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Monday, June 28, 2010

Courses - Maine Sun Exc Std

Here is my last Excellent course from the Collie Club of Maine's trial. Handlers did a great job and it was really fun to watch everyone work their skills. As an added bonus, we were done 30 minutes before the rain!

Here are some points on the course:

* Quite a few handlers did a front cross between #3 & #4. As a side note, I noticed several dogs went very wide. I've run similar sequences elsewhere and hand't noticed this previously, but I consistently saw this in Maine. It could easily be the course, a late signal or a need for additional cue training. Just something to think about.

* Handlers made sequence #7 - 10 look like a breeze. They handled the offset #8 & 9 like champs.

* Handlers not driving down to the teeter was an issue for some dogs.

* After the table, some dogs had already made up their mind they were heading toward the incorrect side of the #12 tunnel. Regardless of the handler's clear signal, they took what was immediately in front of them.

* Few dogs took the off course jump after #13.

* The line from #14 through to the weaves was quick!

* From the weaves on, some handlers did a front cross at the end of the poles so the dog finished the course on the handler's left. Those handlers that did independent weave poles and then pulled their dog over #18 with a pick-up to #19 clearly had practiced this as they executed it with confidence and precision.

There were some AMAZING working dogs at this trial and some really, really cute Canine Companion Dogs as well. I'm still tired and am heading to bed, but I wanted to thank the club and everyone there for a wonderful, wonderful time!

Judging Stories - Maine June 2010

Lucky me, I got to spend an extra evening in Maine! Due to weather in Chicago flights were cancelled and delayed so that meant I wasn't able to get in to catch my connection.

Not to worry, I'm resourceful and got myself a seat on a US Airways flight. With ticket in hand I start to board only to be told they gave me the wrong coded ticket. Long story short, the United Rep had no idea how to 'unlock' my reservation which meant that US Air couldn't get paid. So it was with a bit  (okay a TON) of disappointment I got to watch as they closed the door and the flight took off. Once again, United will be hearing from me...not that they ever do anything about it. They have a way of not answering customer complaints or simply loosing them.

Could things be worse? Absolutely! Portland, Maine is a nice small airport and it was easy to get back into my comfortable hotel so I was able to get a good night's rest. So today, I feel much better!

But back to this weekend, part of the reason I had so much fun was judging with my old friend Kim Ingraham. It's nice when you can hang out with someone you enjoy and we were both up for seeing the sights.
We went to a few places. The picture at the top was taken around Fort Elizabeth (I believe it was called) and the rest of the pictures were taken at Two Lights.

You can see Kim in one of the pictures standing on rocks that, thanks to the constant touch of the sea, looks like petrified wood. Every step we took we just kept saying 'amazing!' and it was!

After we were done sight seeing, we stopped in at The Lobster Shack for dinner. Wait, I should say an amazing dinner! I took a pre-feast picture of my soon-to-be carnage and Kim giving me lobster gutting lessons, I managed to eat like a queen.

At one point I was having trouble with a claw that just didn't want to give up its' meat and the cracker gizmo was only getting me so far. With cracks in the claw already started, I put it flat on the table and proceeded to pound on it until the claw was ripe for ripping into. Surprisingly, nobody around us seemed to notice my desperate act.

Well, I'll be boarding with my new tickets here in a bit (5:45 a.m. flight) and am hopeful I can make the connection in Washington/Dulles in a timely manner and be home by early afternoon.

Happy Monday everyone! Lisa

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Courses - Portland, Maine Fri 6/25/10 - In REALITY

Sorry for the delay in this note, but the internet at the hotel went down yesterday and didn't go back up until some time today.

But I do have some interesting things to report!

* First, as expected, most errors began around the #9 jump. Not a single handler front-crossed after the weave poles and then rear-crossed between 8 & 9 like several on-line folks had suggested.

* #8 to 9 was a problem for some folks. Not one person did a front cross in this area, however some did push their dog off of the #9 jump when they failed to wait for the dog to cross before moving in on its path.

* Handlers who did a front-cross between #11 and 12 had a VERY wide dog path and many of the dogs went off-course over the #8 jump.

*Several dogs pulled off of the #13 jump.

I was worried handlers wouldn't like the course, but I've received compliments all weekend so that made me feel good!


Courses - Maine Sat Exc JWW

Today's course was pretty straight forward with a couple of reoccurring themes.

* Quite a few small dogs started off by heading in to the wrong side of the tunnel. That's a heck of a way to start a run, but handlers recovered quickly and moved on.

* Some dogs pulled off of #3 when handlers began moving early to handle obstacles #4 on.

* Jump #4 went down a lot. I suspect the speed coming from the tunnel added to it as well as dogs accelerating in anticipation of the off-course #16 jump, and then having to abruptly change direction to head toward #5

* The #8 tunnel didn't give anyone trouble.

* The surprise problem on this course was the #10 jump! Dogs were pulling in and going from #9, past #10 on the upper part of the course and heading toward #11. For some dogs, a push and/or a bit of support to #10 was needed.

* Great weave poles by a ton of dogs!

* After #16, if handlers didn't check their dog's head and pull them in just ever so slightly, they went over the off-course #4 jump.

* Teams out here had solid sends down the straight finish line.

Great job everyone!!!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Courses - Portland, Maine Fri 6/25/10 - In Theory

Here I am in beautiful Maine. I've never been to this location and I'm really excited to be here!

Not only do I to watch and play with dogs, but I get to go to some kick-butt locations. I love going places and getting a feel for the culture, the people, the history and much more. Oh and an added bonus, I get to judge with an old friend who used to live in Illinois.

For me, it's a great line-up and I'm hoping my courses add to the fun of the weekend. I really like looking at courses ahead of time and gambling on what I think the challenging locations will be and then seeing how close I was.

Since I've never been to this part of the country, it will be interesting to see what their handling preferences are. Do they like front crosses, rear crosses, lots of verbal cues or do they rely more on physical signals? We're close to the Canadian Border (assuming the map I'm looking at is correct - this is a poke at my blog from last weekend were an oversimplified map told me I was near the Oklahoma border when in fact I was near Texas!) and I wonder if we'll have some Canadian folks as well. So many possibilities!

