Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Puppies! Shiney and New

Dog agility action day is here again.  We are all talking puppies!  This time around most of us are talking about starting your puppy off right. To see more blogs access the Agility Bloggers page.
I adore puppies.  Who doesn't.  They are little, cute, pliable, endearing, huggable......etc.  For agility folks, we bring home our puppies with such promise in our minds.  I know I do.  We use verbs to describe them:  Fast, quick, intelligent, naughty, and good.  In our heart we hope we got a good one!

In the past few years there has been a tremendous focus on "foundation" work for our puppies.  This is a good thing.  It is important for any dog to have stimulus control, come when called, have a relationship with the owner, and understand that there are many rewards that will be given for trying hard. 

But lately, I have met more people that are stressed about this foundation thing.  They feel they are behind if they haven't done it.  Coming to class they worry about whether their dog is falling behind.

There is a secret.  I'm hoping your mentors and trainers have told you that secret.  If they haven't, I am about to tell you.

Have fun.

The secret is that simple.  Let go of the stress about trying to be on the world team.  Let go of the stress that your dog is behind the other dogs.  Let go.  Focus on having fun with your dog.  Play every day.  Clicker train tricks everyday as much as you can.  Laugh, wrestle, giggle.  

Structure?  Absolutely.  Your pup will love you for it.  Having a dog that doesn't understand their role in a household is stressful to the dog and the owner.  Make sure you set up a schedule for your dog and work on the basics like potty training and recalls.  .  

Relationship.  It isn't important that your dog interact with every person or dog alive.  Some interactions are important and often helpful and fun.  But most important is that you are the center of their world.  You are more interesting then anyone else. 

Exercise.  You and your puppy need exercise.  Do stuff you both enjoy.  Try new places and when you do work on your recalls and have fun doing tricks (I work my sit stays by asking my pups to sit on things and take photos).  Let your dog run off leash when you know it is safe.  Games like chase me and get the toy build better relationships than games like chuck it.  I'm not saying to never play chuck it, just that interactive exercise helps that relationship part.
If you are in an area that doesn't have foundation classes, look on line and connect with people in areas that do.  There are tons of stuff on line and in books.  That is good.  But most importantly, get off the computer and have fun with your pup.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Remembering Why You Do this.... the mental game

    The agility blog'o'sphere is talking all about the mental game today.  This is one of my favorite topics as it is an area I struggle ... not just in agility of course.  Make sure you follow the link and read about the mental game from other agility bloggers
  • Was in a new agility class with a ton of talented students and super amazing dogs and couldn't execute a thing!  When I walk to the line, I think about who is watching and what they are thinking. 
  • First time at USDAA Nationals, cried in my trailer because I screwed up Snooker.  I got ZERO points.
  • Felt like a failure when Fin and I went off course in a team relay.  Got all sad and mopey (we had been in first place).  Ended up in third and felt like an idiot for being such a baby.
During my life, I frequently forget why I do this silly sport.  Simple.  I get caught up in my own head, putting pressure on myself about my performance instead of enjoying every moment with my dog. Giving myself negative talk (not good enough, have no business being here, haven't done my homework, don't deserve this dog...etc, etc, etc.) instead of living in the moment.
I am not alone.  We all do it.

For the most part I have learned to get out of that negative space. But old habits die hard.  I spent the year of 2013 to work on this mental attitude problem and really have accomplished a ton.  Yet still, just last night found myself talking negative - comparing my progress with my young dog to that of my friend.

The pitfalls of wanting to be amazing.  
So, what do we do?  How do we "reset" our attitude so that we are free to truly live in the moment?  How do we stand with confidence?  How can we be satisfied with enjoying ourselves and not just be satisfied when we qualify.

My new thing is to walk to the line, be happy, breath, and know that nothing is more important than this very moment with my dog.  Whether she responds to me with the partnership I know we can have or she chases a dragonfly.  I need to take joy in the moment.  Laugh at mistakes and learn from them, and revel when that moment of brilliance happens.

Simple as that.  When I'm not feeling good.  Not able to focus.  Thinking of other things.  Being hard on myself.  I am not able to live in the moment.  Disappointed because my dog didn't live up to my expectations.  I need to put those other things aside, smile, and do what I practice everyday and simply have fun.

