The Kiddo Does Good

Phin and I headed to a quickie one day AKC appearance today. I had other obligations yesterday so we just made it a one-day-Sunday affair. I actually signed up for T2B in addition to the usual stuff (I do love me some USDAA-wanna-be T2B), but I have been feeling not 100% lately (including some bizarre persistent leg cramps, weird!) so I shined heading up first thing this AM and we made it a leisurely event, getting there midday to make our Novice appearance.

I always have a different impression in my head of how things went as to how it actually happened–ie. thanks to video evidence. I was less than happy at the time with his Jumpers run, but now watching the video I can totally understand why he dropped that bar. That makes us 0 for 3 in JWW, all due to a single bar in each run. That, I was not anticipating.

However, on the opposite side of the coin, we have gone 3 for 3 in Novice Standard and he is now in Open Standard. Wow! Again, not what I was expecting. To be honest, I am thrilled with that. I was much more worried about blown contacts and weaves than I was dropped bars or bad handling, so I guess I am seeing the results of what I have put the most into. And, again, got plenty of positive commentary from all sorts of unexpected sources, including one of the mommy jeans crew who shunned me not all that long ago. (I wont go into it, but if you look hard enough you can find some bitter posts on that subject from a while back. Interesting how people change their tune when you do well.)

Here’s the video evidence, again thanks to one of Phin’s oldest supporters, our friend Matt. I owe his long-haired, thick-coated dog a bath and a blow out. Or something. Next trial weekend after Labor Day.

Videos are Here

My friend Matt caught most of our runs this weekend on video. He did get my favorite runs from both dogs, the two missing from Phin were not particularly pretty (Standard on Sat and JWW on Sun). He did get all of Forest’s which was nice. I have started to run off the start line with him and I will say that blind crosses are Forest’s and my friend, as long as I get there early enough for him. Anything to keep him powering forward (which only includes rears when absolutely necessary).

Phin’s FAST Q, which was pretty good overall as I was able to make up our own course (turns are our friends)! And most of our JWW run. It got missed, but he did break the startline which you can see he was working up to in the prior FAST run. Forest’s easy JWW run (Q) and messy STD run included as well.

These are the nicer of our runs, and I am especially proud of both Forest’s (despite the table) and Phin’s Standard runs. Such good boys. Phin really impressed me in Standard. He really does listen so well, I just am
so happy with him.

Very, very proud of my boys this past very, very HOT weekend.

Surprises and Some Luck, Some Training and Not Luck

We survived our mind-meltingly hot AKC go-round this weekend. Both dogs surprised me in different ways, and I am really proud of both of them.

Forest usually all but shuts down in the heat. It had to have been 90-plus including humidity, out in the sun. I kept him under the tent as cool as I could for as long as I could, warming him up with little stuff in there and not worrying about the practice jump or getting to the gate too early. He’s finally trialed enough and is relaxed enough around other dogs that I dont really have to acclimate him to the environment like I used to. His first standard run was a mess—missed both Aframe and DW contacts AND even came off the table (I was trying out a new theory of seeing if I didnt have to make him lie down—turns out I do), but he was happy and relatively fast even in the heat so I didnt care. Our two jumpers runs were predictably smooth and we Q’ed on both though our times were slow, but he hung in there like a champ with me and my barely passable blind crosses pulling him along. As fast as I run, he runs, at least in JWW.

Standard on Sunday was, well… an emotional rollercoaster. He ran great, if not slow as molasses. He did get his contacts and I was thrilled with that. We got to the table and he slammed on the breaks for a second, then popped on. I didnt think much of it. We made it around the rest of the course clean and I thought we had Q’ed and started to celebrate that last, goddamned Excellent A Q. I was immediately told by someone at the out gate that the judge called the table. Fuck. I was bummed but… Whatever. Later on I meandered over to the score table where lo and behold, the score sheets said we Q’ed. What the..?? I even had them pull the scribe sheets, and there it was—100 points. I don’t know what happened—looks like the scribes missed her call. Not exactly the way I want to get our final bitterly fought Q, but… I’ll take it. I looked at our stats last night in detail, and it turns out it took us 21 Ex A STD runs over the course of 21 months to get those 3 measly Qs. Whether that means we deserved it or that we should just quit running AKC Standard altogether I am not sure, but at this point I am taking that effing Q thank you very much. On to Ex B STD and those dastardly double Qs.

Honestly though, Forest’s goal at this point is just to get his MXJ—which we are already halfway to, and his MX. And maybe T2B because thats fun and he actually enjoys that class. That’s it. I cant push him to be a double-Q MACH hunter, that would drive both of us insane and its just not what I need to do to him.

Phin. Oh Phin, you are so, so, so much fun to run. He shocks people. I don’t know why, but no one expects much when they lay eyes on him, and then they see him run. He was a complete blast all weekend. My surprise with him was his Jumpers runs. He dropped a bar in each—which is unusual for him. He also broke his startline(!) on Saturday which was another rarity. All of this I am going to chalk up to baby dog excitement so I’m not losing any sleep over it. He was a fast and furious freight train and man does he love his agility. He’s always screamed while he sees me walking the course, but this weekend he had a special intensity to it. He knows now its finally HIS turn to join the party and he wants to GO. NOW. He also tried to nose his way under the fencing while we were waiting for our turn in Jumpers. This dog cracks me up and I fall in love with him a but more each day.

