Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dock Jumping - Part Deux?

 You may or may not recall Secret's journey into the world of competitive dock diving last year.  For those who may not be aware of it, you can read all about the epic failure (complete with video!) by clicking here.  To say I was a little disappointed about that whole turn of events is a bit of an understatement.  She's a great jumper with no fear on the local docks, but the indoor pool experience was just entirely new for her.

After the fair fiasco last summer I more or less just put the whole dock diving thing on the back burner.  We've obviously continued to swim our little hearts out on a regular basis, but I stopped obsessing over finding dock events to try to fit into our crazy schedule.  I definitely wasn't willing to give up any agility weekends to go through that again.

Well, a friend posted about an outdoor event being held on a lake in MN at the end of next month.  It's not anything official or sanctioned, just a local event trying to get off the ground that might bring in something bigger next year.  Hmm.  It's outdoors.  It's in natural water.  I got to thinking that maybe I'd like to try again with Secret!
Tonight was a beautiful 82 degrees and I didn't have to work at the shelter.  Considering that starting tomorrow it's going to be deathly miserable and hot, what I *should* have done this evening is set one of the agility drills I have piling up and worked all three dogs.  But no, I once again have the dock jumping itch and I decided instead to throw Secret in the car and drive to Lake Neshonoc in West Salem.

Yup, I just took Secret.  The reason for this decision was twofold -- I anticipated that it might be busy and didn't want to worry about watching three dogs (one of whom has to stay on leash).  Also, Secret HAS GOT to learn to start doing things on her own without having a meltdown.  So yes, it was a very good thing for her to go by herself.

She was unsettled and whining in the car.  Was this because she was by herself or because she knew we were going swimming?  We parked at the top and had to walk down the hill to the water and she wasn't paying attention to me or the toy at all.  There were a couple of guys fishing, a truck with a boat on a trailer and someone putting a jet ski on the trailer.

I knew better than to just go and chuck the new Wubba off the end of the dock, so we started slowly.  VERY slowly because Secret was being all freaky and whiny.  I walked in the water with her and threw it about two feet away from her and she GINGERLY picked it up out of the water.  I threw it into the shallow water a few more times and when I was confident she was comfortable getting it I threw it so that she had to swim a bit.  Then we moved onto the dock and I threw it from there into the shallow water.  Secret was very hesitant at first but she quickly found her confidence.

We quickly moved to doing jumps off the side and closer to the end -- this meant a fairly long swim back to the shore, but Secret doesn't mind that.  She had some spectacular jumps, easily making it over 10', which is saying something for trying to get a foothold on that slippery metal dock.  Once I knew she was totally comfortable I moved to throwing it off the end.  The most difficult thing about that on this dock is that it has a lip and honestly I'm not sure if it's even a good test for her.  She was game, though, and after totally flopping in over that lip the first time she had a couple of nice jumps off the end.

The work schedule is already out for July and obviously I'm working that weekend (especially since we have a NADAC trial in La Crosse the weekend before).  I will wait a bit longer before asking around to see if anyone wants to switch with me, but I do think it would be fun to try again.

The biggest issue I foresee is Secret's initial hesitancy in new situations.  I figure if we try this again, I'll just have to go into it planning to jump in the water if I have to.  If there is any way to send her in off the side of the dock we'll of course try that, too.  I feel that she'll have a lot more confidence on the familiarity of outdoor natural water, although I'll have to be sure to travel around to several places again prior to the event.

It's really just a small town fun sort of thing.  The flyer is here:  http://www.wabashamn.org/brochures/details/329/  So far it sounds like several of my friends are going and it would just be an all around fun time.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


I have always struggled with achieving balance in all facets of my life.  I eat the same food(s) for weeks on end -- who needs variety?  I can't ever seem to come up with a way to balance work, downtime (what's that?) and friends.  All I do lately is work.  And now in my agility life I have been fixating on the "fun" technical handling moves and completely neglecting all of the speed & motivation exercises that are so important for dogs like Secret -- Dogs who don't necessarily find a whole lot of motivation from the game of agility itself.

I've noticed a decrease in Secret's speed lately.  I was doing my best to blame it on the fact that she desperately needed a chiropractic adjustment (which she did), but I know that I really need to go back to making the game of RUNNING more fun for her again.  Her super intense thinking brain has been getting much too focused on the technical aspect of agility and she is starting to get too careful again -- because you never know when a threadle or backside of a jump will be asked for and one must always be prepared you know.  Well yes, but you also need to know how to let your hair down and RUN, girl.