OK, on to the course. Here are my guesses as to how they'll handle it:

  • I think they'll start with their dog on their right at the tunnel and front cross so the dog is on their left going down the dog walk.
  • If handlers don't have some distance/lateral at their weave poles they may end up doing a bit of reactive handling after jump #7 as the dog potentially curls in to them and heads toward the dog walk. The other possibility is that as handlers step around the dog walk they may inadvertently push their dog into the tunnel.
  • I'm going to guess and say that handlers will do a rear cross at jump #9.
  • The challenge for the pinwheel will be slowing down. The first part of the course was a place where handlers had to run and now they'll be faced with a part where patience may need to come into play.
  • I think it would be GREAT to see a front cross between jump #12 & 13. I think this would be a great way to keep the dog motivated and moving and allow the handler to switch sides and get up to the teeter area.
  • Heck, if handlers get a front cross in above, they may be able to do another front cross either before the #14 teeter or after. I'm going to go out on a limb and say before the teeter.
  • The last running line begins with the jump after the teeter and works its way down through the end of the course. 
In case anyone hasn't figured it out, I really like running courses. But, I really like to add a handling place as well. In my mind, I love the running areas for the dogs and I love the handling areas to mentally challenge the handler. For me, this combination seems to bring out the best and allows the team to work, well, as a team!

Well, I'm off to bed to start my exciting day in Maine. I know we've got a Lobster Shack on the water planned for dinner and a trip to one of the light houses for more photo opportunities. 

One last note, back in my reality world of Washington State, my hubby took down a couple of small trees that were precariously perched on some rotting nursing logs so that we would have a clear and sunnier place to plant the new Dogwood Tree I bought last week. I plan to use the newly cut trees to build a natural trellis with the logs and branches. 

I'm off to bed. Enjoy the post, but don't worry, it won't be public until late in the afternoon : )

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Spot-On 2o2o Contact Training

Well, today I officially jumped off the deep end and committed to making a DVD on how I train my 2-on-2-off contacts. Nope, my methods haven't been featured in Clean Run Magazine, I've never seen them in print and each time I tell someone about them (and how flipping easy it is), I always get a wild-eyed look of amazement. Oh, and the light bulb goes off for the handlers too.

Now that I've made the commitment, there are so many details to attend to. Some things are factual in nature and some things are a bit softer and not so obvious. Specifically, I didn't come into almost 15 years of training experience by living in a bubble. There are so many people who have shared tid-bits of information with me over the years. Those tid-bits add up and here I am leaping off of a cliff to pursue a new adventure in my professional dog training career.

This personal project of mine has been developing in my head for the last few years. But specifically over the last year I've felt a directed pull (or should I say push) to move forward. A few things fell into place for me and my comfort level and tested practical experience are exactly where I need them to be.

But what really became the final 'test' or catapult was when I happened upon someone (half-way across the country) who was at their wits end when it came to contacts. After asking if she was open to an idea, I showed her the base of my training during the 20 minutes we spent together. I left her with easy, but specific homework and I guided her through the remaining steps in just a few e-mails. I did get weekly updates via Facebook that she was double-queing, but it wasn't until she sent me a video of their training results that it hit me. Her contacts were beautiful, spectacular, a work of art, amazing and well, perfect!

I don't want to take away any of the credit from the handler because believe me, she did her homework and worked it, but I can't help but know that I had at least a little bit of a hand in the transformation. It really makes me feel all warm-hearted!

So, that was the final push, that little thing that said "Get off your butt, put away your fears and JUST DO IT!" So here I am, planning to either share my knowledge with the world or I may fall face first into a mud puddle. Either way, I'm going to enjoy the journey and hope all those details I mentioned above work themselves out in a smooth manner.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Courses - Clovis NM Sat 6/19/10

Today's Excellent Standard course had a few challenges right from the start - namely the #2 winged jump.

This jump was not centered between the tunnel and dog walk so handlers needed to be aware of their dog's path, speed and plan how they were going to get around this obstacle. Some handlers went down the left side of the dog walk, while others had their dog on their left when they exited the tunnel and had to work hard to get to the landing side of the jump.

A few inventive handlers set their dog up facing the #1 tunnel entrance and then 'led out' (or back in this case) to the landing side of the #2 jump. They had obviously practiced this because once released and pushed, the dogs went confidently into the tunnel and then came back over the jump.

After the dog walk, again dogs had great weaves. Heading toward the teeter, most handlers kept their dog on their left. Other options included handlers doing a rear cross at the teeter and a few did a front cross prior the teeter. Several dogs went to the off-course jump prior to the #7 tunnel since that was the first obstacle in their view.

After the tunnel, dogs easily performed the #8 through 12 sequence with only one or two dogs going into the off-course tunnel after #8.

After landing after the #13 jump, several dogs headed to the weave poles (I did mention they have great weave poles down here, right?), but just about everyone recovered and got their dogs safely into the chute. The ending sequence was well handled with handlers either doing a front-cross before the triple, a rear-cross over the #16 jump or simply keeping the dog on the handler's left side and pulling the dog over #16. I believe only two dogs went to the off-course table.

Teams did a great job on this course and there was some very nice distance as well. Speaking of is the Excellent JWW course.
This was a fast, flowing course where handlers used some great distance work.

Most handlers lead out to around jump #2 or 3 and started with their dog on their right side. The next side change came in prior to the weave poles with handlers doing a front cross prior to the triple or a rear cross after the triple. The challenge with the front cross was that several handlers over rotated and dogs came in too tight after the triple and missed the weave entry.

The next side change occurred around jump #10 where handlers again either did a front cross before #10 or a rear cross after. This group of dogs had great distance work and most handlers were able to send their dog to the #12 tunnel.

However, too much distance was also a negative for some teams as the handler was way ahead of the dog as they exited the #10 tunnel and pulled in to the handler, missing the #11 jump.

Since the #11 jump needed to be supported, handlers did their last side change around the #16 jump. This was done using either a front cross before #16 or what was more common was a rear cross after #16 and an easy push down the last line of jumps.