Simple isn't it.  But for some (including me) this is the hardest thing in the world to do.  Here are the three things I do before stepping to the line...try it to see if it works for you.
  1. Visualize my run.
  2. Take a breath.
  3. Smile
Best of luck to you with your mental game.  Tons of books, workshops, and videos out there.  But my advice.  Have fun with your dog and don't let the pressures of trying to achieve greatness get in the way of actually enjoying yourself.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

USDAA Nationals in Tennessee!

On October 22, Fin and I started a great adventure.  We weren't alone.  My best bud also was traveling with her two red boyz.  In addition, a few more brave soles were making the journey and meeting up with us there. 
The week before we left (I will not lie), I was a nervous wreck.  Doubts plagued me and I wondered, "Why do I do this to myself!"  Sometime during the week, I let it all go.  I felt I was driving myself crazy with all the worry.  I made the very difficult decision to "enjoy myself."
I know that some of you are laughing right now.  Only because you understand.  "Why go mostly across the country if you are going to be stressed?" is such a great question.  Letting go of that stress was harder than it sounds.  At the airport, all went very smoothly.  We had the dogs out for the pain free process of checking in (thanks to the awesome help of the skycaps).  Once we put the dogs into their crates and the skycaps took them away I looked at Laura and she said, "If you cry I will slap you."  I knew she meant it so I put a smile on my face and went and ate some dinner instead.

Truly, once we got to Atlanta and picked up the dogs, my stress was gone.  We got a van, put all the seats down, loaded the dogs up and started our drive up to Murfreesboro.  Neither Laura nor I slept on our red eye flight.  I remember sitting on the plane thinking, "I have to sleep...sleep darn it...this can't be happening....go to sleep."  I did doze, but as Laura pulled out of the rental car parking lot and I started my job as the navigator, I was suggesting that we just find a hotel and stop for some sleep.  As usual, saner heads prevailed (that would be Laura), and we were on our way. 

Making it into Murfreesboro with only a couple stops, we tried to check in at our hotel.  When that didn't work we went shopping and then lunch.  Still no hotel.  Drove out to the site of the 2013 Nationals and were able to set up in our lovely out door accommodations.  We walked around and loved the venue, but not the red dirt that was sticking to everything because it was a little drizzly that day.

Sometime during the day while I was dreaming of taking a nap, our friends called and asked us to a practice session.  At that point I realized there was no hope for a nap anytime soon and we headed west on roads never traveled to an incredible property with an indoor practice area.  Not only were we able to get a little confidence that our dogs remembered how to do agility, we were able to walk the fields with our dogs off leash playing.  I felt that the ability to just let the dogs play truly started our week off on the right foot. 

We met for an early dinner before heading back to our hotel.  I was sound asleep before 8pm (that is 6pm PST!).  I slept the entire night until Laura woke me at 5:15 to get to the show site for our walk throughs starting at 6:15am!!  I was so freak'n excited!  Okay...okay...I was a little grumpy, but once I woke up I was excited!!!

Each morning we would have to walk all of our courses very early.  Then we ran in groups throughout the day.  Sometimes not running until 5 or 6pm.  Imagine walking a Steeplechase Quarter Final at 6:30am, but not running that until 6:15pm.  Welcome to our world of National Champions...just how we roll.
I was looking all over the place for the practice jump areas.  When I found it I was glad I didn't have Tazz.  The practice area was jump after jump lined up in an area with each jump no more than 20 feet from each other as close as 10 feet.  No way if your dog is reactive can you do those practice jumps.  After nearly having a BC land on us, Fin and I decided we didn't need no practice jumps...we'd go to the field and play instead.
The warm up was supposed to be a nice calm practice where Fin and I would work on our contacts.  I got all adrenaline junkie and instead of giving Fin clear contact cues of, "Point" followed by a breath and a "Good Girly" followed by a "Fish!" release cue, I was screaming, "Go! Go! Go! Go!"  Ummm...Vici (WTF!!!).  I guess I have a little work to do on controlling my emotions.  Our only other run on day one was really important.  Steeplechase Quarters. I really wanted to make it into the Semi's.  We NAILED it!!!!  yee ha!
Regretfully, both Laura and I not packed enough warm stuff for the dogs.  Just didn't imagine that it would be as cold as it was.  Darn it, we had to go shopping.  I'm not even admitting to how much we spent.  I will say that as we walked back to our crating area there was much laughter and whispers about the two gals carrying so much stuff!