This NADAC Jumpers course was posted on the Going the Distance blog a couple of weeks ago and it appealed to me for the nice sweepy lines and the opportunity to get back to bonus line work with Luke.  After the changes in Secret's speed of late, I also figured it wouldn't hurt to throw her on this course and work on building up the "fun & run" aspect of agility for her again.

I set the first six obstacles with hoops (don't have enough jumps), figuring it would give the dogs a good opportunity to really dig in and go.  Admittedly, while running Secret through this course I really didn't feel like she was moving -- but as is so common with her for whatever reason, when I watched the video back I was pretty happy with what I saw.  She was slower through the middle section with jumps and turns, but I like how she ran the hoops.  That stride of hers is deceptively long, even if she doesn't get down super low like the really fast border collies.

I had Secret jump her NADAC (Skilled) height of 16" for further motivational assistance.  I brought her out a final time when the jumps were still down at 8" and she had fun, which was nice to see.  Basically what this evening tells me is that I need to do a better job at balancing out the technical work with the speed work.  Just because I'm currently obsessed with USDAA doesn't mean I should throw all of the NADAC foundation work out the window (especially considering we are still trying to finish up those darn NATCHes).  I need to be better about setting up fun speed circles and other short exercises that encourage speed without thinking.  Secret thinks enough, she needs to just let it go!

On the way to shutting off the camera I decided to do a bit of tunnel work with Secret.  I need to throw different stuff at her, so we worked on the back side of the tunnel.  After the tunnel meltdown she was having at the last trial, I really wanted to focus on her having fun in the tunnel again and I'm happy to report that she seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.  One of these days I'll have to throw a wonky S-shaped tunnel at her since that's what caused the original shutdown.

The boys were SO HAPPY to return to their NADAC roots.  Kaiser got to run 8" tonight and he just had a ball.  He was glowing as he ran through the course.  I swear you can just hear him go, "Wheeeee!" as he sails through the line of hoops.  lol

Luke and I realized very quickly that when you stop working on bonus line skills they tend to disappear.  That was kind of sad.  I can't really blame him, though, since I've been attempting to cram him through the technical courses lately, too.  He's very confused!  We just played and had a good time and I made a mental note to either start working on this stuff again or to NOT try any bonus lines at the next trial.  Luke will definitely appreciate it if I continue to try to find *balance* in our agility training.  He says he'll just take off on the technical nights, though.   ;o)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Momentous Occasion

The dogs had a super, super long day alone today.  I left for work at 9:00 a.m. and didn't get home until after 8:00 p.m. because I met my parents for a Father's Day dinner in La Crosse (the rest of the family gathered midday while I was working).  My parents did stop by briefly around 4:00 p.m. to check on the dogs, but aside from that they were on their own for the day.  Just them, the dog door and the wee potty yard.

All went well!  They survived and looked the same as ever when I checked in on them via the web cam.  Gosh I love that thing.  I am not as rabid as I originally was about viewing it all day when I'm gone, but I still find it nice to check in and make sure they are all alive and the house hasn't burned down or anything.

When I got home I grabbed a grocery bag and started my nightly trip around the yard to pick up all the presents the dogs leave me.  I did my usual cursory glance around the potty yard to amuse myself, but LO AND BEHOLD -- there was poo!  Someone poo'd in the potty yard!  I believe it was Secret!  Will wonders never cease, I had more or less completely given up on it ever happening.

My dad keeps mentioning that we should probably get around to putting the pea gravel down here at some point.  We have no mud, so I am not terribly motivated.  I do feel more comfortable about the idea now that I know they are all getting comfortable with the idea of using that area for elimination.  Heck, I've caught them going in there even when the gate is open a few times, so I think we are good.

This post has no photo (for which I'm sure you are quite grateful considering the topic), but it has video!  At the trial yesterday we saw the friend of our Pairs Relay partner from the last trial at Think Pawsitive.  She mentioned that she had gotten our run with Sprinter on video and would be happy to send it to me if I dropped her a line.  I e-mailed her last night and this morning she sent me the link.  It was a nice run!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Great day of USDAA!

