“It’s Not Just About the Ribbons” Chapters 2 & 3

Chapter 2Insecurity
 
This really hit home for me as I definitely have struggled with self-confidence at different points of my life….especially when branching out into something new. 
 
In terms of agility, I spent so much of my early days sheltered from the “real deal” because Miles wouldn’t do the teeter in public.  So for the longest time our career in agility was self-limited….we’d never get to a MACh or other high title because of his teeter phobia and other struggles.  When Melanie helped me start him on a retrain/rehab program I was so excited and worked hard everyday to help him to overcome this obstacle.  In February of this year, Miles had his public teeter debut during a run-through at PBH and, as excited as I was that he did it, suddenly I found myself depressed and starting down an unchartered path that I had never dreamed of.  Suddenly the sky was the limit and I couldn’t (and sometimes still can’t) believe that we were worthy. 
 
A similar thing happened when he moved up to Excellent B.  He moved up so quickly that suddenly we were playing with the big boys yet I didn’t think we deserved to be there.  My Q rate started to drop….I made foolish mistakes….wasn’t patient….couldn’t focus.  I really think that I unconsciously was self-sabotaging.  This still happens from time to time when I’m preparing to run, but I’ve been trying hard to be a “jumping flea”.  I will need to remind myself to stand tall and puff out my chest feathers and talk as if I’m confident 🙂

Along the same lines, I certainly have moments of feeling very insecure when stepping to the line with Rue.  Probably mostly because I expect a lot from myself with her…she’s my second agility dog and I’ve raised her to do agility from the get go.  My expectations for her are already much higher than for Miles.  I get worried that folks will think that she’s too slow or has a crummy running dogwalk (something that has so far taken me 8 months of pretty constant training).  Yet what I really need to be telling myself is that I am doing the best I can with her right now.  She’s a *baby* and I need to remember that this takes time and when she’s ready, she’ll be a force to be reckoned with….

Chapter 3Neuro-Associative Conditioning
 
This was interesting.  Not sure how much I buy into it, but it’s certainly worth a shot.  I can see using the “pattern interrupt” at times when I might start overthinking a course and worrying about everything from knocked bars to off-courses.  Now I just need to come up with something to say or think that will break my train of thought….for some reason all I can think about right now is shouting “Waffles!”.  No idea why??? 
 
I’m not very clear about how to recondition myself though.  I understand how counterconditioning can work while training dogs and this sounds similar, but I’m not sure I’d be able to do it to myself.  I am afraid that my own mind would realize that I’m trying to trick myself. 
 
Using visualization and repeating my verbal affirmations during these times would be helpful:

– I am confident in my handling choices for each dog
– Miles has wicked fast weaves and slams into a down on the table
– Miles rides the teeter all the way down
– Rue is motivated to work/play with me
– Rue runs fast and extended
– Rue and I move together as a connected team

Moore County Kennel Club AKC trial 10/24-25/09: Miles gets MXJ leg #5!

Miles DKC AKC 9-09 (2)

Another new trial site for us and what a beautiful place!  The trial was held at “Corgi Hill Farm” in Carthage, NC.  The drive there was nice among  beautiful countryside with some gorgeous Fall colors and the site was actually a working farm full of sheep, ducks, and Corgis 🙂  I only entered Miles this weekend because I wasn’t sure what Rue would be doing at the time.  I was a bit sad that I couldn’t run her this weekend, but at the same time judge Tom Slattery had some wicked Standard courses that would have been very tough for her since she just moved up to Excellent.

Saturday:

Warm, humid and raining on and off all day.  Somehow Miles and I managed to avoid the heaviest rain, but some folks weren’t so fortunate.  Of course rain makes Mr. Man that much faster/crazier for some reason.  This was a very small trial with only about 45 Excellent entries and with the weather forcast, there were quite a few scratches.  I was glad that I was slated to be timer for the small dogs since otherwise I would have gotten there a little later and would have missed the combined walkthrough.

Excellent Standard was first to run.  The course wasn’t too bad, but had about 4 discrimination points and at each one you wanted your dog to take the inside obstacle/tunnel hole (our least favorite).  I walked the course about 4 times and came up with an independent plan.  Since doing the goal setting exercise last week, my focus really was speed.  I want to see our Standard course times getting better and ultimately would love to be seeing 4yps consistently.  Once I took my position as timer and started watching some small dogs I realized I walked the course and completely neglected the table, agh.  What the heck??  This isn’t Grand Prix, sigh, why am I so dumb sometimes.  Fortunately, it made sense where it was and I mentally made a plan for it. 

