Wednesday, August 5, 2015

More Anne

Kraft's been mostly on a break from agility for the past three weeks since Regionals. I wanted to give him a full month off, but there was a seminar I wanted to do with Anne Andrle this past weekend, so he got three weeks off since Regionals, now will have two weeks off until we trial again. At this point, I don't worry about him losing skills if we go several weeks without training. He's a good boy, with good foundations. He understands this game and it's mostly me that needs the work anyway. When he does come back, it's going to be back to RDW boot camp, but that skill can wait a few more weeks. And since we're focusing on conditioning during the break, he shouldn't lose any fitness, so I'm not worried about trialing him at all. 

So back to the seminar. I could totally use more training with Anne! Might be one of my favorites to train with. Out of the three seminars I've done this year, I think I was pushed harder in this one than any of the others. She also knows me and Kraft the best, so that might be part of it. She knows the goals I've had, the skills we possess, and is very aware of my struggles recently since she's been at several of the trials where I was at my wits end. This was also the first seminar that I've ever been to where Kraft was the most experienced dog there, which was quite exciting for me. 

This was the course:
The focus was on jumps 4 and 11, and being able to execute them with blind crosses. The tunnel and A-frame were quite far apart, so you had to be quite far off the dog's path, but with the blind, the line was set so efficiently that the discrimination was a no brainer. Everyone was stuck trying to front cross which put you behind since it was too slow or reverse spin which put you on the wrong side. I didn't have as much of a problem with the blind as everyone else since I've been doing them in these situations with the girls ever since I learned to do a blind cross. And when we walked it, I wasn't sure I could get up to push his A-frame, so Anne said I could reverse spin 4, keep him on my right for the A-frame, then tandem turn at 6. With just a regular rear, his line was way wide after the jump and he wound up heading towards the tunnel, so the tandem was used to change his line and make it clearer to turn right over the jump. That needed a lot more work than the blinds, so I'm glad I did it that way. 

Another challenge was trusting their commitment to the tunnel at 12 and 25 enough to leave in time to blind after the tunnel. I made it all but one time. This was another place Anne said lets really push and see how soon you can see commitment and leave. And I really could leave sooner than I thought. He didn't pull off even once. Another step towards fully trusting each other out there, I was very pleased with that part. 

Here's the edited video with music and meaningless slow mo for dramatic effect:

Mary left this course set up in the barn for class Tuesday night so Spy got to try. Obstacle commitment has been our project the past month or so and she really impressed me by nailing the discrimination both times, and this is one that in the past I would have thought impossible for her, even with the line being obviously set to guide her to the right obstacle. I am so loving all that I'm learning through OMD! I really am seeing the entire game differently, I feel like I'm seeing it more like the dog does. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

Regionals Recap

So this happened last weekend: 
Yeah, I'm still amazed. But then again, steeplechase is kind of becoming his specialty. The second place dog, Aidan with my friend Lori, was one of Kraft's team mates for the event. In the semi-final round, Aidan knocked a bar and Kraft had so many snafus that we wasted at least 6 seconds. We both eked into finals by the skin of our teeth. We joked that we were planning to come from behind. And we did! Well, the BC that came in third is ridiculously fast. I saw her run and saw she was three seconds ahead of me. I was all ready to take my second place, until someone congratulated me and told me that Rivet had knocked a bar I didn't see. Which hey, that's how it goes sometimes right? She'll beat us 9 out of 10 times, but this one time was Kraft's turn at the top. 

I couldn't have planned the whole weekend any better. This trial is what my confidence needed. We made mistakes, I let them go. One of my favorite runs was MC standard. We had run jumpers without E'ing but with 10 faults. With the group rotations, I knew we basically only needed to not E to get a podium spot and standard was a much easier course to get through than jumpers. It did have a tough line off of the dog walk and I knew he might miss the contact (which he did, but the judge didn't actually call it) and lots of dogs were going off course two jumps after the dog walk. Unfortunately with a poorly timed rear cross, he also became one of those dogs. I had a split second where I thought, "oh crap" and then managed to brush it off, not get mad and finished the run in the same headspace that I started the run in. I love that the video shows my smile at the end. I was pleased with the run despite my disappointment. This weekend I think I grasped the notion that those things do not have to be mutually exclusive: thoroughly enjoying the run and being disappointed with the outcome. It happened several times actually and was what I really needed. 

