Monday, May 24, 2010

Under the Microscope!

One thing about participating in a Seminar is that you are “totally under the Microscope”! For me, that’s a good thing. Maybe I should clarify; that it’s a good thing as long as the seminar ‘giver’ isn’t afraid to tell you what you need to work on.

I prefer to audit seminars vs. participate, as I find I can concentrate more and don’t have a dog to worry about. I debated on this one, and I’m really glad I participated. Jen gave me a lot of ‘homework’ and ideas that will help Seeker develop into a better athlete. She did this in a very nice way and pointed out not only what wasn’t going well, but also, how to fix it. As far as his handler goes, I’m NOT good at throwing low! There’s a reason I continually hit the tennis ball OVER the fence!

One of the things I need to be sure to do is reward Seeker LOW! He’s a very bouncy dog and likes to keep his head up, watching me. This is unfortunately a very bad trait for an agility dog. If he’s jumping with his head up, he is not able to turn as tightly and thus adding yardage to his run. He’ll also land harder, thus it’s hard on his body. If his head is up, he is not looking at the end of the contact and has a harder time driving into that position.

For Seeker, all those fun high hand touches need to be LOW! For him, that would be at his head level or below, at least in the context of agility. Same with our tug games, instead of jumping up to drive the toy into my hands, I need him to focus on driving it into my knees. Now that will be fun!!!

It was amazing how much better everyone else was about throwing low after my turn was over. I guess that’s one of the bad things about being first. I will point out that my throwing wasn’t as bad as Ann’s! She can only throw treats from behind her back!! Thanks for pointing that out to everyone Jen! I appreciate it!

One really BAD thing about seminars is that you see so many cool things you think you just MUST HAVE!!! I know I tend to live ‘under a rock’, so when I saw the way cool “Ready Treat” device, I wanted one!!! It’s a little box that has a chamber to hold a treat and a small door that can be opened (by a remote) to allow access to the dog. WOW! Wouldn’t that be fun!! It was a fun idea until I found out it was $50, and I know it would end up in the bottom of one of my dog drawers before long. RATS!!

One of Jen’s pet peeves is the use of margarine lids (or any other colored lid) for targets. Her ‘beef’ being that the dog’s looking for the plastic lid, not forward on its own. Of course we all know that! She was pretty funny about it however. When she asked if you ever used targets, she would help you with the answer by holding up one of her clear targets and saying, “You use clear ones like this, right?” Of course, she also owns the above “Ready Treat” and she admits, it’s not any better than the colored lid. You still need to fad it from the picture.

Those of you that make fun of me using mini marshmallow for dog treats, I’ll have you know that Jen thought that was a BRILLIANT idea for dirt, turf and grass. She was throwing marshmallows like a maniac! She was actually an impressive thrower. She could take 3 minis in her hand and toss them one at a time (LOW), to almost the exact spot each time. Oh to have such skill!!

I’m still not sure if I’ll do a running A-frame. I’ll work on some of the skills needed prior to ‘Breaking The A-Frame’. (Breaking the A-Frame involves teaching your dog it no longer has to do 2 on/off.) The skills needed for a running A-Frame will also help Seeker’s overall agility performance, so it’s beneficial to work them.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

To Run....Or not to RUN??

That is the question!!!

I'm up in Eau Claire, WI this weekend at Ann Braue's facility. She has Jen Pinder in and she's working with us on 'Running' A-frames and also, driving into 2 on/off on Dog Walk and Teeter. Today was an action packed day and we ran 90 minutes over what was planned. I give Jen a LOT of credit for making sure each working dog got what they needed in order to proceed tomorrow.

Working are one Golden Retriever, one Miniature Poodle (Yes, Meme....Marti is here with Kit!!), Two Shelties and 6 Border Collies. It's a nice group of working dogs, each very motivated and handlers are experienced.

Seeker spent some time, as did most of the other dogs, working on keeping his head down. Actually, I guess I should say NOT UP!! Most of this is due to rewarding him in an upward region, this is very common. Think about what's easiest for the handlers? Yep, UP!! So, I really need to work on rewarding him level with his head, or lower. Same with tugging!! Very limited up position to tug. This will be a very difficult change for me.

I'm still not 'totally' sold on the running A. You need to either 'do it' or not, there's not an in-between, or a choice to do both. I know some would argue that a running A is easier on the dog. I guess, I'm not convinced of that. Teaching a true running A-Frame will take a lot more work and repetitions than a 2/2 A Frame.
I'm still on the fence. I do think it's faster, if trained and executed correctly. I've seen so few dogs that actually have a nice running A-Frame, that I a bit hesitant to go there. I guess only time will tell.

In the mean time, we're getting some great ideas for dogs that aren't doing as well as they could on the dog walk and teeter decent.

Tomorrow, we'll be continuing on with what we've learned today, understanding of course that we'll need to be sure to go back to the basic foundations learned today.

