Monday, January 31, 2011

That Was Optimistic: Fine Tuning the Competitive Team

 Today we had our working sessions with Silvia, with the all day handling portion followed by the Running Contacts session.

For those of you attending this seminar, you may be familiar with the headlining phrase here: "That was optimistic." For those of you yet to attend or who are unable to, these words are Silvia's gentle way of saying "Hm. Interesting approach to handling, but you know there was no way that was ever going to be executed...right?" In regards to today's courses, we heard this a lot.

And can you blame us? We were throwing out every trick, skill, and desperate idea in an attempt to combat and survive the European layouts.  Optimism was often all we had left!

But seriously, the level of difficulty was an amazing test for our dog's skills, and our own.  The tight, seemingly non-sequential layouts had a way of finding the holes in one's training and throwing into sharp relief the areas which needed further development.  It is truly one thing to succeed in a course that has a wrap, and a serpentine, but completely another to succeed in a course that is ALL wraps and serpentines. Even if many of us will never have to work these courses with any regularity, it was extremely helpful to do so today.

Thanks to a killer new iPhone application, we were able to replicate the courses for posterity (though keep in mind that we were also dealing with poles. Big scary poles intermittently spaced about the facility. As if we needed another element of danger!).  The first course threw many of us for a loop simply because it was so unlike anything we'd worked before. In retrospect at the end of the day- probably not the hardest (again, compared to the end of the day!).

Most people had issues getting from the number 4 tunnel to the number 10 tunnel. The wrap around 5 to 6 and the approach to 9 threw most dogs- and handlers (including mine- she went a bit banzai on this one and displayed her love of visiting China for Silvia).  We were all told to stop looking at our dogs taking the jumps and to MOVE to where we needed to be at least once. I was forbidden from running backwards. Bummer.
 Course number two went a bit better for me. I think the beginning tripped a lot of people up and overall Silvia had lots of suggestions for everyone on improving 9 to the weaves (another example of 'get your dog committed and MOVE'). The Dog did settle a bit into this one and manged to get through most of it. Um, eventually.
 Course number three was the easiest (relatively) for The Dog. This was the only course we made it through without stopping.  She even earned us a 'good job' on rear cross execution from 8 to 9 and being awesome from there into the tunnel- OOOOooo! Though Silvia did want to clarify whether that was an accident or trained... hmmm.  Tricky areas for all seemed to be 5 to 12 and then finding the backside of the tunnel #17.  The Dog surprised me most by not running into the tunnel bags- glad we were able to train away at least one bad habit!
The last course was just ridiculous. The beginning (ambiguous handler position amidst a sea of obstacles) is The Dog's nightmare start. Third try was the charm! Then we manged through to number 11 before it all caved in again. However, we were not alone. The weaves were a unique challenge, and that is saying something based on today's session.

All in all, I could truly consider this an exercise in fine-tuning. Our personal weak zones (Though probably applicable to many today):

*Getting the Dog to run into me/with me at speed. Silvia agreed that China trips are bad.
*Wrapping. Good thing we are auditing the turns session.  Sometimes she was amazing, others- no.  Silvia said repeatedly " I KNOW she can do it tighter." So we must!
*Me RUNNING, not gawking. Countless times we were all admonished for watching our dogs jump instead of trusting their commitment and getting ourselves to the next position. According to Silvia, if they are in takeoff, you are pretty much cleared to move on- so stop being a spectator!
*Keep an eye on how much time (steps) you are wasting on crosses and running backwards. She banished the running backwards completely (I guess you CAN'T run as fast backwards after all) and made us all aware of how consuming and inefficient it can be to even front cross. She wants you to do what you can to get your feet pointed in the right direction and to stay on that path.
*More obstacle independence. Though her dogs run ridiculously tight and she always appears to be right there, in fact Silvia's dogs are performing most obstacles independently. She is always one step ahead, cuing what is next. I had thought The Dog was a good sender, but she is certainly not 100%, even with tunnels but especially with weaves, and certainly not as efficient or controlled to the extent that she could be. This will get better as we work on other points (the not gawking and the tight turn cues) but also comes down to jsut proofing some things.

Lots of homework then, but it's all stuff I kinda thought about doing anyways (but now I have a better idea about bringing it into action) and it is very positive.  I learned we have a few skills that actually have some polished shine to them. Big Positive! Also positive was The Dog's attitude; she was SO high all day and only once got a bit sad (on her nightmare start) but completely rebounded two seconds later. So for her- the world's biggest over thinker- to be happy and run willingly (blissfully even) all day? Completely uplifting. Something is going well here in the Project.

I'm sure I will think of more tomorrow. Stayed tuned for follow-ups on the Running Contacts and upcoming Turns!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Shenna for the updates!! I'm so jealous!!! Sounds WONDERFUL!