Fall.

There are many things that I love about the fall….cooler weather, beautiful foliage, apples, fires in the fireplace, sweaters, jeans, and boots….but one of my favorites is taking some time off from agility and letting the dogs be, well, dogs.

Nationals are done, Rue and Miles rocked, and now it’s time to rest a bit, recover.  It’s time to reflect back on our year together, think about our accomplishments…and about the things that we had hoped to accomplish, but didn’t.  Now is the time to start to make plans for the next year…what local trials do I want to do, what Regionals do we want to attend, what are my goals for each dog and for myself?  I love to plan…this makes me giddy with excitement!

This past year brought a few injuries for me.  I learned a ton about proper posture, better running technique, and the importance of stretching and warming up.  I’m not getting any younger and it’s evident that I need to be aware of some of my limitations, but also take control and make myself stronger and more balanced.  I started with a new personal trainer in January whom I love.  He kicks my butt on a regular basis, but I still love him 😉  I also found the most amazing chiropractor in the world who helped to rehab my shoulder after I dislocated it twice in the ocean while shredding some awesome waves.  She has taught me about kinesiotape and it’s benefits in healing and kept me from needing to have surgery.  This past year I also started teaching a foundations class at a local facility.  I LOVE teaching and so far have had the most amazing experience and the most wonderful students and dogs.  I look forward to teaching for a long time to come 🙂

The dogs have had a lot of accomplishments this year.  Miles continues to enjoy agility and continues to get faster and more confident.  That boy made me work to get him qualified for Cynosport and dang I was all set to not take him, when he said wait a minute, and proceeded to finish up his local Q’s and both semi-finals byes at the Chicago Regional in August.  He did it in fine style too taking silver in both PSJ Finals and PVP Pairs.  Thanks Monkey!  “Original Golden Mafia”:

There was a little set back in the spring when I felt like I didn’t want to run him any more.  I was putting way too much pressure on myself and had all of these expectations from him and neglected to focus on what was important….and that was FUN.  I had forgotten about joy.  I felt horrible and I knew he felt it too.  Part of it was that Miles had his first seizure in April and I was terrified that something would happen while we were running.  I was also crazy worried about injury for him because he just seemed “off”, but that was likely more me than him.  We just couldn’t seem to get it together.  Bars were falling a LOT and his JWW yps were not up to par.  After a lot of thought, I made the decision in July to move Miles to Preferred in AKC.  This negated any chance we’d have of qualifying for the NAC in 2013, but I made the decision for Miles…not me.  And boy, let me tell you, he LOVES him some 20″ jumps!!  Hopefully once AKC implements a break away tire, we can set out on getting him qualified for 2014 NAC in Preferred!  Miles also had a stellar showing at USDAA Nationals this year.  He was the most confident he’s been yet at a big event and was just on fire.  He only put a foot wrong once, in PGP Semi finals, but everything else was spot on.  I got in his way in PSJ Semi finals and cost precious time which put us out of the cutoff by 0.4 seconds and one placement.  But, he was squeaky clean in all team classes and made it to PVP finals where his team, Dogs ALoud, took 8th in Relay and 9th overall out of ~150 PVP teams!!

 

As always, I’ve made a movie highlighting each dog’s past year.  Here is Miles’ year in review (excluding our recent trip to USDAA Nationals):

 

Now onto Rue.  Wow, what can I say…this girl has really stepped up to the plate in the last year.  I still cannot even believe how much she has accomplished in her 4yrs, unbelievable really.

In summary, Rue earned her MACH in March, she was in the top 25 Goldens in AKC agility for the 1st quarter of the year, she earned a spot in the Golden Retriever Agility Dog Hall of Fame (ADHF), qualified for 2013 NAC in Tulsa, OK, won or placed in several USDAA Regional events, earned semi finals byes to USDAA Nationals, earned her USDAA PerformanceTournament Master, is ranked in the top 5 Golden Retrievers in USDAA tournaments, and ran her heart out in Denver in all of our runs and ended up making it to PGP Finals taking 3rd Place at USDAA Nationals!  Rue was the only Golden Retriever to make the Finals in PGP and she got to get on the podium.  So blessed, so blessed.  We still have lots to work on…I know she can go even faster as she gains more and more confidence in the ring 🙂

And now, on the brink of her spay surgery, it’s time to look back to her year:

 

We are very excited for our next adventure!!

~ Kristin, Miles and Rue

The “off season”

After USDAA Nationals last October, I tried something different with my training/trialing plans.  I described it in a previous post titled “Deep Thoughts” http://wp.me/plxyX-dy.

Essentially, the idea is that I split up my year into two seasons, both of which ultimately lead to a key event….likely a National of some sort.  Those seasons are divided into thirds with the first portion devoted to rest, reflection, rebuilding, and retraining.  The second portion is devoted to experimentation, ie. let’s see how well these new things hold up in a trial setting.  The third and last portion is then time to execute which leads up to the key event.  The hope is for those last several weeks to have very solid runs where the focus is on outcome goals….to Q, to win, etc.