Monday, May 17, 2010

MACH 2 Addie!!

Congratulations Carrie and Addie MACH 2 !!!
(photo by Marsha Kingsley)

Carrie was heard to have said, "I'd give my RIGHT ARM for another MACH!"
Apparently she really meant it!

We're very sorry we missed it!!

We were East, in Villa Park, IL

"A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity;

an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty."

Winston Churchill.

Bill and I headed off to Villa Park, IL for an AKC Agility Trial over the weekend. It was at a site we’d never been to before, indoors on soccer turf. The facility was quite large and had two levels. The JWW course was upstairs, the Standard down. On the other side of the building there was an Obedience and Rally Trial under way.

The turf was by far the best I’ve ever run on. Absolutely NO SLIPPING from Seeker or Kruz. It was great! Move over black bead with knapp and come on in nylon weave. Both boys had really nice grip on this surface. Kruz and Bill picked up 3 Open Legs, 2 in Standard and one in JWW. Seeker got a JWW Q and had a couple other really nice runs.

The courses were nice, a couple challenging parts, that I felt we handled quite well. On Saturday we had a line of 5 jumps, set at depressed angles and Seeker kept them all up while I ‘kicked’ him out to #6 to get a Front Cross at the Triple. I was very proud of him. The things that could have gone better were partly handler error and partly dog error. We’d been working on ‘deceleration’ this week and probably need to work on this a bit more. Understanding that I can decelerate and Seeker’s commitment point where he can keep the bar up, thus the quote above.

While walking any course you can hear people carrying on about “this is bad”, “this is ugly”, “I can’t get there”, etc. You know the drill. What people need to realize is, this is the course you are given, and it’s up to you to decide how you’re going to handle it. Complaining and grumbling doesn’t do anything except give you a ‘defeatist’ attitude and possibility has a negative impact on those around you.

Look at those challenges as opportunities to shine. Visualize your dog ‘kicking’ out to that jump, so you can get that front cross where you want it. Blind cross those poles, because you know you can, and it’s faster than rotating in front of your dog in this particular set up. If it doesn’t work, well, you have things to work on when you get home. You’ll be ready for NEXT TIME!

As always, funny things happen at dog events. It was strange to arrive at the trial at 7:00, starting at 7:45, and be done running your first run at 7:46. Yes, we were the first dog in, again! I would actually prefer to be first. This did give me a LOT of time to watch other dogs run agility, and even watch some obedience! I did a lot of watching from the second floor. A very fun perspective.

I really admire people that are willing to show in both Obedience and Agility at the same trial. They give INSANITY a whole new definition! One guy and his Doberman did just that. The Doberman had a lovely obedience run through in Open B, but later the handler told me she laid down on the sit. RATS!

Several rather humorous moments, at least I thought so, involved a Novice dog that was grabbing the handler’s pants and tugging while “heeling”. I’m sure the handler didn’t think it was funny, but we laughed. The Open A dog, that ‘completed’ the Board Jump exercise without jumping and never touched a board. It carefully stepped over each board, placing it’s feet on the mat in-between. Let me see you TRY to train that behavior!

There were the Utility B handlers working their scent article over like they were competing to solve the Rubik Cube in Record Time. Either that or they were trying to screw in both ends simultaneously? It was really hard to tell, and if you didn’t know what they were ‘really doing’, it would have been rather freakish. I could easily have turned this into a Flip Video Movie, to what tune I wonder?

The Rally dog, (Advanced as the dog was off leash) in which the women had her hands out in front of her dog, begging it to follow. I had to point this one out to Bill. He wanted to know what she was doing. I told him that if she was at the pool’s edge, I’d have thought she was diving in. I wonder who she trains with?

As for Agility, there were the normal fly offs, missed weave entries and dogs that didn’t stay with handlers. Nothing we hadn’t seen before.

Overall it was a great weekend. If I had my ‘wish list’ is would be that AKC remove the ‘judge has to check scores’ prior to results being released. I really wonder statically how often this re-check really has an impact on the out come. The other thing I would love to see clubs move to is a “Self Serve” on ribbons. How many people are really interested in a ribbon they did not earn? One club laid the stickers out and if you wanted your ribbon, you simply found your sticker and put it on. Those that didn’t want their colored ribbons didn’t have to give them back. The club also frees up at least ONE WORKER that they could use elsewhere! Finally, require carbons for all AKC Trials. I know not everyone picks them up, but for those that do, it’s nice not to have to wait several hours for your individual results to be posted. Not to mention saving all the interruptions to the show secretary!

In the mean time, hug your dog and always remember getting to bring them home with you after a trial weekend is the biggest reward of all!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Happy Birthday BILL!!!

Martha ALWAYS finds the BEST CARDS!!!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Three Sheeps To The Wind!