 We had a great day at the Cream City Canine's USDAA trial held at Think Pawsitive in New Berlin, WI today!  The awesomeness started with the fact that my dad decided to come along for the trip as a sort of "Father's Day" outing for the two of us.  I think it's pretty swell that he gave up his day to schlep along to an all day agility trial across the state.  It was neat that he got to see what I'm doing now and he definitely appreciated the difference between USDAA and NADAC (which he has come to watch on several occasions).  Dad even stepped in to work the Masters classes with me -- his first time working at a trial and those super long Masters classes aren't for sissies!  I really enjoyed our day together.

My goals for Secret consisted of getting Q's in P1 Standard & Snooker to finish her Performance Dog title, allowing us to move up to P2 in everything.  She definitely made that goal, qualifying in four out of our five runs!  Her only NQ of the day was our first time running Performance Grand Prix -- It was close, as we ran it without any course faults but were .67 seconds over time.  Bummer.

While today was an excellent day on paper, I was quite disappointed by how stressed Secret was.  She did *not* enjoy traveling by herself at all.  When we walked into the building she didn't even want to walk through the crating area!!  Last time we were there and she was with Kaiser this was a complete non-issue.  When you think about it, though, Secret has never had to do ANYTHING alone.  It was a whole new experience for her and apparently she found it totally terrifying.  I suppose I should be happy that she held it together to run at all.

I also think she remembers this place as the trial that had the most awful tunnels ever.  Our last trial had several of those S-shaped tunnels that really turned Secret off and I have a feeling she remembered that because she was SO SLOW through every tunnel today.  So..... Slow....  Thankfully P1 & P2 times are fairly lenient and she was well under time in everything but Grand Prix.

 Gamblers was up first and I have to admit I was honestly concerned about accumulating enough points in the opening!  The gamble was easy enough, but the opening required 13 points in a 1-2-3-5 point system!  The weaves were the five point obstacle up at the top and we all know that Secret is not a fast weaver.  That said, I was not coming up with a good fool-proof plan that would get us to 13 without those weaves, so I went up the left side of the course -- also figuring that Secret's a-frame is a lot faster than her dog walk.  We had a nice opening until she got "stuck" behind the tunnel (I admit, I handled it badly!) and the buzzer went off when she was in it -- So she accumulated a total of 15 points in the open and easily finished the gamble.

This finished Secret's P1 Gamblers title!  Yay!  While this run wasn't super speedy, it wasn't horribly stressed and I was happy with it.
 Our first time playing in P2 Jumpers was up next.  It was a nice course but it had this super long 20' tunnel right at the start that Secret did NOT like.  I think she stopped briefly in it and then she came out just absolutely flat.  I could not do anything to get her moving in this run.  She was five seconds under SCT, but ten seconds slower than the dog that beat her....  It was just one of those runs where I was at a complete loss on how to get her going.  Three tunnels in that run -- tunnels at the "evil tunnel trial" -- were not our friend.  It was like running through quicksand.  But we did get through it with a Q, so good girl, Secret!
We didn't have a terribly long wait before we got our first crack at Performance Grand Prix.  It was a nice course and my only worry spot consisted of the number 9 tunnel, as I figured I SO did not need to run the back side of a tunnel in Secret's current tunnel-hating state of mind.  Because she was running so slowly today, though, I had no problem throwing in a couple of extra front/blind crosses to get through that sequence.

There are definitely a couple of spots where I could have tightened up turns and lines a bit, but major time sucks on this course for us were the weaves and the entrance to the chute.  Secret almost stopped going into the chute and I thought she was going to back out of it!  She did continue on forward, though, and trotted to the next jump.  She finished 0.67 seconds over course time for 2nd place, but an NQ.  Bummer, but not really a big surprise with how she was running today.

But still, we got through with no refusals or course faults, so I'm very proud of the baby dog for her first time running Grand Prix!  That's a "big dog" class for sure.   :o)
Snooker was great, with the exception of that stupid 20' tunnel again.  I went for flowy and simple, wanting nothing but the Q so we could hopefully get out of P1.  I went 1-6, 1-7, 1-5 and then easily made it through the closing.  Again the 20' tunnel completely sapped Secret of all hints of speed, but she felt better than she did in Jumpers.  Yay for our first Snooker Q!
Secret must have taken a nice nap before our Standard run because she was much happier and more playful for that run.  I thought for sure I wouldn't have a dog at all because we ended up waiting a good amount of time before our run.  I went to get her when I believed the first dog would be starting (she was the fifth dog in Performance), but when I brought her out the judge was wheeling the course.  Then the judge wheeled the course again.  She was an apprentice judge and is learning the ropes, so this must have been part of the process.  She and the supervising judge then sat at the computer for what seemed like FOREVER discussing lord knows what as all of our dogs stood around having meltdowns.

