Friday, November 25, 2011

Eat, Pray, Run.

That about sums our lives up!

So. Much. Eating. 

The Pup had her first Thanksgiving. Tragically, tryptophan had no effect on her. 

The turkey overall though... mmmmm.... Happy puppy.

Um, did you guys want a bite or something?

The Pup continues her study of White Dog's counter surfing techniques.

Well, no one said White Dog had a perfect record.

The Dog is also an old hat when it comes to counter surfing. However, typically not as successful due to her stubby little legs.


 Black Dog would like it noted that she takes no part in naughty counter surfing.  

When people are looking, at any rate.

The Pup was able to catch on fairly quickly...

Curse those short legs. 

 Hope everyone else enjoyed their Turkey Day as much as we did! Is anyone else currently subsisting on sweet potato casserole? I know I am!
So basically I have some new great things to be thankful for.

Enter the 'prayer' segment.

I've been crossing all available appendages, hoping and praying for an offer on a position I'd recently interviewed for. I didn't dare mention it in case of unintended jinxing, but it's official:

The Project has a new payroll funding our weekend antics!


I'm so excited.  The pretty much best part? TONS of vacation time!

You know what that means...

More three day agility shows!

Double Yay!

The Dog was helping to celebrate. She is such a booze hound.

Sorry, Pup, none for you.  I just don't trust you with a glass bottle...


And then there's the running. 

Who says that just because it's nearly December in Minnesota you can't play agility?

So much practice recently.  I've triggered my favorite recurring injury of shin splints- or whatever, someday I might figure out what's actually going on- running so many dang dogwalks.

Just in time for a show this weekend!

Luckily it was *only* AKC, so I figured it was safe to navigate all of four runs spread out over hours and hours. I actually fared pretty well, only having spiky pain after those dang dogwalks.

The Dog was, I think, having her own pains as well.  I'm not sure; she may have been full of turkey, but she wasn't moving exactly right this weekend.  THREE rounds gone to knocked bars.  Weird bars too, not her normal in/out of tunnels or ones down due to me getting in the way.  Her first standard run looked pretty good and she had a nice fast time but one weird bar at the end.  Her JWW run looked terrible to me, many bars.  After Saturday I got clever and enlisted kind folks to take video.  Both runs showed some odd jumping style- chin down and head very high. Not a lot of power.  I want to say that there is something funny in her front or neck- she stretched out really well in her shoulders and rear so something that I don't know as well. A new problem area?

At any rate, she held it together for a pretty nice last run.  Still the odd jumping form, but it was a pretty friendly 'Dog course' so she made it through and ended up in first. I must say, she turned it on for the dogwalk and aced that part. At least I know she had a little fun!


Another AKC show next weekend. Potential to finish off her MX and MXJ this year, which would be fun!  Mostly, time to start working on 6 double Qs... since the plan is Tulsa 2013. Exciting!
 In Pup news, she's still being awesome.  In this brief respite from updates, she's turned 11 brilliant months old.  Her big breakthrough has been on the weave pole plane. Here is a super crappy clip of her weaving 2 sets of 4.  Sorry if it makes anyone barf.  It's quite Cloverfield-esque.

Since the video, she has gone on to weave 6 poles.  I'm so proud! We aren't doing too much since she's still young (though thankfully not growing anymore) so I'm impressed that she has caught on so quickly.  Clearly she is doing her part to get ready for the big debut set for 3-31-2012. Woo!  The BEST part is that she's weaving and running for toys now! And bringing them back! WOW!
We're all having fun with tricks now too.  After taking the summer to train, you  know, agility, it's time to get back at trick fun time.

I'm thinking I'll get some adorable video of the girls at it this week- The Pup is learning 'bow' and 'hug' and moving on to the next step in cik/cap turns.  She's also learning how to chill out ALONE when The Dog has a turn.  So far we haven't gotten to the point of any doors being shut. Solitude makes The Pup VERY sad.

The Dog is finally learning the shut doors.  Now I'll have one dog trying to slam my fingers in drawers and another trying to to lock me out.

My favorite, though, is 'hug sister' where The Dog is supposed to put her arm around The Pup.

She's getting pretty good at not mauling The Pup's face!