Our D.A.M. Team managed to pull off a QUALIFIER for USDAA Nationals in KY in October!! Our Team was made up of 3 Border Collies, Seeker/Tammy, Shiver/Shenna and Rio/Carol. Seeker and Shiver are littermates and Rio is their ‘niece’. It was a lot of fun running a ‘young dog’ team, Seeker/Shiver are still 2 and Rio is still only 1. I will add that they are quickly approaching their 3rd and 2nd birthdays, how time flies!

Well, at least two of the dog/handlers of our 3 dog/handler members appeared to be hitting the bottle, or should have been! At least, that’s our excuse! RIGHT CAROL!!! Carol and I were a little ‘up tight’ on Friday, realizing that our chances for getting that darn Qualifier for TEAM at Nationals were only going to become more difficult to come by. Not all trials offer the DAM Team competition, so you have to look for it. Thankfully Shenna and Shiver CARRIED us!! What are big sisters’s for?? Thanks SHIVER!

You run 5 courses during the day. 4 of them, Jumpers, Snooker, Gamblers, and Standard, are run as ‘individuals’, and your score is added to your “Teams” score. The 5th run of the day is the ‘Relay’, which involves all 3 dog/handler team members and a baton. See the course below. You can pick which section you want to run, or you can do like we did and ‘elect’ Shenna and Shiver to run the ending, which we felt was the most difficult!

The games are not played by ‘normal’ game rules either! SURPRISE! I think USDAA just likes to watch ‘newbies’ heads spin!!

The Jumpers course has weave poles in it, and in the ‘classes’ it does not. You can get refusals (5 second faults and dropped bars are 5 second faults), you do NOT want an off course as you get a big ZERO!! Carol’s advise, let Seeker drop EVERY BAR, but do NOT go OFF COURSE! Thankfully, all the bars stayed UP!

Gamblers, doesn’t involve a line, but rather consists of your opening accumulation time, followed by a buzzer and then a sequence you need to complete in a specified time. You can ‘abort’ early and keep your points from the ‘gamble’ or you can try to finish it. If you get greedy, (CAROL!!!), you can lose all your gamble points, but get to keep your points you’ve earned in the accumulation period.

Snooker, didn’t have different rules. Thank goodness something was the same! Seeker loved this course as he got to do the teeter 4 times!! Seeker and Rio did a good job, but I think Shiver ACED this one!

Standard, was the same as the classes, minus the table. I guess that makes it ‘Grand Prix’? Well, kind of, you don’t get the Qualifier credit for a clean run. In general, same rules apply as in Jumpers, (refusals/bars/contacts = 5 second faults), and an off course = ZERO!!

Team Relay, the same rules apply. Time and Refusal faults, an off course equals DEATH! No pressure there!

I’m so thankful to have Carol and Shenna as my teammates. They know what to expect and can advise me what to do and what NOT to do. Okay, mostly it was what NOT to do! I suppose it depends on how you look at it, they would tell me to; “Do anything you want, but DON’T GO OFF COURSE!” While Snooker and Gamblers are important, Jumpers, Standard and Relay are the games that can give you the ZERO! It’s hard to recover from that.

By the time we’d run Jumpers, Gamblers, Snooker and Standard, we were in the middle of the 14 Team pack. We really needed a clean run in Relay! We GOT IT!!!

So, how is your Qualifier determined? USDAA was obviously created by someone that had a PHD in Mathematics! Remember growing up how they’d tell you in math class that you would NEED this stuff someday! They were RIGHT!! Each dog starts off with 100 points, 300 for the Team and you only go DOWN from there! G

“A qualifying score shall be awarded to competitors who compete in all five classes and whose team scores are within 25% of the average of the total points earned by the top three teams after the fifth and final class.”

What the above ‘really’ means is that you need the first three teams to ‘not be so good!’ The fewer points they earn, equals the fewer points YOU need to earn.

We ended up in 5th place overall and we got IN!! YIPPEE!!

We’ll play again the end of May, but Carol and I will be MUCH CALMER! WE PROMISE!!!

On another positive note, Seeker earned his AAD (advanced agility dog, or as Aunt Shenna calls it, Awesome Agility Dog) title and moves into the Master Level Classes for the remainder of his career!

We also got to see Seeker’s baby brother and sister, Time and Flurry. Time is your picture perfect beautiful BC. Black and White with very traditional markings, and the darkest brown eyes you’ve ever seen. His new family picked him up Saturday night to head over to WI to join his litter brother Sprint.

Also present was Seeker’s nephew, Sequel. AKA – Seeker’s Son. The markings are just too funny, so very much alike. It appears that Sequel’s ears will stay down and his eyes are very blue! So, if you know them you’ll be able to tell it’s not the same dog, otherwise….good luck!

The site was in St Cloud, MN at the VA Hospital and Behavior Health Facility. It is GORGEOUS!! Between classes we took the dogs on some walks and never scratched the surface of the land it covers. Below are some pictures of a few of the paths we walked.