We arent doing any trials this month, instead we are going into full bore seminar mode. At least they are about as far apart form each other as possible while still within 30 days of each other, but I have a feeling at the end of it all I wont know what to do with myself. Or maybe I will, I guess thats the point.
Today we had day two of a handling seminar with Daisy Peel.* My biggest takeaway from the whole thing was how much I really, really like the Mecklenberg-based system. I have already been doing it for a while, but having someone who really, really knows it like the back of their hand explaining to you the endless options you have to work with, starting with the foundational six cues, was very enlightening.** And, it made me feel more confident that I will also be able to competently handle Phin using that system, even though he is fast and powerful.
Actually, one of my concerns was that because Forest is “not-fast” and Phin is the opposite that I would have trouble transitioning between the two. However, Daisy made me run my ass off this weekend, which, lo and behold, got Forest moving. I have been in a place for a while where I understood this concept, but there was a disconnect between my understanding of just running anywhere fast and the actual proper locations to get him going—as in often times needing to go in waaaay deeper somewhere to keep him moving instead of sending and taking off away from him. With Phin, I will be able to direct and run, but with Forest, he needs the support.
I was for the majority of the session, the lone “non-Border Collie” handler, and I am 99% sure I was the only one there running their first agility dog. That was a little tough at times. It was a Masters handling seminar that I somehow squeaked into through the backdoor, and the level was high, but we hung in there. Clearly, I was not on the same “foundational playing field” as most of the others and was laid into a bit about it. I get it, I am not in denial, but I am all the more proud of my pound-puppy-cum-first-ever-agility-dog. He is not going to go overseas ever. Maybe not even to Nationals, ever. Hell, if we even ever qualify for Nationals and/or get an Excellent/Masters title I’ll be happy with him. I think he is pretty awesome, hands down.
Main points from my notes;
- Run with him, pacing him so that you don’t get too far ahead, either abandoning him or slamming on the breaks. He does not need that many turning cues.
- Watch your dog always, even on the startline. Eye contact is one of the six cues. Walk a course assuming your dog will be running behind you, with your head turned back, see how that changes your perspective.
- Shut up. Stop “cheerleading”/pushing him to go faster. Only verbal should be obstacle cues or verbal markers for correct decisions or good efforts. Pay attention to his decisions and try to reward the right ones at least with a verbal–this will help build confidence.
- She also had some funny one liners about a few things, especially blind crosses. She said “They are not sexy, don’t do them just because they’re sexy!” Her point was there’s a time and a place for them, but it needs to be the right time and place.
So really it boils down to; run faster, shut up and support your dog. I think can do that. The training better contacts part however….. Ugh. Thats a never-ending battle that probably will go with me to my grave.
* I did have video from yesterday, but my Lumix point-and-shoot is suddenly is shooting a different file format that my computer doesnt like. Ergh. We’ll see if I have the patience to figure that out or just abort the files.
** I realize I sound like one of those crazy “system” Nazis. Maybe I just am a believer! For me and for my dogs anyways. It clicks with me so I am officially on the APHS train. Their main spiel is that you are using mostly “natural” cues as opposed to trained cues. Seeing how quickly Phin has picked up on my handling with a minimal amount of jump training makes me believe it. Thats my pitch, I’ll shut up now. 🙂