The fastest dog was Jane Simons-Moake (I believe with Suzi) with a time of 22.?? Unfortunately, Suzi had knocked the side of the triple (although it certainly didn't slow her down!) so she NQ'd. Regardless, it was a beautiful run. The next fastest dogs were in the 23.?? time-frame so you can see this was a quick course.

On a different note, I really want to compliment the club and exhibitors for such a fun event. This was only the club's second trial and it was very, very well run. The hospitality was terrific and the exhibitors were a lot of fun. Thank you to everyone for a fantastic weekend!

Courses - Clovis, NM Fri 6/18/10

This past week I had the opportunity to spend a few lovely days in Clovis, NM (it's along the Oklahoma border).

Just like last weekend, I had planned to do a pre-write up ahead of time on what I thought would be the course challenges. But as I drove into town, I felt myself being transported back in time and forming some non-agility related preconceived notions.

Clovis is an incredibly cute town that hasn't been spoiled by time. Drive-up food places were abundant and so were ladies in old fashioned hair curlers. When I arrived around 7:30 p.m. on a week night, the town had a relaxed, sleepy appearance and I wondered if the agility trial was going to be the same way.

So out of respect for those attending, I decided to hold off judgement and relish what might come. Boy am I glad I did!

My first clue that Clovis and its residents were not lost in history was the nice hotel with all of the modern conveniences. My second clue was the amazing fairgrounds were the trial was located. This huge building holds rodeos, had a nice red dirt surface, stadium-style seating and HUGE swamp coolers that kept the indoor temperature very comfortable. Good thing because it was about 99 degrees outside!

The club and exhibitors were great. There were folks attending from Arizona, Texas and Colorado and the handling was very good. I was glad I didn't let the sight of hair rollers sway my opinion!

Excellent Standard was first and there were two main challenges and two minor challenges that caught my attention.

In the beginning of the course, I was surprised at how many dogs missed their dog walk contact. Jumping ahead, I want to add that after 2 days of contact observation, I came to the conclusion that in general the problem was that either:

  1. most handlers hadn't trained a proper 2-on-2-off, 
  2. weren't consistent or clear on their expected criteria, 
  3. moved forward too quickly in the training or 
  4. hadn't properly proofed the behavior and 
  5. therefore resorted to a deep threatening voice to 'make' their dog hit the yellow. 
Don't get me wrong, there were several folks with great contacts and some beautiful running ones as well, but unfortunately the louder more threatening folks consistently caught my attention since I was standing within 10 feet of them and could hear every word.

On the other hand, the weave pole performances were consistently solid and very nice to watch. After the poles, a few dogs headed to the a-frame, but most handlers opted for a front cross to push their dog to the teeter.  Several dogs did take the off-course jump after the teeter and as expected, some dogs did go into the wrong side of the #6 tunnel. The next sequence was one of the major challenges on the course.

Most dogs were on the handler's left side coming out of #6 and handlers were well ahead of their dog. For the large dogs, the issue was the #8 panel jump which was knocked down often. Ironically, not one small dog (4-16"s) took the panel down. The rest of the course ran as expected all the way through to the #15 chute and #16 triple.

In this sequence, dogs were flying out of the chute and either taking the off-course jump or completely missing the triple. Most handlers did a front cross after the chute which had some dogs going behind their handler (between the triple and off-course jump) and others pulling in prior to taking the triple and heading toward #17.

Those teams that did successfully make the triple weren't out of the woods yet as handlers had to be sure to wait and pull the dog over #17 before focusing on the last jump. As I'm sure you've guessed, several dogs by-passed #17 and if they were clean up until that point, it certainly was a disappointment for those teams to NQ right at the end.
Next came Excellent JWW.

One of the things I love about traveling about is to see the different handling styles. The beginning of this course had handlers working the first sequence in such a way that I was a little puzzled. I hadn't anticipated the maneuver and I'm still not certain that it provided the dog with the best vantage point.

So here's the scenario with the handler's path shown in green and the dog's path shown in red. Basically, the handler lead out to past #2 and situated themselves on the right side of the #3 jump. This was obviously a practiced maneuver because once released, the dogs were clear that they were taking jump #1-2. However, every single dog landed very wide after #2 (probably because they were staring at the #9 jump) and just about had to face-plant to turn toward the #3 jump. To complicate matters, handlers then had to work to 'push' the dog toward jump #4 (presumably because they were staring at the off-course #7 jump). While most handlers did this successfully, it generally didn't come off as smooth or efficient for the dog's path.

The other area that caught handlers was the #11 jump. While working up to this jump, teams did a great job (awesome weave poles again) pushing their dogs through and were well ahead of them...maybe too much so because handlers started pulling down toward the #13 jump prior to dogs taking #11, which caused quite a few run-outs/refusals.

On the other hand, teams did a great job of working through the #13 - 16 sequence and finished with flying colors.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Tweet!!! Dear Handler, Your Dog is Lame...

While running an agility course, it's discombobulating to hear the judge whistle you. You've got a plan, you're thinking about the course, you're directing your dog and by golly you can't help but think 'Why in the world is the judge interrupting me with that darned whistle?!'

Mentally you're thinking:
* Am I running the right course...check.
* Did my dog hit that last contact...check.
* I didn't start before the timer said okay...check.
* What the heck...?

Physically, adrenalin is coursing through your veins and you are in overdrive. So when the judge says 'Your dog is lame...' understanding exactly what that means may not process right away.

Things Handlers Have Said - Here are some real conversations (and possibly a lesson on what not to say) that have occurred after having whistled and informed handlers their dog was lame (H - handler, J - judge).

H: "No, he's not!"
J: "Really, he is. I would suggest checking the rear right paw"
H: "He's not lame!"
J: "I'm just sharing..."
Note: turned out the dog had a burr burrowed between its' pads. The handler did come and thank me later.

H: "No! Do we really have to stop my run?"
J: "Yes! Your dog is lame and I'm just looking out for them"
H: "I know...I just wanted to finish running the course."

H: "Oh he's not in pain." and the handler takes the next jump, turns to judge and says "I'll explain later"
J: More whistles and an interception mission begins

H: "He just has a cut on his pad"
J: "Well, that explains why he's lame. It must be bothering him because he's limping"
H: "But the cut doesn't bother him all the time"
J: "Looks like he needs a little more rest and healing time"

H: "But that would have been my title!"
J: Speechless


What Is Lame - For the heck of it, I looked up the definition of lame at
1) crippled or physically disabled, esp. in the foot or leg so as to limp or walk with difficulty. 
2) impaired or disabled through defect or injury: a lame arm.