I almost ran out of cheese, which would have pissed Secret off greatly.  My dad was up in the video balcony and snapped this picture of us with his phone shortly before our run started.  I like that Secret is being attentive with a happy tail and doesn't look all stressy and freaked!
 And more or less, that is how she went into the ring!  As the day wore on I was experimenting with taking her leash off sooner to see if that helped the stress (hard to break that stupid NADAC "good luck" habit) and I do think it may have helped some.  I had her sass me at the start and then took off with her.  The Standard run was definitely our most fun of the day and she really ran nicely.  The weaves, while still slow, were definitely the fastest of the day.  Best news of all, she totally nailed the table with no hesitation!!  That was another goal I had going into the day, so this made me happy.  She downed quickly on the table, but not without sassing me first.  I like it when she barks because I feel it means she's actually having some fun.

She finished the course great -- very happy and relaxed!  That Q earned Secret her P1 Standard title and officially grants her the title of Performance Dog!  It is on to P2/Advanced for us in everything now!  Which also means that Kaiser gets to come to the next trial and try to finish out his own P1 titles.  Yay!

Let me just mention again how much I appreciated having my dad along today!!!  It's hard to play in a new organization in a new town where you don't know a soul.  I've really missed getting video of our runs to see where we're at, so it was *awesome* having my own videographer and not having to stress about that at all!  My dad rocks!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Woot! It's here!

 It's here!  The dog door is finally here!  It only took.... Four weeks.  And get this, after all that time they actually managed to screw up my order.  Sigh.  After the original window was out and they were prepping the frame for the new one there was a lot of pausing between the two of them and then they disappeared outside and made a phone call.  The new glass was thinner than the old one, which means the framing or something wasn't going to line up.  The difference was 1" vs. 5/8" or something like that.

The installer blamed the glass supplier and said they could replace the old glass and re-order (which would mean another two weeks minimum) or we could put in the new glass and the framing would just be slightly recessed.  Honestly, I don't care about that kind of thing (and now that it's done, it doesn't look off at all) and I didn't want to wait, so I told them to install it.

The dogs were locked out into the big yard and were fruit-loops the entire time.  Bark, bark, bark.  Eventually they settled down, until one of the guys walked through the garage door again.  Sigh.  Really guys, I know we don't have company very often but get over yourselves.

The installer guy said we should avoid using the door for at least two hours to make sure the epoxy had a chance to fully set in the humidity (it was humid today?).  The dogs were pretty worn out from their supervising, so they were happy to just come inside to take a nap for a while.

I had a meeting at the shelter that I had to leave for at 3:00, so we got in a short practice session before I left.  I was relieved that Luke fit through the door, as that was definitely my biggest concern.  The rest we can work through, but the big dog kind of needs to fit!  The door is 12" wide by 24" tall.  It works swell for the big dogs, but it is a bit of a jump and quite a hefty push for Kaiser.  He'll figure it out.

We had another training session when I got home from my meeting and everyone made huge improvements!  Luke seems totally comfortable with the door and Secret did great, too.  Kaiser is using the door with prompting, but it will take a while, I think, before he is totally cool with it.  I noticed in the video from our second session that Kaiser was slipping on the linoleum when going from inside to out, so I slid the doormat over under the dog door and hopefully that will help him out a bit.

Yes, I made video of our training session.  I make video of everything!

Tomorrow Secret and I are off to Viroqua to visit the chiropractor.  Then I suppose we'll lay low until we leave for the trial bright and early on Saturday!  I've been doing table & teeter reinforcement the last few days, but not much else for agility training.

So much as I can tell from the rules we are okay with our crappy table performance (run past then jump on) until we get to Masters/P3.  My goal for this trial is to not be so hesitant about it, worrying that she'll jump off.  I think that's what causes her to by-pass it in the first place.