Miles was uber excited to warm up…actually I don’t think he’s ever been this bouncy outside of the ring before.  Seeing that it was a new place and there were two huge tents over the ring entrance that were flapping heavily in the wind gusts, I was most impressed with his exuberance!  As expected, the course ran really fast.  I unfortunately got stuck managing the dw to tunnel entry and couldn’t get in position for my blind before the a-frame which caused a refusal.  Since that NQ’d us, I just pushed him for the rest.  He had an awesome stay on the table where I led out about 15ft, wow!  I failed to indicate the correct tunnel hole after the teeter (which he rode all the way down, yeah) which made the weave entry quite difficult, but he got it anyway.  I should have kept moving while he was in the poles and gotten on the other side of the triple, but I hesitated and he popped out.  He had a beautiful line of offset jumps to the finish.  If you take out the time lost getting him on the frame, this was a 4.2yps Standard run!!

Melanie, Leila and I then took our 7 dogs for a nice long walk around the property while we waited for all of 8 Open and 4 Novice dogs to run.

The JWW course looked fabulously fast.  I was very very excited to run this course as I thought it would be one that we could execute well.  I think I’ve been a little hesitant lately about front-crosses as I’ve had 2 very recent occurances where I couldn’t get there and was forced to rear on the fly.  So I planned two rears in this course, but unfortunately I was there in more than enough time and my lack of motion made the rears very difficult.  Miles saved my butt on the first one and miraculously pushed out to the double even though I was way behind, but he just couldn’t do it at the last one.  I was literally stopped and he did what he should have and pulled off the jump for a refusal 4 jumps from the end 😦  SUCH and nice run though and at 5.4yps I’ll take it!  He also had fabulous weaves in this run 🙂

Today they also planned to demo the new Time To Beat (TTB) class at the end of the day.  I decided after looking at the course map that I’d stay and run lil’ Rue.  I figured it’d be good experience for her at a new site on new equipment and since it didn’t “count” I could mentally treat it like a show and go.  The premise of this game is very similar to USDAA’s Steeplechase in that it’s designed for speed and you compete based on jump height, not level.  So there’s just one course for all levels.  This course had the a-frame as the one contact obstacle (it will be either be that or the teeter, never the dogwalk) and you had to do it twice.  Otherwise it was just jumps, a tunnel, and 12 weaves. 

TTB

Rue did quite well with this course.  She was slower at the beginning and added extra strides, but from the weaves on she was cookin’.  I should have talked to her in the tunnel because she came out looking to the left which made the next jump very difficult, but she was a very smart puppy and saved it!  She finished in 30 seconds which put her 3rd in the 20″ height class out of 10 dogs and just behind and Aussie and a BC.  Yay Rue!  I’m thinking that she really doesn’t like when I push back on her at the start as she’s been tending to trot before the first jump when I do it.  I’m going to experiment with baby lead-outs versus sending her through my legs and taking off running.  I will also continue to reward pushing back on her collar and having her touch my hand for cookies to see if I can build drive for that game too.

Sunday:

Much cooler today than yesterday and far less humid which made it much more comfortable for everybody.  The Standard course looked even more evil than yesterday with a hard call off both ends of a tunnel to go into a pinwheel, yuck.  I figured I’d give it my best, but if he took the tunnel oh well at least he’d have more fun that way.  Well, I got what I expected and he called off the first tunnel hole and went into the 2nd one, so I went with it.  After watching the video I think I may have had better luck if I kept my stinking arm down, oops.  He found the tunnel to the pinwheel fun and I cheered for him for doing what I obviously told him to do which got a chuckle out of the judge 🙂  We got called on our teeter today, which was a surprise as it really wasn’t that bad….maybe he called it since we had already NQ’d??  I’d like to think that!  He had a beautiful table that he had to really hold onto as he was flying at it and then went into his down reasonably fast.  His tunnel to dogwalk was beautifully tight and the rest was fabulous.  We had a bar after the frame not sure what I did there, but probably was frantically trying to get to a front cross that I hadn’t planned in my walk through, but I wanted to test his weave entry and independence.  He rocked that part.  Totally hit his entry and let me get about 10 feet lateral and way far ahead of him.  I don’t think he’s ever weaved this fast in a trial, ever.  He was SUPER happy with himself too!  This run was actually 3.8yps even with the extra tunnel and the little hesitation to down on the table.  WOW!