With a definition that hints or implies a lifetime stigma, no wonder people seem to immediately jump to denial!

A Better Definition of Lame - So I kept up my search and found what I feel is a more appropriate definition from the Longman Dictionary Online:  1) unable to walk properly because your leg or foot is injured or weaka lame dog

What a Judge Means When They Say Lame - What I'd like to encourage handlers to think is that when a judge says "Your dog is lame", they're not making a medical diagnosis or saying that a dog is forever crippled. Instead, they are sharing that in that moment of time, there is an issue that is preventing the dog from having a normal gait. Remember, we can only go by what we see and if a dog looks lame (doesn't have a normal gait), we must error on the conservative side (i.e. what is best for the dog) we must whistle and excuse the dog from the ring.

What Should You Do - When whistled and told that a dog is lame, in most cases you should:
* Stop - Immediately and look at your dog.
* Think - To hell with the run!
* Ask - What was he/she doing (i.e. limping, holding a leg up, etc.).
* Decide - Do I pick-up my dog or let them walk off the course.
* Investigate - Go back to your setup and thoroughly check your dog out
* Plan - What the next steps will be, keeping in mind what is best for your dog.

Final Words of Wisdom - Remember, we care about the well-being of your dog. While it certainly can be disappointing to be unable to finish a run, your dog's safety and well-being is our first priority.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Pre Judging - Travel Day in New Mexico

Today began at 3:00 a.m. with the blaring alarm clock and a deadline of being at the airport by 4:15 a.m. Oh, did I mention I still had to finish packing and I hit the snooze button?

Luckily this weekend's judging assignment only required repacking last weekend's summer clothing (yes, it was washed) and we were out the door by 4 and at the airport by 4:30 (for a 5:30 a.m. flight). With no checked luggage and only 6 people in the security line ahead of me I had more than enough time to wait around at the gate to board my flight. By the way, I don't recommend this time-frame for any flight departing after 6 a.m. since your security lines won't be nearly as short.

After a connection through Denver, I arrived in Albuquerque around 12:45 in the afternoon. I collected my car and immediately headed to my favorite jewelry making store, New Mexico Beads and Fetish in Old Town. Made a few purchases and headed out on the highway for the 3.5 hour drive to Clovis, NM.

* My first surprise was that a portion of my trip included the historic Route 66!
* My next surprise was The Monument of Perpetual Tears, which I never knew existed. It is a National monument for those victims of DWI (driving while impaired).
Next I visited Fort Sumner, a historical site and last, but certainly not least...

I stopped and visited Billy the Kid's grave and tombstone (see picture below).

The tombstone has been stolen several times over the last 75 years (see picture below with details on the tombstone's history) and so now they have it shackled in concrete and surrounded by a metal cage.
Billy the Kid is a legend in the old west and it was a fun place to stop and photograph. It also made the 3.5 hour drive more memorable!

I'm off to bed now as it's been a long day and I'm going to be a busy judge tomorrow.

Night everyone.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Courses (In Reality) - Terv Club Sun June 13, 2010

A few hours ago my post from last night which outlines what I THINK will be the challenging parts on today's course was posted. Gotta love automatic delivery at a scheduled time : )

Now here's the report on the reality of the course.

* The line from jump #2 - 3 was definitely something to be dealt with. For those few slower dogs, most handlers were able to successfully run with their dogs and shape this line nicely.

However most handles wisely chose to lead out for this sequence. Where a handler was seemed to play an important role on a dog's success in keeping the jumps up and taking the correct obstacle. While nobody went into the tunnel, knocked bars at jump #2 or 3 were fairly common.

When I designed the course, I envisions handlers starting about halfway between #2 and 3. My thought was this would give  the dog landing space and also time to process and successfully maneuver over #3. I noticed that handlers who started right next to jump #3 had quite a few knocked bars. It didn't seem to matter if handlers remained stationary or did a RFP (reverse flow pivot), the outcome was generally the same.

* As for the #20 off-course option, not one dog fell for that trap : )

* Coming out of the #5 tunnel, I was so pleased to see handlers execute the front cross on the landing side of #6 and it really was pretty! As expected, several handlers did do a rear cross at the weave poles as well.

* For sequence #8-9, several people successfully executed a front cross between #9 and 10 while others did a rear cross after #10. The challenge with that option was to keep the dog off of the wrong-course #2 jump. A gentlemen with a Malanois did an amazing job with this rear cross. The difference was that he clearly had his dog's head as she did the rear cross so she never looked at the off-course jump and turned in tight toward #12. On a different note, I was surprised that some handlers attempted a rear cross after #9 which generally resulted in the dog pulling off of #11.

* While some dogs did pull off of the #14 jump when their handlers left early, the majority of dog/handlers worked through this sequence nicely. Until jump #17 that is...after pulling the dog down to jump #16, the #17 jump required a clear push out. Handlers who neglected to focus on this jump prior to moving down the last line of jumps usually incurred a refusal/runout as the dog curved in toward the handler prior to taking this jump.

* As for my concern about the off-course #4 tunnel. Not one Excellent dog took or even appeared to look at this potential option. Looks like the AKC is right when they consider obstacles beyond 21' a low risk off-course option. : )

Some side notes on the trial. Dan and I really love judging for this club. They seem to have beautiful parks for the trial, great ring crew, a wonderful secretary and the exhibitors always seem to be in such a lovely mood! We never fail to have a great time and as always, I made so many new friends.

I really want to send a thank you note to my Diabetes friends down here. They never fail to support and encourage me and lately, I've really needed it (I may blog on it later). In the meantime, thank you, thank you, thank you!

Courses (In Theory) - Terv Club Sun June 13, 2010

So in keeping with my weekend theme, I'm writing about tomorrow's (Sunday, June 13, 2010) Excellent JWW course BEFORE it's run. As with today's post, I'll set tomorrow's blog to automatically post in the afternoon and later write about the reality of what happened.

On to the course!