I got the run order for the weekend -- In a couple of classes there are only TWO dogs in P1.  Yup, glad I didn't enter Kaiser.  Poor Kaiser.  It's still going to be hard to go without him!

By the way, if anyone wants more information about this style of dog door, here is the information page:  http://www.securitybosspetdoors.com/In-the-Glass-MaxSeal-Pet-Door-p/max-glass.htm

Monday, June 11, 2012

Brief moment of panic...

One of the difficult parts about switching to a new agility organization is trying to keep all of the rules and titling requirements straight.  One nice thing about NADAC is that they removed the silly rule of having multiple judges for titles ages ago.  Not so much with USDAA.  I knew that they required several different judges for the Versatility titles, but figured it wasn't going to matter to us thanks to our "lovely" schedule of only doing one day at a time.

I'm still waiting for our run order for the trial this weekend, so in my impatience I visited the USDAA Calendar of Events page this morning.  When I clicked on the "Cream City Canines" event that we are attending, I was a bit surprised to see that Lynn Sigman was no longer the only listed judge for the event.  I *swear* this was not the case earlier, but Julia Lane is listed as the judge for the Starters/P1 classes now (under supervision).  This was our Starters/P1 judge at the last trial we attended and she is a lovely person, but this sort of thing does not do any favors to those attempting to gain titles whilst trialing in the same locations....

This led to a brief moment of panic while I tried to dig up the rules for titling on the USDAA web site.  And then, of course, I had to attempt to decipher said rules in a meaningful way.  So far as I can tell, Secret's potential to get her Performance Dog title is still safe thanks to the lone Jumpers Q she earned at our first USDAA trial in February under judge Lisa Barrett.  A total of three judges is necessary -- two in Standard and two in the Games with one of the Games Q's being under a different judge than the two in Standard.  So phew, I do believe we have it covered.

Now I am doubly glad I did not enter Kaiser at this trial, for even if he were to Q in Standard, Gamblers and Snooker he would still be without his PD title for lack of judges!  Frankly, that would stink.  Now I get what people grumble about -- seems a giant waste of money to be stuck in a level simply because the trials in your area use the same judges!

I am a bundle of nerves about our approaching weekend!  It has nothing to do with the trial or the potential titles on the line, but entirely to do with the drive over!  lol  Our grand adventure to the last trial at Think Pawsitive has scarred me for life.  Now any time my car makes the slightest noise or drifts even a millimeter in one direction (due to wind, etc.) I am certain that the whole thing will fall apart.  I know I'm going to be a basket case during our early morning drive....  One thing is for certain, if I have even the slightest urge to use the restroom I am going to stop this time.  That's one thing I learned from the last trip.  Ha!!

We enjoyed our down time since I last posted.  Friday was pretty much one of Secret's "top 5 days" ever.  She got to sleep in (Secret is sooooo lazy), she got her nails trimmed (yes, seriously, this is a treat for her), she got to play frisbee, she got to play with the hose and then she got to go swimming at the river!  In the end I think the excitement was a bit much for her (or maybe she ingested too much water...) because she just seemed a bit off that evening.  At first she was restless and then she just seemed kind of ditzy, for lack of a better work.  Must monitor the water intake better next time...  I think the dogs went out to potty every hour until we went to bed!

The rest of our weekend just consisted of frisbee, ball & playing with the hose since the shelter was having an adoptathon and I was pooped when I got home.  We had a good turn out, so hopefully that results in lots of adoptions.

I called and got Secret in for a chiro appointment on Thursday.  She didn't go in before her last trial and I believe she's overdue for an adjustment.  She has not been running her fastest in practice at home lately and I would not be surprised to find out something is a bit out for her.  I don't really need to be spending another $50 right now, but then again it's kind of a waste of our trial entries to run a dog who feels like crap!  So off we go.  Part of having a performance dog built like a Dachshund...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

What to do, What to do...

Look at that -- Here we are over three weeks into what was proposed to be a two week project.  The dog door is STILL not in.  Apparently the glass company received the actual dog door last week, but they were waiting on the special-order glass that goes with it.  Word has it that the tempered glass arrived today, but they don't have any appointments available until next Wednesday.  So that's nice, over FOUR weeks since we ordered.  Way to go, A-1 Glass.  It's great that we were able to find a local company to do the job, but I think they need to work on their project projection dates.

