Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Sunday, December 6, 2009
Today was the last day of the always wonderful Hounds for the Holidays Trial and I judged Excellent JWW. This was an incredibly fast course with an average time of around 27-29 seconds. To the best of my recollection (this means there's a ton of room for error), the winning time in the 20" class was a high 23.??
Here's the usual list of suspects that snatched dogs or handlers into NQ land:
* After the #5 jump, several handlers intentionally sent their dog over the #9/14 jump thinking it was a part of the first pin wheel. Ouch, I didn't see that one coming...
* Several handlers pulled their dog off of the #12 jump in their rush to get a front cross in after #13. After watching this sequence 340 times, it was clear that in general, those that drove deeper into #12 achieved a much more efficient line from their dog from #12-13 as the dog clearly saw the 'pull' toward 13. They were also able to avoid their dog taking a large loop in that turn (see the dog's path in red).
* By far, the jump that was missed the most was #14. Since I was standing straight down the course (on the dark vertical line in the picture) and could easily see the handler & dog's path from #12-14, I had a birds eye view as things were happening. The issue appeared to be that in their haste to get a front cross between #13 & 14, handlers kept moving across the course and didn't strategize the placement of their front cross.
To illustrate, I drew a series of lines for both the handler & dog. The red lines show the wider route while the green lines show the more efficient route.
As you can see by the red lines, in general, when the handlers continued to slide to the left side of the #13 jump their dogs went very wide after #12 (approx. 57.4') and the result was a late front cross that failed to setup the dog for the #14 jump.
In contrast, the path shown by the green lines created a more efficient dog path after #12 (approx. 40.8') and easily set the dog up for the #14 jump. By being cognisant of the optimal dog path AND planning which part of the #13 jump a dog should take (in this case by having the dog jump closer to the right stanchion) this sequence was smooth and dogs landed with #14 straight ahead.
* In the closing sequence, most handlers were able to leave their dogs at #15 or #16 and run down the right side of the jumps without a problem. I did see a few blind crosses between #16 & 17 by some long legged handlers that were beautiful. Unfortunately, there were a few dogs who incurred a refusal/runout at the #19 jump. Those were tough to watch as they had beautiful runs up until that point.
Thanks again to everyone at the trial for such a wonderful, wonderful time.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
This was an amazingly fast Standard course that kept handlers moving...some weren't so thrilled about the hurricane pace from the table on and others commented it was their favorite part of the course.
This portion of the course is what I'd call the High Rollers section. It was between jumps #15 - #17, that a run either catapulted into the record book or went down in flames as a dog took the off-course dog walk.
Exhibitors handled #15 - #17 one of three ways:
Option 1: With a front cross between #15 & 16 so the handlers were going down the left side of the last line of jumps.
Option 2: With the dog on the handler's right, they pushed their dog to the #15 jump and then ran down the right side of the last line of jumps.
Option 3: With a blind cross between #15 & 16.
In Option 1, I expected the majority of handlers to execute this section with the front cross and they did. Most notably were those folks who did a nice smooth front cross in a DIAGONAL from #15 down to the left side of #16. This allowed the handlers to stay ahead of their dogs for the line of jumps down.
In contrast, quite a few handlers did a front cross that wasn't as efficient and had them heading for the ring wall. These folks completed a front cross, but their line was straight across (vs. changing direction and moving down toward the left side of #16) and once out of the front cross, they found themselves in a foot race with their dog and a possibility of the dog curling in before crossing the finish line.
To ensure Option 2 was successful, handlers first had to be patient in sending their dog to #15 and wait for commitment before moving or changing direction. Next, handlers either needed to be a step ahead of their dog as they took the #16 jump so that the intended path was clear (think picking the dog up on the landing side of #16) or they needed to have a strong "get out" to push the dog away from the dog walk and down the line of jumps. I think this was my favorite choice of the three since it was simple and didn't require any fancy steps.
Option #3 is the sleeper option that I hadn't thought of, but for those who executed it, it was a great choice for them. The blind cross between #15 and 16 allowed handlers to stay ahead of their dog and was knee friendly since it didn't require a plant and pivot like a front cross might.
I think all three options would be a great class exercise and it would be interesting to time them. Hum...sounds like I may have a lesson plan here!