This schedule worked VERY well for me and Rue.  It allowed us to have fun and play with some things initially without any pressure, but then when it came time to get it done we were a very solid team.  We ended our season with the USDAA Regional in Palmyra, PA.  Rue had an incredible showing there as I talked about in my previous post.  Yet, even with a stellar run in PSJ Finals, we ended up missing the qualifying cut-off by .02 seconds.  Rue can definitely give me .02 seconds……heck, she could probably give me a full second or two.  At this point, Rue’s advantages are her running contacts and her tight turns.  Where I think we need more speed are in straight lines (ie, more extension work), especially off the line.  A reliable and stress free start line stay has to be made a priority.  If I could get out ahead, even a little bit, I think I could get more extension from her off the line.  The other main things for Rue and I are more independent contacts and faster/more independent weave poles.  Our goal trial now is USDAA Nationals at the end of September in Denver, CO.  Rue doesn’t have any trials lined up for the summer except for SE Regionals in Perry, GA in a month, a local USDAA trial in July, and possibly NC Regionals in Crystal Lake, IL in August.  So we can really focus on our retraining without any pressure of trialing 🙂

So for this phase, in the next 6 weeks, I need to figure out what I will do about her start lines.  Right now, I can get maybe one a weekend while trialing.  I’ll probably need to invest in going to run throughs and group classes fairly regularly to really train this properly.  I can also try simulating that pressure by setting up a short jump sequence in a public park.  For her weave poles, I am going to go back to the channel work we started last fall and continue to progress.  Unfortunately, my channels are 20″ spacing so that doesn’t really help much once I start closing them up.  I borrowed a friend’s 24″ channels for a long time, but didn’t take full advantage and now they’ve been returned.  Silly me.  I may need to put those on a to be purchased list.  Anyone want 20″ channels??? 😉  I just signed Rue up for Silvia Trkman’s Running Contact online course.  Rue was taught with Silvia’s method back in the dark ages, but she has since evolved her approach to teaching them a bit and I’ve also found that while I may not have needed reliable turns before, I certainly need them now!  Her class starts on May 21st!  Lastly, for extension work I’m doing big jump grids/race to-from tunnel type stuff.  I’ll also work on general conditioning with a focus on speed….so restrained recalls, hill retrieves, etc.  Here’s what we did yesterday:

I also think this method of training/trialing can be a very good thing for me and Miles, but as I’ve mentioned, something else has been lacking and I didn’t quite see the same results last season that I saw with Rue.  Be that trust in his training, be that fear of injury, be that I never fully let go of expectations with him.  Or maybe it was that I let go of taking him to Reno, so never really had a “goal trial” for him.  Not sure, but figuring that out is a definite priority.  Our focus right now is Golden Retriever Nationals at the beginning of September.  I’m on the fence about Cynosport with him.  Last year was very disappointing and our performance at the Palmyra Regional was eerily similar to what happened at Cyno.  In Palmyra, he had a really nice PGP Rd 1 run…..except for an up-contact call on the DW.  We also had a really nice run going in PSJ Rd 1 until I sent him off course.  These same two errors kept us from moving out of Quarterfinals last year at Nationals.  Add that to the stress of getting two dogs to Denver….just not sure it’s worth it.  On the flip side, I feel like I’m giving up on Miles and that feels awful.  I chose to not take him to Reno and now I probably won’t take him to Denver.  He’s a great dog…why do I feel this way??  The good news is, I have time still to figure out my answer.  And, we also have GR Nats to look forward to.  I’ve never been to our breed National before…should be a blast!  The site looks and sounds beautiful (Purina Farms outside of St. Louis, MO) and the judges are great, yay!  Miles and I will also be doing some solo trialing this summer, which will be good for us I think 🙂

So here’s what I have lined up for me and Miles in the next 6-7 weeks:

1)  Become more of a team again.  I will spend more time reflecting on what we’ve accomplished together and go forward in *full faith* with the skills that we have as a team.  I will go to the line with him focusing on how *athletic* he is and on how *fast* he is.  I will *be excited* to run him, no matter what the outcome.  I will stay *in the moment*.

2)  Revisit our up-contacts.  Perhaps through Silvia’s course, I will get some fresh ideas for this.

3)  Go out of my comfort zone and really push him on course.

Miles and I played around a little bit yesterday too.  We set up and ran the Team Jumpers course from IFCS World Championships which is going on this weekend in Texas…go USA!!  I thought he did remarkably well on this course and NO BARS, yeehaw!  We also did some extension grid stuff like I did with Rue because he likes it and it certainly can’t hurt for him to be more stretched out in straight lines.  It’s also great speed/sprint conditioning.  Miles doesn’t do the dynamic ball work that Rue does outside, we do a more moderate version indoors with more controlled movements.  I found he has a tendency to be a bit too insane with the dynamic work and gets himself injured.  Here’s what we did yesterday:

Thanks for reading!

Home sick, hello blog!

A friend recently encouraged me to get back into writing my blog.  I find that I end up posting so many things to Facebook, that I don’t even think about my blog.  However, when I looked back at “recent” blog posts, I realize just how helpful it is to me to see what was going on.  The purpose of this blog has always been more of a record keeping journal….data collection….stream of consciousness type of thing. So anyway, here we are.