And here's the highlights video. 

End tally: we Q'd in team thanks to some really steady team mates and had a killer relay run placing 8th out of 38 teams in the relay portion, 11th out of 40+ teams overall (many did not stay for relay because it ran so late). Didn't need a team Q, but it was fun and we actually decided to keep the same team for Cynosports (I decided to go for sure after how well we did the first day of regionals). No biathlon Q, but since we didn't have any Q's towards nationals and no plans to do USDAA again before the season is over, that one didn't matter much. Got another GP Q in round 1 with second place on that one, which he needed for nationals. Did E in finals on another tough line off the dog walk. And of course the culmination with his steeplechase win. The girls ran too. Spy got the team Q she needed to run at nationals in that. Also placed 11th overall. And she and a BC who ran in our group kept having a little love affair before all their runs, so we decided to pair them up for nationals. She got the last MC jumpers leg she needed, wound up missing out on her podium shot because I didn't realize if you E'd in one round you could still place. Got it confused with UKI rules. E'd in GP finals by going under the tire which messed up my line after I put her back through. That was the second tire she went under over the weekend, the first was her E in MC standard, which, because it was the last obstacle, is an automatic E. I was a little bitter about that rule, which is why I didn't stay for the awards since it meant she didn't get one (or so I thought). Didn't run her in steeplechase since she didn't have a Q going in and I didn't want to do another run Friday to try to qualify her. So no steeplechase for her at nationals, but three events is plenty. Marron was in GP and steeplechase, needed Q's in both for nationals. So she ran GP round 1 even though she had a bye for round 2, I don't remember what she did but she didn't Q, so no Cynosports for her, unless I decide to do veterans with her, which I might. 

So now there's Tennessee to look forward to. It will be nice since I think lots of my old agility friends from when I was in vet school will be going since it's so close to them. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Not Going to Canada

After my post about maybe not going to Perry for the U.S. Open, OMD announced that this year's camp would be held at Kayl McCann's in Cananda. Not exactly around the corner, but close enough to go to and make a vacation out of. It was being held the same weekend as the Open. My exact words at the end of that post were: "I'm frustrated by not getting better and don't have any where to turn." It seemed like the answer, go to camp instead of the U.S. Open. Problem was, getting in. They only had 40 spots, I don't know how Kayl was saying, "oh we can handle plenty of people", it wasn't even going to be close. Then, the camp opened at midnight on a night I had to be at work. I figured I would leave it up to fate, if I was free at midnight, I would give it a shot. If not, oh well, it was going to be an expensive trip any way. At 11 pm, a hospitalized poodle with really bad complications of diabetes developed heart failure AND a Lab walked in with a septic abdomen and needed emergency surgery. I knew going to Canada wasn't going to happen. On the plus side, I saved a Lab's life, and the diabetic poodle isn't suffering any more, so I guess that's something. 

Also that weekend, there is a seminar being offered by Marco Giovanni, someone I've also wanted to go to. I tentatively signed up, and told the person running it I would come if I didn't get into OMD camp. Sooooo, save a Lab and go to Marco? Sounds pretty good. I THINK that's what I'm going to do. Still disappointed about my decision about the Open. But not going to the Open or OMD camp opens up the possibility of going to Cynosports which wasn't on my radar at all. Somehow, Kraft is already qualified in steeplechase and team and just needs one more Grand Prix Q. Has nothing in biathlon, but was only entered once really since I wasn't even trying to qualify for Cynosports. Spy is only qualified in Grand Prix so far, has one team Q and about three quarters qualified in biathlon. Nothing in steeplechase. Marron I am not going to try to qualify any more for any nationals but she has one GP and one steeplechase. Once I made the decision about the Open, New England Regionals became a much bigger event in my mind. So hmm. Trying hard not to put too much importance on next weekend but, no pressure. If they can get some needed Q's and byes, then probably I'll go. If not, I'll have to think about it. It kind of seems to fit, since they qualified for a couple of things without even trying, but to qualify in the rest might be a good challenge for the rest of the summer. 