Thursday, December 3, 2009
The hotel we're at is wonderful and opens up their doors, this weekend only, to dogs. There was a fabulous welcome sign as well as a table of freshly folded towels near the door specifically available to wipe off the toes of dogs in case it snows (which it's trying hard to do) or they have mud on their little feet from playing in the hotel grass.
When we got up to our room, the hotel staff had already placed a white sheet on the couch for any 4-legged guests and had kindly folded up the bedspreads so that dogs were free to romp around as they pleased.
Today I judged Nov & Open Std & JWW. I have to admit it was a fun way to start the weekend. The indoor soccer turf arena has 3 rings - one for Exc Std, another for Exc JWW and the third specifically for Nov & Open.
In Open Standard, the majority of handlers worked #1-4 with their dog on the left side which required a pull over #3, which was nicely done. Next handlers did a front cross after the teeter to put their dog in the far side of the tunnel.
The challenging sequence for this group was just after the pinwheel at #8-12 where handlers needed to get the dog up the #13 dog walk. Those handlers who tried a front cross on the take-off side of #12 generally set the dog up to take the teeter instead of the dog walk as dogs took the #12 jump at a slice and handlers weren't able to push their dogs out to the dog walk.
The handlers who were consistently successful in this area either did a front cross on the LANDING side of #12 or did a rear cross as the dog was heading up the dog walk.
I saw quite a few handlers work hard to get their dog on the left side before the weaves. Some did a front cross, but most executed a blind cross to accomplish this. I have to say, I wasn't expecting there to be a cross in this area, but it worked well here as a side-switch maneuver. After the weaves, a few dogs did go onto the off-course table.
Speaking of tables, today's position was a down. I was surprised at the number of dogs who had blank stares when their handlers asked for the down. Dan mentioned the Excellent dogs were quick to drop so I have to think the incredibly large venue, 1st day jitters, indoor turf & stimulation had a role to play in my inexperienced & young Open & Novice dogs inability to flatten in place
Next is Open JWW. One of the things I liked about this course was the flow. While it had the appropriate amount of side switches and options, the majority of the course kept the same design as the Novice JWW course run just prior.
The main challenge on this course was the serpentine followed by the pinwheel. There were two styles that were mainly used. The first is shown in red where the handler stayed on the right and rear crossed the #9 jump. The second style was a front cross between #5 & 6 and hand the handler stay ahead of the dog through the serpentine portion.
Both choices worked well for teams.
The last two courses are Novice Standard and Novice JWW. Take a moment to review and enjoy!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
On Excellent JWW, the weaves were quickly completed and were followed up by two large loops, the first to the left and the second to the right. After that, there was a tighter pinwheel (in comparison to the last two loops) that required more precise handling, followed by a large loop out.
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Looks like I inadvertently labeled yesterday's courses (which were from Friday) Saturday's and I'll just label today's (the real Saturday's) Friday's
This course had some interesting lines that don't come across as technical on paper, but were a challenge to handlers. They were:
* #3 to the a-frame with that off-course tunnel sucked in quite a few dogs. Some had already made their choice and were hell bent on taking it and others were handling errors. Some pushed their dog into the exit side of the tunnel and others caused a refusal at the a-frame as they pulled too hard.
*#6 - the teeter was a unique line (I know, looks boring on paper!) as the dogs were focused on the a-frame and with a simple step in toward the dog from the handler, the majority of dogs changed their lead leg and redirected to the teeter.
* The #10 - #13 sequence was not one to take for granted and it first required a push over the #10 jump at an angle.
* From #14 - #16, most handlers hung back and did a rear cross at #15, even if they were ahead of their dog. I liked the angle that it created for the dog to the weaves, but wondered if a rear cross would/could have the same tight line with a little more speed.
* The surprise challenge was getting from the #17 jump down through to the #19 triple. Unfortunately, quite a few handlers were behind and forfeited a clean run when their dog passed by the triple when there handlers either called them too hard and pulled the dog off of the obstacle or the dog incurred a refusal when it went searching for its owner who was 2 obstacles back.
As for Excellent JWW, we started with an unusual place for the first obstacle and worked our way around the weave poles.
