I didn’t mean for it to be so long for posting. I did actually write a very long bit a few weeks back, but neglected to log in first so it disappeared into the etherwebs.

In contrast to my New Years post I did want to talk a bit more about big picture ideas and goals. My main overarching goal for this year is really experience. For me, and for the dogs.

Phin is the biggest part of my agenda in this vein, though I am the one that is going to have to work at it a lot harder really than he. I want him to really do nothing more this year than gain experience. Get some miles under the hood, on the course. What’s going to be hard for me is removing expectations of where he “should” be. To not let others’ expectations of him influence my decisions. To stop comparing him to other dogs I admire and focus on him just having a positive experience. I have already failed him a bit in this department this year. At his last two trials (both USDAA) he blew almost every single weave entry. However, other than that, he was 90% brilliant. Yet by the end of the second weekend I was crabby and dwelling in the bad stuff. We headed off to a night of class and then practice on my own and I don’t think he missed a single entry. Instead of throwing a pity party I need to chalk it up to ring nerves and move on. He’s such a baby and we have so many more miles and miles ahead of us. I need to keep building the foundation to ensure that he remains as thrilled with the game for the next two, five and more years.

Forest doesn’t need miles, but he does need a consistent performance experience. I feel like I’ve spent so much more time with him over the last three years working on our pre- and post-run routines than properly training obstacle performance. As I’ve said before here many times as well, he is a delicate being that doesn’t do drills or excessive training well. So, I have two bigger goals for him at the moment; how to build drive for non-food rewards, and to retrain certain obstacles—mainly the dogwalk—in a manner that permits him not to stop. Stopping is stressful, particularly when it involves muddy criteria. I’ve been muddling with both of these for a while, but I have drilled down on my strategies a bit more. My main challenge is to follow through and not get distracted by the shinier, more glamorous object that is Phin. The ballplay is coming along as is running the DW planks. I have a lot more to do, but he seems pretty happy, and that’s all I need to be focusing on.

I did pull Forest from the big Terv Club/Silverado trial that’s coming up this weekend. I was again less than a good mom at his last trial, and knowing the business and pressure of that trial I don’t want to risk putting him under a microscope, by me or by anyone else. He does however get to run on Saturday, they have coursing and he will be partaking in his favorite pastime. He will be running the following weekend at a very local trial and we’ll just be evaluating where we’re at, doing what I can to make sure I am where he needs me to be.

So, to repeat my goal—for myself—realistic, healthy expectations throughout this year. A still-baby dog and a dog that I owe a lot of make-ups to. Healthy, positive, beneficial experiences, for all of us, is the focus.

Onward, 2013.