Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When A Title's On The Line!

Things change!  Handlers change, Dog’s change…..things that were once easy, seem to get tougher!  As crazy as it seems, it’s true!  It’s MENTAL!

Even moving up from Open to Excellent can result in a high percentage of NQs.  Why?  Well, everyone knows that Excellent is MUCH harder than Open.  It’s honestly NOT!!! Yep, there’s that mental thing again! 

Maybe you smoked right through Excellent A, but as soon as you move into B, it all comes crashing down?  Why?  “I’m not this good, I don’t belong here”….. MENTAL!! 

Let’s face it, we put a lot of pressure on our dogs, and ourselves!  The courses haven’t changed, you have!  Walking the course you hear things like; “What out for that off course.”, “That weave entry is horrible.”, “I need to be CAREFUL!!” 

You want to also avoid ‘Over Trying’.  Over Trying or Over Handling is when you attempt to assist your dog in ‘hitting the yellow’ or ‘finding that weave entry’.   This often results in your dog jumping over the yellow or getting a second weave entry.  Your dog is just wishing you’d “STAY OUT OF THE WAY!” Of course we honestly think we are helping.

One thing you should ask yourself is, “How did I get here, to this level?”  Chances are you found a nice balance between doing your job, which is directing your dog, and letting your dog do his part, which is performing the obstacles.

When we try to overstep our job when it comes to being a Team, is when things can go back.  This is a two way street, it’s give and take.  There are dogs out there that would LOVE to LEAD the dance!  There are also handlers out there that would love to WEAVE for their dog!  We need balance and we also need to be respectful of each others ‘tasks’. 

So, if you have when you have a title on the line, keep in mind that you’ve earn it!  It will come!  Enjoy the Journey and your time together!


All last weekend in DSM this song was just stuck in my head.   
I do love my Rock Music,
and Papa Roach is one of my top 30 artists. 

So, here are some of Seeker’s Runs along with the song I just could NOT shake. 
“Kick In The Teeth” –….what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger in my head……


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Are you missing out on a Key Training Tool?

 What if there was an amazing training tool, that didn’t cost you ANYTHING!   What if this tool was something you HAD to do everyday any way? What if you were actually missing out on what of the best training tools around? I believe it’s possible that a lot of you are! 

What is it?

I call it, 
‘Working for your Supper' 


Okay, I’ll admit, it does cost you something.  You do have to buy your dog’s food.  So, it’s not really free.  Then again, it’s something you’d have to have anyway, so it’s not an added expense.  Are you missing out on this totally AWESOME opportunity to train your dog? 

Do you just mindlessly poor your dog’s food into his bowl, and let him mindlessly eat.  Maybe you have him sit and wait until the bowl is on the floor and you release him to it, this is at least a start.  If you are not using this time as a training opportunity, you are so missing the boat!

Once or twice a day you have a fantastic opportunity to train your dog, for something he really wants!  Take advantage of it!

Here are a couple of the more common excuses I hear when I make this suggestion. 

1 ) “I don’t have the time.” 

Let’s take a look at the ‘time’ excuse.  How long does it take your dog to consume a meal?  More than likely, not very long.  How long does it take to drive to and take a class?  A couple hours?  I can guarantee that “Working for your Supper” will NOT take that long!  It will take only a few minutes.  Not to mention you get to do it EVERY DAY!  Maybe even TWICE a day.

I have to get to work in the morning.  Most of us do.  If we were independently wealthy, it would not make this tool any less valuable.  This will literally take a few minutes.  I’m sure there’s time; you just need to ‘make it’.  I would challenge you to get up 10 minutes earlier, skip checking your e-mail in the morning, skip that morning news on TV, make your lunch the night before.  Maybe cut "Survivor" or "Dancing With The Stars" a little short?  There’s some way to make the time, if it’s important enough. 

Our first agility dog, a Bichon named Molly, really struggled with weave pole entries.  Molly really LOVED her food.  So, guess what, that’s what she did for her breakfast and supper.  We WEAVED!!  Our rule became, if I didn’t take her out to weave for her meals, she wouldn’t eat.  That of course was NOT an option, so it made me take her out to ‘play’ in the weave poles.  I simply divided her meals into 1/3’s and we’d weave for her supper.  It made a HUGE difference in her performance, and I believe was a major contributing factory in her achieving her MACH. 

Sorry, Time is an excuse that just doesn’t cut it. 

2)      I don’t have a building to train in.

Do you have a yard?  I know, it’s dark in the morning and dark early at night.  Do you have a porch or yard light?  Trust me, you can make it work.  What about a living room, family room or spare bedroom or basement?  You don’t need a large area! 

Working contacts, use a plank and a cinder block for your 2/2.  Use the stairs.  Weaves, work entries with just 2 poles!  Maybe you have room for 4!  AWESOME!  One jump exercises works in a small room.  Don’t forget your trick training!  It’s mostly about relationship anyway!  You can’t train your dog if it doesn’t want to play with YOU!!

