Monday, December 30, 2013

They are talking, if only we are listening!

Funny, I really try to pay attention to what my dogs are telling me.  But, every so often I get caught up in life and forget to listen.

Trust your dog is always communicating!

My dogs speak to me in so many ways.  They can tell me if they are hurting long before limping appears, they tell me what I have really trained them to do (regardless of what I have asked), and they tell me what they love.


They naturally understand so many things as evidence of beliefs of several handling systems, APHS and OMD.

The dogs and I were playing this morning.  I was working on some discrimination skills.  Tunnel and two jumps.  Take this closer jump or take the further jump, I was cuing from the far left of both jumps.  Split told me that my cue was incorrect, I was cuing the far jump improperly.  This was the cue for take the backside of the closer jump. He was exactly right!  I had no idea he had that skill!  (basically do a threadle independently to get to the backside). 


I was running a trial this weekend and one of my dogs was crashing into jumps in a very unusual way.  Of course I couldn't really see it because I run ahead of my dogs.  A couple of friends brought it to my attention, looked at the video (!!  f.r.e.a.k.e.d   o.u.t  !!), got him adjusted and things became right again.  As a side note, it was the calmest I have ever seen him be while getting adjusted, he knew this was what he needed.

But, if I have been listening, I would have seen this before I got slapped in the face.  There were avoidance behaviors that told me something was up.  If I had only been listening!  Motivates you to be a good listener doesn't it?


I was working a skill and rewarding with a tug.  One of the dogs was willing to work, but the energy wasn't there.  The lack of energy did have my attention, but I guess not enough to troubleshoot it.  Finally, I decided to listen to the clear message that this was work and not fun.  I got a better, more exciting tug and the game was on.

They can't use words, but I think that is better.  They use a language that anyone can understand if only we care to listen.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Develop Success From Failures

 I had dinner with a friend tonight and admitted that I don't even watch the agility runs posted on FaceBook anymore.  There are some that I watch, but it is getting more uncommon for me to watch.

On the way home I began to think about that confession.  I realized, it is not as interesting to me to watch a "perfect" run as it is for someone to post a run with a mistake (dog or handler) or what they learned in their run.  I like things that really make me think.  I like things that help me learn.  Watching perfection sometimes is really awesome, but run after run for me, tends to get boring.  People don't comment on why it was perfect or what was perfect, only that it was perfect or a Q.

Now, it will catch my interest if there is a ton of handling moves that I don't recognize or sequences in a course that are evil and tough.  But the average run, not so much.

I know, it takes guts to make our mistakes public.  But only because not every sees it as a step toward success.  Failure is thought to be a bad word.

I have a quote on my desk, "If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, then you life will be safe, expedient, and thin" Katharine Butler Hathaway.

I don't want a safe and thin life, I want to be as good as I can be.  Which, for me, means taking chances.  It is a chance to learn, a chance to improve, or a chance to trust my training.

My take way from this.  I need to post more "imperfect" runs on my blog (I don't post runs on FB too much--lots of reasons).  Examine what I did well in that run and what I learned.  Why?  Because when I write about that, I am forced to examine the run, to analyze the handling and the dog, and draw conclusions that I can learn from.   Posting one of my perfect runs does not cause me to learn.  I feel proud and that shouldn't be underrated, but that isn't what keeps me coming back to the start line for another try.  It is what I learn that keeps me coming back.  Because I need to apply what I have learned the next time.

Develop success from failures.  Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.  Dale Carnegie  
It's fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure  Bill Gates
Success is the result of perfection, hard work, learning from failure, loyalty, and persistence. Colin Powell
If I find 10,000 ways something won't work, I haven't failed.  I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is often a step forward. Thomas Edison

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde - How my dog and I get ready for our run!

Today's blog in a part of the Dog Agility Bloggers Event on Mental Management!  Here is the first article, The How To Guide for Multiple Personalities.  The second article is Rehersals! My mental management

I have developed a split personality disorder on purpose.  To learn how, read on....

I have done a TON of work on this front.  I didn't start out with this in mind, but it was really brought about by self preservation.

The journey started with Tip, my first agility dog.  She would arrive ring side (no doubt way too early) and begin her wind up routine.  She would watch the dogs on course, get more and more wound until it was finally our turn.  I would walk out of course and release the wound up spring.  As you can imagine, we hit every obstacle on course, probably twice and would end up with high points in trial.  Only served me well in USDAA Gamblers where her random obstacles would gain us "good" points!!

Conductor of the Crazy Train

I began my journey with myself, determined that this routine wouldn't get me upset and wound just like her.  It took me a couple of years, finally realizing the calmer I was, the more calm she was.  Our runs began to come together.  Also realizing (way too slowly) that I should only get her to ring side about 3 seconds before our run so she couldn't continue her wind up routine.

Tip is an extraordinary agility dog, she is the only one of my dogs that can be truly handler focused and obstacle focused depending on what I need.  I began to incorporate some of this into my warm up routine with her.  So, if we were doing Gamblers (of which she was already an expert) I would warm her up with some distance work.  If we were doing Snooker I would warm her up with "come to hand" and tight flat work.  She slowly began to understand that this translated to what I was about to ask of her on our runs.

Don't get me wrong, we have not arrived.  Tip is still the conductor of the "Crazy Train", but we do manage to pull it together more often to win our share of races.

I will contrast this with Tangle.  Tangle is the opposite of Tip and my third agility dog.  The closer Tangle would get to the ring the more stressed he would get.  Sniffing, calming signals, never playing, and slowing his pace.  We would go into the ring and he would be very careful, never wanting to be wrong.  Always doing a great job, but never having fun.  This is just who Tangle was (yes, I said "was").

Holy cow, now I had a dog that I needed to figure out how to "wing up"!  This journey also took a couple of years.  I needed to learn how to be happy, relaxed and playful around Tangle.  I am these things in real life, but running Tip had taught me to be more meditative when going into the ring to run.

So, I had to teach Tangle that it was OK to play no matter where he was.  We had to play in the backyard, at starbucks, ring side, every where.  I actually had to teach this!  He had to learn to bark and be wild on command.  We had to learn to take that behavior to the ring (the gate steward hates me now, but I am OK with that).  So, with Tangle I broke all the "Tip" rules.  We stayed ring side, I let him get wound watching dogs, I asked him to bark and spin, and finally he agreed to tug ring side!
I documented some of this journey in the blog -- IYC, and  Training in Crazy Places

Cynosport 2012 - Playing before a run

Tangle and I still have some work to accomplish at really big events, but we are setting patterns of success which is important.  He is having fun, running fast, and relaxing!