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Rattie Faith

In response to my post about the BRats, here is evidence that just maybe my devotion to the terriers may last a little longer.

Three Rattie litter mates, all kept their tails, all went to three friends of mine in California.

Yet unnamed (likely Maple):
Rafa (with Daddy Ryder):
Maybe getting to see these three grow up will help counterbalance this pull I feel towards the Border Things. Three people who are all very serious about agility NOT feeling tempted by the Border Things, or at least not giving in to that temptation (though Tierney's owner does have two BC's in her pack).

I was thinking about it after my BRat post, what benefits there are on each side of the fence. For BC people, adding in the Rat gives a more convenient size and less of the OCD-ness, maybe helps decrease chances of epilepsy (though that is still a crap shoot). But for Rattie people, what do you get? A faster agility dog with a tail? Again, a faster agility dog is not my goal, or at least I don't think it SHOULD be. Seems like the BC people get a bonus by mixing in the Rat, but the Rattie people don't really gain anything except a tail. I'm really excited by these three pups. I sure hope they might inspire a few more breeders to leave tails. Then I can choose between the BRat and Rat equally. I would never NOT take a docked puppy if it was otherwise a nice dog, but in helping to keep myself from being tempted by "the dark side", tails are nice. And as much as I am normally one that likes to do my own thing, not be a follower, it's nice to feel like there are still people in the Rattie club, that not everyone is abandoning ship and going to BC's.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Course Practice

I really wanted another crack at the Mia Grant Masters Series course that we ALMOST ran right last weekend. Here's the original version: 

Everything went great, until he came out of the tunnel under the dog walk looking at me, and I had to step in and support 9 longer than I wanted to. Then as I stepped back to clear the tunnel, it cued him to take the tunnel. We muddled along for a bit, trying to get back in rhythm, and by the weaves we got it, and 13-19 was lovely. So I really didn't want to try to run the SAME course, but I wanted to try that bit again, in the middle of A course. So here's a variation I came up with, with no teeter or A-frame:
And again, 1-7 was perfect, and I loved the ending, our progress on wraps in situations like 15 has really come a long way and I loved how a simple move, just shaping the line with a V-set at 18, made a really nice efficient line, no spinning required. But getting him to send to jump 8 while staying back enough to be able to cue the dog walk AND get to the end was the tough part. At the trial, the judge even said (after we all ran) she left that part set up for her students for a long time, working all the variations. And the key was to get the send to that jump from a distance. It was especially tough in this trial, since it was off in a corner against a wall. They didn't see it very well, light colored jump against a solid white concrete wall. Very tough and something to work on. But I love the skills he's showing on the rest of this.

With Spy and Marron I ran it more like the original, since they didn't run the masters series. Had issues in the same area, Marron I kept getting the tunnel on that discrimination, had to hold back and really push her line, then race to the end of the dog walk, which I just barely made it for the back side. That's ok, we don't do much international stuff, I'm ok with her not having that skill but it was fun to play with and figure out what she would need. I also loved the original ending with her, sending to the back side of 18, trusting her to take it and taking off for the tunnel. A tough skill for her, so I was proud she did that well. I think I'm really using my feet to handle the wraps/reverse wraps much better than I used to. Spy's problem area was actually the discrimination the first time through, 6-7. I was handling the tunnel with dog on my left, then rear crossing it. I eventually figured out how she needed me to cue it, but it's weird, I had to be facing her, completely parallel to her line coming to the tunnel, but cue the tunnel with my left hand or she pulled off it completely. Any rotation of my feet or chest back towards the right and she went up the dog walk at the very last second. But strangely, she had no problem going up the dog walk at 9, when normally she completely defaults to the obstacle closest to me. I can see how at 7 she might go up the dog walk, since once I rear crossed, the new "closest obstacle" would be the dog walk instead of the tunnel, she'd feel that pressure even in the tunnel. So not something about her that I understand. We had a little discussion about the 2o2o on the dog walk. I started mixing up stop/running a few weeks ago, and when she got it perfectly, I thought she would be done training it. Never really practiced the stop in full sequences, so I guess that will be the project going forward.