If you think Secret looks wet in the above picture, you are correct.  I finally got the hose out today!  It wasn't as leaky as I thought it was.  While I do still need to replace it eventually, it works in a pinch for fun playtime with the sprayer.  Nothing has changed, Secret instantly went berserk for it just as she always has.

I'm home today & tomorrow trying to use up some vacation time.  Still looking for a new job; still have zero leads.  Days like today don't really make me look forward to being laid off.  After working seven days a week for almost two years now, I don't exactly know what to do with myself.  First of all, I didn't even get out of bed until 10:00 a.m. (after getting up at 6:30 to let out and feed the dogs, that is).  We did finally venture outside after watching The Price is Right and after de-pooing the yard I set the the course from the June 2012 Clean Run Exercise of the Month that was shared on the list earlier this week.

That's the first drill -- The rest can be found in the video or by going to the Exercise of the Month page:  http://www.cleanrun.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=475

We started running the drills around noon.  I learned the first two drills, we ran them, I learned the second two drills (which, wow, took forever) and then ran them.  It was like 84 degrees and sunny, so pretty warm.  Practice sessions like today make me feel that choosing to NOT trial outdoors when it might be 90 degrees is the right idea...

That said, everyone did well!  Even Luke made it through the first two exercises (not made into a video), but the second two were just way beyond anything he enjoys.

I did edit a few errors out of the video for time reasons, but overall there weren't too many.  Secret and Kaiser both grabbed an extra jump a few times when I fully expected my motion to support the correct path, but since they both did it in the same spots I gather I was incorrect in that assumption!

I used Secret's new "naughty toy" (the Kong SafeStix) for her first session.  She likes it, but it's a little on the large side to carry for running drills.  I switched to her bumper for the second set and she was a happy girl.  Why an old ripped up bumper has so much value for her I'll never know.  I suppose I should try taking that toy to the river one of these days, as she may not be able to rip those up quite so fast as she does the Wubba toys.

Secret's video:

Kaiser really surprised me, as I expected him to not want to work at all in the heat.  He was a game little man today and did great.  He didn't have many errors at all, so we were able to get through everything quickly, which always helps in the heat!

The only thing is that it made me sad that I didn't enter him in the USDAA trial next weekend.  :o(  Oh well, my reasons for doing so haven't changed (avoiding the craziness of having two dogs entered in the *very small* P1 class), but it's still going to be hard to leave him behind.

Kaiser's video:

Hope you enjoy the Grease theme.   :o)

We're home again tomorrow and it's supposed to be pretty warm.  I'm thinking maybe we should take a trip to the river to go swimming!  On Saturday I don't work at the shelter until 1:00 (?????), so I'm going to have to try to find things to keep us occupied.  Maybe I should clean my house?  Nah....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Work Hard, Play Harder

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude. -- Thomas Jefferson
It is very important to generate a good attitude, a good heart, as much as possible. From this, happiness in both the short term and the long term for both yourself and others will come.  -- Dalai Lama
Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. -- Winston Churchill

Excellence is not a skill. It is an attitude. -- Ralph Marson

Great effort springs naturally from great attitude. -- Pat Riley

Today's post is part of the Dog Agility Blog Events action day on the subject of attitude.  Please take some time to read the other posts listed on the event page -- There are lots of great things being posted!  <Click here to go to the page>  Don't worry, clicking that will open up a new page for you so you can finish reading this one first.  ;o)

I struggle with these "action day" events.  I'm not very good at writing meaningful or witty posts on demand, it would seem.  lol  So instead of pre-writing my entry as a few did, I elected to wait and see what others were writing about to see if it would inspire me.  Unfortunately after reading over a dozen blog posts, I still feel somewhat muddled about the whole idea.

Despite the fact that I am undeniably pessimistic in my day to day life (seriously, if there was ever a "half glass empty" type of girl, this one is it), I am pretty adamant that this part of my persona stays out of my dog life.  I try to take this inspiration from my dogs, as they are some of the most joyful beings on the planet.  For them there is always another yummy treat waiting around the bend, every trip in the car is a brand new adventure and every time they get to play it's the BEST THING EVER.  It's hard to be pessimistic when you are around that kind of attitude.

Attitudes are pretty infectious that way.  I wish more people would take that lead from their dog(s) because I think the agility world would be a happier place that way.