Click, Treat!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Home for the Holidays

2011 travel is officially closed out. This past weekend we made one last trek to Destination: Chicago.  I don’t quite remember how or why we decided to go since we still have plenty of local shows...   Maybe it was habit after going so many times this year, maybe it was because we just loooove Illinois or more likely it was that we are somewhat masochistic since that is one painful drive.

But at any rate, we somehow ended up at the ol’ soccer arena again over the weekend.   The courses were…difficult.  Not really in an obvious way- very subtle with sneaky hidden serps and depressed angles and off-course opportunities that just kept popping out and saying “HI!”  

I mostly just noticed the very evil entries and exits for the dogwalk.  Lots of ‘into the nothing’ and lame obstacles before or after (DW to the table or weaves? Thhbbbbttt).  We’ve done a lot of turns to jumps and call offs, but haven’t even started thinking about incorporating the dogwalk into sequencing like that yet.  And I’ve never worked more than one or two ‘nothingness’ exits in a session so we were educationally unprepared for a judge with an apparent anti- running DW vendetta (I can only assume?).

Alright, I think that covers all the performance disclaimers? Those being said, I think The Dog did a stupendous job.  How about a recap? Ok, reader, since you asked- why not?

Gamblers:  1 for 2.  Round one had a crazy wild opening including one dogwalk with a crazy wild leap, but then another with a lovely perfect dogwalk.  She did the Gamble up until the last jump, finding it easily, then shot off to an even harder jump randomly.  Watch the video. Hilarious!  Round 2 was a Q, leapy dogwalk with odd stride and I think I pulled her off.  She was clearly tired of dumb exits and just plain tired. 

Standard: 1 for 2.  Round one had a PERFECT dogwalk with a tough turn.  Kind of wild still and pretty wide but clean.  Round two had a knocked bar at the very end and a collected dogwalk- this was on to a table though and out of the weaves. How demotivating. 

Pairs: 1 for 1! First place with Black Dog on a tough course.  Collected dogwalk- I cued the turn VERY early.

Snookers:  0 for 1.  Sigh.  I fail Snookers lately.  I’ve got to figure out why.  She knocked a bar early in the close. 

Grand Prix:  0 for 1.  Sigh! The Grand Prix curse continues. One bar, one missed DW. Again, I think I cued early since it was a 90 degree turn to the weaves again. 

Steeplechase: 1 for 1…sort of?  Awesome round one with a Q and 1st place!  Round two continued our Round two curse and she found a super weird off course.  That’s my girl, who needs that money!? Oh, wait…

Jumpers: 2 for 2! Probably the highlight, oddly.  Second place round one and first place round two! I was really proud of her speed and attention on both courses.  Only one poorly timed front cross in round one leading to a WIIIIIDDDDDDE turn but otherwise perfectly in step for both courses.  Round two she found this invisible line buried in the last 6 jumps and performed her secret power of just …going.  Most dogs were frazzled and missing jumps or just checking in for the last sequence but not The Dog. She said ‘c’ya at the leash, k?’

Hm, think that’s it?  Things to note for the weekend- she really needs to have motivating dogwalk sequences to continue running throughout a weekend.  There was just too much calling off and no drive in to keep her speed up.  It’s ok- training point.  Another training point will be jumps after tunnels. Naughty bars down a few times!

Good lessons- thanks to the notes I got at the recent seminar… we can do serps again!! She didn’t miss the middle jump on a single one all weekend.  I finally figured out the right cue for her and got some patience and wouldn’t you know? It worked! 

I also- for the most part- was much better on my decel cues coming at the right time.  She didn’t have any China moments as a result.  And since I didn’t cue too early either, she didn’t slow down and start second guessing me.   We totally synchronized our decel watches finally. It was awesome.

She, lastly, gets a big virtual tennis ball toss for having awesome weaves. Good girl on her entries (I even trusted her a few times!) and really good speed.
Annnnnnnd video:

So at this point, USDAA is done for the year. Tear!  Even bigger sad face since The Dog has her Silver ADCH hanging now on 1 pairs Q, and is within a Q or two of three gold titles.  Guess we have to save something for next year!  
Also have to share a mashup I made of The Pup’s seminar.   Thanks to the videographer for living in the danger zone for the day. She was only mildly maimed.  

