Volunteering – Agility Blog Action Day post

So, I have to ‘fess up. I am not all so good about volunteering. I did it in the beginning a few times at a few different trials. I made a horrid mess of timing at one of them. It was awful. Last time they let me do that. Other than that, I never really had a bad experience with the actual volunteering part. But, it did really stress me out not only that I may miss my class elsewhere, but of much greater importance to me was that I wouldnt have ample time for my dog before we went in the ring.

I have a dog that needs a lot of handholding. Especially in the beginning. Over the last 16 months of trialing we finally have got our pre- and post-run routine down. Still now, it eats up a good amount of time before and after my runs. I have worked so hard to get him to be comfortable out there and actually run, that the last thing I can bring myself to do is whip him out of the crate immediately before we are on and then stuff him back in to run off elsewhere. I wont do it.

I realize there are other options for help than just ring crew. I volunteered to be the coffee-getter for a club trial last year. I got up early early and showed up with coffee. On the first day. And then on Day 2 I was so wrapped up in what I was doing that I forgot. I forgot the coffee. And didn’t realize it until like 2pm. No one came after me with a hatchet or anything, so maybe no one figured it out. Or maybe they just didnt know me well enough to come after me. I am sure there were at least a few really grumpy workers rolling around the trial that morning. Either way I was completely mortified. I never gave them the receipt for the Saturday coffee that I paid for because I felt so bad.

I am hoping that down the road I will have more confidence in my timelines and that Forest will be more comfortable overall for me to be able to figure something out. Likely by that point Phineas will be ready to run and I’ll have 2 dogs to worry about, though Phin will surely be much easier to manage than Forest. I do understand the need for helpers, I really do. In my other lives I have run some rather elaborate events largely off the backs of interns. But, at the end of the day, I am paying around $100 (plus gas, food, the occasional hotel, my time, etc.) a weekend to spend time with my dog. Our relationship and his comfort level comes above anything else. That’s my top priority and as much as I would like to be more helpful at the end of the day, I won’t be badgered or guilt-tripped into thinking otherwise. Maybe its bad agility karma and I am forsaking a high Q rate by admitting that. So be it.

*It’s most likely you got here from Agility Nerd’s blog. If not, and you’d like to read more blogs on this subject, go here.*

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Weekend Trial Report

So, sometimes you win, and sometimes you just gotta deal with the hand you’re dealt. Overall the trial went well but this morning got off to a rough start with a really unfortunate incident that the judge could have (should have) prevented. I wont go into it, but I had enough people come up to me and tell me we got a really bum deal to know it wasn’t all in my head. It was our first go in Excellent JWW and was kind of a bummer to get “introduced” that way. But, whatever. Like someone I was talking to about it after the fact said, sometimes you get screwed and sometimes you get a gift. I got a gift from a judge not all that long ago so I guess I was due for a bit of the other side.

Anyway, Forest was very, very good. He was “up” the whole time, even if he did run out of gas a bit at the end of Saturday when the heat turned on. That was one of my most motivating factors into doing the move up–to get him early in the day with hopefully more energy and lower temps. Basically at this point, any messes that occur are either due to a bad handling decision by me, or just lack of proper foundation training. I have no excuses for not training more on the basics—hello weave poles! And, honestly, I feel pretty good about how far my handling skills have come in the last 6-9 months. Funny thing was I managed to get us through the most technical bits of the courses—but we fell down on silly things like completing the weaves or rear crossing tunnels (still!). So, nothing to do but keep at it.

He also recovered spectacularly from a little snark fest that occurred between him and another reactive dog and went on to his job like it never happened. That in and of itself should be considered a victory. A year ago we never would have been able to hang out in front of the ring gate with the chaos that goes on during Excellent. He was a champ all weekend, and I am proud of him for that.

It was a nice trial and as much as my judge incident sucked, it was comforting to have so many people who I do not know come up to me and talk to me about and it be supportive. The agility community is pretty cool, I am coming to find out. And, speaking of, I am included in the “Agility Blog Action Day” post that Steve of Agility Nerd is hosting. So, I’ll be back on Tuesday expounding on my very important thoughts about volunteering at trials. Hah. Or maybe just making excuses?

Pack Personality Disorder and Order — Diego, Part 1

I have read a few different blogs over the past year or so mentioning how few people can—or maybe moreso choose to—describe the actual personalities of their dogs. Its sort of a daunting task. Its easy to talk about training goals and failures, or the naughty thing your dog does that makes you crazy, but its a much trickier act to describe the unique personalities of animals who dont speak our language. Its tempting to call them loyal, or loving, or playful–and maybe they are some or all of those things–but aren’t most dogs? The more dogs I meet via training and work–and that’s a hell of a lotta dogs at this point already–the more I realize how interesting and chock full of personality they all are. I tend to fall in love with the bullish ones that are smart to a fault, usually the ones that cause the most trouble. Hmmm, maybe because that describes the majority of my household?