As expected, some dogs took the off course tunnel exit. However, I really wanted to point out how great several teams did on executing the weave pole entry.
While not impossible, the positioning required either a bit of handling or a dog who was comfortable finding the weave entry on their own. This group did a great job and I'd love to come back and practice the various ways the handlers did setup for this obstacle.
The off course #16 dog was a close call for several teams and the #14 jump required a bit of a push out or support. If this was lacking, dogs pulled in too early and incurred a refusal/runout call.
For me, the day was non-stop as I made sure both rings were always ready to walk, paperwork was in order and all of the other usual judgely stuff. A few nice perks were that we were done by 2:00 p.m. and the weather was wonderful! I actually think I have a bit of color from the sun!
Since we were done in a timely manner, I had a chance to go back into the quaint little Indian town just down the road and do a bit more browsing around. Later we met for dinner at a Mexican restaurant near 'the square' and had a WONDERFUL meal! I believe they're stopping tonight to get me tamales to take home with me tomorrow....I can't wait!
A bit of news from the home front, Dan got his first Double Q with Spot today! That puts Spot at 10 DQ's and 1100 points toward his MACH2. Maybe I'll put that down as a goal for 2010 : )
Friday, November 27, 2009
We started with Standard and as one exhibitor described the course as having 'subtle challenges'. The areas were with the most judging calls were:
- * The incorrect tunnel entrance (handler error)
- * The usual weave issues (entry/popping out)
- * There were several teeter fly-offs as handlers headed down the line of jumps & dogs left early to catch them
- * Refusals at #15 as dogs spun while looking back for their handler or as handlers pushed in too early and the dog headed for the chute.
- * The off course jump near the chute
Overall, I was impressed with the consistency of the handlers & dogs!
The challenges on this course were:
* Between jump #4 & 5 as dogs were heading toward the off course #15 jump.
* The off course tunnel only caught a few dogs as most were already heading toward #8 when they landed after #7.
* #12 jump - many dogs went went for the #2 jump again and some completely missed this jump.
* Some dogs headed for the off course #4 jump with a few of them taking it.
The ending from #15 on was a fast sequence!
Again, dogs did a great job and it was a pleasure to watch them.
On a separate note, I LOVE being able to get a feel for the local culture and this is a cute little town. I was taken to a place called the square that had wonderful shops with native jewelry, pottery & ceramics, clothing, a winery and other specialty shops.
The shops were true to the area and very different than anything we have in Seattle. I purchased a beautiful silver cross for myself, a bottle of wine for Dan (from Heart of the Desert winery) and an amazing Christmas gift for Dan's Mom. Beth (Dan's Mom) and I have a wonderful relationship and I spend all year looking or making something special for her. I seriously can't wait to give this one to her : )
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Since moving out to the Seattle area, I've continuously struggled with a small group of people in agility who are insecure, petty, vindictive, unhappy and just miserable. I wouldn't normally notice these things, but unfortunately they find it entertaining to talk badly about others, including me & my life as they think they know it.
What makes it so tough is that they act nice to your face. Saying Hi, asking about specific details in your life and pretending like all is well. While in reality, they're just plotting or poking for something to speak badly of. If they can't find something, they'll make it up and do so with relish. After all, if they're cattily chatting about you, it makes them the center of attention and they feel important.
I've often been the target of their sharp tongues and worse yet, their make-believe reality. I've heard everything from I use prong collars to teach contacts, insensitive gossiping about the reasons I had to put my young border collie down and all the way up to someone approaching my husband (at a trial) before we got married and saying "We're concerned about you, you don't have to go through with it, are you really sure you want to marry her?" and someone openly discussing ringside how there's no way our marriage was going to work.
Ouch! It doesn't take a psychic to know that these are hurtful comments! Not to mention inappropriate, disrespectful and quite frankly, not their business.
I have to admit that after years of trying to rise above, keep smiling, keeping my chin up and more, I've finally realized that their bad behavior isn't going to go away or stop because they're not capable of that. So next I tried the old "I don't give a crap" approach and honestly, I've begun to feel myself acting just as miserable as they are! Clearly the close yourself off, hard edged approach isn't for me...
