Got Rubber?

Around my trialling neighborhood, rubber contacts aren’t the norm (yet).  While I think hope like mad that rubber will eventually come this way, it’s not currently on most of the equipment we trial on.  With Des’s running contacts, I considered that training on rubber might make him think he has traction in places he won’t on sanded wood and could launch himself the wrong way when he hit the gas.  But in the end, I went with rubber for two reasons:

1) I wanted the dogwalk that Des runs over most often to be as cushioned and safe as I could make it.

2) My DW sits outside in the sun and snow all year round.  After six months, my well painted and sanded plywood ramps were already showing cracks.  My DW frame is beautifully made (thanks, Tom!), but there’s really nothing anyone can do about the quality of ‘marine grade’ plywood these days.  I’m just happy I’m not trying to build a boat!

So in the fine tradition of peer pressure (tell your friends!), I hope the following how-to may take some of the mystery out of sticking down that rubber and that traction-riffic contacts could become the norm in our agility neighborhood too.  (come on, everybody’s doing it!)

I chose pre-made dogwalk skins from Rubber On the Run.  Why?  Dunc has run on  NADAC spec rubber belting, rubber granules glued to an epoxy base, and rubber skins, and they all have good grip.  For me, the granules were out…I’ve messed with epoxy a time or two and it’s easy to get it really wrong (reference above boat building fears...I had a bad experience)!   I wanted a flat, non-sticky-uppy surface that was sealed firmly to the plank on all edges.  It was a bonus that I think the skins are pretty, and who doesn’t love a pretty contact obstacle?   You can get a kit and form the skins yourself, but that was more than I wanted to take on, skill, time or garage space-wise.

Enough about the why – let me get to the how…at least in reference to the skin type rubber.  First off, my plywood topped DW didn’t have slats.  If you have slats, I’d strongly recommend taking them off to sand your wood base as flat as possible.  Trying to cut and fit rubber sections between wooden slats – and get the rubber tight to the wood joints – would be a nightmare.  If you want slats, the skins have a slat option.  More details on this later.

First, sand the boards as flat as possible so the rubber will have a uniform surface to adhere to.  If your plywood is warped at all, it might be better to just replace it.  I used a palm and belt sander.  The belt sander did the majority of the work, and the palm helped get the edges and areas around the screw heads.  When you buy sandpaper (and you’ll want LOTS of it),  find a grit as coarse as your sanded surface.  Then choose one coarser than that…it will look like paper with small rocks glued to it.  Just a warning if you’ve not used a belt sander before…before firing it up, HANG ON.  Holy crap, the darn thing took me for a ride the first time I pulled the trigger.   I used to run a chain saw at work, and I think that sander called the shots in a way that no Stihl ever did.

A good sanding will look like the center plank in the photo – some paint and sand base remaining, but a much smoother and glue-friendly surface overall.

DW1

I then gave the ramps a couple of coats of paint each to seal the wood.  A small foam roller worked well.  If you need to adjust your contact length, this is the time to do it.  In my case, I was changing from 42″ to 36″ contacts, so painted the top and sides of the wood to match.

DW2

Gluing:  I followed the manufacturer’s advice and bought the “Wozzit” glue instead of using a rubber cement type glue.  The huge plus is that the Wozzit glue allows for some adjustments once the rubber is stuck down…I could move the entire rubber sheet back and forth to make sure I had it on straight and lined the edges up carefully.  Once the rubber cement glue adheres to the rubber skin, you’re literally stuck with what you’ve got.  I can’t even stick a decal on my car window without messing it up…I was NOT going to screw around with a giant sheet of rubber!

The instructions that were included weren’t bad, but while they mention you’ll need clamps, they don’t mention how many clamps.  You’ll need a lot.  Fewer if you don’t have the skin with rubber slats, but if you do, you’ll need 1-2 clamps per section between rubber slats and some wood pieces to put between the rubber and the clamp.  What worked best was to spread glue on the ramp in foot long sections, unrolling the rubber and clamping as we went.  When we ran out of clamps, we stopped gluing for the day.  The next day, we continued where we left off, with no problems.  I’d imagine an A Frame could be done in a similar fashion…if you don’t use contact cement, a couple people could unroll/glue as they went, and adjust the edges as needed.

Here’s a picture of our gluing operation in action; note all the high tech devices that were employed to weight the clamped wood down.  It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.  Where ever the glued wood was in contact with the rubber, it stuck, but a few small areas near the edges didn’t get direct adhesion and weren’t stuck.  The next day, I shoved a knife blade with glue into those spots, re-clamped and viola!  Perfect!  One more tip – it was a little cold when we glued, so we put the glue bottle in a bucket of hot water.  The glue flowed and spread beautifully.

No soup for you!

No soup for you!

And here’s what it looked like when done.  The rubberized plank on the right still needs trimming.  We did that with a builder’s utility knife, but I’ve also seen some pretty handy trimming on YouTube with an old electric carving knife, if anyone can convince their Mom to part with that ’70’s must-have.

DW4And done!  The planks look beautiful, the rubber surface is almost flat on top.

DSC_2127

I’d mentioned slats earlier.  I’m not a huge fan of slats, but decided to get them because it’s required by the majority of the US and international venues, and didn’t want Des’s first taste of slat to come in a trial.  The rubber slats are formed out of the same rubber material, and literally fused to the surface of the contact rubber.  There are no gaps between the rubber surface and rubber slat, and the slats have a small bit of give, just like the surface itself.

DSC_2141And how do the boys like the rubber?  Des demonstrates below.  Well, maybe that’s not the best picture to illustrate paw grip…now that I think about it.