Then there is Split, not to be minimized, but he is somewhere in between.  He would stay calm ring side, yes, excited to run but not really showing it.  I honestly don't think the excitement hits Split until he is about 3 obstacles into the course.  Then he realizes again why he loves the game and looses all connection to me (joining Tip on the crazy train).  So, with Split I had to bring his excitement level up BEFORE the run so that he could begin to level out before we hit the startline.  Split (thanking the universe as I say this) is fairly easy to deal with mentally.  We have begun to tug ring side (which I also had to teach him to do) and our runs are beginning to level out and be fairly nice.
Split's Crazy AF

All three dogs get the same treatment at the end of our runs and I am religious about this!  We never stop to talk to anyone, we run to their reward, I smother them with praise and we play!

So, no story is the same in terms of mental management of your dog.  But hopefully, you take away the bits and pieces that make sense for your team and learn to get your dog "in the zone" and become the person that they need you to be!


Today's blog in a part of the Dog Agility Bloggers Event on Mental Management!  Here is the first article, The How To Guide for Multiple Personalities.  Here is the link to my dog's mental management, Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde - How my dog and I get ready for our run!

The mental game is a journey.  It helps to know that you may never arrive at the perfect destination!

I am always trying to improve my mental game at trials.  I have made a lot of progress, but there is always more work to be done.  I don't really get nervous anymore at local trials and find that I enjoy myself most of the time (there are exceptions).  But at really, really big events nerves play more of a factor.  I am not going to talk about how to control nerves (see list in the "How To" guide for multiple personalities).  What I want to focus on is "focus".  The mental game of rehearsing my run, and writing this is yet another way for me to improve upon this.

I find that visualizing my run is intensely helpful.   It does a number of things for me.  It helps me relax, it reduces my handler errors, increases my confidence on parts of the course that would otherwise be 'iffy in my mind, and helps me plan better cues for my dog. 

Cynosport 2012 - "In the hole"

When I pick up the course maps in the morning I try to look at all the runs quickly, prioritize which I need to review first.  When I am looking at the course map for the first time I am trying to make some preliminary handling decisions.  There might be a section or two where there are a couple of options.  I will decide those in the walk-through.  If I have some down time after this I will begin to mentally walk through the course as if I am running it with my dog.  Yep, I look like the crazy person on the side lines "air" rehearsing my run!  My objectives are to build muscle memory, picture exactly where my dog and I are on course at all times, and to rehearse the verbal cues that I will be giving.  I try to get very detailed, down to exact where the dog's feet are when I start my cues.

When I walk the course the first time I walk my dog's path.  It is amazingly helpful for me.  I can spot what the dog sees (off courses), pay attention to how my weight shifts, it tells me how big of a lead change my dog will need.  Also, walking his/her path tells me if my dog needs to be in extension/relative extension/collection.  This all confirms my handling decisions.  Then I switch quickly to rehearsing my actual run on course.  I get in as many reps as possible in the time allowed.

Assuming that I have time between the walk-through and my run I do more rehearsing of my run.   I pay attention to how I am breathing.  I pay attention to how relaxed I am.  I must rehearse the relaxation as well!

When I am about ready to enter the ring, I try to smile and feel the love of the game!

The "How To" guide for Multiple Personalities

Today's blog in a part of the Dog Agility Bloggers Event on Mental Management!

My first reaction was "Holy Cow" this topic is so big.  My second reaction was "Holy Cow the more I think about this topic, the bigger it gets!"

The two aspects of this topic that I am intensely interested in are: 1) the dog's mental game, from ~3 minutes before the run to post run  2) My mental game when I pick up the course maps, right after my walk-throughs, and from ~3 before the run through post run.

Enjoy the Ride

But, let me be honest for a moment.  There are lots of tools to help with my mental game, but none hold a candle to the following list.  These are the things that help me relax and get in the zone better than any other:
  • I always remember it is a time that I have carved out in my life to play with my dogs.  I keep it special to my heart.
  • I try to enter the ring and leave the ring with a smile on my face and love in my heart for my dogs.  My dogs and I do agility because we love to play together.
  • Breath deeply and enjoy the ride.  Every run is part of the journey!
So, back to the heady discussion of the mental game...

For those of you who want to read about my mental game, Rehersals!.

If you want to read how I help my dogs get in the zone, you can read Dr. Jeckle and Mr. Hyde - How my dog and I get ready for our run!.

Both of those articles were written for this event, however I need to be in two different places mentally to get them written.

Agility is a complicated game mentally.  The mental dynamics are unparalleled to my time as a musician.  As a musician I only had to worry about me!  Getting myself into the zone.

Agility you have to worry about yourself, your dog, switching between your dogs and always being the person that you want to be and who your dogs need you to be!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

More Geek Toys

Here are the latest additions to MY toy box for techy agility equipment over the last six months or so. 

I will start with my latest purchase, a Panasonic HC-720 video camera.  I have been wanting a solution for starting my video camera remotely for a while.  At trials, either I have to bribe someone into filming me or I end up with gigabytes of extra footage if I start the camera, go run my dog and come back to turn off the camera.  Not to mention that I often forget to turn off my camera :(

I won't go into all the features, you can read them here.  But the new HC-720 comes with a wireless feature and a phone/tablet app (android or iphone).  My phone is a Galaxy 4.  The phone app will pair with the camera and act as a remote.  You can zoom in/out, change various capture settings, start/stop recording and turn off the camera.

 It was actually fairly easy to get the phone and camera paired.  One of the methods that is used is a QR code that the phone reads (it is displayed  on the camera screen) and gets all the pairing info needed.
I haven't completely tested what kind of a range I have with the wireless connection, but in the initial tests I can get over 100 foot outside or in an arena.  In the house the walls limited the connection to a couple of rooms away. Perhaps this weekend will afford me more time to play.

So far the only downside that I have noticed with this setup it the ability to BURN camera battery time.  I had the camera going to about 90 minutes last night, filmed 5 runs remotely at the highest resolution and I used the whole battery life.  I think I can deal with this by turning off the camera (and the wireless) in between runs, perhaps carry an extra battery.

I haven't investigated the live streaming, and time lapse capabilities yet, give me a couple of weeks.

The other item that I got a while ago (for the older model of this camera but fits the new) was a super wide-angle lens  by Japan Optics for the camera.  When setting up the camera on a tripod typically I couldn't get a whole course in the field of vision.  The wide angle lens allows me to do this.  I get a little bit of interference on the sides, but there is no picture bending distortion which is nice.  I would like to get a wide angle that didn't show at the edges, but for now it will do.

On the wish list is a tripod or mount that will allow the camera to be up higher so that I have a better perspective of my runs on my agility field.

Monday, November 11, 2013

When practices just suck...

For various reasons, some of which I have yet to understand, I have had several sessions with the dogs lately that have just sucked. 

I wasn't on top of my game, the dogs responded and weren't on top of their game and it just sucked all the fun out of agility.

Nobody talks about this topic too much.  Probably because it is painful to think about and you don't want to admit that sometimes you just suck!