We again did our 7 dog, 1 mile walk between classes and Rue got to see horses for I think the first time.  She thought they were quite neat 🙂

Once again the JWW course looked super fun…lots of places for fronts and nice areas for them to really open up and rip.  I was brave today and planned all fronts including one after the weaves (which was actually a “backy uppy” followed by a front) which required me to have lateral distance off the weaves again.  Well I must say I think my boy quite liked this course!  I was able to do my whole plan and he responded so nicely and didn’t even look at any of the offcourses that were eating up dog after dog.  He ran this in 5.2yps and was still 3 seconds behind Melanie’s Awesome Austie!  But 2nd place with 16 MACh points ain’t bad 😉  So this makes MXJ leg #5….

Overall I thought Miles and I did really great this weekend.  The courses were very hard and we still were able to pull them off with only 1 or 2  mistakes in each.  I’m so thrilled with how fast he was running especially given that it was a new place.  He far superceded my yps goals in each run and had some *amazing* weaves!  I was also very proud of myself for not trying to play it safe and go for the Q.  I would have felt really terrible if I slowed him down to try to be perfect and even worse if we still NQ’d so this was a big accomplishment for me!  I got so many compliments on our runs too, which is funny as only 1 was a Q.  Just goes to show you that slow and accurate just isn’t as memorable or as flashy as fast and dirty : D

Up Next:  A new patient evaluation for both dogs at a sports vet in Virginia.  I’m looking forward to learning more about my dogs’ structures and what I can do to help keep them as sound as possible.  Following that both dogs are entered locally for AKC 11/7-8 and then we’ll be taking it indoors for a show in Concord (same site as the AKC Nationals this year) the following weekend!

“It’s Not Just About the Ribbons” – Chapter 1: Goals

As part of my personal growth, I am reading Jane Savoie’s book “It’s Not Just About the Ribbons”.  My friends and I are reading a chapter per week and discussing what we’ve learned.  Chapter 1 discusses goal setting and in order to put more pressure on myself, I am listing them here in my blog…..so here are mine for the next year.

 

Long Term Goals (Define Your Destination)

Miles: MACh by Fall 2010 (and in doing so qualify for 2011 AKC Nationals)

Rue: Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Nationals

 

Short Term Goals (Make a Road Map)

 – Miles: MX/MXJ by Spring 2010

                  ADHF (Golden Retriever Agility Dog Hall of Fame) by Summer 2010

This month:

 – Learn how to communicate the difference between a tight rear-cross and a forward motion rear-cross

 – Practice start line stays in class, run-throughs, and in “high pressure” situations outside of agility

 – Do more “walk handling” sessions to help him have more obstacle commitment

– Achieve and maintain at least 5yps course times in JWW and at least 3.8yps course times in Standard

 

Rue: AX/AXJ by Late Spring/Early Summer 2010

 This month:

– Become more comfortable with turns on the flat to maintain extension and forward drive

– Visit and train in as many different locations as possible

– Alternate running courses without cookies with higher pressure short sequences with rewards on me

– Ask neighbors to come over and watch us train and act as ring crew/judge

– Start working more seriously/systematically on dogwalk turns

– Achieve and maintain at least 4yps in JWW and at least 3yps in Standard

 

 Word your goals thoughtfully:

– My dogs are fast, smart, and talented

– I am fast, coordinated, and strong

– Miles is courageous and resilient

– Rue is motivated to work/play with me

– I am confident in my handling choices for each dog

EDITED TO JUST THESE:

– Rue is motivated to work/play with me
– I am confident in my handling choices for each dog
– Miles has wicked fast weaves and slams into a down on the table
– Rue runs fast and extended
– Rue and I move together as a connected team
– Miles rides the teeter all the way down

 

Know the reasons why:

– Winning is fun

– Proving that Goldens can be very competitive in agility

– Becoming a more credible dog trainer

– Pushing myself beyond my limits

 

Motivation:

Carrot:

 – More letters after/before my dog’s names

– Recognition from peers, instructors, and elite competitors

– Credibility

– Sense of accomplishment

– Fun

 – Sense of self-worth

Stick:

– Fear of failure

 – Fear of injury

 – Embarassment

Last night’s handling class

We had our final class for the session last night and I asked if I could put Rue in this class with Miles instead of her regular Wed. night Novice/Open class.  Mostly I wanted a free night as I seem to be burning the candle at both ends lately, but I also wanted a chance to run her on longer sequences than we do in Novice and have more instruction time. 