I think the challenge of obstacles #1-5 for handlers will be determining exactly where or how far they should lead out. Handlers will need to balance their actions so they can support the minor direction change from #2-3, but not put too much forward motion in since the dog will need to do a 180 degree turn into the #5 tunnel. Oh and don't forget the off-course #20 jump.

After the tunnel and on the landing side of the #6 jump, I would love to see handlers do a front cross. Granted, it would require the handler to trust their dog to drive out of the tunnel while the handler drifted toward the landing side of #6, but on paper this seems like a perfectly do-able option. However, after having seen many successful rear-crosses at the weave poles, I'm thinking the safe bet will be that option.

For sequence #7-10, I expect most handlers will have their dog on their left while in the weave poles and will work for a front cross between #9 &10. This would put handlers on the inside track through #14.

As for jump #14 on, I think the key may be to aim for being ahead of the dog to 'lead' them through this fast ending sequence (I love fast flowing lines for dogs as a great way to end the weekend). Which means that after #14, handlers are either going to have to work their way around the #9 jump which has the advantage of  drawing the dog up to #15 or if behind their dog, handlers may have to layer #9 and meet the dog back down at the landing side of #16.

I have to admit, I'm excited to see how folks work through this sequence!

My last concern on this course is that dogs may curl in after #19 and rather than push toward the #20 jump will spy the off course #5 tunnel and veer off-course at the last second. If handlers are behind, no amount of calling will save their butts from this last-minute kiss of death. By the way, the off-course tunnel is not considered an option by the AKC because it is over 21' from the #19 jump. So in theory this obstacle shouldn't be a big draw to dogs.

On a different note, technically this course has up to 11 challenges (9 are required for Excellent) and 3 side-switches (3 are required for Excellent). Can you identify where the challenges and side switches are? Remember, a side switch is defined as a change in direction.

Stay tuned for the Reality version of this course after it is run.


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Courses (In Reality) - Terv Club Sat June 12, 2010

Yesterday I blogged on what I thought might be the challenging areas on the attached course from today. Now, here's the low-down on what REALLY happened.

* Dogs coming onto the course to start - in all fairness, I did brief folks that I'd like them to come on to the course when the dog ahead of them was on the table/in the tunnel and my gate stewards were great at sending people in as well. However, understandably some people were hesitant to come into the course.

* The #3 double jump. Most large dog handlers did a wonderful job in allowing their dog to naturally extend over this obstacle and land in a position to maneuver up the a-frame.

Channan with Icon (think AKC World Team) took this one step further and improved on this sequence in a way so that Icon knew BEFORE the double that he was going left. I noticed it immediately during the run and lucky for me, Channan put the video up on her blog so we can watch it. Little things like this make for an efficient run and are very dog friendly (physically on their bodies).

* Most handlers did great handling the #5 jump and I really enjoyed watching the dogs land, dig in and make the turn toward the dog walk.

* #7-9 was definitely one of the challenging place on this course. Interestingly, quite a few dogs spied the tire and no matter what the handler did (including a front cross that should have directed the dog to the #7 panel), dog after dog felt compelled to head in that direction. Note: the off-course tunnel only caught a few dogs.

* #10 teeter - as expected, handlers had to work to get around the #7 panel jump and pull their dog away from the natural path leading up the dog walk. The majority of handlers did a great job on this and several had some very close calls.

* #12-16 Sequence - as expected, this was my favorite part of the course. Handlers needed to balance their support to the #13 jump and their ability or wish to do a front cross prior to the weave poles. While some folks did a great front cross prior to the weave poles, others chose a REAR cross and then handled #17 & #18 in a serpentine fashion with the dog on their right. I have to admit, I hadn't thought of that handling possibility!

Keep in mind that these trainers have worked hard to accomplish independent weave poles and I really have to applaud the work they have accomplished on this. The nice weave pole work was noticeable in the Novice & Open levels as well.

* #17 & #18 - Most handlers kept their dogs on the left and pushed out to the last two jumps. But, as I mentioned in the bullet point above, several folks were on the opposite side. With the help of independent weave poles handlers were able to work their dog on their right. This allowed handlers to call their dogs over the #17 jump toward them, meet them on the landing side and keep them on their right going over #18.

I think this last handling maneuver and sequence will make a GREAT upcoming class lesson.

So now I'm off to write what I think will happen on tomorrow's Excellent JWW course. Stay tuned as it will automatically appear tomorrow afternoon with a Reality Update to follow.

Courses - Terv Club Sat June 12, 2010

I'm actually writing this blog the day BEFORE the attached course is run. Why? Well, I thought it might be interesting to write my ideas down ahead of time and then compare them to the real world. Don't worry, I'm going to set this blog to post on Saturday afternoon (after the course is run) so nobody will have an unfair advantage.

Also, another benefit to writing this in advance - it makes for a bit of a twist on the usual "Here's how they did on today's course..." write-up.

I'll be honest, this course is a partial take-off on another course that was run previously, specifically (obstacles 1-5). Now granted, it was mirrored, but I really liked the beginning and (more honesty), from a judging point of view, it gets two of the 3 contact obstacles out of the way immediately so I get to watch the dogs and admire their athletic ability.

So let's go through the course obstacle by obstacle.  First, it's my belief that the start line in the middle of the course is going to throw people off a bit and my guess is, slow things down just a tad. People aren't used to walking into the middle of a course and understandably, they're concerned that they may somehow be a distraction to the dog on-course. However, the dog on course should be well into the opposite side by the time they're needed and the a-frame should act as a nice barrier as well.

I'll be curious to see if handlers will let their dogs stride naturally over the #3 double jump or if they'll pull them in tight due to a concern that their dog will head toward the weave poles. While not intentional, this part of the course is reminiscent of this past week's class course where I setup the triple to the a-frame. For the class course, it is ironic since I did not move either the triple or the a-frame obstacle (and didn't look at this week's trial courses), but simply renumbered from a previous week's creation.

At the #5 jump, I hope folks work that obstacle before thinking of the dog walk so that they don't pull the dog off of the jump itself.

Sequence 7-10 is a simple pinwheel, however it will be interesting to see if handlers over handle due to the tire after the dog walk or the tunnel after #7 (which is not actually counted as a challenge by the AKC because it is over 21' from the #7 jump to either tunnel entrance).

