very foreign "thing" to sighthounds in general. I seem to recall someone (I think it was Gail Burnham) who said obedience training is really "interspecies communication" which very aptly describes dumb bell retrieving training.

When Becca was a young pup, I started working with her to "play retrieve" and to hold a small, toy dumb bell. By putting the dumb bell right at her lips with a little pressure against her mouth, then telling her to "take it" she immediately received a treat. She learned if she started reaching for the dumb bell, she was able to get the treat even faster. In the yard, I'd throw a toy, tell her to "take it" and then "Becca, here", again rewarding her with verbal praise and treats if she brought the toy back to me or even in the near vicinity. I repeated these exercises a couple of times in a row and only a very few times a week.

So when Becca and I started our Open class about 8 weeks ago, it was an easy transition to a real dumb bell. Again by using TONS of praise and rewards, the dumbbell retrieve became a fun exercise. I always stopped leaving her wanting more. After she was doing well with reaching for the dumb bell, she was taught to hold it--when the dumb bell was in her mouth, I placed my hand gently around her jaws with the "hold", command, gradually only having to put my hand under her lower jaw to get her to hold it, and then just using a verbal command for this result. Ever so gradually I lowered the height of the dumb bell for her to reach for so it was closer to the ground until one end of it was actually touching the ground while I held the opposite end. Eventually I was putting it further out in front of her, on the ground asking her to take it, and then throwing it out a little further for her to pick up. During these latter steps, she was taught to pick up the dumb bell and turn to walk toward me. I used a LOT of verbal encouragement through all of the above, along with treats. To keep her excited we also played with a toy after each training session.

It's been a lot of fun watching her progress with this exercise. I really believe she has the potential to become a "dumb bell" junkie as sometimes she actually pounces on the dumb bell and races back to me for a treat. To be continued--