Last time I visited, I spoke about my back injury.  Ugh, that was a LONG road.  I ended up leaving the chiropractor I had been seeing and went to physical therapy.  I spent about 6 weeks in PT with twice weekly visits while also continuing to see my massage therapist about every 3 weeks.  Finally, I got strong enough to be discharged from PT and found a wonderful personal trainer who I’ve been with now since the beginning of January.  I see him once a week on Wednesdays after work and boy does he push me!  I also found a new, wonderful, chiropractor who I see once a month and still see my massage therapist with the same frequency. I finally am feeling like I’m getting stronger…and faster.  Since my injury was born from running distance, that’s been the slowest activity to recover.  However, I’m now comfortably running 5 miles twice a week….a far cry from what I used to do, but at least I’m running!  I plan to add another day of running in soon and see how I do.  And now when you see me at trials, I’ll have an agility ladder, lateral resistance bands, and a foam roller….all to help with good warm up/cool down.  One thing I learned through all of this…I ain’t gettin’ ANY younger, sigh.

And now to the dogs 🙂  Both are healthy and crazy as ever.  Miles’ little back thing in October was pretty short-lived and he’s been back to his regular activities since November.  After a long period of internal debate, I decided to NOT take him to Reno, NV for AKC Nationals.  It was a very difficult decision for me, but ultimately I felt that the stress and cost of the travel was too much for an event that I wasn’t sure I cared enough about.  His performance at the NAC in 2011 was stellar, but something told me that it wasn’t worth it to go this year.  So I chose to focus on local AKC to get him qualified for Tulsa in 2013 🙂  Yet, poor buddy….I’m not totally sure what has happened to us as a team, but we’ve been out of sync much more than we’ve been in sync which is not helping me mentally.  I’m starting to lose faith with him as a partner and don’t look forward to my runs with him as much as I know I should.  I desperately need to fix this, but I’m really not sure how I can.  He is a stellar dog and he deserves for me to be 100% for him.  We are so connected mentally that I know he’s feeling some of this as well.  I’m seriously considering a mental game coach at this point.  But, on the positive side I’ll share videos from two trials in the past few months where I felt we were really connected.  I watch these often to try to channel the emotions.

Here he is at BRAC USDAA in December.  Miles was teamed with Tracy Hirsch and her BC, Pilot.  Miles and Pilot ran great together and ended up taking gold.  Miles actually got the Top Dog award too!  He also played in PSJ and PGP.  He came in 2nd in both rounds of PSJ and missed the second to last jump in PGP.  BUT, this was the first trial that I’ve seen him hit ALL of his up contacts, woohoo!

And then there was the AKC trial in Chatham, VA in mid-March.  Again, just felt really in sync with him.  I had some errors, but Miles was brilliant.  No bars all weekend and he placed 1st in all Standard classes.  On Sunday, he had his fastest yps Standard run ever at 5.05yps earning 32 points!  Miles also earned his 2nd QQ for Tulsa at this show.

Onto lil’ Rue.  WOW, is all I can say.  Something has kicked in with this girl and we are having the time of our lives out there.  Between November and January, Rue finished her qualifications for USDAA Nationals in short order, including a win in PSJ Round 2 at BRAC (Miles took 2nd due to a bar) as well as a PGP win at CPA in January to earn a Regional Bye!  Rue also teamed with Tracy/Pilot at the January CPA trial and their team took bronze.  Also, since January, Rue has earned 9 QQs, her MACH, qualified for 2013 AKC Nationals, and earned her way into the ADHF with 3 double placements!!  She is on a roll and I don’t believe it’s ending anytime soon!  Not only has she been consistent, but dang she’s gotten SO fast.  I know she still has more in her too so I’m very excited for our future.  In February I decided to try entering Rue at 24″ in AKC.  She’d been practicing at this height for over a year and was very comfortable with it.  I am quite pleased with the results of her at 24″ and time will tell if I keep her there for a while or if I move her back down.  She’s certainly faster at 20″, but she is still turning in yps over 5 in JWW and over 4 in Standard at 24″ which have been our goals.  Granted I believe Rue could certainly go faster and should be closer to 6yps in JWW and 5yps in Standard, but that will come in time I’m quite certain.  I could post a zillion videos of hers, but I’ll limit it to her MACH video and her runs from the Palmyra (Mid-Atlantic) Regional.

Her MACH came over the weekend of AKC Nationals in Reno.  Didn’t I say that *something* told me Reno wasn’t the best idea????  I think this was the way it was supposed to be.  Not to mention, I found FIVE 4-leaf clovers on one walk during the week preceding her MACH.  I had found two of these in my entire lifetime before that walk.  How weird.  Anyway, here’s her video.  Not her fastest runs, but I think this was one of the only times I’ve ever felt pressure to “go clean” with Rue.  I tell ya, I don’t like that feeling.  But, we got it done 🙂

And now for the Regional.  Rue competed in PVP Pairs with Mardi Closson and her young boy, Screech. This was a “just for fun” team and despite Screech E’ing in Standard, me scratching Rue from Jumpers and Screech only getting 1 point in Snooker, our team finished only 2 spots below the Q cutoff!! On Day 1, Rue flew through Gamblers and earned a shocking total of 69 points for a Q and 2nd place (for comparison, I ran Miles on the same course and only got 49 points…she was flying). Rue also went clean in Standard and was one spot out of the Q. I pulled her from team Jumpers b/c it was a terrible course for her. Amazingly, Screech pulled out a 2nd place finish on that course…wow. On Day 2, Rue flew through Snooker with a respectable 43 point finish and a 5th place Q. Rue and Screech then got to run Relay and finished 6th out of 31 teams!!

