I Heart My Dog

I know I probably get obnoxious talking about how great Phin is, but I cant help myself. Here it is again—I freaking love this dog.

We headed down to an ASCA trial today for some FEO* action. Signed up for two jumpers runs, one standard and gamblers. Unfortunately we left before gamblers (trial was moving at a snail’s pace and I had family stuff to do), but that was probably for the best.

His jumpers runs were awesome. He was just perfect, any very minor glitches we had were entirely me. No weaves, just jumps and a single tunnel, and very, very easy courses. He also had to run at 16″ since he was FEO and underage. He clocked in on his jumpers runs at a smoking 6.26 and 6.4 YPS. Even I cant quite believe that. He seemed average speed (for him) to me which is fast, but… I dunno. Regardless of stats I am just in awe of how awesome a worker he was. He even found a real live gopher and gopher hole at the warm up jump (just like the one he is currently obsessing over in the backyard) and I was able to get him away from it to work. Pete did get us eliminated on the second run by throwing Phin’s toy to him right as he crossed out of the ring—they were uber-sticklers about the no-toys-or-food-within-10′-of-the-ring rule. Oh well, at least we got “E’d” on an FEO run. Lol.

Standard wasnt as nice to look at but it went pretty much as I planned/walked it. He did the teeter (slow to get into his down contact but held criteria so I was happy). I stopped him and made him sit and wait before the DW and then sent him (he ran through the contact the first time so I put him back on in a 2o2o), and we skipped the Aframe altogether. He had to try twice to get his weave entry too, but then he nailed them. Its all good, zero complaints from me and its probably a bit early to be be expecting anything else from him Standard-wise any way.

We did have some drama first thing on the measuring table but thankfully the lady measuring (not the judge) was a saint and worked with us. I went back to the table later in the day and did some more shaping to get up there and be happy about it so we made progress, but that was with just me, no scary ladies looming about. He didnt bark or growl at her either though, so again, I’m not going to complain. If table squirrelyness was the worst of what we dealt with today, I’ll happily take it.

I dont think I’m dying to run ASCA again any time soon as I found the courses pretty boring, but, in general the people were very, very nice. Probably 5 different people came up to me to compliment Phin, including the judge. So, that was nice and a bit different than the snobbery that can happen at AKC in particular. There were a few familiar faces but not the usual assortment of people that I have gotten used to. One older man there was running two Mals and while I didnt particularly care for his handling (or the fact that one of them was being walked on a pinch collar), I did very much like his dogs. I have a Mal-obsession right now, we’ll see if its still there in a few more years…

Phinny’s two jumpers runs, I look like a dork especially in the first go. Sorry, not-so-great iPhone footage but just glad Pete was there to film it.

We have another work agility demo the first week in June which will be a perfect warm up for his first USDAA trial the following weekend. And then the summer off which looks like its going to be difficult to do after how much fun I had today. Did I mention how much I love this dog…??? 🙂

*For Exhibition Only–ie. he wasnt “competing” against the other dogs but I still got his times and faults etc. He got second in our first run by 2 tenths of a second, and won the second jumpers run. Our main competition was a really nice fast young dog run by a handler I’ve always really enjoyed watching. Her older Aussie Enzo is blazing fast and wins most all the local stuff at 16″. It was great to have her there for a comparison.

Some (semi-scary) footage from the weekend

My friend Matt has some pretty high-powered camera equipment and was at the club practice on Saturday. We had the Aframe there and I wanted to get a feel for what Phin’s natural striding is over a full height frame (which I realize may change, but thought it would be a good experiment). He has been over the Aframe probably about 20 times before this, without any criteria, just to get him comfortable. This I believe was the first time he ran a full-height frame–5’6″.

