Monday, October 29, 2012

A Few Good Dogs

Yes, plural. As in, The Dog wasn't the only hard working teamie this weekend at USDAA. We now can count The Pup among the few and the proud!!
I'm so (I repeat, SO) happy with The Pup. I ran her in just a few classes Sunday and she showed up to both!! Not naughty ADHD Pup who chases fuzzies. And visits. And runs away at the end of the run. No, it was my good fast girl. Who knows things and has a brain between her most giant alien ears. We finally saw a glimpse of her future, and boy. Shiny.
We followed Jen's advice. The hard bit about No Free Love. Only The Leader may bestow love and pets and eye contact. Essentially, all her friends largely were made to ignore her. She lived out in the car alone and only got to come in to play with me. We tried a new warm-up routine- sat and played ball before her turn, no arguing at all about paying attention to me. Much less stressful going in, I think. And those were only the beginning of the changes.
She was so much better dealing with the pressure and distractions. She seemed to acknowledge the people in the rings but had no pull to them. She could have left the ring to molest the crowd and steal a toy, but instead came easily to jump up after. Happy to be caught and get her rewards in due course.
The Pup fell asleep on my beer. Cute yet disturbing. 
As for the pressure, she broke a bit early on the first stay (on eye contact). She missed a jump towards the end of Jumpers and I ran her back, which wilted her slightly. She checked out a fuzzy right after but it was just a quick sniff where before the pressure of that redo would have put her to the point of all out fuzzy hunting and Pup-style validation seeking. She dealt with being 'wrong' much better than she ever has before.
The rest is just gravy. She ran FAST in jumpers before the missed jump. Like, hee-haw. Best extension yet in a show.

Until Standard, that is. What a great run. She held all the stays: start line, table, teeter. She ran her A and DW really well and stuck her weaves. Everything else in between was awesome too! She drove ahead which she hadn't seemed to feel like she could do before, and my was that drive in a nice gear.

AND we got another measure for 16"- one more to go before 3! Ga!
Lest we forget, my fluffy Dog. I figured something out. Why her brain broke. Or my brain. Whatever. Looking at this from the mental management standpoint, we were running in full Competitive mode with zero training of new things. Maintaining the machine through Cynosport. The machine had to be turned off during Recovery. Then our machine needed a reboot, so back to our foundations we went for Preparative measures.  Learning new things, modifying old. Our devices just haven’t been syncing yet with these developments, and in that case she reverts to thinking over doing.

I hadn’t realized this until most of the way through day two of our three day show.  I worried over the reasons for her somewhat hesitant runs early on- sad? Hurt? Issue with the facility? But then I had the lightbulb moment and I got smart and got clearer, and she turned around a lot. I'm not perfect. We had a meltdown in Steeple Rnd 2 even after I figured things out, but otherwise an awesome end to the weekend, each run better and better. Where we started with communication errors and carefulness, we ended on mind reading, good team work, and a fast happy Dog. It was very interesting.

Despite the weird that crept in, we still had a successful weekend on paper. (Although she ABSOLUTELY did NOT want to do her good 2o2o teeter. I asked her to the first run and she was SO SAD.  After that I didn’t ask for it and she offered a controlled-no boinking- 4 on the rest of the weekend.  I think I need to find a fun match to do some test runs before we pull that out again.)  We have our Steeple and Team Qs for Tennessee, we got TWO jumpers Qs (just two more to go before Gold ADCH!) and placements in all of our qualifying classes. She blazed through GP (one bar….GA!) so feeling good about future byes happening.   Overall actually, her standard type classes were really, really good. It was a weekend where I loved having running contacts. Sunday’s standard run was such a RUSH.  At the end both The Dog and I were like…heck yeah! If we were dudes we would have punched each other. That run is the perfect example of why I will not give them up, even if turns with her make me insane and sometimes it means we don’t qualify. 
No video. I agree, how lame. I so wish I’d recorded both girls’ standard runs yesterday.  But I have bruises all over from The Pup being caught and The Dog mauling me with joy afterwards, so that will serve as a tiny (painful) reminder for some time.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Nonpartisan Post

