Thursday, July 24, 2014

Agility 1: Week One

We've started the next agility course before we've even finished our pre-agility course, but that's what the weather gods had in store for us. I think we suffered a bit because of it.

None of the dogs in our previous class were in this one. Buster was very excited and agitated to be around a bunch of new dogs. He wanted to meet them and play so badly.

The first thing we did was learn a front cross. You cross in front of your dog as he is walking in a straight path. Not hard.

But then we tried a front cross while our dog went through a tunnel. That would have been fine if Buster remembered tunnels. He would go in and as I'd run to meet him at the other end, he'd pop back out the entrance and follow me. This proved to be a problem over and over throughout the class.

After we all did the tunnel exercise, we then did a full sequence involving two front crosses, 2 jumps and 3 runs through tunnels. Buster did pretty well on the first run and completely fell apart on the second. He did so awful we had to go back to basics where the instructor held him at one end of the tunnel and I called him from the other end, and even then, he still just wanted to run directly towards me and not go through the tunnel.

So the lesson for me is to buy a tunnel! I'm trying to find a cheap one ($20 or less), but even on ebay that's hard to do. 

Update: I purchased a Pawhut 16.4 ft Tunnel on ebay for $28. It was sturdy enough for a 65 lb dog to run through and came with a carrying case. Buster's trainer could tell the next week that he had been practicing. Never had trouble with tunnels again. Highly recommend.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pre-Agility: Week 4

Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 5
Week 6

It's been a while since I've posted about agility class because it's been a while since we've had agility class. Thursday evenings seem prime time for rain (which means cancellations).

Week 4 was a lot of fun. We started with sequencing, which Buster and I had been working on at home with our equipment. We did a pinwheel sequence. 3 jumps were set up in a semi-circle, like below.
Pinwheel sequence: person follows red lines and dog follows yellow
 Buster had no problems with this since we practice at home.

We moved on to some new equipment: the seesaw. But we didn't actually get on the seesaw. We got on what the instructor called the "teeter board". It's an unstable board that is very small and low to the ground and moves as the dog walks on it.
Teeter Trainer
Buster did SO well. I thought he wouldn't like the movement, but he walked right across it. We lured our dogs across with yummy treats and the instructor pointed out that when Buster walked across the first time and felt it move, he looked down at the board to see what was going on, then refocused on the treat and continued on.

Then we finished up with practice weave pole entry. We stood next to the weave poles and pointed at them to get the dogs to go through. Nothing too hard, but weave poles are extremely difficult to teach.

Week 5 will be a private review since I couldn't go to the class make-up date. The 6th and final week will actually be AFTER our next class level begins.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

DIY Agility Equipment: Tire Jump

Previously, I built an Agility Bar Jump.

Next on the list of Do-It-Yourself Dog Agility Equipment is the Tire Jump.

There are a couple different plans for the tire jump. I sorted through all of them and tried to weigh the pros and cons of each.

The Tire

An AKC competition tire jump should have an opening diameter of 24" and the wall should be 3-8 inches thick. The most popular material for a do-it-yourself tire is drainage pipe. This is lightweight so if a dog knocks his feet against it, it will not injure him. It's also easily shaped and commonly duct taped together. (More about duct-tape at the end).

The Frame

As I mentioned above, there are many different styles of Tire Jumps. I will show you what I found and then discuss what I chose.

This is what a competition tire jump looks like and retails for upwards of $130:
It looks more complicated than it is. The wires allow you to adjust the tire height. The tire should be almost to the ground, regardless of dog height, when introducing this equipment to your dog. Gradually go up to full height (which is measured from the ground to the bottom of the tire opening).
I found several instruction pages similar to this style:

These directions are fairly simple:
Finished product from
 This instruction page is pretty popular. Not being mechanically inclined I found it to be confusing.
Finished product from
The final instruction page is from a message board, but had the instructions I liked the best.
Finished product from
The next style of Tire Jump is much simpler. It does not involve hanging wires, just a frame and attaching the tire in whatever way is convenient, often bungee cords or duct tape if your tire will be in a fixed position.