The remedy?  Some of this intensionally and some was just great timing.

I took Split and Tangle to a frisbee competition yesterday.  For me, frisbee isn't about winning, getting high points, it is really about relaxing with my dogs, but working as a team.  I suck at frisbee, I only know how to throw one way.  I never "practice" it, it is just something that, on occasion we do together.  I could probably think of it as one of those team building exercises.  But the key is I can relax, smile and laugh with my dogs always.

Mary, Tangle, and Split

Competition was fun and crazy.  First time ever that Tangle actually darted out on the field to help a dog catch the Frisbee.  Tangle never looses his head in an environment like that, but yesterday I saw a lack of control several times (this is a good thing for this dog).  Split did awesome, he takes Frisbee very seriously.  Actually Split digs anything he does.  He is the best example on the planet of being "in the moment" and enjoying the work.  An inspiration really (which is why rehabing this dog was so worth it).

This morning I went back to foundation and basics with all three dogs.  We did Linda Mechlenberg's one jump work right from the beginning.  Jumps at 8", 12", 16" etc...It was a good exercise.  High rate of reward for the dogs, easy, reminding them not to hit the bar, and helping keep the muscle's toned in their back legs.  And my CnT and throwing treats skills were good enough to make the dogs happy.

Then we did some tunnel and jump work.  Take the tunnel, don't take it, do the backside, threadles, etc... 

My reward...a sequence that we just sucked at two days ago was flawless this morning. 

Most of the time I do a fairly good job keeping things in perspective, not getting too serious about the goals at hand, but sometimes, obviously I suck at it.

We all just needed some time where we  just played, laughed, and let off steam.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

What a sweet moment...tears to my eyes

Just got off the course at Cynosport a couple of hours ago...but wanted to write about this run before the final results come out.

Tip being 9.5 this is her last Cynosport.  I am going to retire her, whatever that means.  Probably she just won't trial as much, but will still be a part of the pack workouts on the agility course, and daily runs.

Tip and I ran Performance Grand Prix today.  The course was built for speed for sure.  Being a 9.5 year old girly, didn't know how she would hold up against the competition.  Still don't until the results are out.

But running this course, running it clean and being a "team" with my girl brought tears to my eyes when I was done.  It was a very, very sweet moment to "end a career" and to have for Cynosport 2013.

When I left the building Tip was still in 4th place.  There was one more group to run.  But, it doesn't matter, we both put our best into this run and it felt great!!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I designed this course because I needed the practice!

I am learning more and more that practicing agility is to get me the experience that I need to handle my dogs.  Probably 20 percent of our practice is for them.

 My dogs, especially Tangle know what to do when I give them the proper instruction. Now Tip does snipe sometimes, but I forgive her since 1) she was my first agility dog and my learning curve with her was steep  2)  Until I gained enough experience to feel some confidence in what I was doing I put her through about a dozen handling systems.  It is a wonder she knows what to do (must be one smart dog!).

I put this course together this morning with a couple of different objectives in mind.  Again, practice for me.

Objective 1 - To practice running Tangle, then Tip, then Split all in a row.  Since I trial all three dogs, I need to get better about switching between them.  I am trying to get more practiced with my visualization, make it more real so that it affects my performance in a positive way.

Objective 2 - There are elements in this course that were taken from judges who will be judging at Cynosport.  I wanted to work those challenges.

Objective 3 - Put all the obstacles out there so my dogs would see them all before Cynosport.  The broad-jump is missing, but I worked that in a different session.

The opening was fairly straight forward, ran it a couple of times after the initials runs.  I got the tightest turn on 2 when I lead out half way between 1 & 2 and did rapid decel.  All three dogs got the DW/Tunnel discrimination, just used out-walk-it.  #6 was interesting, you could easily get a refusal on that jump depending on the dog's ability to send.  I got a refusal with Split, but Tip and Tangle were awesome.  

7-8-9 I had an error in judgement.  Thinking that I wanted to be on the triple side of the AF, I FC'ed on the landing side of 7 with Tangle.  I did get the tunnel, but bar 7 came down and getting the triple was not pretty because he turned back toward me.  I must have thought I was superman and would be there :).  So, better to handle that sequence on the DW side and rear-cross the triple.  That was actually a great decision because the dog had a clear line of sight from 6-7-8, then turn toward you after the tunnel and a "jump-switch" gets you the jump and a beautiful turn.

10-11-12 was no problem to my surprise, but I did have better commitment to the weaves when I could be slightly ahead of the teeter when the dog was released.  If you can't do that, you better have a very good verbal discrimination!

12-13-14-15-16-17 I learned several things and was reminded of a couple.  1-give the dog more yardage, when you absolutely have to be ahead (rc to the backside of 14).  2-dogs have no clue what to do with a hill-billy** jump when they see it from the side.  The most successful handling strategy was to send the dog to the weaves, layer the tunnel, stay about 1/2 down the tunnel, calling their name so they turn toward you, let them shoot out beyond the plane of 14, rear-cross on the flat, send into the tunnel, run like hell and shape the approach to 16, deceling also so you get the turn for the AF.  Again, run like hell to 18.  You would get a tight turn out of the tunnel if you were down there to catch them but then you are behind when they need you to shape the approach to the hill-billy jump.

All-in-all, I learned some thing, I blogged what I learned and hopefully will retain that knowledge to use it in a competition!!

**Hill-billy jump (not official name) is two single jumps placed 12-18 inches apart to form a double.  I have the winged jump on the back.  All three dogs thought that they should slice between the two jumps.  Interestingly, no bars were dropped, no dogs were hurt, they were amazing.  If the dog had hit the jump, my jumps fall apart by design!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Fun drill - good skills

I wanted to work on our tunnel skills this week.  I have noticed that we are getting courses where it requires us to go to the non-obvious side of the tunnel at times.  Also, Tangle and I just needed to "play".  No tight course, just something where we can both run, but still improving skills.

I ran the whole circle of this course each time.  Varying which end of the tunnel that I would cue, or even if we took the tunnel. 

Things to watch:
  • How soon the dog commits to the tunnel vs a jump
  • What is the difference in your cue for the far end of the tunnel vs the far jump (so running past the tunnel)
  • Does the dog have drive all the way to the close end of the tunnel, far end, and jump.  If not, you are either unclear or not timely.

A life long pursuit - being a better listener!

I ran across this blog the other day, Training Border Collies, one post in particular really hit home for me, Psych 101.  What she had to say was very insightful and very true.  Each dog is different and you have to be able to read them to connect with them.

I suppose I am this way because I am the youngest of six, or maybe it is because of who I am.  I approach all interactions whether it is people or animals by trying to read them.  I try to interpret their reactions to me and the world.  I try to "listen" with every sense that I have.  I do a lot of observing.