Melanie’s taking a teaching break next session, so we won’t have our normal classes again until January.  Instead, she’s teaching a mini 2 week session in which Miles and Rue are going to be in a Masters Standard class together and just Miles will be in a Masters JWW class.  I didn’t think that putting Rue in class Tues and Wed back-to-back would be in her best interest at the time, but now I’m kind of wishing that I signed her up for the JWW class too as that seems to be our weaker area.  Hopefully we’ll be able to drop-in if someone is absent.  Otherwise, on the alternate weeks, I’m co-teaching a foundation class with one of my friends and then will be looking at going to drop-in classes elsewhere to keep my dogs in a structured learning environment with other dogs.

Having both dogs in the same class last night was really fun for me!  I was able to really mentally compare how they respond to my handling and the course and also work on being able to plan my handling strategy differently for both dogs.  It was obvious that Rue was faster and happier last weekend with me running her very forward.  I was interested to see how it transferred in class.  Plus I just got to run more which is just plain fun 🙂  I asked a friend to video us too, so I could really see how they did.

Overall, both dogs did great.  Miles pretty much is always a superstar in class…very fast, accurate, and happy.  I wanted to capture on video the difference in his 3 “slow” areas (table, dogwalk, and weaves) between trials and class.  For his last sequence, which was the whole course, I used his dinner (raw chicken) as his reward.  This historically is extremely motivating for him and it really gives me a glimpse of what he has the potential to do.  He was a bit overly aroused for that part of class and kinda left his brain on the sidelines as you can see in this video:

Here he is doing just the first half of the course in the beginning of class.  I had a cheese stick on me for reward.  The video is kind of a mess though….

Lil’ Rue was equally a champ last night.  She ran very fast and was quite pleased with herself I think!  I’m still in awe of what she’s doing at such a young age.  It blows my mind how she can know how to do some of the things that she’s doing 🙂  Anyway, here are her first attempts at the first half of the course.  The turn after the dogwalk was a real doozy and I haven’t been working turns at all, so I didn’t really care about what she gave me as far as her contact hits were concerned.  Melanie and I will be talking about turn training for the dw in our private lesson next week.

Here she is in the second half.  Here you can really see the difference of what cueing extension does for her speed and confidence 🙂

And finally, the whole course!  Little monkey thought she could bounce jump between the wingless and the double, whoops.  When we repeated that, she very smartly added a stride 🙂

In other news, I’m completely redoing my home agility field.  This has been an ongoing project for a few years now and finally I’ve decided that it needed to be a grass surface.  The area is separately fenced from the rest of the yard and being that it’s near the bottom of a sloped lot, drainage and wash away has been a major issue.  It started out being a fine gravel surface which worked for about 4-6 months until most of the gravel ended up in the woods after several really bad storms.  A french drain was placed, but the wash away continued so the area was mulched…well just half of it as the project got halted.  Both dogs have always enjoyed eating the mulch, argh, and while the mulch didn’t wash away, it had a propensity to grow very large mushrooms and other fungii–ick.  So finally after much deliberation, the area got a bunch of fill-dirt and was regraded yesterday and will be overseeded at the end of the week.  Ahhhh, sweet!  Only bummer is that I can’t use the agility field until the grass takes which won’t be until March-ish.  So all of my equipment is strewn across the backyard for now, but fortunately there is enough room to be able to set up a few stations for training 🙂

Autumn Winds Agility Club New Hill, NC 10/17-18/09: Miles gets QQ #2 and Rue earns her OA and NAJ!!

Rue 10-18-09

I’m so proud of my Goldens this weekend!  They both ran fast and happy and had some major milestones.  Of course it being nearly 30 degrees cooler than last weekend only helped 😉  I’d never been to this site before, so there’s always a bit of uncertainty and anxiety about what Miles will think of the site, equipment, etc. 

Saturday:

Arrived bright and early at 7:30am.  It started raining about 5 minutes after I left my house and I was quite worried since I didn’t really pack much in the way of rain gear.  Thankfully it stopped by the time I arrived and ended up being about 55deg, cloudy, and mildly windy all day.