These instructions are just for the frame. You would attach the tire inside the rectangle.
Finished product from
These instructions attach the tire with bungee cords. It's not hanging from wires.
 I wouldn't go through the trouble of building the tire like they did, but if you use drainage pipe, your dimensions for the PVC frame may be different than theirs.
Finished product from
Weighing the options

Since we are building our own equipment, it's all much cheaper than store bought. We could build a very affordable competition style jump. It's best if your dog uses equipment that looks like what he will be competing on.

However, Buster and I do not have a fenced in backyard of our own. A friend here in Greensboro has offered to let us use her yard and we will also be using my parent's yard 45 minutes away in Clemmons. Therefore our equipment has to be lightweight and easy to transport.

After much thought, we settled on this style, which is not competition style but will allow us to travel with it.
$75 from
With a little experience under my belt building an Agility Jump I was able to eyeball this and see how simple it is. It retails for $75 at Affordable Agility.

Here is how simple it is:

I have awesome MS Paint skills

How to build
1 inch PVC pipe in the follow lengths:
four 15" pipes
two 50" pipes
one 30" pipe

6 1-inch cap ends

two-four bungees (or another way to secure 'tire' to pipe)
2 4-way tees*
8-feet of 4-inch diameter drainage pipe

*Note: The 4-way tees can be difficult to find. I bought them online from home depot and had them shipped to the store for free. Two 4-way tees with tax and free shipping cost me $4.93. (They come in different sizes. Be sure you order the same size as your PVC pipes)

The 15" pipes are the feet, the 30" pipe is the bottom cross bar, and the two 50" bars are the vertical bars you attach the tire to.

Attach your tire between the two 50" PVC pipes with bungee cord. The tire height can be adjusted by just sliding it up and down the poles.

2 10' 1"diameter PVC pipes    $6.80
6 1" PVC caps                        $3.96
8' Flex Drainage Pipe             $5.78
2 4-way tees                         $4.93
8-pack of Bungees                 $2.47
Total price                            $19.40

(The blue and yellow duct tape was $3.57 each, but I didn't apply it to this project's cost because the duct tape is being used on several pieces of equipment.) *see below about colors*

As you can see in my finished pics, the tire is not perfectly round, but it's pretty darn close. It was very difficult to get it rounded and stay within the 24" diameter guideline all around. If you have better luck with a perfect drainage pipe circle, comment with your secret.


Decorated (with Buster in the center)

Tire Jump In Action
Here's a video of Buster using both his (as yet undecorated) tire jump and bar jump in a sequence.

 Decorating your Tire Jump (the duct tape info I mentioned earlier)

Dogs can see colors. But whereas we have 3 cones (red, blue and yellow) and can see the whole rainbow, dogs only have two (blue and yellow) and can only see those shades and some brownish and gray. 

Human color spectrum
Dog color spectrum
When decorating any of your equipment, you want it to stand out and be visible. This is why so much dog agility equipment is blue and yellow. And these are the colors I use for all my equipment.

More about dog's color vision in the sport of agility here.

Friday, July 11, 2014

JoAnn Fabric Sewing Class Review: Basics

I decided to use my last free summer to learn a skill I've always wanted to have: sewing. I'm not into reality shows but I always enjoyed watching the creative process on Project Runway. Not sure I'll ever have the vision to create a garment from imagination, but I hope to be able to follow a pattern or at least hem.

This will be a 4-part series as I have signed up for 4 classes: basics, zippers, bear, and skirt. All classes are taken at the store at 4644 W Market St. Greensboro, NC 27407-1285


Previous Experience

The only sewing experience I have is from 7th grade home-ec where we learned to sew pillows. I made lots of pillows for presents after that. It's been so long that I don't even remember how to thread a machine.

Supply List

1 yard cotton fabric
1 yard fusible interfacing
All-purpose thread
Sewing shears
straight pins
pin cushion
seam ripper

Basics Class Description
The Basics Class is 2.5 hours long. The instructor is Anna Berry. I used a 50% off coupon and paid $17.50 for the class. All the materials were supplied for me except for the seam ripper, which I already had.
My free supplies from JoAnn

We were allowed to go out in the store and grab any fabric square we wanted for our project which would be a drawstring bag.