I am not trying to be a dog whisperer.  As a matter of fact, I don't really even like that term. I just have figured out that I get way more information by reading every form of communication then I do by listening to just words.  I guess I am an information junky.

What I would like to achieve is that my soul is so quiet and listening so intently to my dog that I can hear my dog's soul as well.  I know, sounds kind of hippie like.  That is OK.  Hippies brought about a revolution is America :)

Tip taught me that my attitude influenced our runs.  She is a very drivey dog who reacts to my nerves by getting even more wound.  I eventually learned that I needed to always be calm with her.  From the moment I get her out of the kennel to run, through the end of our run.  If I am nervous it only compounds our problems.

Tangle reminded me that I need to be calm, but happy.  He reacts to the energy in his environment and begins to display all calming signals he has at his disposal.  I learned that I had to play with him in these environments, teach him to relax and enjoy the moment.  It taught me more deeply to enjoy the moment.  Dogs are wonderful teachers, if you are willing to be the student.

Split is right in the middle of these two.  Sometimes he gets more wound, but once he reaches his tipping point, he shuts down. 
This statement from that very same blog also hit home, this describes Tip and Tangle perfectly.  Tip being the one who needs a truancy officer :)

"For now – both are a lot of fun to work … different dogs – different issues – different year and yet “all so familiar”. I seem to spend 1/2 my life as a cheerleader and the other 1/2 as a truancy officer :@) "

I want to spend more time observing and listening than training!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

So you can't read a course map without your glasses anymore?

Today's blogger event is about Aging.

"Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it, you've got to start young." - Theodore Roosevelt

I am not an expert, nor do I want to become one!  But, I am an unwilling participant and so are my dogs.  All of us are trying hard to beat the odds, and deny that age is affecting us.  I have no idea if I am doing it well, I haven't done this before.  I have no wisdom to fall back on, no prior experience.  So I am going along for the ride, without a seat belt and hanging my head out the window so I can get the full experience!

Seriously, I find with human or K9 the hardest part of the aging process is doing it gracefully, both mentally and physically.  I think the mind ages slower than the body most of the time, and trying to keep the mind learning while you are being gentler on the body is an art worth learning.

Things that I have learned on my aging journey.
  • Practice only 10 minutes at a time and make that time really count
  • Spend more time watching your videos, learn what you do well and what you need to improve, it will make your 10 minutes really count
  • Reward often, both yourself and your dogs.  Loving what you do can actually help block pain.
  • Exercise helps reduce pain in people and dog's with arthritis. Keep it moderate but do it.
  • Spend more time building your relationship with your dog, laughter is the best medicine.
  • Not all training has to be done on actual agility equipment, be creative, it stimulates the mind and helps keep you young.  It can have a lower impact on the dog.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Playing with a sequence and Non-Traditional Starts

I was involved in a Facebook conversation the other day.  It was prompted by a comment on how people were handling a certain start at the USDAA Rocky Mountain Regionals.  It was not the first time I had seen courses with this kind of a start (similar, not the same) and I decided I wanted to play with it.

I first started to play with this course with a somewhat traditional start.  That is, sit your dog in front of the first jump lead out.  More on that in a minute.

Traditional Start

I ran this sequence with all three dogs, it always gives me a great idea how things are REALLY going to work.

There are a number of ways to run this sequence.  The handling option that people were commenting on was a Lead Out Pivot, pull through the gap of 2-3 and send over 3.  Of the dogs that I watched this didn't work really well.  Most dogs didn't know they were turning back to the handling after 3, and in general the LOP was not very smooth (smooth = dog knows where he is going).

The options that we were discussing were:
1. push to the backside of #2, push to backside of #3, and tuck in for a blind after 3.
2. push to the backside of #2, handler goes in between 2-3 to front cross and send over 3.
3. push to the backside of #2, handler goes in between 2-3 and does a k-turn over 3.
4. Lead Out Pivot, pull through the gap of 2-3 and send over 3.

#1 - This options was amazingly difficult to get to the blind cross in time.  I could do it, but I was living on the edge and the bars were at risk because of the rush.
#2 - This worked fairly well but I felt like I got a fairly wide turn at 3 going to 4.
#3 - This worked the best.  Dogs read it well, I didn't have so much rotation myself, got a tighter turn at 3 and was ahead to handling a turn at 4.

The Traditional Start 
I was messing with this course for a while.  I found that I could get the job done, but I wasn't as far ahead as I wanted to be.  I had to wait to commitment to the backside of 2.  I tried a running start with the dogs and that went a little better.  The momentum helped me get an earlier commitment, but if I cut over too soon Tip would follow and take the front side.  Also, if you dropped your arm, the dog would take the front side.

Bottom frame is the traditional start, top if a running start

Non-Traditional Start
On the map I put a jump on the course before #1.  I started the dogs there with a running start, the landed a little deeper, my motion COMPLETELY supported the backside and I found that I got ahead better to support a push and k-turn.  In filming this with Coach's Eye it wasn't quite as fast but I am confident that I can work the turn over #2 a tad bit more and get things faster.  I would probably opt for this start in a trial because I would spend less time managing commitment points and more time staying ahead.

So, at least for the moment I am in favor of running into a backside, and thinking outside the box to see if a non-traditional start will give me an advantage!

Monday, July 29, 2013

What If...

I always have trouble deciding what course to set up.  Sometimes the multiple things that I need to practice aren't always easy to all get on one course.

This is the course I set up this morning.  First I ran the white circles.  My objective was to work tunnel discriminations, fast approaches to teeters, a rear cross to the dog walk, and fast lines to the AF.

The course wasn't too bad.  The largest handling challenge 7-8-9, just because of the change of leads for the dog.  The largest challenge for the dog was the line to the teeter.  My dogs have been flying off lately and this truly challenged them.  It allowed me also to continue my speed while they had to stay.

Being a lazy course builder I always like to get multiple uses out of a course.  Here are all the possible ways you can change sections of the course (take the black number instead of the while).  It changes the challenge and the cue combinations.

For instance, 13 through 21 (with the black 20), how would you get there?  Or do you have backside distance skills?  If you have a 2o2o AF, not too bad.  If you have a running AF you have to cut the line 14-15-16, does your dog have an independent teeter?

I love a challenge while still having to RUN!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Revisionist History

For some reason I think of my brother when I say that term.  Probably because we had many conversations based on that.  Both of us incensed that school text books would be written with anything other than the "truth".

Well, I am in the middle of a project with Tangle.  I decided to see how methodical I could get with my teaching, how dedicated to every detail I would be, and video the whole journey.  At periodic intervals I would put together an edited video of our progress so that I could look back and see what changes there were.

So tonight I was reviewing our video from a couple of days ago and was thinking about how well that session went.  So, I decided to look back on all 7 milestone videos and see if I still thought there was progress or not.  I was thinking that we had made some strides, I was thinking that I started at a certain place in the instruction.