Excellent Standard was first running tall-small and I was pleasantly surprised by a fairly wide open course.  My only concern was with the opening, but I planned to start with him nonetheless.  He was excited to come out of the car and didn’t seem to miss a beat during our warm up.  We were the 3rd dog on the line and the first 24″, so it was a nice quick warm up and right into the ring.  Miles read the turn away from the offcourse very well and we got the rear, but he extended out of it so much that we almost bought a dummy jump.  I’m starting to realize that we might need to start working on our rears because they’re no longer a guaranteed tight turn.  He seems to be powering out of them quite nicely now, so I need to start working on how to signal the difference between a tight rear and a forward sending rear.  The rest of the course ran as planned, even down to the eternity it took him to “down” on the table.  He had great contacts and weaves, but kinda thought about refusing the strange appearing chute for half of a second…silly.  He ended up getting 3rd place and 10 points for this run.  He easily could have had a 1st or 2nd place time if it weren’t for the dang table.  Also, notice the teeeeeeny tiny wings they use here…haha!

Excellent JWW followed not too far behind.  They had two rings going, but only one judge so there was some delay to get started.  This course was also pretty nice and open….not too much collection needed at all which is right up our alley.  Miles flew off the line nice and fast and we got nice speed going down the back line when I again attempted a rear cross.  He read the rear fine, but again carried out so far that he got his nose about 1cm away from a tunnel hole before turning his ears on and pulling off of it, phew!  The rest was beautiful, except for him turning the wrong way over one jump and making me sweat it out, and he turned in a respectable time.  Unfortunately, we did not place for this run and only got 8 points, but it was our 2nd QQ!!  I think if I had cued the turn better in both places we would have been very competetive.  Just something to work on with the rears.

Open Standard was almost exactly like the Excellent course except that the first and last jumps were removed.  I felt really good about this course for lil’ Rue and was excited to try out my “only turn on the flat” handling today!  Unfortunately, with the start being as it was I couldn’t figure out a motivating way to get her going and elected to put a front between 2 and 3.  As expected this slowed her down quite a bit, but she did the 180 like a good girl and then the rest was beautiful!  She kicked it up in the weaves, had a great teeter, fast down on the table, caught sick air on the frame, and *finally* had a running dogwalk like she does in practice.  Yay!  I was SO excited to see her running so nicely and happy!  Not surprisingly, Rue didn’t even take a second look at the new equipment 🙂  She’s so solid in that department, thank goodness.  This run earned her OA leg #2 and she had the fastest time of all jump heights!!

I then had a fairly long wait before Novice JWW, the last course of the day, ran.  It looked great and, like the Excellent course, full of extension.  I planned to do two landing side rears on the flat and one forward motion front-cross after the weaves to set up a push to the correct end of the tunnel at the end.  I’ve never done landing side rears with her in practice before, but I figured we’ve done them enough in shadow handling that hopefully she’d read it okay.  The first one was a bit awkward, but moved well and I praised the heck out of her for doing it.  We then picked up a ton of speed down the back line and I guess the late cue came as a surprise to her b/c she slammed into my leg and knocked me over.  Somehow I miraculously got up very quickly and was able to regroup and get her back on course.  She didn’t seem bothered by the fact that I pretty much fell on her and happily picked her speed right back up and had a fabulous ending for our NAJ title 🙂

After the trial, I took the dogs for a short trail run at Jordan Lake.  We all enjoyed stretching our legs out and filling our lungs with the cool air 🙂

Sunday:

Small to tall today, so I “slept in” a bit and arrived around 8:30….perfectly timed to watch the 16″ dogs run Exc. Standard.  Melanie texted me on my way to the site to tell me how awesome the course was, sweet!  I was definitely excited to find a much more motivating start to the course today.  I found a nice plan for my boy and got him out of the car about 4 dogs ahead.  Once again, he was happy to do his tricks and quite motivated to get to the start line.  I almost couldn’t hang onto him at the start, cool.  He took off like a flash into the tunnel and had a very naughty teeter that the judge decided to give me a gift for.  He was trucking along great until he made the turn for the table and a huge gust of wind picked up the EZ up tent that was over the timer/scribe.  Oh boy.  He put his front paws up on the table and then hit the brakes 😦  The judge quickly saw what was happening and told me to “abort”.  She told me to leave the ring, get his head back together and get back in the lineup!!  Wow, what a nice judge!  So we waited for 2 dogs to go before heading back in for another try.  The judge told me that since I had been clean up until the table, she wasn’t going to be judging anything up to that point, but that I had to complete everything along the way.  I think I was so excited that Miles was not only running again, but got on the teeter that I stepped forward just enough to kick him out to an off course.  Obviously that didn’t “count”, but it did take up some extra time.  Honestly though, I was just so psyched that my previously scaredy cat pup was trusting enough to come back in and give it another go that I couldn’t be happier.  Miles was so smart and got right up on the table, quickly sat, and then finished the rest in fine style!  He got 3rd place for our 3rd MX leg and 20 MACh points!!