I have been thinking a lot about my three lately and how different they all are. (And there’s another blog post topic in there as well for the future; how totally different dogs int he same household often seem to have similar/same issues. But that’s for another day.) Here is my half-hearted quick attempt at analyzing my pack of three. Part One.

Diego. Number One. Used to be of solo status. Formerly known as “Mr. Brown” by the psychotic rescue lady we pilfered him from. The Chihuahua mix of questionable origins and rough starts. Surely a street dog, Diego wears his heart on his sleeve. He has come a long way in the four years we’ve had him. Day one he was so terrified he pooped himself and ran away from us, screaming at the presence of any medium to large do that came too close; last night he was contentedly tottering off leash around all sorts of unfamiliar people and big dogs outside agility class, hunting for treats.

He comes off as a “submissive” dog, but really I have learned he uses his weenie-ness to get his way and control his universe. Dont want to go into your crate as we are leaving? Roll over on your back and act as if we are threatening 40 lashes to get some sympathy and delay the inevitable. Really, really want that chicken I am cooking? Dance around at the edge of the kitchen and flash that submissive grin–aka “vampire face”. Think the other whippersnappers are getting too wild roaring around the backyard? Jump in and Fun Police those MoFos back into place. He may act like the biggest wussie of them all yet he manages to run the show. It’s not a calculated strategy, it just works for him.

Also, rock his world and pay the consequences. When things are out of order he follows me around whining for reasons I often dont understand. When he’s really feeling insecure he will make himself feel better by marking something that is Dry Clean Only.

He has an inner clock that runs on Pacific Standard Time, more accurate than my iPhone. If its 3min past 6pm and I am not heading towards the kitchen I get the hairy eyeball and usually some sort of aggravated “Get Me My Dinner Woman!!!” song and tapdance.

We call him the Good Dog as he is usually the best at flying under the radar, his actual “Good Dog” abilities aside. I feel bad for not giving him more individual attention sometimes, but at the same time, I do think he really enjoys just being the Team Manager. He loves being in his special First Class crate in the car while the riff raff jostle around in Coach in the back. He loves agility trials if for no other reason than to get some time in the sun and roll in smelly worms while everyone else has “work” to do.

His off-leash reliability is a dream and has 99% to do with his personality and only 1% to do with me and my training abilities. He came built in wanting face time with his people and a food drive that matches a grizzly bear. I have NEVER, ever, seen him turn down food (okay, he hates raw chicken, go figure). Which means I should be doing a hell of a lot more training with him than I do. I thank my Number One for his patience and for being my first dog as an “adult”. He has put up with a lot from us—moves, stress, travel, additions of more animals, foster and permanent—and yet is always there at the end of the day giving us his little tapdances, just happy to see us.

USDAA and Running the Dog Walks

We had our 3rd-ever USDAA trial last weekend. I have to say I am a officially a fan of the USDAA. Though, we are still working on the stamina part of our team. By class 4 on Sunday, we definitely tend to lose a little steam. However, Saturday was awesome, with us Q’ing in 3 for 3. We are still in Starters, so we did have a few mistakes that flew under the radar, but I will happily take it. Standard, Gamblers and Pairs. On Sunday, we ran out of gas a bit but we did get a Q in the last class of the day (our specialty), a very sloooow Jumpers. I also finally figured out the rules to Snooker, sorta. At least enough to make it through the opening (thanks to Nicole’s course–we just followed the master plan). We got whistled off when Forest bailed his Aframe contact, the only one of the whole trial. Regardless, I was happy with him and all the blunders were clearly and obviously of my making. I am just happy that he made it through. Outdoor trials seem to go much better for us in general.

We also started our running dogwalk training–today! I meant to take video but got lazy. He did excellent running the DW plank, only missing the yellow once out of 20-25 tries. Or maybe it wasn’t that many, seems like a lot. It was hard to stop because he was doing so well. Looking forward to seeing where that goes.

In puppy news, the Phineas got neutered last week. He has survived it swimmingly so far without missing a beat. Because his neuter was a little more extensive than usual (but not the horrifying Search and Destroy mission that I had been warned about), I was supposed to keep him “quiet” for 10-12 days. Ummm, yeah. How about for 3-4 days? That sounds about right. On day 5 he was back out in daycare running around like a maniac. Call Animal Control on me, please.

He also started his running DW yesterday, walking the plank. Not really walking, more like running like a crazed idiot. I had introduced him to the plank many, many moons ago, and he clearly remembered the drill but was less-then-focused on the kibble I had to offer (his tummy is a bit wonky, so we are food-restricted at this point), yet when the toy came out he was pogoing around completely willy nilly, forget running in a  straight line. I finally figured out (and am quite proud of myself for it) that I should start him on the mat and release him across the plank to his toy as a target at the end. He was nailing it, and it was fun.

So far 2 of my 2 running dogwalk missions have been successful. I am sure it wont always be so, but I am reveling in the “ups” of my training and trialing. Happy weekend!