Not a lot to talk about today but I thought I should write to keep in the habit.  Life has been far too busy, once again, and my dogs (and blogs) are neglected as a result.  This week I worked three 12 hour days away from home, and when I was at home I was working anyway.  The dogs have been extremely patient, even puppy Kestrel who is clearly growing up.  Today I hoped to make it up to them, but by the time I finished cleaning and running errands (like buying food so we can eat!), it was 5pm and pitch dark.  We played soccer in the yard for a bit and I took Ross for a short leash walk (he doesn’t like soccer) and that was it.  Yet they are all snoozing around the house, perhaps hoping that by sleeping time will pass by more quickly until they can get out and play again.

We did have a fun day on Wednesday.  I loaded the crew up and went to agility for 10am around 30 minutes from home.  This was our third lesson with our new instructor and I have to say, she is really, really good.  Not only does she know her stuff really well but she is very aware of how different structures and movement patterns require different exercises.  For example, Kess is long and jumps really long.  She’s also not very aware of her hind end.  So we’re working on exercises to get her to tighten right up and tuck up her hind end while going over jump.  One thing she has me do is stand at the end of a jump and lure Kess over it and then have her do an extremely tight u-turn and feed in front of me down low, at ankle height.  Then I have her go the other way.  Repeat.  The idea is to get the dog to jump over the bar (starting low and building up to full height) and immediately turn so that she learns to jump short and tuck in.

Within a few minutes Kestrel’s jumping style changed dramatically.  Of course we’ll need to do a lot of this sort of thing to build the muscle memory to make it permanent, but it was fascinating to see the difference.  I knew Kestrel wasn’t jumping well but had no clue why or what to do about it.  This is where having someone with so much experience can be so helpful.

In sharp contrast, Mira is tight and clingy, and we need to get her to work long and forward.  With Mira, I’m working on having the toy out ahead of us and having her work toward the toy. This is really challenging for her (I am doing the same exercise with Hannah at a higher level) because she sees the toy and just wants to run straight for it.  However, if she doesn’t take the obstacle between us and the toy, I tell her “that’ll do” and call her back.  Hannah picked it up pretty quickly and will now drive through weave poles and then go get her toy.  Mira is not so keen.  Agility still isn’t really her thing and the only reason she has to do an obstacle is to get the toy.  If the toy is right there waiting for her, I’m having a hard time convincing her that she still needs to take the obstacle.  Hopefully with time this will change.

On our way home from agility I stopped by the conservation area.  To my delight, there was no-one in the parking lot, which meant there was most likely no one in the park (once I ran into a long distance runner going through the park, but otherwise everyone drives as there are no houses nearby).  I let all four dogs runs straight from the car and we went on a great hike.  The sun was out and it was warm.  We took the side trials up along the ridge and through the small valleys in behind it.  These valleys are big bowls full of trees with no underbrush, and dead leaves ankle deep.  You can see and hear everything around.  I sat on the ridge and watched as the dogs raced about, chasing each other and squirrels.  By the time we got back to the car they were exhausted.  I felt like a good dog-mom for the first time in a while!

The days are so short now that I really have to watch the clock and make sure I get what I need done outside completed before 4:30.  Crazy!  But we’re almost at the winter equinox and soon the days will lengthen again.  They’re calling for snow on Monday and that will help too as once there’s snow on the ground, you can see at night.  Not that I really have anywhere I can let the dogs run after dark around here.  I wouldn’t feel comfortable walking through the conservation area at night (plus I think it is illegal).  I’d be concerned about running into wildlife (skunks, porcupines, coyotes, deer) or people drinking or otherwise doing things they don’t want known.  I see evidence of this sort of activity when I hike there in the day, and I’d prefer to leave well enough alone.  There are no open fields or other places I can just let the dogs run, unlike where I used to live.  Oh well, I’ll just have to do my best to get them out while the sun is up.

Tomorrow I will put training and exercising the dogs as my morning priority to make sure it actually happens.

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