Again Excellent JWW followed quickly after Standard.  I really liked the course as it again promised to be very fast.  I elected to start with him as usual which made the weave entry a bit more difficult, but he was very smart and found it fine (even with a little look over to the scribe tent before the weaves).  I was very proud of the rear before the tunnel as that’s a scenario where I’ve pulled him off the jump in the past.  Unfortunately I didn’t support the jump after the tunnel, but I didn’t let him know that he missed it 🙂  I didn’t get the yardage for this run, but based on his time and the 16″ yardage, he was well over 5yps!  Probably one of his fastest JWW runs to date….guess he is getting faster in those poles.

The Open Standard course didn’t change too terribly much from Excellent, but the judge did decide to offset the jump after the dogwalk 😦  I again planned for as much extension as possible and all crosses on the flat.  Rue was excited to go in the ring and had fairly good speed off the start.  She picked it up even more as we went along and turned in a fantastic performance for our OA with yet another 1st place!!  That makes six straight Standard Q’s all with 1st place finishes!  Holy moley, she’s in Excellent.

Last, but not least, was Open JWW.  The course remained exactly the same except parts were re-numbered.  Unfortunately in the very short time between runs, Rue tried to chase a squirrel after which she was suddenly VERY interested in all of the woods that lined the Jumpers ring.  I think that distracted her enough that when coupled with a demotivating start, led to her having a little “moment”.  After the weaves she kind of wandered off towards the fence, not far, but enough to get her a refusal and to get her on the backside of the next jump.  After what seemed like forever, I was able to get her back around to the the front of the jump and get her going again.  I knew we’d be close on time and decided to just put a rear before the double.  She did the jump, but slowed down a bit to do it.  We got great speed going again to only come to an abrupt halt when I tried to put a landing side cross in before the tunnel.  Rue very obviously thought that was garbage and showed me that by trotting to the next jump.  Thankfully she didn’t hold a grudge long and picked it up for a strong finish.  Miraculously we were only 5 seconds over time and that, combined with the refusal, gave us a Q by the skin of our teeth.  Thinking back, I bet Rue had it all under control…..”don’t worry Mom, I’ll speed it up, I just need about 5 seconds here to think about something.  Ok I’m good, let’s go!”.

All in all, I think this way of handling Rue is going to prove to be the way to go for at least a little while.  She seemed to respond very nicely to it in all but the last run, but that may have just been a fluke.  I think we certainly need to practice those landing side rears so that they’re more fluid and not demotivating or dangerous 😉  I am still having a hard time conceptualizing exactly where to put the fronts which is why I picked the late rears this weekend.  We’ll be working on this a lot now that she’s on a bit of a break.

Up Next:  MCKC AKC next weekend with Miles only, then they both go up to have a new patient visit with Dr. Regina Schwabe (sports vet) in Virginia the following weekend.

What I learned from last weekend and what I’m doing about it….

Me:

I’ll start by saying that my mental game is improving, thank goodness.  My friends and I have also decided to have a book club and read “It’s Not Just About The Ribbons”.  We’ll read a chapter per week and then discuss what we learned and how we’ll apply that to our lives.  My book is on order from Amazon–can’t wait!

Another positive realization for me was that I finally feel like the Excellent courses are no longer over my head and are completely doable for Miles.  Not only that, but I’m starting to be able to concentrate on handling paths, yardage, etc. to try to find the fastest and most efficient way to get from Start to Finish.  It feels really good.

I need to continue to come up with my own plans for each course and not let what others are saying influence my decisions for my dog.  It stresses me out to much to constantly listen to others talking about what could go wrong if you do x y z.  Argh.  

I have gotten better about running faster and not babysitting, especially Miles.  I need to continue to work on my timing with him to avoid confusion and/or wide turns.