The objectives of the class are:
"Learn basic sewing skills

Sewing machine and tool basics
Sewing seams and terminology"

Basics Class Review

Is the class worth it? Definitely!
There were 3 people in the class, one of which was a pre-teen but she was quiet and polite. Us two adults brought our own machines but our instructor had us use the store's machines first and after we completed our project she helped us familiarize ourselves with our own machines.

The store's machines are NICE! They're fully digital and run about $350. When I got on my machine later I felt like I was using a hunk of junk compared to theirs. 
The store's nice digital sewing machine

 My experience began with threading the bobbin. After that we had 3 sheets of papers to sew. Yes, we sewed printer paper. The first one was straight lines that we just sewed up and down, practicing. Then we sewed a sheet of paper with squares and corners printed on it. Then we sewed a piece of paper with a huge spiral printed on it. Sewing paper is a little harder than fabric, but I appreciated the practice and felt it was a useful exercise.
I had some issues with corners on the paper on the right before I learned how best to do it
 After the paper, we moved on to scrap fabric. The instructor encouraged us to explore the different types of stitches on the machines, which we did. There were some gorgeous stitches on those machines, including one that looked like a vine of flowers. (My personal machine doesn't have that, of course. It's too fancy a stitch.) She showed us how the machine makes button holes as well. The store's fancy machines automatically detect the size of button hole you need.

Then we moved on to the real thing. We ironed our fabric and we started sewing the pouch where our drawstring goes. (step seen in picture above) Then we straight sewed the sides and bottom and we did a fancy zipzag stitch over top of it so it looked nice, even though it's just the inside. We did a fancy thing with the corners to make them angled so the bag isn't flat.
It was hard to capture the hard work I put into the bag in a photograph

I was very pleased with how the class turned out. The instructor was patient and showed us the more intricate steps individually. She was very helpful and I walked out feeling like I had learned a lot. I'm looking forward to my upcoming courses at this location.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Carolina Theatre Summer Film Festival 2014

Every year the Carolina Theatre in downtown Greensboro puts on a Summer Film Festival. They show older movies M-F for several weeks. They also show kids movies during the day.

The movies I've selected this year are Friday the 13th, Psycho, Jaws, The Sandlot, A Troll in Central Park and Fern Gully 2. Being a nanny I get to enjoy the kids movies while I'm on the clock.

The Carolina Theatre is a beautiful restored theatre that puts on a wide variety of entertainment, including movies, bands, dance performances, and stand up comedy to name a few. I saw the Nutcracker performed there in '10. 

I will update this post as I attend the movies listed above.

The Sandlot
Tuesday, June 24
This movie was part of the Summer Swim-In series sponsored by the local swim teams. The teams all have meets on Tuesday so it's a good way to entertain the kids without wearing them out.
I'd seen this movie before, but it had been a long time. I'm not sure I actually sat down and watched it from start to finish before. I was surprised with the amount of cussing in the movie (several instances of the S-word) and concerned because of the young age of the viewing audience (some of the kids were 5). But overall it's a classic kids movie.

Friday the 13th
Tuesday, June 8
I had never seen this movie but I attended with two horror movie buffs. I don't generally like horror movies, but I didn't find this one scary so I was ok. I thought it was interesting to frame the movie in a way that sometimes the camera view represented the killer's view. The suspenseful music whenever something sinister was about to happen reminded me of Jaws.
I didn't even realize Kevin Bacon was in the movie for a while. He looked so young! The actress that survived the movie was probably the worst actress of the whole movie. Her movements and reactions were a little stilted sometimes.
Overall it was an enjoyable film and an interesting look at the horror genre before so much of it became cliche.
Monday, July 28
I'd never seen the beginning of the movie so I never got the murder victim's backstory for why she was at the hotel. Great movie!
Thursday, July 31
All time favorite movie. Everyone always applauds when the shark gets blown up. If that's a spoiler for you, we can not be friends anymore.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

PTA Orientation

Yesterday I had a 2.5 hr orientation for PTA school. I was very early for it because I stopped by Financial Aid first to see what the latest incompetence was for why I didn't have any funds 6 months after applying (another story).