Also on Saturday, Rue competed in Round 1 of PGP and PSJ. I am pleased to say that she was clean and fast in both earning a 4th place Q in PGP and an 11th
place Q in PSJ to move on to Round 2/Finals in both events. Rue was the ONLY non-Border Collie in the finals!!!

Sunday was Rue’s time to shine. The courses we got for finals were very very friendly for her skill set and running contacts. I had full faith in our team
and in her. Stepping to the line with her in PGP Finals was such an honor. She was SOOOO fired up. I attempted to do a short lead out, but she was having
nothing to do with that. I remember saying “oh God” as we both shot off the line….off to the races! What I planned to do after the DW didn’t exactly
happen, but somehow a combination of ninja moves and Rue’s brilliance, she got into the correct tunnel hole. We lost a bit of time b/c I was shell shocked at
what just happened and then ran the wrong side of the next line forcing a rear at the chute. She still finished 9th out of 19 dogs and got a freaking Bye to
Semi-finals at this years Nationals!!! OMG, wow. Only non-BC to compete in Rd 2 and she beat more than half of them with a messy run??? I’ll take it!

Our last (and 8th) run of the weekend was PSJ Finals. Again, Rue was really over the top fired up. She really feeds off the energy at these big events and
it is so fun to see. It was so cool to be the first team to run our jump height (we were seeded last going into finals). Holy poo, she ran like the darn wind
and put in a time of 28.44. I watched team after team E or get faults and Rue hung on for a long time in the top 5. However, two really fast BC’s ran at the
end including Paulena Simpson’s dog, F5 Tornado, and those dogs shot the qualifying time down to 28.42. OMG, we missed the cut off by .02 seconds??? No
PJS Semi finals Bye for my girl at this show, but holy cow…. .02 seconds???  What is that, a fraction of a sneeze?? She finished 6th in a sea of fast BC’s,
my little Golden Retriever. SOOOO proud, so proud.

Here is part of her run from PSJ Semi-finals.  It cuts off the beginning of 3 jumps, aframe, jump.  Rue squeaked into Finals based on this run and was the only non-BC to do so!

That’s about the best recap I can give of the last 6 months.  There are plenty of other videos to watch on my YouTube site (tailsofgold).  I’ll be back later to discuss our next set of training goals.  Now that we’re past our “goal” trial for the spring, there is lots to do to get ready for Cynosport in September!!!

Happy training!

Deep Thoughts….

As some of you may know, Miles, Rue and I recently competed at Cynosport World Games last month in Louisville, KY.  This was Miles’ second trip and Rue’s first.  It was overall a great trip.  Rue blew me away with how well she handled the pressures of a REALLY big show.  She brought her a-game to each and every run and was rewarded with making it into PGP Semifinals.  She also had very solid team runs.  I couldn’t have been more proud of her!  Miles’ time at the games was a bit disappointing.  He missed his up-contact on the DW in PGP Quarters, had an off-course tunnel in PSJ Quarters and then he and his teammate both tanked in Snooker.  Don’t get me wrong we had some GREAT runs, but it made me rethink some things for him.  Of course, keeping it all in perspective as compared to last year he was super confident and VERY fast.  Can’t complain about that!!

Here are the videos:

Since we returned from the games, I and both dogs have been in a period of rest and recharge.  I figure there were 24 weeks between USDAA Nationals and AKC Nationals which makes for a very convenient  separation of three 8-week periods.  The first 8 weeks are planned for rest, reflection, rebuilding and retraining which is where we are right now.  The number one item on Miles’ list for retraining is to attempt to teach him to hit the up-contact.  That one thing alone has cost us more USDAA runs than any other issue.  I decided to try using a board on the ground and reward him for hitting the “up” similar to how I started training Rue’s running dogwalk with a plank on the ground.  We’ve had 5 sessions thus far:

Rue is on a slightly different path as I don’t plan to bring her to AKC Nationals this year.  Instead, her “goal trial” is the Mid-Atlantic USDAA Regional in Palmyra, PA three weeks after AKC Nationals.  Conveniently, that breaks down to three 9-week periods.  For Rue’s retrain, I’m concentrating mostly on revisiting our Silvia Trkman Foundations Class exercises.  This online class was a true turning point for Rue and I this past summer.  We both benefited from going back to the basics and we still have more to work on so even though we completed the class, we are going to go back and make sure those things are solid.  We will also continue with a lot of conditioning (both dogs) and working on speed, speed, speed!  My other desire for Rue is a startline stay.  We’ve avoided them because starting with her is more fun and less stressful for her and most times I’m fast enough to be able to do what I need to do with a running start.  However, because we start together she’s not always as fast as she could be because she’s not totally sure where we’re going next.  If I can get to the point where she will allow a little leadout, I think I could get her the information much sooner which will increase her confidence and speed off the line.  So here’s what we’ve been working on so far:

We will have a few trials during this retrain period, but I will not expect any of our new behaviours to be solid at all.  Here’s to happy training!