#9-10 may be a challenge depending on how handlers move themselves around the #7 jump.

On the entire course, I'm most interested to see how handlers work through #11-13. This area requires patience and it will be interesting to see if anyone rushes this area because they are concerned about getting around the tunnel and down to the weaves. If I had to guess, I would say that most handlers will opt for a front cross on the front side of the weaves with another front cross on the landing side to guide the dog over the last two jumps.

Just like with the #5 jump, handlers are going to have to focus on #17 and let the dog fully commit to that jump prior to turning their focus on the #18 jump.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Class Course - June 9, 2010 Red Ticket Night

I mentioned in an earlier blog that this past week was Red Ticket Night. Click here for details.

In keeping with Red Ticket Night, the course wasn't overly technical, but instead allowed handlers to focus on skills and criteria they had previously set for themselves.

Regardless, there were some challenging parts on the course, especially for our beginner dogs.

The first part was between #3-4. It gave the dogs an opportunity to get used to handlers converging on their path while they were taking the #3 jump. It also gave dogs the opportunity to check-in with their handler's direction and not assume they were heading up the BIG a-frame.

My favorite part of this course is from the triple jump up the a-frame.

It's been my experience that often times handlers don't realize or understand how to embrace their dog's natural jumping extension over the triple jump. In this case, their natural extension will take most dogs out far enough to give them a nice approach to the a-frame (note: small or longer backed dogs may need the handler to move in toward the landing side of the triple to ensure the dog doesn't cut in too early toward the a-frame). If anyone is interested, I'm happy to go into more detail on this sequence. Feel free to ask.

The next section had handlers pulling in too early for the weaves and their dog would by-pass jump #8.

In the next section, handers were able to practice independent weave poles which were very helpful in achieving the next straight line of jumps.

As for what handlers worked on, some worked on handling, some on their contact work, some on independent weave poles and others on reinforcing their dogs for keeping the jumps up. The fun of the classes was reinforcing all of the good behaviors and decisions the handlers and the dogs made.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Red Ticket Night in Class

For this week's agility classes, I wanted to do something a little different. A game. Something that involved a little friendly competition. A creative way to encourage people to focus on the successful agility decisions they make while out on course. Something FUN.

And this is how Red Ticket Night was born.

The goal for each person in class was to earn as many red tickets as they could and the winner was the person holding the most red tickets by the end of the hour. The prize? They got to blindly pick from a bag full of doggy goodies.

Earning a red ticket was easy. At the end of their initial run, they had an opportunity to tell the class what went RIGHT. For each good point mentioned, they earned a ticket. After they were done, anyone who added a positive point not mentioned would receive a red ticket for their input.

Since I also encourage my students to actively work to continue to improve, we implemented the "Goal Rule" which was another way to earn a red ticket. Basically, it was okay to say "I'm going to make it a goal to work on ____ (fill in the blank)" however, if they said a negative statement (i.e. our weave poles were terrible), they lost a ticket.

The course I set up was a fast, flowing course with some handling places, but contained no real surprises. This gave everyone an equal opportunity to focus on skills they already had and to work through any individual issues or goals that had been identified in the past. The course allowed dogs to run and feel a sense of accomplishment and the red tickets set the stage for a positive and successful mind set for the handler. Oh yes, let's not forget the healthy competition and the surprise reward at the end as an incentive for all.

Yeap, the feedback was positive and I know I'm going to have to bring back Red Ticket Night at some point in the future!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weaves, Weaves and More Weaves

Dan and I have been diligently working with Ru, Burton and Zulu on weaves, weaves and more weaves. Rylee is still on break since she came into season this past weekend.

Yes, that's a picture of weave poles in our hallway. It's been raining here in Seattle for weeks now and so we've adapted and our dogs get to earn their dinner.

So here's how it works. I sit at one end of the hall and Dan sits at the other. We split each pups food and work to call them back and forth, feeding when the dog correctly works their way down the middle of the weaves.

It's really a lot of fun to work together (Dan and I) and the dogs love the simple "game". We work to rev 'em up and it gives us a chance to really enjoy their success, praise and reward them.

Each dog is at a different phase in their weave pole training. Burton is by far the more advanced of the three dogs. His nutty drive and absolute LOVE for treats keeps him in high gear. But just like my white colored chicken at Chicken Camp, the fast-paced offering of behaviors isn't always the most accurate. So with Burton, we'll be focusing on accuracy on the FIRST attempt before we move forward and close the poles further.

Rouge is much more methodical. I originally attempted to train her using the 2x2 weave method and although I really wanted to move forward with that training technique, I quickly learned that it wasn't a good fit for her. So I've moved back to the channel method because it encourages speed and creates a straight line for her to move toward. So far this has been a great fit for her.

We started Zulu on the channel method this evening. While I wouldn't mind trying the 2x2 method with him, I really wanted to engage him in an easy physical activity. A straight line between poles seemed to be the perfect thing a week after his neutering surgery since mentally he had to engage, but physically it required no effort, twisting or bending. He thought it was pretty fun too!

A side note on where we'll be going with our weave pole training. Since Dan and I are currently at each end of the poles and we're indoors in a sterile environment, we'll need a plan to transition the (soon to be) learned weave pole skill into the agility arena, with distractions and with just one person rewarding. I mention this because often time handlers or trainers don't take transition time into account. I firmly believe this is a part of training and is a part of the proofing processes and should be considered a normal part of training.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What Happens to Us at 'The End' ?


"My little dog ten years ago was arrogant and spry, but she was ten years younger then, and so, by God, was I. If natural law refused her wings, that law she would defy, for she could do unheard-of things, and so, at times, could I." 

- Ogden Nash

Today I was thinking about all of the ways dogs (my dogs, my friend's dogs, the dog community, etc.) have impacted my life.

While there are far more great memories, the fact remains that the hardest, the most painful, the most gut-wrenching and yes, the most debilitating lessons have been coming to terms with the end of the cycle of life - commonly called...(dramatic pause, clearing of throat)...umm...death...