Miles:

The boy continues to amaze me with his transformation in the last 6mo-1yr.  It really hits home when you can compare his attitude at the same place but separated by about 7 months.  He still has his stressy moments as evidenced by him popping the poles in Standard the first day last weekend, but those are very rare anymore.  Most times he might look at something, but continues to work without losing focus and speed.  I find that he’s noticing things less and less though.  Further, he seems to be almost completely unaffected by the photographer now.  I haven’t seen any pictures of him lately where he’s looking at the camera, sweet!  He’s also allowing me to leave him in a short lead out without it affecting his speed off the line.  This is HUGE.  He has also not had a teeter refusal since the Concord trial in July.

What’s getting us still is speed, especially in Standard.  He’s just still not that competetive with his times and I know he’s still not as fast overall in trials as he is in training, but we’re getting there.  In competition, his striding is pretty good, but he does still add some unnecessary strides in some places.  My timing could definitely be better so that we avoid really wide turns.  Mostly his biggest time wasters are the table (when it’s a down), the weaves, and the dogwalk.

His table is all stress related as it’s a break in the action and he has a chance to think about his surroundings.  I have to remember to tell him “down” as he’s getting on the table before I lose his concentration.  Generally this gets better as the weekend progresses.  I don’t really have a definite plan here…maybe do some foundational table stuff with him that he never got when he was learning.  Of note, he offers a very quick down almost automatically in practice and sometimes even offers to do the table before we start a sequence if it’s close by.  Having said that, I point more of his issue to plain stress versus a “table issue”. 

With the dogwalk, I’m toying a bit with the idea of a retrain to running.  Not sure that I’ll do it, but I’d love to find a way to motivate him to canter the entire length of it.  It’s tempting though because since switching to the modified running a-frame, his speed and confidence has skyrocketed.  Instead of site-seeing from the top, he’s flying over the apex and frequently giving me a 3 strided frame.  As for the dogwalk, in training he’s typically cantering until the downramp and then trots into 2o/2o.  In trials, usually he ends up trotting the middle and end planks and then *sometimes* stops in his 2o/2o.  I’ve been bad about early releasing him, but he’s also self released before due to stress, so at least I feel like if I say it’s okay to break then at least he’s not making that decision.  He’s still 100% stopped in practice.  I may try varying the time that I leave him in his end position in practice to build drive by keeping him guessing.  I find that 2o/2o contacts really only work well if the dog is motivated to get to the next obstacle.  He certainly is during practice, but a bit less so during a trial.  I’m hoping that building a little more intensity into the 2o/2o in training might help with speed.  If not, Silvia Trkman’s coming to PBH next month and both dogs are signed up for her contacts/weaves seminar 😉

And speaking of the weaves, ugh.  I’ve just about given up on getting this dog to single-stride.  We’ve been through several retrains with 2×2’s and the channels.  I cut the poles way down to 20″ tall in order to encourage a lower head position which that definitely did help with.  I also purchased 24″ weaves a few months ago, but still no effect on his striding.  I can say that since the last retrain this Summer, his entries are way more accurate on the soft side, his head position is lower, his speed has increased, and he’s much more independent with regard to my motion and lateral distance.  I don’t know that he’ll ever single step and I have to wonder if it’s uncomfortable for him with his mild elbow dysplasia??  I have a set of 6 knuckles that can convert straight poles to a weave-a-matic style, so I may try those during the winter break.

Rue:

I’ve been on a bit of an emotional rollercoaster regarding the lil’ one over this past week.  Don’t get me wrong, she is doing a phenomenal job considering her age and the short time in which we’ve been sequencing obstacles.  She’s one smart turkey, but she’s starting to really show her lack of confidence in trials.  Obviously, she’s a baby dog and there is a lot of new stuff that she’s trying to process out there, but I want to make sure she’s happy and having fun. 

She’s very accurate and wants to be right both for herself and I’m starting to see glimpses that she wants to be right for me too 🙂  Her speed has me concerned…not really her speed so much as the trotting on course.  I don’t mind if she’s slower right now in trials than she is in practice, but watching her trot makes me sad.  Most times it’s only for an obstacle or two in the beginning, but still.  Granted, I’m very pleased that she is able to break out of the trot and open up for me as I’m sure a lot of dogs would trot the whole way if that’s the way they started out on course.

Her motivation level is also something that I’ve struggled with on and off for a while.  It’s been very difficult finding something or some way to really rev her up.  One day it will be a tug toy that’s the best thing in the world and another day she’ll wonder what’s in it for her if she plays with it.  Same thing with food.  Further, what works indoors can frequently fizzle out when outdoors.  For instance, I can turn her on just by looking at her a certain way inside, but outside where there may be hunting to do??  Forget it.  I have to work MUCH harder to find that on switch.  I’m not complaining, just something we have to continue to work through.