While it may not seem like it on the outside, I am a sensitive person (aren't we all?). I do care about people, their feelings, prefer building them up and more. This is the polar opposite of what the unhappy group is about and while I like to give, they like to take and simply based on that large difference, we're never going to see eye-to-eye. So that leaves me still trying to come up with a way to cope and not loose sight of who I am.
Lately I can't help but feel "If I'm going to get blamed for & labeled being a crap person, then I mine as well be!" OK, not necessarily logical but if you continuously hear or are impacted by the negative, sometimes you can't help but think about throwing in the towel and just going with it. Again, I need to find a magic sentence to block the hurt this causes me. Ah yeah and "just don't worry about what they say" somehow doesn't work so well for me. LOL
Looking on the bright side, it is because of these very people that I NEVER, EVER want to treat anyone less than with respect and kindness. After having felt the pain that they cause, I can't imagine ever inflicting the same feelings on someone else...that's just cruel.
I know logically that the majority of people here in this area aren't like that. Actually, I've met some of the most sane, personable, warm and amazing individuals ever. After yet another day of hearing crap about myself, I wrote my frustration on Facebook and was so touched by the kind words. It was nice to be reminded of the non-crappy
What scares me the most is that sometimes when the negative words get to me and I close up and go into 'protection mode', I'm afraid I'll lose the carefree & happy part of who I am to bitterness & hurt. It happens to a lot of people and I suspect that's exactly what happened to this specific group and now that's the only way they know how to live. You know, this reminds me of a horror flick where people are poisoned and turn into Mummy's!
Now that I've said my fears out loud, I feel so much better. I'm also going to come up with a plan to make sure that I avoid the Mummy Lifestyle the unhappies took. I never want to be compared to the walking dead!
Monday, November 23, 2009
Remember when I mentioned that yesterday I was missing a weave pole and was delayed for 30 minutes? Well, since the other judge was able to start before me (yeap, he had ALL of his weaves), I naturally blamed him for my delay and claimed he stole my weave : ) Of course he didn't, but it was fun to put him on the spot!
Any way, on Sunday, I had planned to 'relocate' one of his weaves. Of course he got to the show site early and planned to do the same with me
OK, on to the Excellent Standard course. If anyone is interested in the Open & Novice course, just let me know and I'll be happy to send them as the courses were well nested with flow.
This general design was a take-off from a previous course that I had created & run, but wasn't so thrilled with the middle section. Sometimes it's fun when you can take a course and improve on it - which is what this is.
As far as challenges, there were a few and handlers definitely had to work the last sequence.
The first challenge was subtle and came from the wings on the #2 jump. Those who hung close to their dogs as they took the short beginning tunnel and wanted to keep their dog on the right found themselves working hard to get around the wing and had to push their hard dog up the walk and off of the off-course jump.
The next challenge was the weave pole entry. While it was 18 feet from the dog walk, dogs who went charging toward often had trouble making the entry. I have to admit, this area wasn't meant to be a challenge so I was surprised.
The next surprise area was from the #9 jump to the a-frame. Handlers who over handled #9 and pulled the dog in hard after the jump incurred a refusal at the a-frame as dogs were certain they were supposed to head toward the exit side of the #7 tunnel. Looking at the map, I wouldn't have thought about this possibility, but there were about half a dozen dogs who worked hard for some creative tunnel entries.
I'd like to finish this note by sincerely thanking the club and the exhibitors for such a great time.
I had a chance to think about the thankless job agility/club volunteers do and I'm reminded that without them, agility trials wouldn't exist. I was lucky enough to have two wonderful volunteers drive me to/from the Pittsburgh, PA airport (1.5 hours from the trial site), others who ensured I had coffee, dinner, workers and a host of other items that really make a trip so much easier.
Exhibitors are also a major part of the weekend. When exhibitors are great, it really helps to make the event even more special. For example, this weekend after a lady earned a MACH and I was congratulating her she said "I'm so happy it happened under you" - oh my gosh, tears welled in my eyes. I mean if that isn't just the greatest compliment! Not only does it say that I'm forever a part of her dog memories, but that she thought enough of me to include her in that moment. That's a very, very special moment that I'll never forget.
If you have a compliment or kind word for your judge, don't hesitate to share! We do remember those moments and they do mean a lot to us!
