Ruby Hits the Big Apple – Our Westminster Journey

Last fall I was surprised that Ruby had amassed enough OTCH points (in a month and a half!) to be invited to participate in the Westminster Kennel Club’s Masters Obedience show. When my sister – who lives in Westchester and is a pro at navigating NYC – said “do it”, I entered! Next challenge – come up with a “theme”. Enter friend Lee, who suggested Wizard of Oz (get it – Ruby Slippers)! Great idea, lots of props! Who knew we’d be one of THREE Oz-themed routines! Too funny! Apparently Oz was the Theme du Jour this year!

But first I needed to focus on upcoming shows. We really started thinking about a freestyle routine over the holidays and started working on it after Ruby finished her OTCH on Jan 7. So in just over a month, Ruby and I – with the help of my training friends both near and far – put together our freestyle routine. My goal was SUPER cute, something the audience would enjoy. Nailed it!

Many thanks to the Westminster KC for hosting obedience, to the AKC, stewards and reps and to judge John Cox (wearing a tux, how special is that!). Congratulations to all who participated, it was inspiring and fun to watch your dogs compete.

I’m so lucky to have the BEST, most supportive family – my sister took the day off to drive us in and spend the day, my brother-in-law drove us in on Sunday for setup and then took time off of work to come watch and my wonderful nieces both took time off from their busy jobs in Manhattan to come and cheer us on!!!

Ruby and I are so fortunate to have the best friend, assistant, lion wrangler and flying monkey flinger! Gail, the adventure was so much better because we did it together.

Ruby-roooo I am SO proud of you!!! A year ago at this time you didn’t have a CD – look how far you’ve come! It wasn’t possible for me to prepare Ruby for the crazy atmosphere of Westminster – huge, loud crowds, cameras in her face… and where to potty?! Ruby was visibly nervous in Round 1 – lots of lip-licking, panting and foot shifting. I felt a pang of guilt for not preparing her for this… Yet somehow my little rockstar held it together and put down a solid Round 1 performance. Then she truly came alive in the freestyle round. She did everything I asked of her… and then some! (R.I.P. Flying Monkey!)

We placed 2nd! To be 1st runner-up behind the amazing team of Linda & Heart, who have won this 3 years in a row, and ahead of so many amazing teams is such a huge accomplishment. I am thrilled and beyond proud of Ruby – she’s a superstar!!!

Ruby’s Drop On Recall – a work in progress

A winter project of mine was to work on Ruby’s Drop On Recall (DOR) exercise.
Ruby was unsure about when to drop and she didn’t know how to combine her fast recall with a fast drop. Her stationary drop was good but I wanted her a bit more reactive and less tentative. Ruby’s recall is super so she needs a nice snappy drop to match!

I had taught Ruby to back up behind a stick, but once we added movement, my timing was off. So I had to re-visit her backup behind the stick. Then added movement using a cookie toss game. And then distance.

Finally I added 2 more sticks, so that Ruby learned that the stick isn’t the cue to drop – the cue comes from me!

I’m loving how Ruby’s DOR is progressing – I think it’ll be brilliant, just like her!

Safety first… and platform construction

I’m glad people enjoyed my Winter Fun Day blog post! But… years of time spent with physical therapists (for both me and my dogs) has sharpened my eyes to potential safety concerns.

So you should know that I ran the girls around our plowed driveway a bit so they could warm up their muscles before heading to the fields. I’ve learned from past dogs who’ve strained muscles when leaping through deep snow, so I limited their snow play. We quit while they still had plenty of energy – tired dogs tend to injure themselves.

Once inside, notice that when I released each girl for her toy (I release them on their names), their platforms flew backwards – another potential source of injury. Once I realized what was happening, I moved the gates and pushed the platforms against the wall. My outdoor platform for field/agility is a much heavier wooden model that doesn’t budge.

For those wondering where to get those spiffy platforms, they’re easy to make:


  • 1″ solid foam insulation (can use the thicker stuff if you want a taller platform but the 1″ is easy to cut)
  • yoga mat (I get inexpensive ones from close-out stores)
  • construction adhesive
  • duct tape

Cut the insulation to the dimensions you would like, cut the mats to fit top and bottom and glue them on with the adhesive. Once dry, secure the sides with duct tape.

Have fun playing/training with your dogs!



Winter Fun Day

Today we had a snow day! Record snowfalls closed down the city, including the college where I teach. Here’s a little video of our day. The “training” part comes at the end, showing how platforms are terrific for teaching and reinforcing impulse control. Platforms are so useful to teach “stay in your place” – applications include obedience stays, agility start lines, steadying for retriever field trials/hunt tests – and games for energetic Labs with cabin fever!

Training Ruby (2 years later) Building an Awesome Go-out!

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve posted to my blog! Now with an updated computer and a better internet connection, I hope to post somewhat more often :*).

Ruby is now 2 years old and we’re having a blast training in obedience, agility and field.

This video is a quickie summary showing some of the steps I trained to build Ruby’s go-outs. I’m really pleased with how she’s coming along!

Training Ruby – 12 weeks old, Feb 14 2014

Ruby at 12 weeks is about 18.5lbs of fun-seeking puppy joy! She’s becoming more independent – which means dancing away when I reach from her and not always coming when I call her name. So sad, honeymoon is ending! So we’re playing LOTS of games where I call her to me, grab her collar while she eats a treat, then let her race off again. When the weather is decent (ok that’s happened like twice) we go for baby walks and play hide ‘n seek where I’m always “it”. I hide from her, call her to me and we have a big party when she finds me.

Training Ruby – 11 weeks old, Feb 7 2014

Phrase for this week: Impulse Control!

What? Impulse control at 11 weeks? Usually at this age I’m working on building drive and motivation. Which I am! But… it helps to know your pup. I have her aunt (OTCH MACH Nell MH QAA – plenty of drive there!). I’ve trained with her mom (FC Fergie) and the pups from Fergie’s first litter. Lots of drive. So I’m getting a jump on impulse control.

I started impulse control at 8 weeks of age with Ruby’s meals, shaping a wait before she’s released to her bowl. The first video shows how this has developed into a lovely sit with eye contact before she’s released to her meal. I’m trying some classical conditioning by running the nail grinder during her meals.

This next video is our week 11 training session back on Feb 7 (yes I’m almost a month behind…). Enjoy!

Training Ruby – 10 weeks old

In this video, Ruby is 10 weeks old. She learned this trick – paw wave – in one session (little genius). I probably didn’t need the intermediary step with the stick – Ru has raccoon paws, they’re always waving! She’s growing fast – 10lbs at 7 weeks, 12lbs at 9 weeks, over 13lbs at 10 weeks.

I’m learning a lot about videotaping and blogging. For example, don’t wear a black jacket when training a tiny black puppy if you want the puppy to show up in the video!

Learning to Blog

Is blog a verb? Hmmm well now it is – and I’m learning how to do it!

My goal with this blog is to create a record of my Lab puppy’s training journey, through posts and videos.

First post – Ruby (Renegade’s Black Eyed Pea)was 8 weeks old  when I videotaped a training session. At this point I’d had Ruby less than a week and we were just getting to know each other. I focus on teaching tricks so I can see how my puppy likes to learn and play around with different approaches. Is she a thinker or does she react? Does she need more drive and motivation or more impulse control? What do you think?!