Agility trials are a very interesting place to observe how attitude can have a drastic effect on teams and their performance.

Negative Nancy:  Nancy doesn't like the footing in the ring.  She doesn't like how the course was laid out.  She's upset with her spot in the run order.  Negative Nancy finds fault in everything, including her dog, and the result is generally not pretty.  But it's not Nancy's fault, the world is just out to get her.

Worrying Wanda:  Wanda is worried.  She's worried that she won't have enough time to walk the course properly.  She's worried that she won't be able to get her dog to go potty before their run.  She's worried that her dog will visit people in the ring and not run with her.  As a result, Wanda's dog either shuts down or ignores her.

Stressful Stuart:  Stuart exudes stress.  Stuart's Q rate is not very high (for reasons obvious to many of us) and Stuart obsesses about this.  Stuart expects free training from other competitors during walk-throughs.  Stuart gets very frustrated and blames his dog and his chosen agility organization when he gets another NQ.  These NQ's cause Stuart even more stress, but Stuart just continues on doing what he's always been doing.

Give-up Gabby:  Gabby is interesting.  Gabby has thrown her hands in the air and claims that her dog will never be able to do X.  You would expect that Gabby would eventually stop showing since she claims her dog is incapable of something, but they keep showing up at every trial.  They also keep lamenting that they will never be able to do X.

Apathetic Alan:  Agility costs a lot of money.  I have no idea why Alan keeps coming to trials when he seems to get so little joy from it.

Competitive Carly:  Carly has one mission and that is to win.  She plows into and through people during walk-throughs.  She moves her (only) dog up or down in the run order to suit her needs.  She argues with scribes and stewards.  If she has a good run she makes a huge fuss over her dog, but if something goes wrong she throws the dog in the crate and ignores it until the next class.

Positive Pam:  Pam is a pretty cool person.  She always has something good to say about your run, even if you don't really want to hear it at that moment.  ;o)  Even when Pam's run doesn't go well, she finds the good parts and celebrates them.

Snarky Stan:  Stan tries to be like Pam and is nice to your face, but quickly turns around to discuss how many ways you screwed up your run to his friends.

You get my drift.  Sigmund Freud would have a field day at your average agility trial.  The stress of competition makes many of us act a lot differently than usual.  And honestly, at some point or another I'm sure we've all acted in one of the ways described above.

One of the reasons I elected to make the transition to USDAA was because I felt like I was feeling a little too much like Apathetic Alan up there.  I didn't feel challenged at NADAC trials anymore and the Q's didn't even excite me -- with Secret they almost became expected.  I used to be so proud of our ribbon pictures after each trial and after a time I started to almost be embarrassed by them.  I enjoyed being around my agility friends, but I was finding no fun in the courses anymore.

I know this is a problem based in attitude.  But it's also something I can easily adjust and I'm happy to say that making the change to a new organization did light that fire under me again.  It's given us new things to work on in our training which has, in turn, made training more fun again.  Although it's kind of scary being the new person in a sea of unknown faces at trials, it's also pretty cool to experience the thrill of being a "newbie" again.

If I were to have a goal concerning my own attitude, it would be to improve my mental management skills.  I'm a very positive person where my dogs are concerned, but I can also be quite lazy.  I tend to rush through course walks (a habit from having the first dog on the line for so many years) and as a result I often go into the ring without a concrete plan.  This results in sloppy and reactive handling -- honestly, something that you can get away with in NADAC when you don't have lightening fast dogs.  My goal as we move forward in USDAA is to improve my attitude with regard to proactive handling and to be better prepared.  My dogs will run better for it!

Bottom line, always run with joy.  This is a game we play with our dogs -- The world will not end tomorrow if we fail to earn that much-needed Q.  There are always more trials and more chances to get that big title.  And even if you don't make it to that big goal, is that really more important than the time you spent with your dog?  Work hard, play harder.  The rest will fall in line.  Smile!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Naughty Dog Toys

 Dear Kong Company:  We surely love playing with your toys and they always seem to stand the test of time (proving they are quality products), but I think the person in your design department might need to be replaced.  Then again, maybe they should be applauded because the design (which makes me giggle every time I look at it) is the only reason I bought your Kong SafeStix toy this evening.

