Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Tuesday Night Class

Just a quick update on class last night. Unfortunately Dana wasn't there but we had Steve the Agility Nerd fill in for her.

Ruby's Class: It was one of Dana's typical evil courses though for some reason it felt very easy to me. Ruby ran it very well all three times and was even perfect the first time through. Getting information to her sooner really works! Wow! That Kurt sure is smart! =) Ruby didn't even have a problem with the tunnel/dogwalk discrimination because I told her where she was going as she exited the tunnel two obstacles away. Her contacts were spot on and she held her dogwalk & teeter end position beautifully. She flew over the dogwalk and only Elan had a faster dogwalk. I couldn't have been more happy with how beautifully she was working. Now if only we could get those stops on contacts at a trial!

River's Puppy Class: This week went a little better and Lisa added some structure by timing us with a stopwatch & then having us rotate to a different station. This helps EVERYONE get a chance to work on everything. I have to say that overall I think River is the best and most well balanced puppy in the class. Yes, I may be a bit biased but he's one of the youngest puppies and can do a heck of a lot more than the older teenage dogs can. I can actually send him out to a jump - just between the jump standards at his young age - and he understands 180's and 270's already, send him through a tunnel, direct him into the weaves etc. I've had to start closing the poles at the ends a bit as he was just launching himself through the first three and then collecting to single-stride the rest. When I did that he hopped between the first three poles and then switched to single-striding them to the end. It will be interesting to see how his weaves will develop. He also ran the lowered aframe beautifully. I have one of the most focused puppies and can work him off-leash most of the time.

I'm very proud of both of my kids as they both did so well in class this week. =)

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Semi-private with Kurt and some babbling...

I was invited by my friend Kris to participate in some private instruction last night with Kurt Matushek, an AKC Judge and fellow competitor. Kurt was also selected to judge the World Team Tryouts this May so he can add that to his impressive resume. I feel so lucky and grateful to be included in this as I clearly don't know what I'm doing! LOL! I know I'll feel more comfortable with my handling going to Nationals as this is my first trip there with my first agility dog.

I know I need to get information to Ruby a lot sooner, tell her where to go and let her be responsible for the obstacle. She knows her job and how to do it, so cuing her sooner or verbally telling her what's coming up will help with her speed as well. I know she's a fast dog but my handling is slowing her down; my late crosses and late cues make her go very wide and that eats up tons of time. I really never saw myself being this competitive with her (I just wanted her to do well and be happy running agility) but I would like to go to the Invitational this December so I have to get her faster so we can keep getting those MACh points and stay in the Top Five. Part of the problem is that I don't like to yell at my dog and tend to be a more quiet handler but as with what happened last weekend in FAST class, if I don't yell "GO JUMP!" at her, she barks at me which tells me that I'm not giving her enough information.

So the lesson: Kurt set up a couple of nested courses with just tunnels and jumps as this is handling only. The jumps were at odd angles so difficult for the dogs, especially large non-BC dogs. I think they/we all did really well and Kurt would stop us at different points and have us work on the portion of the course that gave us the most trouble to tighten the dogs up and to send them out so we could get into position to cue the next turn. Kurt's philosophy on handling coincides with mine as I've done some handling camps with Ann Braue and my current instructor, Dana Pike, shares the same or similar handling approach. So the "backy-uppy" to cue a tight wrap, etc. Our last course was a nice speed circle to a loop to keep the dogs happy and motivated.

I do feel like I got a lot out of it but I'm still not sure what my goals with Ruby really are: Tighten her up and run faster or run clean and finish her MACH? Do I really care if she's in or stays in the Top Five for Invitationals and at what expense to her? Not to mention my savings account! LOL! She is in great shape but I'm going to start working on improving that - strengthening her hind end and stretching and massaging her more regularly. Kris wants me to bring her over so she can get some measurements on her. I may have to bump her up to the 26" class for awhile in hopes that she'll win her class and get more points. It's hard for us to place at large trials but she has no problem doing that in the 24" class at smaller trials though lately she's been placing behind all the top border collies in that height. So she's definitely no slouch but...

On another note, I need to get in a little better shape myself. I've been feeling a little of the winter bloat creeping on and all the walking I do plus running my dog isn't enough right now. Though maybe it's due to lack of agility trials around here. I've started doing some core strengthening workouts and butt and leg workouts to help with running on dirt as that seems to take the biggest toll on me, especially my bad foot. I'm hoping that having better balance will help with that.

Well Kurt will see us trial for two days this week and can give me some feedback on our runs. Onto Lake St. Louis Thursday and Friday then Kewanee on Saturday and Sunday. Go Little Red Girl! Go!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Ret. Trial - Jan 18, 2009

Not a good way to start off the year but I may have had such a bad day because of lack of sleep and psyching myself out while I was lying in bed staring at the ceiling. Not good. I only chose to do one day of this trial as I wasn't sure what the crating space would be like and how the weather conditions would effect it.

It was pretty cold outside, in the low twenties but sunny and the wind had died down a little. Inside the barn was pretty cozy but crowded. I could still feel the cold coming up from the ground through my shoes so I was curious how the surface would effect Ruby's running. Ruby's last couple of trials have all been on dirt except for Hounds. This facility is a sand and crushed rubber mix; some dogs like it, some don't. She hasn't been at this facility since the first weekend in November and I remember her knocking a bar the first time she ran inside here when it was cold. Sure enough she knocked a bar in Jumpers our first class of the day. I could tell she was slipping a bit and adjusting during that first run but she ran the rest of the course great and I got in all my front crosses as planned.

Standard was next and I took a lead out to a "C" shaped tunnel. She was a little antsy at the start line, scratching, pulling and barking. Took me a minute to settle her enough to sit while I led out. I released her and she took the wrong side of the tunnel! All points except one told her to go into the correct side of the tunnel: my shoulder was open briefly as I released her but my feet, hips and hand were pointed the correct direction. Who knew? The rest of her run was nice and fast and I got a lead out from the table so I was happy with how she was working.

FAST didn't go so well. We haven't done FAST since the East Lansing trial back in November and I actually had to yell "Go jump!" at her so she would at least take the first send obstacle. Oh well. Not a big deal but I got to retry the lead-out I messed up in Standard and she did it correctly this time. 0 for 3 this trial. Hopefully that won't happen again and I have to say it's been a LONG time since we haven't at least Q'd in Jumpers.

We have four days of trialing coming up and I can't wait! We're back on dirt and should have some great judges.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

River Update - Puppy Agility Class

River had his very first puppy agility class last night and I couldn't be more proud of him. He's very confident and focused on his mommy. His 2o/2o position was beautiful on all three of the contact obstacles (mini-teeter, a-frame & the lowered dogwalk) and he took to running them very quickly and confidently. He had lots of play breaks and some cuddle time as well.

He's a very happy worker and very willing to please his mommy and figure out what I'm asking him to do. He had no problem running the open weave poles and right now single-strides them beautifully. The tire was no problem either. The only thing we need to work on immediately is strengthening his left side. He would turn around on the dogwalk to the right but wouldn't turn to the left. Some simple stretches should help with that.

I do think however that I need to start re-reading Linda M's Jumping Skills articles - well, I have the book now - and work on sending him out to obstacles as well as doing more 'One Damn Jump' stuff with him. He's such a great little dog!

More updates on River Puppy soon as I'm having so much fun with him! =)