DSC_2323

I can’t address longevity yet, but upkeep in my sand field means I break out the broom to sweep it off every now and then.  It’s sat through quite a lot of snow and two weeks of sub-teen (and zero) temps this winter, and the edges remain where I stuck them.  We’ll see how it handles the thermal nastiness of summer, but so far, rubber does indeed rock!

Happy Birthday, Desmond!

DuncanDes…Des one year old.  Dude!  You got big!

One year ago, on the night of a monster full moon, little Desmond was the first of seven blue merle pups in his litter to arrive.  This once in a blue moon boy is a funky mix of sweet and funny, and so full of himself he makes me laugh out loud every single day.  I adore him with a capital “A”.

He was a cute little bugger when he came home to us.  Duncan wasn’t convinced of his charms, but Des just jumps into your world and heart (and up to your eyebrows) with unapologetic zeal.  Even serious Dunc decided he was okay and plays with him…as long as he doesn’t see anyone watching.

Desmond, 8 weeks

That cute little baby has turned into a handsome young man.  I find his sticky-uppy, slightly floppy ears about the most adorable thing ever invented and hope they are here to stay.  He will tilt them forward when he’s curious or happy, and they slam straight back for aerodynamic advantage when racing Duncan.

Des has one heck of a sense of humor.  At least once a day he turns into a nuclear powered freakazoid and may just slow the spin of the Earth with his lapping of the yard.  He’s a well-traveled road warrior, able to turn magazines into Des-origami, and a power shopper of any unsupervised bag of dog toys and goodies.  He can silently leap onto the counter, delicately removing whatever forbidden booty he can abscond with.  Des-Cat, indeed.

 

In the past year, Des and I have spent many hours out in the field, learning to become a team, and laughing together (sometimes with me on my butt and him flying into my lap) when I don’t hold up that end of the bargain.  He attacks every new thing I throw at him with good humor and nothing less than 100% supercharged attitude.  We’re pretty sure Lucy shared her sass and zeal with him, and it’s so nice to still have that Attitude in the house.

Here’s a video of some of our recent work:

Happy Birthday baby Des!  May you have many, MANY more!  I can’t wait to see what the next year brings!

Des-es still have springs!

 

 

Snow, Sunshine and Dog Toys…it Must Be Spring!

It’s spring in Idaho.  Just two days ago, the wind blew snow sideways most of the day.  It didn’t stick to the ground, or the trees, or the roads…just the side of my face while I was walking Des.  He didn’t mind until the wind filled his ears with icy, white flakes. (Hey, when you have ears that look like satellite dishes…)  And now, two days later…

It’s the other kind of spring!

Just a boy, some newly green grass and a fuzzy-tailed squeaky ball.  After grabbing the toy, lighting up the afterburners and taking a dozen hot laps around the yard, he flopped down to enjoy his prize.

Duncan, in the meantime, did his best superhero pose.  Part-time agility star, full-time protector of the yard, defender of our flock of quail from prowling cats, and our UPS guy alarm system.  Little dog, big heart.  As it turns out, perhaps quite literally.

Later, Des got to play with a friend.  They compared baby brother notes and found they have a lot in common.  I fear we may endure some back seat hijinks later this summer if they get to ride next to each other.  Watch out varsity, the JV squad is pretty cute, too!

What a lovely afternoon…the Merlies and I are awfully happy to share the day with our Boston friends!  Next stop…Reno!!!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Duncan and Desmond!  Just a few pictures of some very happy mini Aussies celebrating the holidays and New Year in their favorite ways!

Duncan doing what he does best.  Observed by two short noses in the background…doing what they do best.  Watching the Aussie antics and looking cute.

Duncan was very good this year, and Santa Paws brought him his very own dogwalk.  He tested it out, and his inner Wild Man emerged.  (He was dressed for the holidays, very festive, no?)

Des, not to be outdone, tried out his best bird imitation.  This baby has wings and loves to fly!

'Cause Des'es have springs!

I think there will be some freestyle disc-dog acrobatics in our future.  Because how do you teach your dog not to jump up on you?  Teach him how to jump, of course!

Happy New Year to everyone.  We hope that your 2012 is full of fun, friends and puppy kisses!

Why DuncanDes?

It’s probably no surprise that blogging is new to me.  I generally think that most people wouldn’t find my life to be all that interesting on a day to day basis, so have felt little need to write about it, let alone do so publicly.  This is a leap.

What would lead me to blog about my pups?  By going on continually about my fur family, people are going to realize how far I’ve fallen off the Crazy Dog Lady cliff!!  I’m certainly not trying to reinvent the training wheel (that would be dog training), and am no expert.  I have however, found my life to be irrevocably changed by the journey that Duncan has taken me on while we find our way in the agility and dog training world together.

In one sense, I’m giddy about the prospect of training Desmond, and want to share that with a few very Doggy friends who appreciate gratuitous puppy photos and training chatter.  And in another, I feel by writing about what I’m doing with Des is also a tribute to Duncan.  Without Dunc to show me the way, to forgive me for not knowing better and to gamely try anything new I’ve thrown at him, there would be no Desmond.  Then again, I’m sure Dunc would be just as happy without having to share his toys with a baby brother. With luck, that will change.

And if you’re wondering, I put a lot of thought into what to name this.  I considered all sorts of witty little plays on words and hidden meanings.  And laughed at myself, because that’s not really my style.  I call my boys Dunc and Des, just nicknames for their full names.  DuncAndDes looked silly, so Dunc(an’)Des it is.