Much of the weekend we sat in a the arena watching agility and screaming for our friends, but Fin and I spent a bunch of time running agility.  We had two runs each day.

We also played a ton out in the wonderful fields.  Walking our dogs more than we actually ran agility and playing Frisbee, tug, and catch me if you can.

We also did a bit of celebrating.

Overall, Fin and I did what we did with gusto, humor, and joy.  I accomplished my goals of having fun, not letting the stress bring me down, and going out there with confidence and boldness. 
Some highlights:
  • Got through the Quarter Finals of Steeple and ran in the Semi' off course tunnel got in our way...
  • Ran clean in Grand Prix Semi's for a 14th place finish!  Not too shabby.  They took 11 competitors so no finals, but "WOW!!!" what feeling to know we were "that" close.
  • Ran hard in all of the team events.  Snooker was pretty short, but we did ok in everything thing else. 
  • Smiled bunches.  Really, truly enjoyed myself!
  • Got to watch my friends have amazing runs! 
  • Rachel and Kubby MC Biathlon champions!
  • Got to watch Laura and her red boyz in all THREE Finals!!! Stat, you are a machine!  Fires, you carried your weight in Team and it paid off! 
The last competition of the Nationals were the Grand Prix Finals.  What a thrill is was to watch the best of the best and to know that Laura was right there with them!
The week flew by.  Almost didn't miss Olive...but yes, she was on my mind once or twice.  She was enjoying life at Jeanine's, while Tazz and Maddie got daddy all to themselves.  I can't thank Kel and Jeanine enough for taking care of my babies so Fin and I could have this adventure!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

FaceBook is Killing My Blog

There it is.  I post on Facebook because it is easy and fast and I've been super busy (and sick) since I got back from Tennessee.  Another problem is I've been waiting for those fabulous photos so I could write a complete summary of my USDAA Nationals experience.  Finally got the Videos, but the photos have yet to arrive.  So the entire summary will wait and this will have to do to wet your whistle.  A complete summary of the trip is forth coming...I promise.
Olive stayed at home with a friend for my week in Murfreesboro.  It was really tough packing and super tough giving her to Jeanine to keep for the week.  But it was best and I was super busy getting away for the trip.   When I got home, she and I were so happy to see each other.  She had loads of stories that involved cats and kittens and skeletons.  She had a super week!  Thank you Jeanine.

I made these super stickers for the Airline crates for all three dogs.  I wanted the airline workers to know that we love our dogs and hope they are well taken care of.  All the dogs survived the fight and Fin was voted most excellent traveler.

Had a fun time at a super venue.   Really glad it didn't rain though.  First day there was a little drizzle.  Dogs and people were red with the dirt.  Once that drizzle cleared everything dried up and we were free of the red dirt.

There was much to celebrate with Fin getting into both Semi's (had to work to get into Steeplechase).  And doing well despite the stress.  Laura made it into all THREE finals with Fireball on team and Stat in Steeple and GP. 

For me Flying to Tennessee and not only surviving, but thriving on the trip, has opened new possibilities.  I'll be posting some of the videos soon.  But suffice to say, my trip was awesome.

Monday, September 16, 2013


I like to focus on the positive and many good things there were.  Fin Q'd in three things:
  • Gamble
  • Gamble
  • Grand Prix
And in each she got first.  Loads of top 10 points for Gamble and a bye for the upcoming Regional in April for Grand Prix.  Her perfect weaves failed us for Steeple (a beautiful run with a pop at 11 and jumped the last jump before I could redo the weaves).

Heat was a factor.  It was high 90's and possible 100 on Friday.  Stomach issues plagued me.  And lastly the courses were incredibly challenging.

I loved the challenge and honestly, Fin really ran well.  Just a couple mistakes kept us out of the Q's.  No worries always stuff to work on.

Ran Olive. What a ride.  First day was a bust.  It was 100 degrees, I hosed her down (she does not like this) but I really thought I had her attention when I walked to the line.  But no.  She was not really into it.  A bit of distraction by a dragon fly and some smelling grass resulted in only a couple jumps and a tunnel and then me running to the finish line hoping Olive would come (which she did).  Sat was awesome with a very nice jumpers run.  Sunday was very nice with all contacts completed.  A good first try.