Two weeks until Regionals. Getting really excited. Practicing my "make mistakes and let them go". I think we'll be ready.

Sunday, June 21, 2015


I've been listening to Lanny Basham's "What Every Dog Agility Competitor Should Know First About the Mental Game" CD all week. I've dug out his "With Winning In Mind" book and have breezed through it. I rustled up my Daisy Peel "Clear Mind" book from who I loaned it to and will be revamping my goals next, long and short term. I was feeling slightly more prepared mentally this weekend. At least I was ready to be aware to catch myself and recognize what I needed to change. Like with agility handling, getting mad when a handling error occurs and focusing on fixing the handling error is way too late. I need to be proactive, change the mentality BEFORE the error, not so that I don't make the error in the first place, but to not let myself get mad about it. So that was my focus, to recognize what was making me angry.

And I felt really nervous. More nervous than I've felt ever since Kraft's first ever runs. I felt like I was starting over. We made errors. I felt disappointed afterwards. But not angry. At least, not as angry. Probably because I already decided not to go to the Open. Then Spy got walked out of jumpers. She messed up her weaves, made the entry and popped out, then when I resent her she just flung herself in at pole 3. She hasn't needed more than two tries at the weaves in a long time, not since the last time her weaves "broke". So I took her out. For several reasons, and none of them have to do with punishing her. 1) I just don't want her to rehearse that, reward or no reward. 2) I didn't want to continue to make errors and get mad, I can leave after a weave error calmly with her because of our history. 3) She hasn't run in a while, is out of shape a little and I didn't want to keep running her if there might be something physically off. Bottom line, I was calm about taking her out. Then in agility, she did her classic "pop out of the tunnel and sneak up the dog walk" on the discrimination. I haven't been able to train this with her, so I was ready for it and was able to correct it and continue on. (She did her weaves with the look of absolute determination and concentration by the way.) Again, I felt calm about it. Then with Marron, for snooker I didn't get her out before the walk through and she was the first dog, so she didn't get much warm up. I think she was thirsty since she guzzled water after her run, which she rarely does (they didn't have water in their crates, they just get everything wet in there, or I forget it and drive away like that if I crate in the car). She didn't really do much "running", very much old Marron. And I'm not used to handling her like that and didn't make it through our opening. Again, we left calmly. She gave me a smoking run for my only Q of the weekend in gamblers.

I was thinking on the ride home why I felt so differently about the errors. Part of it is expectations. I feel like there are so many more people expecting Kraft and I to excel. But it's not like any one has put any actual PRESSURE on us, so that hasn't made any sense. It really seemed to come on when I made the change to OMD system, and while I knew it would take a while to get comfortable with the system, I now think that it has more to do with how the system looks at errors. While I don't think other systems "blame the dog" and it is certainly the norm for the handler to take responsibility, even if it is for training holes, the way OMD does it, it's a whole new level. There are always things that are the dog's responsibility, and that's what happened on each of the girls' runs, it was out of my control, and yes, to a point I haven't trained things as well with them. With them, we make mistakes and I can see where the training holes are. It's really easy to forgive and forget the mistakes when they are the dog's failure. The only way to fix it is to go home and train more. With Kraft, the training holes aren't as apparent. The errors are 100% mine. And it is much harder to forgive myself. And that is why I am getting so angry. I really think that is what my problem is and why I get so mad mid-run.