Another observation that I’ve made is that when it comes to practicing and sequencing, she’ll often slow down and show less enthusiasm if there is someone in the ring acting like a judge or an instructor.  I’m fairly certain it’s because she’s conflicted between visiting that person and working with me, so she slows down in order deal.  This is something that I can certainly help her work through in practice both at home and in class, which is nice.

I’m not convinced that trialing her right now is a bad thing because she seems to be improving at each trial as evidenced by her yps, particularly in the JWW runs.  However, I will have no problem pulling her from the few she is entered in if I start to see the trend going in the opposite direction.  That being said, I know I need to continue to expose her to many different places and situations as well as moderate how and with whom I’m practicing. 

I’m planning to take her for a few more drop-in classes at different facilities for varied equipment and environmental exposure.  I’ll also try to get her out to different run-throughs when possible.  While there, I will vary between easy courses/high distraction and hard courses/low distraction as well as what’s in between.  Just this week, we went to an Open/Excellent drop-in class at Bon-Clyde and had a FANTASTIC time. 

Here’s how it went:  The first run was an 18 obstacle course and I just wanted to see what happened so I treated it like a trial.  She was way faster than she is in a trial, but was about the speed she is in class when the instructor is close and adding pressure.  Her weaves were pretty slow, but her dogwalk was quite nice and the rest was cantering and accurate.  The second run was 7 obstacles and I brought food in and stopped to reward after her painfully slow weaves and then again at the end before running out to jackpot.  She popped out of the poles to visit another dog, but very quickly came back and re-attempted the weaves.  Our third run was again a short sequence and I used…..her bunny tug.  She was soooo crazy!  I’m still in awe of how fast she ran off the line.  Yet she was still able to focus on what I was telling her to do, kept all the bars up and had a sick dogwalk with a really low 3 paw hit that I rewarded with tugging and then stole the tug again and finished the sequence followed by more tugging and then I let her win the toy.  We left the ring and I gave her meatballs 🙂  I’d say that was a very successful training session!  The unfortunate thing is I’m not sure how I’ll reproduce it, but I’ll sure try!

We’re signed up for a drop-in at another local center next week for more exposures.  In the meantime, something else that I’m going to play around with is being a little more sloppy in my handling.  It has come to my attention that I may be giving Rue too many turning cues too early and that could be a big factor that’s slowing her down.  I’m going to go back through Linda Mecklenburg’s book and work on just trying to turn her on the flat and give her as many extension cues as I can over jumps.  I tried it in class last night and it for sure made a difference in her speed and enthusiasm.  I’m excited to see what happens this weekend!

PBH USDAA trial 10/11/09

Just a quick report as it was just one run for Miles today.  I was happy to wake up to much cooler weather today and was excited to just do PII Standard after our full day yesterday!  I got to PBH around 10:30 and pretty close to the time that we walked the course.  Looked fun and very doable for Mr. Miles 🙂  Not surprisingly he was very happy to come out and play and boy was he fast off the line, holy smokes!  He dropped an unfortunate bar, not sure why, but had a very fast down on the table and great contacts and weaves!

After that I had a while before Masters Pairs would run.  I was running Melanie’s older BC Regan for the second time in Pairs with her and Austin.  We ran together back over Memorial Day weekend and it was a blast.  Unfortunately, we didn’t do any practicing before this run and Regan has decided to get faster in the meantime.  She was very naughty for me today 😉  We took the first half and I tried to leave her at the startline, but Regan wasn’t going to have that.  I had to reset her 3 times at which point the judge told me that if I did that again she’d have to fault me.  Well she broke her sit again so off we went!  I wasn’t in position for her aframe and she jumped the contact, dang!  I was definitely flustered, but managed to hang onto her until the end somehow.  Of course once we were done, she thought it’d be fun to play keep away and it took me about 5 seconds at least to grab her before I could give the batton to Melanie.  She and Austin were perfect and somehow we were fast enough to give her the Q, phew!

Up next:  Two weekends of AKC locally and then a weekend off, sweet!

ETA:  Watched the video closely and it’s hard to see from the camera angle, but it appears that he wrapped the jump tightly and his tail hit the jump standard which made the bar fall 😦