Blowin’ off the dust….

Ok, it’s been a full year since I’ve last posted to my blog.  Too much time doing?  Not enough time to write?  Too much time on Facebook?  All of the above, I’m sure.  A lot has happened in the last year….a LOT.  Both dogs are doing great and we are about to embark on a new journey.  In the process of moving forward, I feel it’s also necessary to look back at the past year to see what we’ve done.

So in that vein, I thought it would be good to take a look at my last blog post which was about my goals for 2011.  I’ve copied that post here and have added comments.  I’ll be back later to talk about what’s next on our agendas.

Originally posted 9/29/10

First, my long term goals for each dog:

Miles:

MACH by early spring 2011 – Woohoo!!  Earned at the HOTC trial in Huntsville, AL on 5/8/11

Qualify and attend 2011 USDAA Nationals and run clean in finals of PGP and PSJ – Well, we qualified and we entered.  But didn’t make it past Quarterfinals due to an upcontact call on the DW in PGP and an offcourse tunnel in PSJ.

Qualify and attend 2012 AKC Nationals running clean in all rounds – We are qualified!  Last year Miles had a bar in Round 2, but was clean in Rounds 1 and 3.  We were privileged  to be able to run again in the Challenger Round.  We put in a great run, but had an offcourse.  I couldn’t have been more proud of our first trip to AKC Nationals!

 Attend 2011 Golden Retriever Nationals – Nope.  Chose to focus on USDAA Nationals instead.

Rue:

Attend 2011 Golden Retriever Nationals – Nope. Chose to focus on USDAA Nationals instead.

Qualify for and attend 2011 SE Regionals – Yep, but we did not enter tournaments there, just titling classes.

Qualify for and attend 2012 AKC Nationals – She finished her qualifications in September.  The jury is still out whether I’ll take her to Reno, NV.

Qualify for and attend 2011 USDAA Nationals – Big yes here!  Rue did amazingly well for her first trip to a national event.  She made it through PGP Quarters and ran in PGP Semi’s with a gorgeous run.  She had a bar, but would have needed to be a touch faster to have made it to finals.  Rue also ran great in her team events, putting in fast and solid runs.  VERY proud of her!

And my short term goals for each dog (ie. the next 1-2 months)

Miles:

– Continue fine tuning our warm-up and  cool-down routines for agility – We got it down.

– Continue to stretch him nightly and after strenuous activities including jogging, offlead hiking, swimming, and agility – Of course.

– Do ball work/strength work 2-3 times per week depending on agility schedule.  Work up to longer duration on the ball.  Master side sit-ups, crawling, handstands, and 1,2,3,4 exercises on the floor. – All is being done/been done except the side sit-ups….

– Make and use cavalettis and/or ladder – Oops, not yet.

– Continue monthly massage visits, every 1-3 month visits with chiro, and semi-annual visits with Dr. Schwabe – He gets a massage and a chiro adjustment every 3-4 weeks and continues to see Dr. Schwabe bi-annually.

– RUN like I mean it in trials and in practice.  Drive my dog! – Oh yeah, baby!  This is something that I’ve gotten really good at 🙂

– Make the finals of PGP and/or PSJ at 2010 USDAA Nationals – Again, nope.  He did great last year at Nationals, but had an offcourse in PGP semi’s and was 1 spot away from PSJ Finals.  Didn’t help that I almost missed my run and then had no mental capacity to remember the course.  We got through it, but I was NOT driving him….

Rue:

– Give her a 2 month break from competitions to enable us to go back over missing foundation work and to continue to increase her drive for agility – Yep, and boy did that help!

– Continue to find new places to work on focus and motivation – We did lots of “taking it on the road” last fall.

– Continue to build upon our tug/play/agility sessions by making the agility portion a bit more prominent and/or more difficult – For sure!

– Continue to stretch nightly and after strenuous activities including jogging, offlead hiking, swimming, and agility – Of course.

– Do ball work/strength work 2-3 times per week depending on agility schedule.  Work up to longer duration on the ball.  Master side sit-ups, crawling, handstands, and 1,2,3,4 exercises on the floor. – Again, all but side sit-ups.

– Make and use cavalettis and/or ladder – Nope.

– Continue monthly massage visits, every 1-3 month visits with chiro, and semi-annual visits with Dr. Schwabe – She is on the same schedule as Miles.

Me:

–  Lose the 5 lbs I gained since February plus the 5 more I’ve wanted to lose for years by Dec. 31 2010 – Yes, I did…but I gained 5 back…oops!

–  Continue keeping a food diary 5 days a week and being sensible on the weekends – This is definitely routine now.

–  Integrate more protein into my diet and avoid processed foods as much as possible – Yup.

–  Take my multivitamin daily!!! – Haha, oops.

–  Train for and compete in the 2011 Tobacco Road Marathon – Nope, decided it was too much time away from family and pups.  I still run distance, but not for race training.

–  Continue weekly personal training sessions to help with strength and power – Aborted in the spring when the trainer became a flake.  Need to find a new one.

