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!  

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