Membership 2.0

We headed out to our first club practice in well over a year. I had backed out of the club last year as my experiences when I first joined were not so nice. However, there’s a new regime for the most part; the acidity has been toned down significantly and common sense and competence has increased greatly. I actually felt welcome this time and overall things went smoothly. It also helps a lot that I am significantly more confident in myself, my dogs, and how these things can and should go, as well as actually had friends and acquaintances there. Being the lone, confused beginner makes things rough. I hope I helped out those who were in my shoes this time around, actually I know I need to make a greater effort on that front next time.

Both dogs did well. I think Forest was completely aware that it was not a trial. He was a bit all over the place but at least seemed to be enjoying himself. His dog walk contacts were good (other than getting “stuck” trying to eat some dropped treats at the bottom), his Aframe was about 60% (but at least I got to run him back and forth over it to correct any misses), and his weaves were not meh. Ugh. I think I was again over-caffeinated and under-fueled, so was a bit jittery. That was combined with my nervousness of running Phin, again. Why?? Its like nervousness combined with excitement and I get all spacey, edgy and out of sorts. Its good I am practicing this now, at this rate I am the one so not ready to trial with both dogs. I couldn’t remember a reasonably complicated Grand Prix course and the nested Novice course at the same time. Forest got the short end of the stick on that one. I think I need to practice memorizing multiple courses at once!!

Phin did really well. He was mega-high when we got there and I am sure my jitters didnt help. His one low point was peeling off from our area we were working in and chasing another dog through a tunnel, barking, of course. Eeek. If that had been Forest working and another bog dog chasing him down I would have been PISSED. So I did feel really bad. Fortunately it was a more experienced dog and the owner didnt yell at me (bless her). He at least came back to me immediately. Other than that though, considering this was his first adventure doing coursework outdoors he did phenomenally. Again, he was high and I didnt run fast enough so there was a good amount of obstacle grabbing and yelling at me (he loves to bark at me when I suck which is fine) but really he did lovely. We skipped the Aframe and weaves (they only had 12 out), but he completed everything else nicely. I was really impressed with his dog walk (at full height!) and teeter. He really kept it together and generalized the obstacle criteria really well. Such a good boy.

Next time we’ll play ball before practice to take off the edge and hopefully the more we do this the more I’ll settle down and run my ass off better for him.

We are gearing up to move this coming weekend so I will be off the radar probably until after the Silverado trial. Phin deserves a rest, he worked hard for me this last week, and I dont want to push him too much. Forest will somehow need to squeeze in work on contacts and weaves (do I sound like a broken record?) at some point in the next two weeks… Not sure how thats gonna work out. But my next blog post should be from the next County south of here. Can’t wait.

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Pre-Soft Launch/Test Drive

I didnt really want to write about yesterday, but then I was thinking I would like to look back on this a while down the road and see how Phin’s “pre-pre-debut” went, so… here it is.

We headed up north to a Fun Run yesterday. It does seem a little early for Phin to be fun-running, but, they had lure coursing held by my favorite coursing person so we couldnt pass it up.

I hadnt been to a fun run in a long time, well over a year. It made me remember the feelings of how nervous and frantic I was, and how confused I was with how things worked. I think part of that was me being inexperienced, but after being there again I realize that’s just kind of how the general vibe is as well. The people running it were generally pleasant, but the nervous energy from so many dogs and handlers put me on edge a bit.

They kept changing the running orders, and this was my first time ever coordinating two dogs–good practice for me too obviously. Forest ended up running his one and only standard run first. I only put him in one class as he’d been showing a teeny bit of stiffness earlier in the week, and being able to course was more important. We’d been waiting for hours, I was in a weird mood and kind of buzzy (too much caffeine I think) and did not handle him well at all. That combined with the bad footing (dirt, pine needles and patchy grass) and the fact that there had been treats used in the ring made for a pretty disconnected stardard run. I wanted to test his contacts, and when he didnt hold his contact on the dog walk I turned around and took him back. I think he was confused by this (’cause really when else in a trial do we do a contact obstacle more than once?) and he got stuck in a little off-course-loop of a tunnel under the DW. I finally had to grab him and more of less place him right in front of the DW, but then he ran it and did a perfect 2-o-2-o and he was done for the day. Sorry Bun, my fault.

Phin was signed up for two Novice jumpers courses. I got him out a bit early for our first go. We sat ringside for a while and played tug and look at the running dogs for cheese. I wanted him to be near the chaos of the ring but I think I extended it for a bit too long. We got out there, he held a great startline stay, then 2 jumps straight into the weaves. The weaves did not go over well (even though he’s been doing 6 beautifully at Wags) and he also got stuck running endlessly into and off course tunnel as I was trying to reset him for the weaves. I eventually gave up, and we went on. I got behind him and we missed a jump, but it was fine. The course was so short it seemed just plain bizarre–14 jumps, weaves and a tunnel seemed so… empty? Our second run went much better, I got him out and went into the ring within a few minutes. He still didnt get the weaves and again wanted to take that off-course tunnel, but I got him back and this time was in position and the rest of the course went beautifully. He jumped great, held perfect startlines, read my handling well and was relatively fast (which seemed to be a bit in slow-mo for him, but thats okay, he needs to be in thinking mode right now).

Then we got on to the fun stuff. Both dogs go absolutely ape shit when they get to lure course. I try not to bring them out too early because they just work themselves into a frenzy as soon as they get in sight/earshot of the lure. Phin didn’t at first realize what was going on when we started standing in line. I think they were messing with the machine and dogs werent running yet. He was playing ball with me on leash and offering downs and such, I knew he didnt know what we were about to do. After the dogs got back up and running, he looked over and saw the lure go by, and it was over. Squealing, launching straight up in the air, blood curdling screams. I was getting the hairy eyeball from a few people—his vocalizing is pretty intense… Luckily our turn came up relatively quickly and I just let him do his two runs at once. He is SO powerful and fast, he is an amazing sight to see in full extension. Forest as well is a spectacular runner, and both dogs have great drive on the lure. I wish we could do it all the time, I might even give up agility… Okay. Probably not. But nothing makes me happier to see them do something that is so natural and primal to them.

They were sacked out after that, we packed up and I got to have an early dinner (we were joking it was the blue plate special as it really was like 4:30!) with my great friend Ali who I dont see enough. We talked horses and dogs and the psychology of teaching people, it was all good stuff. Back home early and ready to start another week.

Good stuff from the puppy, I think I am going to give him a bit of a break. We jumped three times in the last week, which is more than I like for him. Maybe a little weave-and-tunnel distraction session and some contacts basics this week, thats it.

Not to mention (via the post I didn’t want to write that now wont end), it looks like we will be moving within the month! Back home in SD county, we found a great house with a HUGE yard, 2 car garage, actually affordable. Complete find that we lucked out on. I had two trials planned for the end of this month/early next–I am going to be missing USDAA for sure as that’ll be our big move week and the Silverado trial the following weekend will probably get reduced if not skipped. Oh well, it’ll be a good excuse to take it easy on the dogs. Onward…