–  Continue yoga/pilates 1-2 times per week to work on flexibility and core strength – Fell off this wagon…still trying to get back on!

 


Goals revisited

Yes, it’s been awhile but we’ve been very busy.  We’ve had some changes around here as far as where I’m going with both dogs and my plans to get there.   I’ve had a big shift in focus with both pups, but for different reasons.  Before I continue, I would like to say that we have been trialing, but I’ve just not been motivated to post about them.  So if you’re interested in seeing our runs from the summer months, go here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/tailsofgold?feature=mhum 

With Rue, my main focus now is fun, fun, and more fun.  As time went on, it was becoming more evident that she just wasn’t having enough of it out there and was showing me that in the form of trotting painfully slowly around the course.  It wasn’t every time, but it was becoming more and more the norm to have her just barely make time or totally lose her to sniffing on course, bleh.  I believe part of her issue was that she was going through a false pregnancy through June and July.  It was also hotter than heck here in NC this summer.  Add to that a tick disease and loss of muscle mass, poor girl just didn’t feel good.  However, I know Rue and I know she’s got some issues with pressure, so curing the tick disease and getting her hormones back to baseline were not the only answers.  So we’re doing some fun and unique things in training and in trials I spent the entire summer running her on 5-10 obstacles only on course.  I saw a definite improvement in her drive off the line and have recently been occasionally running a full course with great success.  We have a long road ahead of us and it’s up to me to continue to stay focused on FUN and not get wrapped up in the Q.

My shift for Miles is to focus more on conditioning than on agility alone.  He’s had a couple of health scares this summer (Lyme disease, followed by near liver failure due to doxycycline for the Lyme, followed by some minor back issues).  It’s become much more apparent to me that my relationship with him and his health and happiness come way before any competitive goals.  No, I cannot help that he got a tick disease, those suckers are evil and get on them regardless of Frontline every 3 weeks.  But I need to be his advocate at all times and pay attention to what he’s telling me…no matter how subtle that may be.  Further, I can make it my duty to keep him as sound as possible.  So my focus is on conditioning and finding a balance between too much agility for him and too little for me.  I thought this would be more difficult that it is, but I’m finding that I really missed having multiple weekends at home and I thouroughly enjoy having more time to take the dogs hiking and just plain existing with them. 

All that being said, I decided to go back and revisit the goals I wrote out for us in the beginning of this year to see what we have accomplished, but also to see where I can make some changes.  Here are the goals as they stood in January….comments and revisions are in italic red.  Thanks for reading!

Long Term Goals (Define Your Destination)

Miles: MACH by fall 2010   We’re getting close!!  Only 5 QQ’s to go 🙂

            Qualify for and attend 2010 USDAA Nationals  Check.  Heading out in 4 weeks!  Qualified for all events and even earned a bye to PGP Semis!

            Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Nationals  Check.  We were qualified by the end of April.

            Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Invitational  Letting this one go.  Requires far too much trialing and led me to focusing on the wrong things for me and Miles.

  –Rue:   Qualify for and attend 2010 Southeast USDAA Regionals  We went, but played in Starters classes only.  She loved Perry!!

                 Qualify for and attend 2011 AKC Nationals  Haha, nope.  We have 3 QQs, but very few points.  Gave this up back in May when I decided that she wasn’t having enough fun in agility yet.  *Maybe* we’ll be ready for 2012….

                  Qualify for and attend 2011 USDAA Nationals  This is still a realistic goal.  I’d like to see her being able to play in a couple events.

 

Short Term Goals (Make a Road Map)

 – Miles: MX/MXJ by spring 2010  Completed both by mid-March

                  Earn Q’s in Performance Speed Jumping, PVP and Performance Grand Prix by spring 2010  That was easy!  We were fully qualified for Nats in February after only 2 trials. 

                  ADHF (Golden Retriever Agility Dog Hall of Fame) by summer 2010  Miles fulfilled his requirements over Memorial Day weekend!

This month:

 – Learn how to communicate the difference between a lateral motion rear-cross and a forward motion/deceleration rear-cross Feeling much better about this.

– Trust him in longer lead outs if needed in competition  We’re getting better, but he still needs more jump starts than leadouts to keep his motivation high and stress level low.

– Practice pushes into a tunnel under the frame/dogwalk  Haven’t concentrated on this much.

– Practice lateral pulls off the aframe  Circle of death training completed and he’s been a rock star with his frames!

–  Practice discriminations without having to go so deep to get the tunnel  Needs work.

 – Maintain at least 5yps course times in JWW and at least 4yps course times in Standard  Definitely there and getting even faster.

 – Achieve and maintain consistency at speed earning at least 130 points per month  No longer concentrating on points since I dropped the Invitational idea, but still pushing for speed since it’s fun!

Rue: AX/AXJ by early summer 2010 Rue earned her AXJ in January, her AX  in March, and her MXJ in May. 

              Earn a Q in (at least) Steeplechase by late spring 2010  Didn’t even enter any tourneys in USDAA.

 This month:

– Make the teeter a favorite obstacle  It’s not a favorite, but she seems much more confident with it.  Need to continue to play teeter games a few times a month.

– Tug in as many different locations/situations as possible  Boy have we been places 🙂  She’s a tuggin’ fiend!