After the trial, I went to my parents' house. I was going to take my father out to brunch for Father's Day (which also happened to be his birthday). And my older sister was going to be coming over as it was her birthday Saturday. When I got there Saturday evening, my dad sprung on me that my sister had agreed to go golfing with him and did I want to come along? UGH! I hate golf. No interest. Not ever. I had to play in gym class when I was in high school. The high school golf coach could not even figure out why I couldn't hit the ball. But my sister had never been before either, so we would be even. I decided to go. For one, to please my dad for his big day. That was the main thing. Why not? What's a few hours walking around in the sun with your dad and sister on Father's Day having a few drinks? The other reason was more personal. I wanted to rehearse making mistakes (and I knew there would be many!) in an environment that I knew it would be easy for me to forgive and forget without getting mad. Who gets mad about making mistakes when it's your first time doing something? I wanted to rehearse what that felt like. The drinks helped with that too! LOL. Maybe that's what I need to do before agility runs for a while! And you know what? I had a good time. I don't want to go out and get my own set of clubs, I don't think I will be practicing on my own. But as something to do with my dad, sure I'll go again. And I am making it my goal going forward: to remember what it felt like to screw up and LET. IT. GO.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Bunch of Scattered Videos

I've been remiss in posting videos of some of our recent work. Trial videos, not really even bothering to take them at this point. The UKI trials are so small it's hard to get someone to tape, and we're doing so poorly on them that it's not really something I want to relive. You don't get to retry, so you don't really learn anything. But I have had fun with training videos.

First was the Anna Eifert seminar back in mid-May. I really felt this one went much better than the Soshana one. At least as far me not feeling totally lost.
It was two days long and HOT. And the sequence with the dog walk was first thing in the morning on day two. Normally if we had to do that many dog walks, that's all I would have done for the entire day, but no, we still had the whole day to go, and he already wasn't 100% fresh from all the hard work he had done the day before. He was a really good sport. All the dogs were really floundering at the end of the day though. One BC burned her pads, but she had a back up Aussie to use. Several of the other BC people had spare dogs to sub in. The rest of us kind of sat back and watched. Even by the time everyone had worked to their satisfaction (it wasn't a full seminar the second day), there were still over two hours left to the seminar. Someone asked Anna if she wanted to work her dogs, but she said she was too tired from teaching in the heat for four days. So instead, someone asked if her dogs would run for someone else, and she said someone could run Du'. Remember Du'? The bull terrier I posted a video of a while back? I totally raised my hand with a grin, having the only terrier (and actually the only non-herding dog) in the group and said I would like to run Du'. I figured that was fair since I was one of the ones who also did not have a spare dog to work.

So here is how that went:
Important lesson- when running someone else's dog, always remember to ask what they do on their contacts. I forgot to ask, I assumed I would not get that far. When she did a running A-frame, I figured, well, lots of people teach running A-frames, but nobody really does running dog walks. WRONG! The first time through, I was kind of thrown when two bars came down. Usually with Kraft if multiple bars are coming down in a sequence, things are becoming borderline dangerous so it is best to stop before someone gets hurt. The last thing I wanted to do was break someone else's dog. But obviously, with the bully, this isn't the case. She reminds me of a bowling ball. I know that's Sarah's analogy, but in the way I see it it's like when you spin a bowling ball, it will keep spinning in place; once she starts to turn, she almost can't STOP the turn which is why I kept getting the wrong end of that tunnel. Kraft would have been over that OC jump easily, his center of gravity is so high, even when he starts to turn, it takes a while for ALL of him to turn. But Du', it also reminds me of that sit and spin toy from when I was a kid! Round and round she goes, where she stops no one knows! But she was fun. I came off that course with a huge grin.

After the Soshana seminar, I had a great idea. I recruited the rest of my class mates into everyone bringing their video cameras to class and videoing every session. My goal is to be able to document progress, actually be able to see with each session what skills we are getting better at. Here is session one:
You can definitely see his speed pick up through this session. Maybe that equals confidence on his part?