There was one other person in the room when I peeked in and she looked friendly, so I sat next to her and talked to her. I made a friend (yay) which everyone kept emphasizing was SO important for getting through PTA school. (more on that later)

Faculty and staff integral to the PTA program introduced themselves first, although there are only two professors for the entire program. Then 4 current students of the class of 2014 introduced themselves and gave us a tour of the rooms we'd be using. They also gave us an idea of what classes/professors would be like from a student's perspective and gave us little tips and tricks to be successful.

We went back to the original classroom and the program director went over a handbook and discussed all the important, and sometimes boring, info. I left the orientation feeling like crying because I was so overwhelmed and intimidated.

Why I'm terrified
  • If you make less than an 80 on a skills test or practical exam, you fail and are kicked out of the program. (You're allowed one retake only)
  • Less than 75 on a written exam is failing.
  • I must disrobe and wear only a sports bra and very short shorts for labs. No exceptions.
  • Out of the 24 students that began the class last year, only 17 remain. 1 was at my orientation attempting to repeat the program.
  • THERE IS A TEST THE FIRST WEEK on medical terminology and abbreviations. We are expected to study this over the summer...before the program begins.
  • We are expected to give presentations not only to the class but also to the professionals at our clinical sites.
  • Some of our practical exams will be videotaped for the whole class to watch.
Study Buddies
Everyone emphasized how important it is to become friends with the classmates you will spend the next 1.5 years with and that study groups are essential. The problem is that I don't study well in a group setting. I have attempted study groups in the past and gotten almost nothing out of them. I have to sit at home alone and do it all myself to be able to memorize information. I'm concerned that I'm going to alienate myself from everyone else that likes study groups because they'll think I'm unsocial. 

So the theme of this post is that this is gonna be really really hard and I'm really really nervous. I hope I come back to this post a year and a half later, after graduation, and laugh at myself.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

DIY Agility Equipment: Bar Jump

Buster is doing well in his agility classes, but I feel that he would get more out of them if we were able to practice at home. So I've been googling how to make your own equipment (because store-bought equipment is expensive).

So far I've found a do-it-yourself for jumps, A-frame, tires and weave poles that I think are doable.

The easiest seemed to be the jump, just required fitting together PVC pipes, so I started there.

I used this as my guide:
Instructables Dog Agility Jump 
Video Here

The guy from those instructions did all his own cutting. I just went into Home Depot with my list and asked them to cut the 1" PVC:

two 4-foot pipes 
two 3-foot pipes
four 18-inch pipes

I even got the guy to cut the tee-joint. I had him cut the back off and then cut it in half. These clip on to the pipes and make cups that hold the jump bar, allowing it to be knocked off if the dog's foot hits it (thereby preventing injury to your dog).

My tee-joint doesn't snap on like the guy's in the video. I'm using a metal clamp. I can tighten and untighten when I want to adjust the jump height. (Buster's jump height is 24" AKC and 26" USDAA.)

I added some blue and yellow stripes with duct tape for visibility (see this link for info about dog's color vision and agility).

The materials I used (all 1" PVC) and prices:

two 4-foot pipes 
two 3-foot pipes                             $3.44 for 10' of pipe
four 18-inch pipes
6 cap ends                                     .66 per cap
1 tee (cut up for the jump cups)     I didn't get rung up for free!
2 4-way tees (special ordered from Home Depot's website for $2.31 each + free shipping)
2 clamps                                        .97 each

The cost for building this regulation sized* jump was about $15. Even I can afford that!

*This jump is within AKC standards. Regulations state the jump must be made from 1" PVC, 4-5 ft long (mine is 4 feet), and at least 32" tall (mine is 36"). (Pg 36) *

Dimensions. Notice the 6 cap ends as well as the metal clamps.

Here's a picture of the jump in a much prettier setting than my back patio. Please excuse my ghetto duct taping.

And a video of my dog, Buster's, very first agility sequence, also showing the tire jump.

Next up is the Tire Jump!