At this point he’s mostly doing two on the way up and two on the way down. He clearly is not 100% comfortable, but I am hoping we can maintain the two hits on each side. At this point my biggest concern is that he turns into a one-hitter on the front, which would result in him missing his up contact for USDAA. In the photos he did maintain two hits on the front, but there is a pretty scary one hitter on the back. Yikes. I think the front side is going to be a struggle… The backside criteria seems a lot easier to train than the frontside, though I did read recently about putting a bounce bump or bar on the front side to get them to the base of the frame which should help.

I will be training a running Aframe for this exact reason;

Will he be doing this if I train 2o2o? Probably not. But, I know I’ll be able to get things more under control with experience, and Mr. Kamikaze—aka Superman—does not need to try to slam into a stop when he has this much forward momentum. His shoulders would be toast within a few years I think. I will have to take extra care to teach him how not to run with all his weight on his forehand. Another fun little project… blurgh.

Taking the (Expensive) Plunge

So… I’m outing myself (again). I signed up for Susan Garrett’s Contacts class. That’s fine, you can laugh, I’m getting used to it already. I signed up because I have had a pretty terrible time with Forest’s contacts, as anyone who has read this blog more than once knows. And with Phin, I really, really want to do it right the first time. Honestly I’ve felt pretty adrift about the whole thing and havent had much support with anyone I see or talk to on on a regular basis. I half-heartedly tried to follow Silvia’s running contacts methods early on with Phin but either he was too young, or I was just not getting it, or both, so that project was fairly quickly abandoned.

At this point I just want to, no need to, do a better job of defining criteria for their contacts, and I do feel that SG does a great job with that. She already has given some “pre-course” assignments that I have done, and I have to say the one I did today was pretty humbling. I can and do train excellent stays (which is why my dogs have great startlines), but their stimulus control is atrocious. We were supposed to do an exercise involving cueing sit and testing their release, which they did great on. That is, AFTER I reminded them both for 5-10 minutes on what “SIT” meant. (Which is not spin wildly in circles, put your back feet on the bed, nose punch me, etc.) Ugh. However, I do have to say if this course clearly exposes my shortcomings as a trainer and I can figure out how to bridge the gaps then it will absolutely be worth the cost.

One beef I do have already (unfortunately), is that I didnt read the fine print when signing up. I was under the impression that the Regular Rate included the running contacts part. Found out after I forked over the $$$ that thats not the case. That pissed me off—my fault yes, but c’mon. $1000 to learn running contacts? Grrrrr.

Again, we’ll see, but I already think that if I stick with it and do all the exercises and record the results that it is going to be good. I do need some direction and motivation right now, with both dogs.

In overdue news, we had the Stacy Peardot-Goudy seminar a few weeks back. I really, really enjoyed it. She was the most positive and motivating trainer I’ve worked with so far. She makes everyone feel good while also providing good feedback. There were a ton of “awesome!”s and laughing and just a generally happy atmosphere. I do have to say that I probably walked away from the Daisy Peel seminar with a more clean-cut understanding of specific things I needed to work on, though my ego was also correspondingly bruised. But Stacy was just plain fun and I’d definitely work with her again given the chance.

I also have been pretty good about practicing out and about lately. We went to Mary’s field again last weekend–doesnt get much better than your own private agility field to do with what you wish (and all I have to pay in return is a good bottle of wine, usually in which I partake!). And, we’ve been having club practice fairly regularly as well, and I dont think Ive missed more than one of those this year. And, I may do a day-of entry at an ASCA trial down this way next weekend as well just to get him that much more outside time.

Between all of that and the work demo we had a few weeks back I feel pretty good about Phin entering his first trial in June–USDAA down here in San Diego. That will be our only trial for the summer as the marketing geniuses at Say Yes has consumed all agility related funds for the next few months.

The Beast is doing great, still. My main hope at this point is that I can continue to train competently enough to keep his natural talent moving in the right direction. He is so good, and such a trier and really a workaholic. I lucked out so, so hugely with him. I cant wait to really get trialing with him, but I am very, very much still enjoying the journey. 🙂