– Achieve a reliable and drivey start line routine  This is coming along for sure, but I’d still like to see her blasting off the line more consistently.

– Visit and train in as many different locations as possible  Still working on finding new places.

– Alternate running courses without cookies with higher pressure short sequences with rewards on me  Changed this to her tug toy.  She seems to be just as drivey if I have the toy or if I throw it down before we start.

– Ask neighbors to come over and watch us train and act as ring crew/judge  Slacked on this one.

– Start working more seriously/systematically on dogwalk turns  For now I’ve decided that she gets extension cues for everything and then we turn on the flat.  Seems to be working!

– Achieve and maintain at least 4yps in JWW and at least 3yps in Standard  4yps is just plain slow.  I want to see her in the high 4’s to low 5’s in JWW and the high 3’s to low 4’s in Standard. 

 

 Word your goals thoughtfully:

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

Rue blasts off the line and drives around the course
– Rue flies through her poles
– Miles loves it when I lead out

 

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 dogs’ 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

Charlotte Dog Training Club AKC trial 3/12-14/10: Rue gets her AX and Miles earns QQ #5!

A little delayed on this trial post due to a new computer and issues uploading my videos to YouTube, gah.  Things finally seem to be working, so I will give this a shot 🙂 

The pups and I headed to Charlotte last Thursday evening for 3 days of AKC agility.  I was looking forward to seeing some friends that I hadn’t seen in a while and I just generally love this trial.  They always have great judges and awesome prizes.  Things typically run very efficiently as well. 

Furthermore, I had set this trial as a goal date for putting Rue back into the Standard classes.  She had been showing me that she was comfortable with the teeter in several different settings, so I was visualizing nice drivey teeters for her.  I was also excited to see if we could get a good startline routine going.  The weekend before last I brought Rue to a local CPE trial to give us an opportunity to work on this in a low stress environment.  What I found was that if I crated her very close to the ring, took her out 10 minutes before her run to potty and get some food rewards for the practice jump, let her rest and take her out just before run and jazz her up with her fav tug toy then she was really excited to run!  I was excited to try out our new routine here in Charlotte.

Friday:

No video for today unfortunately 😦  I entered both dogs in FAST and JWW, but only Miles in Standard today as I didn’t want to overdo it with the baby dog.  Exc. FAST was first and I planned a fun opening which went easily in the send bonus.  Miles handled it all like a champ and also had a gorgeous aframe in the opening.  He won the class with 74 points!

Lil’ Rue came out next for Open FAST.  I got her jazzed up with her bunny tug outside of the ring, then stole the toy, ran in the ring while simultaneously removing and dropping her leash.  We had a nice transition into running the course and she was wicked fast.  She did a 2 strided a-frame with incredible air time and landed in the yellow, whoa!  Unfortunately the send involved a forced layer and she did the offcourse jump (she actually did the Excellent send, hehe).  I was very proud of this run.

Next was Miles’ standard run.  Randy Reed typically has really nice big dog courses, but this one was a little tricky.  Miles handled a short lead out very well and flew over the dogwalk and nearly into an offcourse tunnel.  I probably didn’t decel or he was too far ahead to read it and I ended up calling him off the tunnel very very hard 😦  He had his snout in the tunnel hole and I admitedly thought we got called for the offcourse.  I was so pissed at myself for calling him off that hard that I forgot to handle and pulled him around a jump with ultimately NQ’d us.  Again he had a brilliant a-frame in this run.

Last to go was Exc. JWW and both dogs were entered.  It was a pretty tricky course by Tracy Hanna with 4 boxes that we had to navigate through, bleh.  I decided to do a lead out to a lateral send with Miles and then planned to just try to show the correct line of motion through the rest of the boxes.  He did a fantastic job and took 2nd place earning himself 12 points!  However, at only 4.75yps, I’m not sure where we lost time on this course…definitely bummed to not have video to look at his striding. 

Rue and I did the same warmup/startline routine as we had done for FAST, but this time unfortunately we went to the line too soon and we disconnected.  She took the first jump and then stopped to stare at a piece of bar tape that was hanging down off the second jump.  She stared at it for probably 4-5 seconds (again wish I had video), but then went on to blow the course away.  I think she probably would have had a time very close to Miles’ on this one if she hadn’t have stopped since her official time was 38 seconds 🙂

Saturday:

It poured rain over night so the fields were a bit sloppy today, but the air was brisk and the sun was shining so we were off to a good start!

Excellent FAST was first and I wanted to just try to rip it up with Miles and have a fun run since yesterday’s call off probably had caused him to slow down in JWW.  I left him in a stay and he really was moving out!  He had a fabulous send and we took 3rd place with 71 points.  I had to repeat the teeter since he got on it from the side at the pivot, silly boy, so that cost us time.

Open FAST was next and I was excited to see what Rue thought of yesterday’s runs as it would be evident in this run today.  I decided not to do the teeter in either FAST run just to keep it fun and motivating for her.  We started out great with good speed over the aframe, but then she started to slow down.  This is odd as the frame usually propels her into high gear, so I figured something was wrong.  Well 1 jump later and Rue took herself to poop, oops!  Poor little girl was so embarrassed 😦  I must say this was a first for me….hopefully I won’t have to revisit this again.

