Thursday, September 2, 2010

Wait, where are we going, exactly? Part 1

Oh yeah, um, introductions are in order. Well, in sum, this space is serving as the staging area as I put into motion my handler and dog improvement plan (Dog says WHAT. This is the first I’ve heard of any ‘improvement.’ I’m just FINE. Now give me a treat.) Because organization is FUN… and necessary… when you are undertaking a whole revamping of your approach to Agility. And maybe someday I would like a recorded history of what went wrong!!! :D Just joking… hopefully.

So, Dog asks, where are we going? Why are we doing this instead of, I dunno… eating treats and watching Shark Week reruns? I like when the music goes "bum ba BUUUUM." Good questions. Let’s look at the preponderance of evidence here in the case for the idea of improvement. First up: Dog. “Dog” is Shiver, a smallish black and white Border collie with largish ears.

Behold, largish ears...

She is 3 (and some change) years old now. I began training her for the breeder when she was about one. I knew it wasn’t an ideal situation, this owner/handler conglomeration is always a tricky dynamic, but I could see from the start that this girl was a diamond in the rough (Not unlike Aladdin and let’s face it, it was either I run her or hello breeding program.). Our interaction was about one-two nights a week. In the beginning, I tried to make a plan of action for her (her contacts will run like THIS, her jump training will be THAT, etc), but one-two nights a week and no control over what happened behind the scenes at home resulted in less of my plan and more of Improv Night at the comedy club. But being a smarty, she caught on to the game of Agility anyways and before we knew it she was a limited release into the world of showing, select rings nationwide at about 18 or so months old. I entered her occasionally and not more than a run or two a day for a few months.

To be entered into Evidence: Early Trial, June 2009

During this time it became clear that in order to achieve her potential she required MORE than the situation allowed. More training, more experience, more confidence, more attention. So I launched a campaign to procure her for myself (unofficial start of Project Go Dog!). Success came on her second birthday and she was MINE. (Dog says The End, happily ever after, where is my treat?) Oh here you g- wait, no. Hold on there. This part was just the beginning. Silly Dog, this is another reason I am Project Lead. If you were in charge all we’d do is eat treats. You see, although she was fast enough for a lot of people, and pretty consistent, there was a… disconnect.While it might be enough for some people to Q and advance up through the levels, there was room for improvement. Particularly, I needed to have a sense of TEAM, and part of that meant that she would love to play as much I as did. Ideally, to love to play the game WITH me (as opposed to having her own private agenda). Mostly, I wanted her to have JOY from doing.Obviously the procurement was phase one. Proximity- check!

Phase two-making the TEAM- was trickier. I had her yes, but I was a stranger to her. She didn’t have any real faith in me, or herself because of that-after all, I only came and went in her life until now-where was the constant that a dog needs? So now it was time to bond. It wasn't instant, but eventually through a LOT of hard work (more on that later…) we're now in a vastly improved state of togetherness.

Enter into Evidence: Togetherness

She has become a great companion and has really thrived in this past year, with her confidence coming up and showing some joie de vie. And I’m feeling that ESP-like TEAM connection I was longing for. She is trialing a LOT in EVERYTHING and has a brand new ADCH to show for it. We are even heading to the USDAA nationals in a mere 6 weeks. BUT. (Dog says BUT? What but? Didn’t you just get through saying how awesome I am?) But we can do more. That's why we're doing this- we can! Why settle when you can GO?

Where are we going? Upward and Onward. SO. The Project begins… (Dog says Dramatic, don’t you think? I think I have chills. Can I still Go with chills?) First step- review training and set some goals...

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