Here is the highlight reel.

Overall, I think I'm done with Woodland in September.  Just too hot.  I did enjoy myself and perhaps next September, I'll forget how hot it was and go again.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What? How did this happen?

Today the agility blogosphere is writing on aging.  Read more blogs on this topic here:  Dog Agility Blog Events

A couple weekends ago, I walked into town and strolled along the shops with my little dog in tow.  As I passed by a window, I glimpsed my grandmother staring back at me.  Why she keeps following me I'm not sure, but there she is, out of the corner of my eye in the storefront.  When I look again, I realize it is just me.  Oh crap.

So what's changed with me (because it is all about me!)?
  • I love dogs - I still love dogs
  • I love doing fun things with my dogs - I still love doing fun things with my dogs but now I have the resources to do many more things
  • I often act like a kid going to Disneyland - but I have the money to go when I want
  • I want to be the kid that knows the answer - now I have the knowledge and resources but don't care anymore
  • I want to be popular - now I have the wisdom to pick the right people and have less interest in what others think of me
  • I want to be the superstar champion - now I know that being the superstar champion isn't all it is cracked up to be and just plugging away at something gives me more in returns than that the fleeting stardom I so wanted
  • I want that new shiny thing - Yeeha...I can get the new shiny thing anytime I want...funny, now I want less
  • I get carded all the time - no one cards me anymore.  They ask if they can help carry my bags
  • I go to parties and drink till I'm giggling and falling asleep in my bean bag chair on the front lawn of my college apartment...ahhhh those were the days, now I don't drink much and look forward to sleeping in my comfortable bed with my down comforter.
  • I know everything and those old folks are holding me back! - now I'm old and the younger generation thinks they know everything and I don't know jack.  In a way I feel like I know less than I did when I was in my 20's and 30's because the more I know, the less I know.  I now laugh at the young ones because they haven't figured out how much they don't know yet.  Once those youngsters do figure it out, they'll be old too.  HA!  I totally tell my mom she is the smartest person I
Summary: Time, it marches on. I'm still the young kid, but with wisdom comes a sense of self that enables me to be happier and appreciate the things I have.  However, my body is NOT what it once was and I need to take better care of it.  Honestly, I know I look different, I just don't feel much different emotionally. 

  • For agility, keep your dogs happy and healthy. Love every minute you have with them, their time with us is very short and we will live long and look back and regret that we didn't enjoy those moments more.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  If your dog goes off course, laugh.  No win is more important than letting your dog know that they are the most important thing in the world and that agility is just something we do for fun. 
  • For Life, laugh more, and laugh again.  Be curious and focus on goals but not at the expense of fun.  Eat better, exercise more.
That's all on aging.  I'm going for a walk now...I'm getting older sitting here writing this.

Monday, August 26, 2013

SMART Runnings

So much news to report since the last post.  We'll start with the SMART trial over the weekend.  A huge shout out to my students who left their dogs at home and came out to volunteer at our trial.  Thank you, thank you.

Fin ran her heart out.  On Saturday, I signed her up for only 5 of the possible "EIGHT" classes she was eligible to run.  Eight is too many.

Snooker was a fun one.  With 5 possible reds, but only 3 could be taken it opened up an incredible amount of options.  My plan was to do three 6's in the opening until I watched snooker for a while and saw many people running my exact plan and going off course.  I saw many people doing other plans and going off course.  On the fly I decided to just go conservative and it paid off.  Doing a 6 and two 4's, Fin and I got through and did a fine job of getting through the end.

One of most favorite runs of the weekend was Master Challenge Jumpers.  A hard one that Fin and I did not perform successfully, but there was a bunch of good stuff that happened in this course as well.  I remember giggling and laughing and just simply enjoying the ride.

Still more work to do on contacts in general, I was really pleased with her weaves and happy with some successes with contacts.  We did get TWO standard Q's and both were first places giving Fin 10 more top 10 points.  It also gave us our Bronze Standard Championship in Performance (we have 15 standard Q's in performance). 

Despite the 10 second table, this was a pretty good run.

Sunday only had 4 possible courses and we Q'd in two:  Standard and Gamble.  In standard we had some contact problems, but got through sort of clean.  I think the judge was generous at the table and the shoot. 

All in all a lovely trial with good weather and excellent friends.