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!