Sorry, you don’t need a training building or a big yard!  You don’t even need agility equipment!  Be creative!!!

3)      I feed raw, so I can’t work my dog for it’s supper. 

Seriously?  I feed raw, and it doesn’t stop me.  Again, you need to be creative.  Muscle meat is really easy to work with, so are cut up chicken hindquarters.  If you have larger meaty bones, trim as much meat off as you can and work with that.  Then they can have the bone. 

I don’t want to touch it.  Again, seriously?  That’s what soap is for.  Okay, use latex gloves if you really don’t like it.  Use a rubber baby spoon and let them eat off that.  Where there’s a will, there’s a way!  Don’t look for excuses, look for solutions!

4)      My dog doesn’t really like his food.

You might be surprised that a picky dog might just become UN PICKY when he gets to work for his supper.  Dogs really do want to please us and if a fun training session involves food, bring it on!  If you have a dog that really isn’t into his food, put it away (the food), for 10 minutes or so, and try again.  If your dog is alive, it’s because he’s eating!!  So, you just need to create that desire.  Don’t give up!

Given just a few sessions of working for your supper, I really think you’ll see an amazing change in your dog’s performance and your relationship!

Train like you Play, and Play like you Train!!

Happy Playing!!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Omaha - AKC Agility

We had a great weekend in Omaha!  
There really is a dog in that crate somewhere!  

Seeker and Kruz ran great all weekend. I was very proud of them both.
I even got to run Addie on Saturday, as Carrie had other obligations.  She did GREAT!  Even though we dropped a bar in JWW, she was perfect in Standard, and came away with a 1st place and 42 MACH pts to boot.  WAY TO GO ADDIE!!  She was a lot of fun to run, and I ran her exactly the same as I ran Seeker.  Her run is on the video below.  We didn't get her Standard 'flipped', but it was awesome!  You'll just have to take my word for it.

The course on Sunday, Seeker's second run on the video, was completed with all rear crosses.  Okay, there was one front cross at the end of the weaves.  I personally do not do many rear crosses.  They just don't seem to give the dog a lot of information in regards to where they are going.  If you compare that run, to his runs with front crosses, I think you'll agree that the front cross turns are tighter. We work on jumping into me on a rotation, so that on a run, it's no big deal.  That really seems to be paying off.

As always, I come away with some homework.  Seeker jumps 26" and he's just over 20" tall.  He suffers from 'hang time'.  This might be great for a NBA player and slam dunks, it's not advantageous for an agility dog however.  You have speed when your 4 feet are on the ground, not in the air.  So, we'll be working on some exercises to get him back to the ground quicker, while still keeping the bars up.  

His running A-Frame is still a work in progress.  He finally came off without me asking him to Sunday, too bad he wasn't in the yellow.  It's coming, and I realize I'll need to give up some yellow in order to get what I'm looking for.  It's probably not the best time to be working on something new, with all the Fall shows, but we'll work through it.  I won't ask for 2 on/2 off on the A-Frame, and he can do what he's comfortable with.  Qs are not important right now.  It's all a learning process and we're having a great time along the way. 

Speaking of Q's! 
Wow, everyone did a great job!!!  
Frank, Coz and Kruz all came away with 2 DQs!  
Rippy got one as well.  
Addie got a couple Qs and big points!
Seeker got 3 more qualifying JWW runs for World Team Tryouts. 
Congrats to all!!!!!

The weather could have been a bit nicer, although, it could have been worse too! Friday was my kind of weather!  Warm, maybe 80 and sunny!  Meme appreciated it for her pictures!  I can't wait to see what she comes up with.

Camping was good. We did end up with a bit of a storm on Friday night (Saturday morning), but it didn't last long was was gone for the most part on Saturday.  We did end up with a bit of a lightening delay on Saturday, but only for 30 minutes or so.  Sunday was rather cold, drizzly and not much fun weather wise.  If you were under enough coats and blankets, you were fine.  I think it would have been fine without the mist.  No pictures on Sunday!!  

That being said, I must admit that I LOVE outside trials.  
Something about getting out on the grass, in the fresh air with plenty of space.  
It's just GREAT!!  

My understanding is that this might be the last trial at this site.  It sounds like they may have secured a horse area for their upcoming trials.  That fine, I love running on dirt too!  I will miss the trips to the Humane Society (they have an AWESOME ONE!), and of course Taco Bell for lunch! 

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Handler's Matter!

I spent last weekend in Indianapolis, IN, at a Portuguese Water Dog Trial.  Saturday, I just hung out, visited with friends, and watched handlers and their dogs.  On Sunday I judged and finished up my 2nd provisional needed to become an official Portuguese Water Dog Water Trial Judge. 

One advantage of judging is you get a front row seat when it comes to observing not only the dog, but also the handler.  Amazingly enough, handling matters!  It can make or break a qualifying, or passing performance.  I’m not just talking about water trials here; handling is a requirement for almost every performance event. 

Probably the most common handling mistake is being inconsistent emotionally.