 Yup, the spoiled one got another new toy tonight.  Does she need any more toys?  NO.  We are overflowing with toys that Secret happily works for and loves to play with -- A far cry from years past when I almost shed tears over her complete lack of desire to play with anything (or me).  Buying every toy under the sun admittedly became a bad habit back then and has more or less continued (at a slightly slower pace, thankfully).  Some women like to buy shoes or clothes.  Personally, for me there's just something about seeing Secret's face light up when I bring home fun new toys.  :o)

A Facebook friend (Loretta from Full Tilt Border Collies) is completely to blame for this, because without her I would have never even known it existed.  She posted a picture of one of her student's dogs with this particular toy last week and we all had a good chuckle over it.  I laughed even harder when I came across a promotional video for the SafeStix on YouTube.

Make sure you at least watch it to the 0:40 mark or so.  That's great.

 Tonight I stopped by PetCo after working at the shelter to pick up dog food.  I kind of completely ran out at breakfast this morning, whoops.  I'd more or less put the silly toy out of my mind (because we DON'T NEED ANY MORE TOYS), but something caught my eye as I was walking towards the register with our 26 pound bag of food (that seems to last less than three weeks these days).  Oh no, really?!  They have them?  And one was pink?  Hmm....  $15  No, we don't need it.  YES WE DO.

Secret went bonkers for the darn thing.  Figures.  She is my dog after all.  ;o)  So we'll happily play with our new Kong SafeStix -- but probably just in the privacy of our own backyard.  hahahahahaha

Saturday, June 2, 2012

AwesomePaws Drills

Poor Secret, today's picture isn't terribly flattering.  It's just something I took with the web cam and since I don't have anything else to use right now, I'm using that one.  lol  Because blog posts are nothing without pictures, you know!

That said, I have video today, so that makes up for it.

I had a super crazy busy/long day at the shelter today, so I'm shocked that I did anything, honestly.  I figured we were due, though, since we haven't done a stitch of agility since the trial last weekend.  We've been playing frisbee all week long, but it's worth mentioning that we're adding some new tricks to our routine (if you can call it that).

I got my latest issue of Clean Run the other day, so of course that's always good for giving me ideas.  I figured the next thing I'd set would be the Backyard Dogs drill, but the article I was reading over breakfast this morning was Linda Mecklenberg's AwesomePaws Drills and I decided to go for that.  Not only was it super simple to set (two jumps and a tunnel), but I also figured it would be good to throw short drills at the dogs for a change.  We've been doing so much course work lately it seems.

The drills were mostly concerning finding the backside of the jump in various ways.  Lead-outs (which we totally suck at, I might add), blended front crosses, Ketschkers, etc.  I figured these are always things we can use work on.  Secret is really good at backside pushes, but getting her (or Kaiser, for that matter) to go past an obstacle without taking it is something we always struggle with.  Maybe we should work on those come to heel exercises a bit more?   lol

Secret was not terribly enthusiastic this evening unfortunately.  It might have something to do with the fact that there were firecrackers being set off nearby, or the neighbors out in the yard next door.  Who knows.  I switched toys towards the end and she pepped up more -- I worked her too long, too, as the video was up to almost 13 minutes when we finished.  Usually we're more in the 6-7 minute range.  Don't worry, it edits down to a lot less than that because the majority of our time is spent playing!

For as lackadaisical as Secret was this evening, Kaiser was just totally ready to play!  That was nice to see, because the last few times I've had him out he didn't seem to be all that overjoyed about playing like he usually is.  He was loads of fun and did great (except on those darn Ketschkers, still can't take my eye off the Klee Kai, lol).  Hopefully I'll get his video done soon....

*edit -- After uploading THREE TIMES and being blocked for music, finally I got one to go through....

I sent in entries for the next USDAA trial at Think Pawsitive.  Only Secret is going.   :o(  I'm sad to not take Kaiser, but it's just too hectic with them both in P1.  Hopefully Secret can finish her PD title or whatever it's called, then Kaiser can play at the next trial!  I entered Secret in everything again, which at that trial includes Standard, Jumpers, Gamblers, Snooker (which we have 0 Q's in...) and Grand Prix.  Yes, I bit the bullet and decided to try it out!  It's Standard without a table, more or less (with fun courses!) and now that Secret is reliably doing all of the equipment I figured we'd go for it.

Hoping we don't have any more mishaps on the drive over this time.....