!! Revisionist History !!

So the "truth" according to the video is mostly that I had wiped out of my brain some of the experimentation that I did at the beginning.  Glad I had video, it is good to remember that I was gathering data in the first session or two to see where the skills were.  Made me appreciate exactly how unskilled certain things were compared to a month later.  Made me feel silly that I remembered things differently :)  (we all do, we are human, need to allow myself to be that eh?)

So glad that I am keeping a video diary of sorts with this project.  Keeps my revisionist history to a minimum, remember the techniques that did or did not work, and helps me visualize the progress we are making.

Video is King!!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

What I love about dog training

Dogs, they are so honest!  I love that about them!

I am working on independence with my two boys!  They both need more of it, but in different ways.

Split has drive coming out every pore of his body, however in certain conditions he feels compelled to watch me, ask for permission, need reassurance that he is doing the right thing.  (Yes, I am sure I created that somewhere along the way.)

Tangle just needs the independence that comes with maturity.

This morning I figured I would use a toy (flying squirrel) at the end of a line of obstacles so they would drive to it.  I am figuring piece of cake, they already know how to fetch.  They "target" the toy.  All three of my dogs go CRAZY for fetch.  Up until this morning I would have said it is there most favorite thing on the planet.

Also, on the side, I have their breakfast.  They are no strangers to working for their food.

I line up Split on the line of obstacles, put the toy at the end, he looks at the toy, I release him.  He does the obstacles and POUNCES on the toy and then looks up at me.  Won't bring back the toy, just keeps pouncing on it.  Baffled by this, I step back and think about it.

Split is correct.  I taught him as a young dog to target the toy.  Run out, pounce on the mouse pad in that case, and I would throw him the food.  All the elements of THAT game were present so that must be the game we were playing.  He assessed the situation exactly how I would want him to.

My dogs never fail to help me remember to look at the world from someone else's eyes.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Split is back!

It occurred to me today that this weekend will be Split's first 2 day (almost all the runs) trial since 2/2011 when he was diagnosed with arthritis and an iliopsoas pull.  The doctors nor PT people were hopeful that he would ever be able to do agility again.  They just didn't think that he could come back strong enough.

It was really hard to come to terms with that news!

I set my mind on getting him rehab'ed with the goal that he would keep jogging with us and doing some "puppy" agility in the back yard for the rest of his life.  He needed to know that he was not forgotten or any less of a member in our house.

I think that this mind set was perfect for today's outcome!  I never envisioned that he would be as strong as he is today.

It wasn't until about 8 months ago that I realized that he really recovered well.  So I set my sights on getting him retrained and seeing were he could go.

While Split was injured but before I really realized it he began to develop some bad habits--mostly popping weave poles and wide turns.  Much like someone who has been limping for years, getting the problem fixed, you have to re-train the body/mind to stop compensating for a problem that no longer exists.

So, I believe that we have the weave pole issue much improved, his turns are much tighter for the most part, his AF has been converted to running, he has stopped (mostly) running a muck on course out of happiness and we are beginning to be a better team again.

He won't ever have a full trial schedule again, but really that is fine, I just want him healthy and happy. 

So, we will see what this weekend brings.  I don't care if we cue, I don't care if we place, I really don't care if he becomes a little too enthusiastic on course.  All I care about is that we can run together again and when the end of the day comes he still feels good and pain free.

I am happy to be running Split again and with a very conservative approach, hopefully we can continue for a long while!

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Style points count!

They say in agility is doesn't matter how ugly the run was, it is still a cue.  That is true to a point.

I have witnessed several situations over the past month that have really made me *think* about this and believe even more deeply that style does matter.  I am actually not talking about the run itself, I am talking about how you conduct yourself and your attitude and the gratitude/grace with which we lead our lives in every moment.

I was blown away about a month ago when a competitor who I admire (and this is probably why) was proud to be on the podium with such an esteemed group of handlers.  The attitude wasn't all about how great she is, or how great the dog is, it was about recognizing her fellow competitors as well.  She lifted others while lifting herself.  Was she proud of herself for being there?  I don't know for sure, but I am bet she was.  The statement was classy and I see that attitude from her ALWAYS.  It helps me admire her and learn from her.

Too me this speaks to the moments of competition that I love.

Style points also count outside the ring, walking the course, coming into the ring, leaving the ring, in class, or just alone on the field.

My hero's in agility are truly those people who excel at handling/training, but are also kind and gracious in every moment.  You see them in class and they lift you up, you see them at trials and they lift you up.  They live their lives by doing the right thing ALWAYS.  Being kind to both people and animals.

Some days I am far from a kind person.  But, I always try to re-center myself.  I am the most proud of myself when I am kind and lift others no matter what.

So, a reminder to myself, "Style does Matter"!

Surround yourself with only people that will lift you higher! - Oprah Winfrey

If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else. Booker T. Washington

Sunrise, Sunset

This shouldn't be a sad blog, it really is meant to be a recognition of the lives to two amazing dogs.  I must admit however, that a couple of tears comes to my eyes as I write this!

I competed with two of my dogs, Tip and Tangle, in USDAA's Rocky Mountain Regional a couple of  weekends ago.  We had several amazing moments with both dogs as measured by a position on a podium and then we had many, many amazing moments because I saw the best coming out in one of the dogs in moments of brilliance.


Tangle is 2, almost 3 years old.  Tangle is beginning to make his mark on this world.  He is an old soul who is teaching me new things about agility every day!  At almost 3 years old he has already qualified for 3 national events, competed at the national level, competed at a world team tryout.  I really believe, no matter my goal Tangle can help me accomplish it.  He is gentle, steady, level headed,  honest, fast and an awesome partner.  I have never had a dog that could compete so steadily in agility, keeping his head at such a young age.

At this Rocky Mountain Regional he was on the second place team.  Not a small accomplishment for a 2 year old.  It takes a consistent performer in 5 events.  He placed 5th in Team snooker, with about 50 dogs in his class. 

Tangle, Wick and Summit


Tip is 9 years old.  She has definitely made her mark on this world!  She has been an amazing teacher is so many ways.  She is an awesome leader of my pack, she and I learned agility together, she taught me the importance of foundation (or the lack there of), she taught me to laugh, even in the face of "failure" and the biggest lesson, always have fun no matter the outcome!

Tip has competed in 4 venues, been to 4 national events, on the podium in several of those.  She has been of the podium for either/both/all P-Grand Prix, P-Steeplechase, and Team at three USDAA regional events.