Understandably, nobody likes to talk about 'The End' or loosing their beloved pet, but the fact remains that when you're in a relationship with dogs, life is forever stuck in fast-forward because their life-span is so much shorter than ours.

Just like you, I think that stinks, it's not fair and if pure love, inner strength and sheer force-of-will could change that outcome I'd have it bottled and be giving it away for free. Unfortunately, the lesson of 'The End' will come to all of us dog lovers. Sometimes it arrives in the form of a soft breeze and sometimes it arrives with the force of a pro-fighters' one-two punch that leaves you dazed, flat on the ground and unable to breath. 

So what do we do with that moment when it happens? How do we categorize it? How do we make sense of it? How do we balance emotions and facts? How do we deal...?

Having lost 3 dogs in the last 1.5 years for varying reasons, I can say with absolute confidence (accompanied by a big shrug of the shoulders) and a very loud - Hell if I know!

But, here IS what I do know (this assumes a healthy, stable person)*:
  • You WILL get through it. Life has a way of moving us forward even when it seems we're staring into a black hole.
  • The emotions will be intense and probably like nothing you've experienced before. Therefore...
  • * It's okay and recommended that you see someone to help guide you through the loss. They're your safety net and your voice of reason, let them take that responsibility so you can move through your emotions because...
  • There is no by-passing grief and there are no short-cuts. We all have to go through it and come out the other side.
  • Allow yourself the luxury of time to grieve. We take time to celebrate life (birthday's, weddings, etc.) so it's only natural we should take time to feel loss.
  • Above all else, it's okay to feel sad, to cry, to grieve. But it's also okay to feel love, joy and pleasure in other parts of your life.
  • Moving on with your life is not disrespecting who you've lost. It's taking what you've learned and the love received and applying it where needed. It IS okay to move on.
  • No, you will NEVER forgot them so don't ever be afraid that you will.
  • No, the emptiness and pain of the loss does not go away...ever. BUT, it does subside with time and just like all memories, is put in a box for safe keeping.
  • You don't have to talk about your loss if you don't want to. It's okay to say "I don't want to/can't talk about it." If the person doesn't take the hint, say 'Please, I need to change the subject. So how is XXXXX' If they still don't get it, excuse yourself and walk away. It's that simple.
So you may be asking yourself why I chose to write a blog on the emotions we experience when loosing a dog? Well, first it's a fact of life and I've been there. Second, in the last few months I've known two wonderful people who have lost their dog in the prime of their lives due to freak accidents. 

My heart goes out to them and I am very empathetic to their situation. I guess this is my way of saying (without bringing up the painful subject and intruding) that I'm so very sorry for your loss. I guess I just wanted them to know that I was thinking of them and wishing them strength. I don't know, I guess knowing that there is nothing I can do to ease their pain or make the situation better is frustrating and leaves me feeling empty too. I guess I just wanted them to know that they weren't alone.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

An Update on the Pack

One of the challenges with having 5 dogs is they're all so different! They have different needs, different personalities, different activity levels, different training points and more.

I'll admit, that's part of the fun as well and here is a quick update on each of the pups.

Zulu was neutered on Wednesday and since he had one undescended testicle it wasn't a 'normal' surgery. I'm thrilled with Sumner Vet and how they handled the 'search', which was to utilize ultra sound. This non-invasive method found the testicle clear up in his abdomin and so they were able to make two small and precise incisions which had him up and wanting to run around almost immediately. Here we are four days later and he's doing great! The neutering was just in time because...

Rylee went into season this morning. While the two dogs (Rylee & Zulu) can't be together at this time, I'm hoping for a bit less in the hormone drive from Mr. Z. Rylee will have a bit of a reprieve from agility training for the next few weeks since I've found that my girls in season can be a little moody and out of sorts. I find it easier to just cuddle with them and not to ask to much and definitely not to train new things. Rylee will be in a Conformation show next weekend so we'll see how that goes.

Ru & Burton are doing great, spoiled as ever!

Ru can always be found glued to my side and makes pathetic sounds resembling an alien-gremlin cross if separated from me or can't be where I am.

Burton on the other hand is being reminded of his daily manners and is doing great with that. As usual, he wants to be where Dan is.

Both dogs are now in heavy weave pole training and Dan and I are working together to get our dogs prepared for a show at the end of July. We've brought the channel weave poles into the house (all 12 of them) and they're setup in our hall way. With Dan on one side and me on the other, we split their food between us and let them go back and forth and receive kibble for going down the middle of the training poles. Today was our first day and both dogs did great.

Pinky's still my feisty girl and has no problems keeping the young pups in line. She's definitely aged and sleeps as often as she likes, but she's still my bright and loving sweetheart. She's raised me well.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Well Run Trial - From a Judge's Perspective

Ever wonder what makes an agility trial a success in a judge's eye? Well, some of the things may surprise you!