Mostly outtakes, but some good girl stuff too.  If you like what you see- go see Tracy for more!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Big Girl Panties Status: ON. (Or, How We Survived Our First Seminar!)

Well, it’s the Monday after The Pup’s first ever seminar with workin’ spot.  I’m proud to say that we are both alive to see this day!

We probably couldn’t have picked a better seminar to start with; Tracy Sklenar was everything promised- fun and easy going and willing to work with you. And she likes mixes. Phew! 

And she even had some great material- bonus!
It was certainly a different ‘feeling’ seminar.  I always wondered why people attending weekends with TS had very little to say about them except ‘what fun!’ and ‘what a lot of work- in a fun way!’  Was there no message? Did you have to take an oath of silence?  But I get it now- you don't really come in to a weekend with her and go away with tons of new training tricks and tools- it isn’t like, here is how you do running contacts and here is how you get tight turns- not really a step-by step ‘formula’ that’s offered up.   There was a lot of handler focus; things like tight turns and dog/path management were incidental to the big picture of being a clear handler.   It was all very much about fixing the handler, and the dogs just fell in place. It was pretty amazing to see baby dogs (since we did Novice/Open Handling Day) do things that they hadn’t even been trained to necessarily just because TS was able to tweak the handler’s timing and cues to the point of pretty perfect information.   So it was very ‘individualized’- no two pairs run alike so you could bet she would give you specific feedback on YOU and YOUR dog (again, no formulas!).  Getting video of sessions is priceless- see the difference position and timing make! Just see!!!! 

I can see why so many people are ‘repeat offenders’ (very high level of recidivism, hehe!).  The blanket concept she presents has to do with running mechanics, for the human.  For many of us, it’s a HUGE retrain.  Not something that is easy to pick up and run with, literally.  You need to see her again, and again and again, to get all that muscle memory down and down right.  To get a reminder.  Because, after all, you can’t see yourself running.  Her trained eye is what you need!
What I REALLY liked was this point- it isn’t so much about perfect position, but timing.  Her ideas on physical cues work up close if you can get there, but they work far away too!  She said something great about not sacrificing the timing of information for position (something I think I do a lot!) which I kind of forget the exact words of, but that’s the idea.  It’s nice to have solutions for every team that don't revolve around 'get there' and 'be faster.'
MY big revelation was not so much with The Pup, but on my timing with The Dog.  I’d wondered WHY she seems to miss my decel cues so very much, or reads them so early.  Then Taa-daa!  Answer? My decel cues are not very obvious.  The times when we ‘run fast’ look shockingly similar to when we are supposed to brake.  BUT I can make it all totally obvious by changing my run form for each speed.  I need to also work out when she needs the information, since when I DID make it obvious that the run form was changing it was too early.  My new goal is when we are ok to run fast, I must run fast exactly how I run with her on her dogwalk. She gets that when the Leader doesn’t run like a girl, all overly upright and no arm movement, it means run fast.  Upright Leader should mean decel.  Time to re-program!!  
I did get some helpful information on The Pup.  My feedback was sort of what I figured out a few weeks ago, but to the next level: Pup needs Leader to run fast.  There were pretty dramatic differences in her striding and extension when I did the Non-Girly run.   Overall though, it was made very clear that she is my little Velcro buddy.  Really, REALLY in tune to my speeds in general- she read decel like a champ, but too much so at times (made rear crosses really hard!!).  Now is the time for extension running.  Our homework is teaching her to drive ahead now when I drive. She seemed to pace me, which is good sometimes, but she has to understand that it’s okay to beat me at other times. 

Like The Dog.  She has zero problem deserting me on a straightaway.  That’s fine, Dog. See you in the next county, ok? We can meet at the Kwik Trip for that front cross.  
I have to say, I was REALLY proud of my little baby though. She was by far the youngest dog and hadn’t been trained a lot of the handling skills but she still managed to do all the exercises successfully.  And she kept her little baby brain all day!  Ok, so she mugged our videographer once and tried to attack TS for her peanut butter and got away from me once to steal the toy from the poor working dog.  But that’s all in normal day’s work for her.  She’s a hedonist.  BUT she maintained enthusiasm (even having to do start lines, and only jumps and tunnels!) and didn’t seem stressed or lose attention when we had to have do-overs.  I’m pretty sure she had an awesome time.

And holy cow, did she sleep well after!