Now I wouldn't be doing justice to Tip by not recognizing her crazy side as well.  After all, that is who she is.  She LOVES the game and I am sure she will be running it in heaven as well.  She loves it so much that sometimes she just can't help herself on course.  In many runs, she has taken so many obstacles on course without recognizing that I am standing there waiting for her to come back and work with me.  She has completed a run and started doing a second round on the same course for her 'victory lap', I can't count the number of broken startlines, and running dog walks (she has a 2o2o).  Those are the moments that taught me to appreciate watching another creature just absolutely LOVING something and it makes me smile (it didn't at first!).

So, I recognized on the way home from this USDAA Regional that this may be her last or at least the last time on the podium.  She is not showing signs of slowing down, but at 9, it is bound to happen.

Tip - 1st place PGP round 1 and 2

Thanks to both dogs for being my partner at Regionals!!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Voices of the Whos!

Improvement, that is always the name of the game isn't it?

This blogging event (Improving Agility Organizations) is our opportunity as a community to gather together to be the 'Whos' in 'Whoville' and provide feedback to agility organizations on how they are doing, what we like, and where we would like to see improvement.   If everyone uses their voice on the same day might be heard in more circles than just our own.

Horton Hears a Who (

I participate in several venues and all of them have great things about them and all of them have things that well...they could improve.  True about everything in life isn't it? 

If I had Kenneth Tatsch's (USDAA) ear today, the couple of things that I would say to him:

  • I love USDAA.  For me it is a great balance between having challenges that are interesting to me and course that are fun for the dogs to run (running! most interests them!).
  • In our area USDAA trials are mostly outdoors, fairly relaxed and casual events.  I love that!
  • It would be helpful to know qualifying criteria ahead of time.  Announcing criteria for National events (Cynosport, IFCS Continental) BEFORE the qualifying period has begun is really important to me.   For me,  I have to plan in advance where I will travel in order to qualify for things.  It is not possible for me to decide at the last moment to go on the road to a trial in order to qualify.  Are they purposely biasing their events?
  • Ken, you have a wonderful opportunity to get more small dogs to join USDAA.  Just give them a jump height that is fair for them.**
  • At Cynosport you should consider loading results onto a website.  Large monitors just don't cut it.  It is very hard to see your results gathered around monitors with 120 of fellow competitors.  It is really fun to obsess about my dogs results relative to my competitors.  Your affecting my ability to obsess.  BTW, the monitors never scroll at the speed that you want :)

Actually if I had to pick a favorite venue that isn't really a venue it would be AKC's world team tryouts.  The people are friendly, the courses are amazing (fun for dogs and humans), and extremely well run!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Got some new gadgets!

OK, it all begins with an idea.  "I wonder which kind of a start is faster on this course..."

Well, just so happens that I got a new cell phone last week.  Ya know, one of those phones that is as big as a dinner plate (quoting a friend).

Since I had that fantastic new phone with its fantastic new camera I decided to get "Coaches Eye".  It is a snazzy little app that allows you to film, put two films side-by-side, start them where you want each one to start and run them side by side (among other things).  You can see where I am going right?

Well, hum, I was home alone tonight, how am I going to hold the phone (ie, camera) still to video and run a dog?  Well, one trip to REI and I got a GridTight Mount for my tripod.  Great little gadget, fits all sorts of cell phones and hooks onto a standard tripod.

All set!!

So, here is my handy dandy experiment.   I thought that a running start would be much faster.  Don't think that it was.  I thought that Tangle would beat Split.  Split doesn't turn as tight usually, but since he apparently knew it was a race...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

What a powerful learning experience

Well, we are back from the great white north, Minneapolis, MN.  And yes, there was snow at the beginning of May on the way there.  Made for an epic adventure.

We had an amazing time, learned a ton, found some weaknesses, and celebrated some strengths!

I have to say that at first I was a little in awe at being at ITT, but after a day things began to settle in and it felt a little bit like just a really awesome trial.  It was a wonderful weekend of watching fantastic dogs (big and small) and fantastic handlers.  As a friend said to me, "It is the best seminar you will go to all year", and really that was true.  I got so much out of watching.

What I learned
  • The people are great, welcoming and super nice
  • It is an awesome trial
  • My dog is rock solid.  I have never had a 2 year old that didn't loose his/her head in that kind of excitement.  Tangle was in the game and doing his job the whole time.
  • I need to work on my mental game a bit more.  I got lost on one of the runs and I rarely have that happen.
  • Hardly anyone lays down all clean runs (at least this year they didn't).  You have the mental image that only your dog is going to drop bars and go off course.  Not true.  I had great company!
  • Working backsides, threadles, turning after long straight tunnels, turning on the broadjump, sending to backsides of tunnels were all great things to practice.  The only thing that we didn't have were hilaciously hard weave entries.

Our Strengths
  • Tangle is an amazing partner.  Solid and honest.  If I didn't cue it, he didn't do it!  He kept his head in the excitement, ran well, and didn't get stressed.
  • Tangle has a lot of power and ability.  Check out the video above.  Not only can he turn on a dime, but he reads my motion so incredibly well.  I am constantly amazed.
  • Once I got over my bout with nerves I was calm and ran well.  I was proud of myself for being able to overcome the nerves and get it together.
  •  Our prep for the event was good.  Some of the courses that we practiced were actually harder than what we ended up running
What I would do next time?
  • Learn to enjoy the event right from the beginning
  • Start a little earlier on the prep work
  • Figure out better foods to help keep my blood sugar from diving
So, would I do it again.  Absolutely!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Out of the comfort zone!

One of the things that I learned as a musician was that if you want to improve you have to practice at the extremes of your ability.

I am not the person who sits in her comfort zone for too long.

The day has come when I have decided to step COMPLETELY outside my comfort zone and do something in agility to really push myself.  I am going to try out for AKC's European Open World Team with Tangle (now 2.5 years old).  I am going this year as a demo dog which means that I have zero chance of making the team, but for me this year isn't about making the team.  It is about pushing myself to improve and this is an experience that will do that.  It is about learning to play successfully with the "big boys".

This already has been a totally new experience for me and will continue to be for months to come. 

How do you prepare yourself and your dog for this challenge?  I have thought about physical preparation for both of us, and mental preparation for both of us. 

Physically - Tangle normally jumps 22", I have to move him up to 26", and get the muscles built.  Along the way, I have been working to keep his confidence intact (he is only 2) and increase the fun factor for him.  I have had adjustments in my timing and how much space to physically allow him on course.  I have to enter him in some competitions at the new jump height.

For myself, I am working hard to get my pulled muscles recovered, keep from pulling more and just develop a solid base condition.

Mentally - It is very important to me that Tangle enjoys this experience.  Sure, he loves running the courses, but there is so much more.  Tangle stresses when he is surrounded by stressed people/dogs.  Hum, there might be a couple of those (including me) at this competition.  I am working hard at training all sorts of "fun" tricks that we can pull out of our bag when the need arises.  I don't want to push myself at the expense of my dog.  It is a journey for both of us.  One of my goals is to keep Tangle's stress at a minimum.