It's the Little Things:
  • Water in my hotel room when I arrive. Snacks are always nice, but water after a stale flight or long car ride is great! Especially since airport security won't let me bring my own any more...
  • Timely reimbursement of airfare. Please remember that I judge for quite a few clubs and diligently shop for cheap flights. As a courtesy, please send reimbursement within 7 days so that I'm not left funding several clubs and postponing inexpensive airfare purchases for other clubs on my schedule.
  • A pre-paid hotel is very thoughtful and appreciated. It ensures I have a room (yes, hotels have been known to give my room away) and simplifies billing.
  • Course Builder Copy Pick-Up - I love when someone picks up my course builder copies at the hotel each morning. This means I get to sleep in for just a bit more after a long flight the day prior or I may actually have time to eat breakfast. This is so much better than arriving at the trial site early and then sitting around for 45 minutes while the first course of the day is being built.
  • Please have a specific judge's table located in a place where exhibitors won't leave their dog treats or stare over our shoulder while we're checking paperwork.
  • Help me so I don't have papers everywhere. For example, a plastic 3-drawer bin is WONDERFUL! One drawer is for Course Builder copies so they can come pick up at their leisure, another bin is for catalogs that need to be checked and another bin is where the already checked sheets are stored until the end of the day.
  • Lunch - you may find this hard to believe, but I'm so busy I often forget to eat, don't know where to go or feel I can't take the time. Having someone who is in charge of my lunch is an amazing help. Early on they ask me when I would like to eat, they tell me what my options are and they bring the items to the judge's table so that I can sit and eat while checking my catalog or just sit between classes. This is a small indulgence, but is so very much appreciated and I'm very grateful for the help.
Ring Crew:
  • A Ring Captain is my life-saver! This is the person who gathers the ring crew (so I don't have to blindly yell for them) and ensures they are trained on their job.
  • FAST Class & Timers - Pretty please have one knowledgeable/experienced person to oversee and/or train the timer & scribe for this class. I want them to be successful since this class can be weird, it requires time changes and a lot happens in a short period of time. I'm not able to help them and judge the dog in the ring at the same time - I need your help.
  • Course Builders - I love when my course builders are entering the ring when the last dog is departing. It's a comfort to know I'm leaving the ring and they're taking over and it gives me an idea as to how long I have before I'm needed back in the ring.
Judge's Dinner:
  • Let's do dinner early. I'd like to get back to my hotel and relax after a long day of judging.
  • A restaurant with local flavors and character is always special. I'm visiting you and want to get to know about your area of the country.
  • Keep it to less than 10 people. More than 10 and I don't get to visit with everyone and I won't have an opportunity to make friends with anyone.
  • Don't talk agility dog! Tell me what you do outside of agility, tell me about the area, tell me a funny tidbit about yourself, talk about anything, except your run (I was there), your training issues (my brain may not think technical after a full day of judging), etc. unless I ask (I'm engaging you in conversation to get to know you). Then it's okay to answer, but keep it short and move on to a non-agility topic as soon as possible.
  • Please be nice. I really DO want you to have terrific runs.
  • If you're not happy, it is contagious. I feel it, your dog feels it, others see it and your performance will suffer.
  • I judge because I like dogs and the sport of agility. We have that in common.
  • You can never go wrong with words like Ma'm, Sir, Please, Thank You and When you have a moment...
  • Please don't leave dog treats or your coffee on the judge's table. The club already has snacks for me and I don't want to spill liquid on your scribe sheet.
  • Unless you have a question about a call, please don't come talk dog or hang over my shoulder while I'm doing paperwork (like course time calculations, checking scribe sheets or checking the catalog). Trust me, this is the official stuff that you want to ensure has 100% of my attention!
  • If you don't like something, you can NICELY ask me about it (see above sentence that says "You can never go wrong using words like....")
  • Please don't ask me a question when I'm in the bathroom stall. I feel like a hostage (especially if you stand outside the door) and I really just want 10 private seconds to myself.
  • When you come to talk to me, be sure to give me some background so I know what you're asking. If asking about a run, please tell me what class. If you have an equipment concern please tell me what ring, what equipment and then the issue.
  • Remember you always have a choice. If you don't like an angle to an obstacle, you can change your dog's approach. If you don't like a course, you don't have to run it. If you decide you're going to have fun, you WILL, etc.
  • Just like you, I'm not perfect.
  • Just like you, I never stop learning.
  • I left my home, my family, my dogs, gave up time with them, sat through a cramped flight or a long drive to be here with you and your dog. Let's make it a good time and smile together.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Judge's Gifts - continued

The discussion on judge's gifts has been interesting and I've had comments both here and on Facebook.

Before I continue on with this topic, I want to make it very clear that I believe gifts are optional and should only be given if heartfelt. In my opinion, no one should ever feel obligated to give a judge's gift (or any gift for that matter).

But, I have had several people inquire about judge's gift ideas and ask what some of my favorites were, so this blog is dedicated to those who are looking for ideas. However, since a well run trial is the best thing a judge can ask for, my next post will be dedicated to tidbits on making that happen.

One of the gifts I appreciate most is bottled water in my room upon check-in. I know this sounds goofy, but with security being so tight, you can't bring water, buying it at the airport is not always convenient and purchasing it at the hotel requires loads of change and it's expensive! It's always a treat to have a 'care package' with water, a few snacks, chapstick, handwarmers or cooling scarves (in extreme weather). But, mainly bottled water.
Over the last few years, gift cards or gift certificates have been hot items. The increased security and charges for checking bags have definitely moved things in that direction. I have to say, I certainly don't mind, especially since Dan and I both judge which often means we get 2 gift certificates for the same place.

Gift Certificates/Gift Cards & What We Purchased:

* Clean Run - thanks to these great gift certificates I have a portable dog crate, the latest and greatest training books and/or DVDs and waterproof gloves. The last few years I saved my certificates up and bought myself an a-frame mover. This was a splurge since I would have never bought it for myself.

* LL Bean - I've gotten this a few times over the last decade and each time I've bought myself a wonderful set of flannel sheets. Another splurge and so cozy on cold nights! Gift Cards

* VISA Gift Cards - Boy have I come to appreciate these! On a recent trip, Dan and I hit an amazing specialty store and Dan got to spend his gift on exotic cigars - a real treat for him. This past weekend, I went to Bath & Body Works and took full advantage of a buy 1 get 1 free sale and stocked up on lots of girly scents for summer. We also used VISA gift cards to jump start our front porch project, something we enjoy daily!

Some of the other gifts we've received or I've heard of are handmade items. Usually there is a club member who specializes in a particular hobby or they have a particular vendor. Items pictured:
* the handmade clock featuring a Dalmatian was my first judge's gift.
* the Dalmatian print was another great gift
* the handmade ceramic cup was actually made for me by one of my students and I just love it. You can tell it was made from the heart.
* the moose tile was a gift from Alaska, very fitting!
* the beautiful multi-colored glass bowl was actually a wedding gift. Isn't it amazing?
* Breed Specialties often give neat gifts. The Newfoundland's gave me a pewter dish, the Weims a crystal wine stopper and the Dobermans a Dobe coin.
* from the southwest a pottery item with paw prints and Dan received the Chocolate Lab tile box.

Other gifts received:
* stained glass agility picture
* agility frame
* gift certificate to one of the show vendors
* personalized coffee cup
* painted ceramic plate of our dog in the weave poles
* personal lunch cooler
* personalized soft briefcase
* personalized travel blanket
* handmade travel pillow
* club coins
* gifts for our dogs (stuffed animals, leashes, collars, etc.)