Next week I'm in New Mexico for 3-days, so look for more courses after Thanksgiving. Speaking of Thanksgiving, have a great holiday everyone!
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The facility is beautiful. A very large permanent building with a canvas-like material that made everything light & bright, followed up with a field turf surface over rubber pellets.
Today was a full day of judging all JWW & all FAST classes. Unfortunately the day started about 30 minutes late thanks to a lost weave pole. Luckily my courses were well-nested and once we got started, things went along smashingly.
The JWW course was fast and flowing and I received several compliments. However, I couldn't help but remember the conversation I brought up several weeks ago about AKC courses being too easy. There certainly wasn't anything unusual about this course, but there were some areas that created a few challenges for people.
The first area was from the #6 jump to the #7 weave poles. Handlers doing a front cross between #5 & 6 had to be sure and continue to push toward the poles or dogs came in early and loaded in the 2-3rd pole.
The next area was area was #10-#12. Most folks pushed to the #10 double jump which resulted in a rear cross over #11. Many dogs landed facing the exit side of the tunnel and when the handler yelled "tunnel", off they went. This wasn't a tunnel entrance to take for granted.
On to Excellent FAST. I love a course and Send Bonus (SB) that allows for creativity and a bit of challenge, and this one fit the bill. The most common error was the handler stepping over the SB line around the #2 jump.
Handlers who first sent their dog into the tunnel entrance closest to the jump were the most successful. This maneuver allowed the handler to get into place and gave them plenty of time to cue the dog since they were exiting the tunnel furthest from the jump and had plenty of time to set themselves up for the second tunnel.
Nice job to all!
Friday, November 20, 2009
Physically she was always comfortable in her own body and excelled when training our agility skills. So it was a little disappointing (although expected) when at our first and second agility seminars she was distracted and instead of working on technique and form, we mainly worked on a soft skill...attention.
The irony is that I've worked hard to foster her confident, love-of-life attitude and here her zesty character was temporarily biting me in the butt! The good news is that I have drive, the bad news is that the entire package of her agility ability has not yet come together....
Remember, we're our dog's mentor: In a previous post I brought up the notion that we are our dog's mentor. To recap, as mentor's we develop, guide, shape and mold our dogs in all sorts of agility skills. Ultimately the goal is to strike a balance between our dogs natural abilities and to develop those 'other things' that will ensure they are well-rounded and prepared to go out on course with confidence. Think of it this way, some days we work on Skill A (contact performance for example) and other days we work on Skill B (perhaps attention) and so on.
Getting back to Ru...and the seminars. Ru wasn't being belligerent, stubborn or willful at the seminars, but rather her technical abilities were far stronger than her mental ability to stay focused. Unfortunately, without the attention, our technical skills are worthless. And that's how a training opportunity is born!
The flaw in my training...I'll own up to my part in Ru's lack of training. I worked on the hard skills, shaped them and did a terrific job on that. However, I did not put as much work into creating attention once there was three or more obstacles in a row. Honestly, she was doing so good at home, that in my excitement, I rushed to do more course work and skipped a few steps along the way. Sound familiar? Yeah, lots of us do it and I'm human too.
What to do next...At first I was confused as to where our great work had gone astray. I mean it was so amazing! However, when I asked myself "What would you tell your students to do?" the answer hit me like a V-8 moment (you know the commercial where they slap their forehead and shout "I could have had a V-8!).
The answer was to break things down in such a way that I could now work on & reward the attention - I needed Ru to clearly understand what the expectation was BETWEEN the obstacles. So I followed my own advice and shifted my focus from obstacles & handling to shaping/rewarding the in between parts...You know, the places where I needed my dog to look to ME for direction and not elsewhere for an adventure. By doing this, it gave Ru something to do (that I was happy with) and we were able to keep our connection.
How's it working...GREAT! I recently took her out to a distracted area and was amazed at how much better she was doing in staying focused on the agility task. Was she perfect? Nope, but her recovery period was far shorter and her attention moments were a lot longer. I'll happily take that progress and continue.