For me, I need to remain mentally attuned to the challenges that each moment will bring.  What are my measurable goals for this trial?  When we have our "practice" run what will my objective be?  How do I use my time now to sharpen my mental game?  As a demo dog, I will be the first in the running order, I want to come to the start line with the confidence that I have in a local trial, how do I do that?  I have so little time to prepare (made my decision to go late), how do I prioritize and make the most of my time?  Don't let your confidence get shaken by those around you.

I have read the rules and know the specifications for the equipment.  I am not normally a rule reader I just follow the customs around me.  But, this is so different. 

There are several pieces of equipment Tangle hasn't seen before--wall jump and the "Euro" double (two singles placed 18-22" apart in ascending order).  Made those and trained on those.

I am studying course maps.  Lots of the obstacles are the same, but the approaches that they give you to those obstacles are totally different than what we encounter at any US venue.  Setting up exercises that allow us to practice those items.

Lessons learned so far:
Prepare your family, this will be an obsessive effort and will invade life as you know it.
It takes more than a month to prepare for this type of competition (given my experience base)
Talk to everyone you can who has actually done what you are going to do to limit the surprises along the way.
When the weather doesn't cooperate, you have to still figure out how to be productive

So, for me, this is a fairly steep hill to climb: really young, but talented dog, physical and mental preparedness, building my team, making equipment, researching courses, connecting with people, etc.

I know, you say "dah?" of course you have to do all this.  I would too if this was actually a goal of mine 3 months ago!
Practice April 9th! - Restrained sends to a tunnel

P.S. of course this is the spring where it has to snow every 4 days as well!  Thankful for the water, but it isn't helping my preparedness :)

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Equipment Creations

Ya know, it seems like I spend at least one day every month working on agility equipment.  I am either maintaining something, or creating something new.

USDAA is beginning to move toward 5 foot wide jumps and the "majority" must have wings.  So I decided that I needed to 'up' my inventory of jumps with wings.  They do change the way that you can move around the course, some times blocking your path.  Certainly they make it easier for dogs to jump the backside of the jump (if they are a jump hugger).

I had a set of stand alone wings made with lattice that I bought years ago.  They are great, but irritate me slightly when I have to keep picking them up from the wind.  So, last month (told you I work on equipment once a month) I made a wing design that attaches/detaches from the jump itself.  It has a little bit of material on it.  Again, irritating because the wind takes it down.

So, here is my new design.  I can adapt my existing jumps to have these wings which is super nice on the pocket book.  I wanted to make something that might be a tad bit more wind proof--today was a great test.  All wing jumps are down EXCEPT these :).  Also, since I don't glue my jumps they still break away if the dog collides with them.  They are 9 inches wide which I know is a little skinny, but I wanted to keep the weight down, have it wide enough it helps my dogs take back sides, but narrow enough that they aren't tempted to go through the wing.  They can easily be widened if I decide to go in that direction.

Wing PVC Jump

The other item on my agenda was a wall jump.  I was setting up some courses that required a wall jump and on rare occasion we do see one on course.   It also occurred to me that Tangle has not seen one so I should probably get him familiar with the obstacle.  My other two dogs decided to jump on the top and then down the other side the first time they saw it.  Definitely a fault :)

Well, I really didn't want to spend too much time constructing something so I decided this design would work for familiarization purposes for the dogs.

Ghetto Wall Jump
The 'wall' is made of Styrofoam, maybe 4 inches thick.  The wall itself is 22" high and the displaceable brick is 4 inches high.  It is held up by sandwiching it between two of my existing jumps.  Later I might cut this down so that the total height will be 22, but for the moment I needed 26 inches.

The line of hearts at the top of the wall are the displaceable bricks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Puppy Cannons and Apologies to the Queen!!

First, apologies to the "Queen"

We had a USDAA trial this past weekend.  The Master's judge was Dave Hanson.  Let me just say, he had fabulous courses!!  I ran all three dogs, but had it spread out enough it wasn't too bad or too crazy.

Tip (the Queen of my household), I owe you my deepest apologies!  I am sorry.  I posted on FB how well Tangle did, and completely overlooked your stellar performance.  Tip Q'ed in team, 1st in Performance Grand Prix and 1st in Performance Steeplechase.  My little almost 9 year old was amazing, fast and happy!  I was very thrilled and I love running her dearly (even if she is the hardest of dogs to run).  Sadly, I have no video of her winning runs :(

This is Tip's Standard run, fly off teeter and all!  (note the puppy cannons).

OK, on to Puppy Cannons!  And, this does relate to this past weekend.

As I said, Dave had some wonderful courses.  We saw several variations of puppy cannons on the courses which were huge challenges.  For those who are deprived enough to not know what a puppy cannon is--a pipe tunnel or straight tunnel, which when taken in full extension tends to have a multiplier affect on the dog's speed.  We saw cannon to the weaves, cannon tight turn to a jump, cannon to discrimination jumps, cannon to jump to AFrame, cannon tight turn teeter, etc..

So, I designed a course this morning that was designed to practice some puppy cannon maneuvers, mostly cannon to the weaves and cannon to backsides of jumps.  A little inspiration was throw in from Lori Michael's recent post of an international course she (designed??) and practiced.

In the design I used liberal, but standard distances.  This kept the speeds and fun as high as possible.

We will be doing this course I think for a couple of days.  The weave entries proved very hard to get at speed.  Also, I was really pushing the dogs.  I wanted to see how much motion I could keep (so I could get to the next place before them).  A challenge for us all!!

I earned my breakfast, this course kept us running!!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Variety is the spice of life!

This post is a part of the Dog Agility Blog Event on Internationalization.

I am really looking forward to having an opportunity to run some more courses with an "International" flare. USDAA is promoting it's Master Challenge course and AKC is creating an Excellent C class that I understand will have more international challenges.

 This topic takes me to the core of why I do agility. There is always something for me to learn. That is who I am, I am a life long learner. Change is good for me, it keeps me on my toes and it keeps me learning. Bring it on!!

However, I have to be honest, I don't want every course to be twisty, turny, I have to collect my dog to turn at every obstacle. Some of my favorite courses have been wide-open fast courses with very subtle challenges because of the speed. Sometimes you can't spot those challenges in the walk through and suddenly you have to manage the course real time. Love that! Love livin' on the edge.

 I also love the courses with an International flare. It appeals to the puzzle solver part of me. I walk the course, ponder all my options, wonder if there are better ways to handle something, look at the problem from all sides and finally make choices. I get to see if those choices created the desired outcome for my run (not always a Q for me).

So, for me, I need the sport to appeal to the problem solver in me and the speed daemon livin' on the edge part of me.