Sometimes I’m surprised at how hard it can be to find time to jot down my thoughts. I didn’t think I had that many? But I guess life has been pretty demanding. So that, plus a Leader living in her head equals not a ton of production and output for the past few months.  I thought though that I might try and shake a few things out to make room for what’s coming up. 
Pensive Pup lives in her head too.
It’s been some forced rest since the Nationals. The Dog showed me immediately after that she needed a break.  She pretty much mentally collapsed as soon as we got home; all agility knowledge fell out of her brain and she reverted to freezing and questioning.  We thought maybe it was all a bit too much, holding herself together so well for so many days in Colorado and in the time leading up, but there was likely also ME to blame: I needed a break too.  She is smart. She picks up on these things. So we broke so that we wouldn't end up all broken.

We are showing this weekend though.  Back at it, and then back off it for another month, taking it nice and easy through the rest of the year.  While I’d sure love some Jumpers Qs and a few things knocked out for Nationals next year, I think the reconnection with the dogs is a better goal.
Yeah. I said dogs. Plural.  Running The Pup again. We haven’t trained much agility with her. Just lots of time working on life skills. Like, How Not to Be an A$$. What to Bite Instead of The Dog, volumes one and two. Stop Barking and Go Lay Down.  I had noticed how much more focus and control she had back in the day when all we did was Smart Puppy (behavior) Skillz. Moving over to more agility training, less skill work was a bad move (apparently).   She knows equipment. She knows handling.  These are not what she needs to practice.  Hence, return to Smart Puppy.

This discovery was well-timed; Jen Pinder was in town last weekend and had many observations.  She was not fooled by The Pup’s excellent drivey agility and called her out for what she is. That would be, a thief. Among other things.  So having realized what she needed, I got a lot of ideas on how to get her there.  No telling that anything will have rubbed off in time for the weekend, but at least she is slightly easier to deal with in general.  Someday she will have patience. And coping skills under pressure. And the ability to drive and think at the same time. Surely?

As a note, I really liked Jen. The seminars focused a lot on contacts and I think it was the right move given her talents there. She had some fantastic observations, helpful ideas, and process guidance that was so in depth. Contact foundation to the extreme.  I audited most of it and came away filled with tips on training and mechanics and…everything.  There is a real science to it that I hadn’t realized.  I’ve been a bit, well, whatever, as long as you have criteria that you and your dog get that you maintain, it works. But the details of the position itself really matter for whether or not it will hold up over time.  There is really too much to say, but I think I will be a better teacher going forward and will be able to do things with my own dogs in an optimal way.

I will say though, I had a lot of Ah-Has! over The Dog’s teeter performance.  At the base is her issue with not liking the reverberation of the plank. And where she was “stopping” trying to hold a 4 on was right in the reverb sweet spot.  Add in letting her lay down on the teeter…  And not having her release forward… Ah-HA!  No wonder she hated the end and boinked off the side.  (Plus, I had let her run it sometimes. Oops.)  So I was at least on the right track a few months ago when I asked her to start doing a 2o2o, but now we have the rest of the formula and- wait for it- she actually is driving her teeter! And waiting!  She is a nerd; I should have known she would take to more criteria.  Now though, let’s see how well the Leader remembers to uphold it. 
After this weekend, a seminar with The Pup, and then like I said- nice and easy for a few months. I want to teach my dogs silly things again, have a life, and probably deal with some things I should have a year ago.

Er, but first I have to finish all the seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  
Can you believe how long I have been doing this??

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Cynosport 2012 Recap-A-Palooza

Hello technology. Sorry to give you the boot the last week or so, but it’s good to spend time apart, you know?

I thought about updating during the nationals, but I opted to be selfish and take the week for me and The Dog. I don’t have the option to just immerse myself in agility so many days that I forget what day it even IS more than this one time a year- so why not?  I imagine others enjoy weeks camping in the mountains or wherever for the same reasons and this way I at least got to sleep indoors, take showers and have Panera coffee every morning.
Oh, what a week.  For all the hemming and hawing about nationals outdoors in Denver this year, the weather was great, the site was lovely, and no dogs were apprehended and arraigned on ten counts of being a pit bull. Sure, some hiccups occurred, but they probably always will. Life happens; it’s just in how you deal.