By emotionally, I mean that ‘you’ the handler becomes  so overly excited, and/or stressed, that your dog doesn’t even know who you are anymore.  Maybe your voice gets really high, loud, or both.  Maybe you start to beg, or plea with your dog to perform.  Meanwhile, your dog is searching for some way to get away from you.  Who can blame him?  This can result in dogs that start to leave the ring, slow down significantly (stress down) or get the stress rips (stress up). 

It seems like we spend so much time working on ‘ring stresses for our dogs that we forget about ourselves.  Handlers get stressed too!  Luckily, there are things you can do to help. 

There are several great speaking and book writers on improving your Mental Game.  A couple I really like are Jane Savoie, a horse trainer and Lanny Bassham, a formal Olympic Rifle shooter. 

Here’s a clip I found on You Tube.  Okay, so it has to do with Golf, but you get the general idea.  Not many of us enough money to golf, after agility has sucked us dry!  VBG

You can also look for fun matches.  Tell your friends that you need this to be like a trial.  Need to ensure your stress level?  Put some money where your mouth is.  Say for instance you’re working on keeping your tone and volume of voice.  Give a friend $20 to hold for you, if you do a good job, you get your money back.  If you fall into some old habits, she gets to keep the dough. 

At class, make it competitive with your group.  Try to get it to ‘trial’ level, where you want to out perform each other.  This might help you ‘replicate’ a trial situation. 

So, get to work on your MENTAL GAME! 
 Your dog will THANK YOU!

Monday, September 6, 2010


Okay, I'll admit it, I love BUZZ LIGHT YEAR,
from the movie Toy Story. 
There are lessons to be learned in these cute movies,
if we only listen.  

The title of the post is one of Buzz's most common quotes.  The reason I love Buzz, is that he's always willing to keep on going, no matter what.  He might get down, he might mess up, but he always picks himself up, dusts himself off, and keeps on trying.  Seeker's like that, he's a good little buddy!  Buzz also has some of the best quotes!

For example, the word 'infinity'.  That's the number of ways you can screw up an agility course!  You would think that after awhile, you'd run out of ways...but 'oh nay nay', there's always a way.  We were in Rochester this weekend, and we found several different ways to mess things up.  Some of it was him, some of it was me.  I'd say we were pretty even.  Unfortunately that left us with an 0/6 weekend, which thankfully, doesn't happen too often.  When you're hauling the mail over 26" jumps, you don't have time to make any adjustments, it's over before the fat lady even warms up to sing. 

Some of Seeker's thoughts over the weekend.....(Buzz Quotes)
I think they are secret 'Face Book' friends!

Right now, poised at the edge of the galaxy, Emperor Zurg has been secretly building a weapon with the destructive capacity to annihilate an entire planet! I alone have information that reveals this weapon's only weakness. And *you*, my friend, are responsible for delaying my rendezvous with Star Command! 

 (AKA - I'm not giving information fast enough) 

Mine? My fault? If you hadn't pushed me out of the window in the first place... 

(Yes, we'd been working on our 'running a-frame' 
and NOT on out 2/2 dog walk)
Don't talk to me about importance! 
Because of *you*, the future of this entire universe is in jeopardy! 

(Those 'off course' tunnels?  
What do you think we were running into after the A-Frame?)

Sheriff, this is no time to panic. 

(As Seeker takes the 'off course' tunnel in Jumpers)

 Are you saying you want to lodge a complaint with Star Command? 

(Seeker's dropped bar in Standard.
Yes, actually, I would like to complain!)

One minute you're defending the whole galaxy, and, suddenly, 
you find yourself sucking down Darjeeling with... 
Marie Antoinette and her little sister. 

(Seeker thinks the courses should be longer, when you finish a standard run
in 34 seconds, he thinks he's just a warming up!)

As always, there were SUCCESSES in every run.  There were also things, we obviously need to work on. I also need to be sure to 'round' my training vs. becoming obsessed over ONE THING!  

Speaking of Successes!  

Carrie and Addie were 6/6 (That's THREE DQ's!!).  They were on FIRE, with firsts, 
seconds and I think one 3rd place placements.  

Terry & Rip got DQ Number 17 toward the 20 needed for her MACH. 

Bill and Kruz got another PAX DQ. 

Michele and Packer got both Excellent FAST courses and a Jumpers as well. 

Jeff and Bea had a great weekend!
They also had a couple heart breakers involving the last obstacle.  UGH!!! 

Here's Seeker's runs from (today) Monday.  A bar down in standard, as he didn't hold his 2/2.
In Jumpers the first time through the tunnel was an 'off course'.   I guess it was just TOO TEMPTING!

I love his weave poles.
I love being able to trust him enough to leave him.  

I love his start line and his set up.
I love to look back knowing he's there and ready.

Sometimes when I look at him set up and ready to go,
I don't want that moment to end. 
He's so cute, I'm looking at him....
he's looking at me.......
I almost don't want to release him at all.

  He really was a very good boy!