Someday we'll have it all, but in the meantime we'll keep working through these normal growing moments and continue moving forward in our growth.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
I love seminars (actually, I love teaching) and I see my job as making each team successful. The benefit of coming in and working with folks that you haven't seen before is that you bring a new perspective and skill set.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Epiphany(s) Regarding My Doggy Partnerships
A few weeks ago I was running Spot in a trial on a very fast Jumpers course. Ahead was an off-course tunnel and to the right, but not immediately obvious, was the correct weave obstacle.
As Spot and I approached the intersection of obstacles I began my usual weave alert drill which is to say 'weave' early, stop my motion, allow him to load and then off I go while he performs the obstacle independently.
As was expected for the course design, Spot didn't immediately see the weaves (but a glance at his head told me he did see the tunnel), so I held my ground, didn't move from my well-placed position and just kept saying "weave, weave, weave, weave, weave" until he successfully found and loaded into the poles, just as I had trained him to do.
Epiphany No. 1 Well, I wasn't surprised IN his abilities, but I was amazed at how much faith & trust I had in him. When I think back on the moment, I knew that he'd be able to accomplish the task (years of repetition had taught me this) and just like in training, I needed to give him room to figure it out for himself and to own that part of our teamwork.
Epiphany No. 2 was that at some point in our Agility Relationship, my role had moved from Mentor to Leader and Spot's role had moved from Trainee to Right-Hand-Man.
This is interesting because with my young dogs, I'm in the Mentor Role (where successful skill repetitions in varying situations is the goal) and will be for several years. After all, the kind of effortless partnership Spot and I have doesn't evolve overnight, but it did successfully develop over years, just like it did with Pinky. Our team work is equivalent to that comfortable pair of shoes you automatically reach for and know you can count on for a sense of security, comfort and fit. Sometimes we just forget that those comfy pair of shoes started out a little stiff.
Our Current Training Plan: These days I don't practice with Spot and coincidentally when Pinky was older, it was the same way. We don't train at home (at all), we don't take classes and yes, these days we simply show up at trials. I just want to say one more time that the early years of learning, training & repetition has made this possible. I also knew I'd hit this point when:
Epiphany No. 3 These days, when I enter that ring with Spot, there are several things I am absolutely confident about.
- We are a team
- I am confident that my dog knows his job
- I trust him to perform his part (because I've trained it, proofed it, was consistent and thanks to prior repetition, it's ingrained for both of us)
- I clearly understand both of our factual strengths & weaknesses
- I know that my job on the team is to have a solid plan the moment we step into the ring
- We will be successful, whatever success means at the moment, and
- We are a team (yes, I intentionally added this in twice
- You & your dog are going to have periods of time and/or age appropriate skills. For example, a 16 week old puppy isn't capable of the mental challenges of an Excellent style course and a dog who has been trained in Agility for only 2 weeks isn't going to have perfect weave poles. These are natural progression phases that cannot be skipped by any team - no exceptions. Right now you're thinking "Dah!" but what makes this phase such a challenge is that every dog is different and there are no visible mile markers to tell you "Now entering 'I forgot all you taught me stage'" or "Now leaving puppy zoomey zone". We enter this phase blindly and we're continuously surprised by things as both ourselves and our dogs are developing.
- You should always be building toward a working relationship with your dog. Let me guess, another "Dah" moment
. But remember that my definition of a working relationship is closely tied with the words 'team' or 'partner' and not words like 'dictator'. I am a firm believer in creating a thinking dog versus a robot who requires me to make all of the decisions and be in charge of every portion of our interactions. I do this because on an Agility Course and in life, I need my dog to make smart decisions for themselves. I cannot be everything to everyone/dog, so why adopt that falsehood when it comes to my dog? This is where:
- Teaching skills creates a common ground for my dog and I to communicate around and it reinforces my expectations and smart decisions.
- There are moments when time with my dogs is about the skill and moments when it's about the relationship, but you can never have one without the other. I'm not trying to speak in riddles here, but the truth is that if you fail to have a relationship with your dog, you're not going to be successful teaching skills and vice versa, if your dog is lacking in skills, you're lacking the type of relationship that allows you to reach Epiphany No 3.
Seminar: Next weekend I'm out of town conducting an agility seminar, which I'm very excited about. I love doing seminars and there is so much going through my mind on all of the things we could cover. So many choices and only 8 hours to work with them : ) I'll be sure to do a post-seminar write up.