Tangle at Cynoport 2012

But these courses are not for everyone or every dog. I recognize that. I would hate to live in a place where the International courses were the only thing that is offered. I have talked to a couple of folks in Europe who wished they had more options. Their course favor the motivated, driven dog. The one that doesn't shut down when you ask it to make 100 tight turns. Not everyone wants to live with those kinds of dogs, nor is every dog built that way mentally/physically.

I want choices myself. I typically don't run my young dogs exclusively on tight, technical courses. I want them to learn to love to run and chase me. This is much easier to do on a wide open course. I have an older dog who lives for agility, and I try to not run her on too many tight courses. If I only had the choice of tight courses she would have to retire from the game (And I am not going to be the one to tell HER that).

There are also different forms of this sport that are every bit as challenging, involve team work and a thing of beauty. Have you every watched anyone handle a dog from a distance on an agility course. Either in NADAC or someone who is not able to run like the wind. The team work involved and the dog's command for the English language are very impressive. I like the adrenaline rush I get when I run, but I love to watch the teams who have mastered this type of work. Amazing!!

So, for me, bring it on!! Give me options and variety. Ask me and my dog to be versatile. Ask us to master the fast course and the technical course!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Way to say it Kathy Keats!!

I had 10 minutes free today and decided to pick up my copy of Clean Run.  The first page I turned to was the "Editorializing" section and an absolutely fabulous commentary by Kathy Keats on abuse of power.

Bravo Kathy for writing about a topic that needs to be "outed" in Agility.  Abuse of Power!!

I have to say this struck a real cord in me.  I have attended several seminars where the presenter was less than professional when it came to the ethics that Kathy talks about.  This presenter did not treat everyone with respect, not even close.  There was rudeness, bulling, and intimidation.  I am not a weak person so at some point I do fight back against the intimidation.  But I walk away from seminars vowing to never attend another seminar again.  They have an impact on people's lives, but is that really the impact that they wanted to have?  I think not since they earn a living giving seminars!

A quote from the article "The good coach will be concerned primarily with the well-being, safety, protection and future of individual performer.  There must be a balance between the development of performance and the social, emotional, intellectual, and physical needs of the individual" - Code of Ethics of the British Institute of Sports Coaches.

There are so many reasons for treating your students and seminar attendees well, and very, very few for treating them poorly.

  1. It gets them to take another seminar/class from you if they feel like your words were valuable, and encouraging.
  2. We ALL try to treat our dogs with respect, kindness and reward often.  Why then do teachers not treat their students like that?  Click N Treat works for all animals, even humans.
  3. Good information is to be guarded?  No, if we all contribute to raising the level of competition and competence, doesn't that make the competitive environment more fun.  Isn't a fair race more fun to win then having an overwhelming advantage?
  4. If students are allowed to question what you are saying it contributes to your depth of understanding of the topic as well.  You get something positive back.
People who abused their positions of power has got to be my #1 pet peeve.  I don't care if it is politics, teaching, parenting, or the work place, it is just wrong!

Way to go Kathy and as my mother would say "you can catch more bees with honey than vinegar".

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Running as "One", confessions of a junky

I went to a  USDAA trial down in New Mexico this weekend with Tip and Tangle.  We were going down to pick up some more qualifications for Cynosport (Nationals).  Not sure if we will make the trek to Nationals, but always want the option for a good road trip (ok, maybe Tennessee isn't the ideal destination).

I was driving back to the motel after Friday's Team events telling my husband about the day.  He asked me how the day went, in which I replied it was "OK".  Just "OK", not awesome, not horrible.  Being the good "ASS" (Agility Support Spouse) that he is he asked me to go into detail about the day.  Why was it just "OK"?  Did you not get your Q's?  Did the dogs get hurt? Were they not wanting to run (I would know Tip is dead if she didn't want to run)?

Tip's team placed 1st in Team and Tangle's team got second (thanks to my awesome team mates).  Why then was the day just "OK"?  I should be thrilled with those results right?

We executed the runs well enough to place high. The courses were awesome, fast and technically difficult. Judge was funny. The club was friendly. What more could you want to feel great right?

I remember having these moments in music.  I would walk out on stage and start to performance.  Yes, I got through all the notes perfectly, but I didn't "feel" the performance.  We get the applause at the end, but you didn't feel that you earned them.

I realized what really THRILLS me about agility and what makes my day.  When I can walk away from the day knowing that we ran as a "team".   We, as a team, "felt" the run deeply and ran with that effortless, fluid motion.  That is a GREAT day for me. 

 When I have the kind of runs with my dogs where we run as "one", I walk away from a day of agility loving the sport.  This is not something that you can see on film and it isn't something you can describe.  It just "is"!  It is that fine dance that you have from the moment you hit the start line.  You look back and your dog is just waiting for that moment when you release him.  From the moment you release him it is like synchronized swimming.  You both execute your part of the run in tandem.  You don't "think" about the cues, there are no worries about off courses, there is just the feeling of fluidity of motion between you and your dog.  It leaves you in a state of pure joy regardless of the outcome.

The pure joy of being together

These runs don't have to be placements, nor do they have to be perfect, they just have to "be".  Although it is not her original idea, Daisy Peel wrote an article on the moment of "Unconsciously skilled". 

These runs don't come every trial for me, but when they do the "high" from the experience is enough to carry you through to the next perfect run.  I am a junky of the unconsciously skilled run!

PS, to give credit where credit is due.  Tip did have one of these runs on Sunday and Tangle on Saturday.   So, was the trial a success?  It was!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Make it a game!

Trying to be true to the new year and my goal to lighten up a little while training.

The dogs and I went over to the park to run and stretch.  After that we did a bit of proofing contact behavior with the travel plank.

The dogs did surprisingly well.  I was surprised and please with Tip.  She is my queen that has lots of moments of brilliance which is sometimes peppered with no impulse control.  I love her to death and most of the time I don't mind that she is constantly testing the rules (I have put the frustrating days behind us).

Tangle did great.  Broke a couple of times, but that is ok.  Gives us an opportunity to clarify the behavior.  I am trying really hard to keep his dog walk contact solid.

Poor Split has been retrained one too many times and not by a person who knew how to retrain behaviors (it was me).  To compound his problem, he was initially taught a 4 on, which when I think about it now the criteria is next to impossible to communicate to the dog.  Then I tried to retrain the behavior to a 2o2o.  So, now I am thrilled when Split gives me either!

In this particular video I was only working with a medium value toy.  After this, I brought out the tennis ball (over the top value) to make the game even harder.  I didn't incorporate too much motion into this for 2 reasons.  1 - I have a strained muscle and was hoping to get it healed, 2 - that is the hardest for the dogs and I wanted to keep a high rate of reinforcement today and just renew their love for the end of the board.

Next session we will put in more motion, forward and lateral.  I will begin to reinforce the dog maintaining the forward line.