His Standard runs were both good and we Qed. Sunday was much prettier than Saturday, but both times my biggest hangup was not getting to the chute (super short I am guessing for Novice?) before him and him blasting through it at 100MPH and me lagging, causing him to spin on the backside. Something to learn how to handle better… He only missed one Aframe all weekend and his DWs were very good—YAY. We also Q’ed in FAST on Saturday and he got his first ribbon, 4th. Man the 20″ class is competitive, even at Novice.

One funny side note—I lost my voice on Friday due to a nasty cold/flu thing thats been hanging on since early last week. I was worried about not being able to talk to them, but it seems to have worked out just fine. I was able to make noise when it really counted but I was definitely not overly chatty. Turns out your voice really is one of the least-important cues. Heh.

Two more things from this weekend (there were/are a lot more but I’m trying not to overdo it); I met a few new people who I really enjoyed. I ended up sitting off on my own like I usually do at trials and camped out next to some really lovely people. All very very nice, and all very good handlers with very different dogs. I really enjoyed meeting them and they all asked me when/where I was trialing next and said they’d look for me there, so I must not have been that bad to sit next to either. 🙂

Lastly, the “training” thing. This got under my skin a bit, not sure why. I was walking the course with someone I know quite well and whom I have a lot of conversations with about handling etc. We were walking Novice, and there was a particularly nasty entrance to the teeter, especially for a young, fast dog. Instead of the obvious pull, I chose to lead out from the table and do a recall to heel over a jump to then shape the turn to the teeter to avoid any carnage. Then I was on the far side and just had to run straight down the line to the finish. My friend said, “Well you’ll never get ahead there after the teeter unless you have a stopped contact.” I said, “Well I do, so not an issue.” Friend said, “Well that’s lucky.” I looked at them, and said (probably a bit peevishly), “No, that’s training.” Maybe it was just me feeling some heat from said friend but something about that ticked me off. I know my dog is fast. So I try, to the best of my ability, to train behaviors that I can work with. Why on earth would I train a running teeter on a dog that is 10x as fast as I am? I dunno, cant put my finger on it. Or maybe I’m just being a bit of a snot. Either way… 🙂 Luck was obviously part of the equation this weekend, but not in that instance. Some things we can control, some we cant–where I can control them I will. And if I actually can’t, then I’ll let it go.

Thrilled with my dogs. Didnt get all the runs on video but quite a few of them, will post them as soon as I can.

August is Here

I didnt realize it had been so long since I posted. Lots of them all at once, then dropping off the radar. That sounds about right for me in life in general.

We’ve been training lots, well Phin specifically and a bit for Forest here and there. Phin’s first AKC trial is next weekend and he’s entered in all the big boy events—FAST (which I wish was T2B instead), JWW and Standard. I’ve been putting a LOT of effort into his 2o2o dogwalk and I am pretty darn happy with where it is right now. I havent exactly been following the Susan Garrett course to a T—I have been riffing off what she is teaching in our own way and it seems to be working well. He’s got a driving DW into position and I am really happy! Our biggest fault at this point is sending him ahead of me to drive into position, but I know we can work that out. His teeter now seems to be what is most lacking, so I need to turn my attention to that. Weaves look great as long as they are 24″—throw some 22s at us and the wheels kinda come off. His footwork isnt great, he really seems like he’s working too hard while weaving… I may need some expert help with that if I want him to speed up.

I’ve been watching a lot of online videos lately of people with truly FAST and well-trained dogs, which is motivational but also seems to continue my Never Good Enough attitude… I am very happy with where Phin is though and I guess I watch these things to keep pushing myself to be a better trainer.

We’ve started taking another class, with the instructor I originally started taking agility with back in the beginning. She doesnt give much, if any, instruction, but she has a nice outdoor facility and sets up full courses with ALL the obstacles—tire, broadjump, chute, all the contacts, etc. Phin really needs that exposure and so far has done well. He did have an issue on night one—it had gotten very dark by the end of class and it was his first time ever running in an environment like that. On our last run he saw her standing in the middle of the course and flipped out—alarm barking and getting all the other dogs to follow suit. He actually even growled at her later on course when we popped the weaves and had to do another drive by. So that was bothersome, but she’s been cool about it and is working with me on it—throwing his ball for him as a reward after runs. I also had someone he’d never met before following us around on course at Mary’s yesterday and he didnt blink an eye at him, so I’m hoping it was the dark more than the person that set him off.

Forest has surprised me in multiple ways over the last month. Took him and Phin to a Fun Run right near home held in a dirt horse arena. It was hot, but not oppressively so, and Forest decided he wanted NOTHING to do with it. He was as big a quitter as I’ve seen him in a long time, just slow and miserable despite my efforts to hold his hand. My sister who came with us said, “Well that was awful.” She was right. It was pretty disheartening and I was worried he’d continue his apathy through next weekend’s trial. I dragged him along to Flying Rat Ranch however yesterday and he was just fine, back to normal. Other than some inconsistent dogwalks and some weird darting behind me he was happy and quick—and his weaves were gorgeous! So… he is an enigma, that little rat. We’ll see how he holds up next weekend. If we could just get that mother-trucking last Excellent A Q I will… I dont know what. Something good. For him.

I’m still struggling with wondering whether he likes agility. Sometimes he does, sometimes he does not. It all seems so variable with him and he does not have the drive to power through situations that he finds even remotely uncomfortable. Its almost always the environment that shuts him down—whether heat or footing or a dog looking at him… I do what I can to control that, but I can only control his environment to a certain degree. Depending how his mood turns when it cools off in a few months we’ll see what the plan for him is going forward.

But this morning, we are going to check out a new indoor facility down here in Carlsbad. I have heard mixed reviews, but it is rentable for a modest amount… We’ll see how it goes. Until AKC next weekend!!!