The day was running Small-Tall, so for the next two runs I knew that I’d have to run Rue before Miles.  I was a bit nervous about her Standard run as it was, but now even moreso due to the events of FAST, ack!  I forced myself to let it go and just visualize a happy dog who wants to do the teeter.  Well I guess it worked because she was brilliant!  We started out a bit slow and she was looking around and the judge and ring crew, but as soon as she hit the poles we were off to the races.  She had an amazing dogwalk and gorgeous teeter, yahoo!!  This earned her her 2nd AX leg and she got 1st place!

Next I got to run Mr. Miles.  I planned a lead out push past the 2nd jump, but I could tell he was not comfortable and he got up out of his sit so I just released him and did a forward motion front cross.  He was slow through the beginning of this course and then took 10 seconds to lie down on the table, sigh.  He managed to still make time and earned MX leg #9, but I was worried that something just wasn’t right with him.  Either it was still the call off from yesterday, or maybe it was too many lead outs, or maybe god forbid something physically awry.  He got 4th place and 4 measly points for this run, bleh.

The last run of the day was Exc. JWW.  The opening was a large circle of jumps and then a pull into a tunnel hole before opening up into a really fun a fast course.  Both dogs found the opening demotivating and Rue did some trotting, but then really opened up at the weaves.  This earned her MXJ leg #2 and 4 points 🙂

Miles and I managed to pull out a QQ with this run despite me nearly pulling him off the second-to-last jump.  He had an amazing save with that one!  I made sure to start with him on this course.  No placement, but 5.2yps and 11 points for my boy!

Sunday:

Even more rain overnight made for really sloppy fields this morning.  The club put a lot of mulch down which helped a bit, but wore down pretty quickly.  I knew that I wanted a motivating run with Miles, but also didn’t want to push too hard for speed for fear that he would get injured (his fall in Savannah really messed up his front end according to our massage therapist).  I led out about 1-2 steps just to shape his approach to the teeter a bit and he did a really nice job with his course.  I predicted that we’d have an issue with the rear at the jump before the poles and we did.  I need to learn to be more patient with those crosses and I also need to teach him to have more obstacle commitment in those scenarios.  Overall a great run!

Next was lil’ Rue’s turn to show me what she had for this course.  I decided to change my warm up a bit with her and instead of tugging outside the ring and just running in, I decided to engage her with the bunny tug and then transition her to tugging on her leash so that we could tug into the ring.  This seemed to work really really well for her as she didn’t trot once on this course.  She again had a brilliant teeter and awesome dogwalk despite me getting behind due to the soggy ground!  She actually beat Miles’ time by a fraction of a second on this run, wow!!  This earned her the AX title with another 1st place!!

Our last run of the weekend was a fun JWW course by Tracy Hanna.  I was psyched to not have to lead out with Miles and was looking forward to a really fun and fast run.  Miles looked great on this course, but I got a bit lost after the first tunnel and got caught a bit behind a wing which made me push into his line a bit and sent him offcourse, dang!  He recovered from that fine and really motored for the rest of the course 🙂

Rue’s run was pretty good, but there was a small delay at the start that caused us to disconnect and for her to stop tugging unfortunately.  I’m hoping that this was just a situational thing and that I’ll be able to use this routine with her in the future!  Overall a great run, but she had some trotting in the beginning.  This did earn her MXJ leg #3 and 4 more points.  She now has 17 points and will start going for QQ’s from here on out!  How did that happen so fast?!?!

Overall I’m pleased with my dogs’ performances at this trial.  Historically this has not been Miles’ favorite place and I need to remember a year ago here he couldn’t even go through the tire.  I do think that for the next few trials I need to just focus purely on speed for him and start with him instead of leading out.  I will NOT (I need to write this on my hand or something) call him off an offcourse that I’ve sent him to….I cannot.  It’s very deflating for him.  I was a bit caught up in the fact that he only needs one more MX leg for his title and I cannot focus on that.  If it’s speed that I want (and I desperately do) then I need to just focus on that.  His yps at this trial were definitely below average 😦  Granted I cannot base a trend on one weekend, but I do think I need to make a proactive attempt at correcting that possibility!  Miles had perfect aframes all weekend (5/5) so I can’t complain about that! 

Rue’s goals for the next couple of trials are speed and connection to me.  We will continue to work on our crazy warm up/startline routine as I really think she digs it 🙂  Our next trial, she is only entered in JWW and then she has 3 weeks off before we travel for 2 days of AKC in Columbia, SC.  She is entered in Standard there, yay!  It’s interesting to me that while it’s natural for her to run faster in class/practice when I have a reward on me, but she really really seems to dig the international style courses that we train on much more than these AKC type courses.  Something to think about as to why.  I would imagine it’s because the international style requires more quick send and chase type movements from the handler than a big ol’ pinwheel does.  I wonder how I can keep moving more in these trial situations.  Hmmmm….

Up next:  2 days of AKC indoors in a horse arena this weekend followed by Miles only in 2 days of AKC at his favorite trial location–Teamworks!  Then a couple of weeks off before heading out of town for more AKC agility!