So that was goal number one this year. Keep calm. Move along. These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.  Last year I couldn’t shake the bad; couldn’t block out the crazy.  This year my new mental management skills provided a warm fuzzy shield. Bad run? Meh. Crazy? Deflected. Grumpiness? Hola, here is a smile for you.

I imagine others wanted to kill me but hey, so much better for me and The Dog to actually ENJOY the week.  At the very least I wanted to know that I had fun- sadly I don’t think everyone can say that.
Let it be said- I DID have fun.  Me and my rusty fat Dog had a blast.  I went in just plain glad we had the chance to run at all.  I knew we were (both) a bit out of our peak, but I also knew that just weeks before we’d been there and it probably wasn’t completely gone. I believed that all of the work we’d done this year would get us through.  I focused on our best moments of the year and decided that there was no reason we couldn’t do well.  Goal number two was set- individual placement!
We had a lot of chances this year.  We got to run in the team classes and semis, but also the IFCS as well. I figured our odds were good, even given the impressive competition.  The Dog has some tricks up her…well, not sleeves, but you know.   So every run, I went in with that goal in mind. It’s the NATIONALS. If you aren’t going to pull the tricks out now, then when?
Overall, The Dog was amazing. She had a good Gamblers run, and a GREAT Snookers run.  That was the only team class that had me scared- I had walked a lame plan and then realized there was time to be more interesting. So I went back and forth over three different (unwalked!) options all morning, finally settling on one as I went to get her out to run. I knew it was iffy, but in the end we pulled it off with time to spare.  That run ended up 13th (one out of placement); so pleased with that contribution!

Then we had Team Jumpers, AKA the course that SURELY was meant to be the IFCS Jumpers course??? Nope, sorry! Apparently the judge from Asia wanted to um, challenge us. That was absolutely the most fun course.  So much fun to watch too!  The Dog aced it, and ended up with the 12th best time, just 1/100th from placement (at this point goal number two was just taunting me!!) behind a three way tie for 11th.

Our last team class was Standard and she nailed it. I can’t see anything I would change about that run. And it was good enough for 6th place!  The score table told me there were 290 22” dogs running in team. Having my little Dog in the very top for multiple runs is so HAPPY MAKING!!!
Our group goal (and goal number three for me) was to make the dang relay finals.  Since our teammates (Black Dog and BFAM!) were amazing, we finally did!  We had a scary but not TOO scary relay run and ended up 8th overall out of 170 championship teams. My secret goal was Top Ten (to get the good loot!) so I was beyond happy.

As far as our semi and IFCS performances: She ran clean in IFCS Jumpers but was unfortunately pretty sloppy on her contacts on the Agility run so no finals there. Her Agility run though was, I think, her best of the weekend otherwise and maybe my favorite run. She was so frickin’ SMART! That was not an easy course and there were a lot of Es, but she made it so smooth and put up an awesome time.

Her one bar of the weekend happened in the Steeplechase semi.  It was also the one run she looked a little hesitant.  I’m beyond happy that we recovered from that run to go on to some of the best she has had!  

Grand Prix semi: semi-filled with regret. The DW to weaves combo was the EXACT Achilles heel of our RDW training. We have worked this so much, but it still plagues us.  I have to have perfect timing and I didn’t- pulled her off the side, slipped and she ran into me. This greatly offended her so it took a bit to get back on track, but then she had an awesome end.  Per my camera timer, even being liberal, it would have been fast enough otherwise so… NEXT YEAR!
So, goals accomplished.  Next year we up the ante. I see what I have, and it’s really enough. She may not be able to win the finals, but there is no doubt she could be in them.  I have some homework to get us there (and it mostly centers on DOG WALK TURNS!) but I am thrilled with how far she has come in a year.  Guess what? I have a teammate!  This is what I’ve always hoped for with The Dog! The rest is just gravy.  
Video, of course (the song is sort of lame- YouTube made me change it from the awesome thing I had which was from public domain, so, huh?): 

And video of The Pup rocking the Lure for the Cure! She thought it was AWESOME until they tried to stop her from busting down the end gate to get the 'squirrel.' Jerks.