Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Highs and Lows from Kalamazoo

As I wrote about last week, I showed Joker and Ty at the 1st two days of the Memorial Day weekend cluster at Kalamazoo. First, the high points:
  • Joker (10 year old Border Terrier) finished his UD with a very respectable 191 in the first trial Saturday morning, making him the 8th dog with whom I've earned a UD. We got a professional photo of that one, so can't share it here yet.
  • Ty earned her 1st UDX leg on Friday, 21 OM points, a 4th place in Open B (196) and a 3rd place in Utility B (194), which was good for her 1st 2 OTCh points. Wow, only 98 to go! Oh, yes, those pesky 1st places...
  • We had glove 3 in both of the 1st two trials (something I was dreading going into the weekend, given the problems both dogs had had the previous couple of weeks) and glove 1 in the 3rd trial, and we had 6 Q's on gloves.
  • Ty qualified on signals 2 out of 3 times, coming back from a sit signal failure in the 2nd trial to do it correctly in the 3rd. After we finished signals in that 3rd trial successfully, I told the judge that I could go home happy now, whatever happened in the rest of the class.
  • Both dogs did very nice go-outs in all three trials, especially given that the middle stanchion was about 2 feet to the left of center (and yes, I stanchion train their go-outs) and that we had corner gloves that were retrieved before doing go-outs each time. Ty showed no signs of stopping short, which delights me, given that she picked her spot in the previous 3 trials. To top it off, her turn and sits were marvelously snappy, garnering compliments.
  • Ty lost only 1/2 point on Directed Jumping 2 out of the 3 trials. 
  • We were in two runoffs on Friday.
Now for the low points:
  • Ty failed the down stay in both trials on Saturday by first sitting up before I got very far away and then walking forward out of line. She told me loud and clear that she's not ready for multiple Open classes in a weekend, let alone one day. Both judges had me go to her and take her to the opposite side of the ring and have her stay there. 
  • Ty trotted through the Broad Jump in trial 2 on Saturday, something I'm not sure she's ever tried in her whole life. In her defense, I put her farther back than usual because her striding was poor in the morning. So I'll take some blame for it. She certainly was brisk and nimble about it, watching where she stepped very carefully!
  • Joker failed the article at 12 o'clock in the 3rd trial. Otherwise, he would have had another Q. The first article was there in all 3 trials, and the 2nd one was in the middle twice, his other hard spot.
  • Ty's accuracy on her signal stand position and her article turns dwindled as the weekend wore on. 
  • We lost both of the runoffs we were in. But that means we Q'ed and got to be IN the runoffs!
I was well aware going into the weekend that we could come home with 9 NQs, a discouraging thought! We came away with 4 Q's out of 9, and two near misses in Utility. As I knew I would, I learned a lot about what Ty is and isn't (yet) capable of. We were losing 2-2.5 on heeling in each class, so there's a lot of room for improvement there, and consistently good heeling is crucial for high scores and winning runoffs. I held up reasonably well showing 9 times, though I sure yawned a lot during the 1.5 hour drive home!

I haven't shown in Kalamazoo in a lot of years, and I chatted with many people over the weekend, including some previous unmet in person Facebook friends. On Saturday morning, I was flying high from Friday's successes, and wishing I was showing more than one more day. Now that I'm home, I'm also glad to be home. Ty and I have some serious homework to do before our National trip. We (Ty, Gryff and I) leave a week from today for Maryland. I haven't decided for sure what we'll do this summer in terms of obedience vs. field training. While the occasional nice weather has me yearning to get outside, I'm also really enjoying the obedience work.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What Are We Made Of?

This weekend - actually, Friday and Saturday - I'll be showing Joker 3 times in Utility B, searching for his 3rd UD leg, and Ty 3 times in Open B and 3 times in Utility B at the Memorial Day cluster in Kalamazoo. My primary goal with Ty is to see what our team is made of. She finished her UD in March, and is 1 for 2 in Open B and 2 for 4 in Utility B since then. I really haven't shown her all that much in obedience, considering that she is 6.5 years old. So this weekend, I want to see how much we are capable of. Can we get a UDX leg or two? Can we make progress on our OM (she’s got about 20 points already)? Can we come anywhere close to some OTCh. points? Note that I didn’t say earn points, but rather come close to doing so.

I feel like we are starting to gel as a team, and so the grand experiment of this weekend. I can’t remember when I last showed a single dog three times in Open in the same weekend. I’m not sure *I* have it in me to go in the ring 9 times in 2 days, let alone the dogs. Again, an experiment.

I don’t honestly know if an OTCh is a reasonable goal with Ty. Am I willing to put in the time, $’s, and effort that it is likely to take? Can she rise to the occasion? Can I? Really, only time will tell. But one of the cool things is that I can pursue the UDX and OM1 without having to beat anyone else, and how difficult that proves to be will give me an excellent read on the OTCh prospects.

Stay tuned...

Monday, May 23, 2011

On Turning 50

Yes, that's right. Today, I turn 50.

Really? But I don't feel 50. I feel 40. Or is it 35? Or is it 60?

I've spent more brain time pondering this impending milestone than I remember thinking about when turning either 30 or 40. And now, here I am. I've made it.

I think perhaps one of the causes for reflections is that my 40's were a great decade personally. I've made several friends in the past 10 years who I consider some of the best people in my life. My family is doing well. My kids are nearly grown and out of the house. I got started learning a new sport (hunt test training) on which I have spent countless glorious hours over the past several years, enjoying what I consider the best summers of my life in the past two years. My business has continued to thrive. I self-published a new book and got the retrieve video updated and released on DVD. My seminar speaking engagements have grown tremendously, taking me to many new places around the US and now Canada, introducing me to many new and wonderful people and dogs. I finished OTCh titles on two dogs. I started on the road to judging for the AKC. I joined Curves and continue to enjoy working out there, in large part because of the amazing community of women who come together there. I started learning about web programming this past winter and continue to make small strides on the never-ending process of maintaining a website.

As this day has neared, it helps me to remember that so many of my closest friends have already passed this milestone, paving the way for me, acting as role models on aging with energy and grace.

So, 40's, I bid you goodbye with mixed feelings. How can the next decade top the one I've just left? I guess I'll just have to jump in and start paddling and see what comes along.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Scent Articles for Ty

A group of friends and I have a running joke that she who dies with the most scent articles (or crates) wins. I decided recently that it was time to add to my total.

The only articles I've had for Ty to use were one of the two sets I had for Tramp, my 1st OTCh. Flat-Coat. Treasure's articles have a very fat bit, and Ty couldn't seem to pick them up straight, especially the metal ones. I decided to order a new set from MAX200, because of all the various sets I've ordered over the years, they've held up the best. I teach and use 'hot scent', so when scenting an article, I not only rub the bar with my palms, but I also hold an end and rotate the bar in my hand. This tends to cause the ends to loosen up over time, something I'm fighting with the articles I use for Joker (Java's old set). 

I ordered a single metal article from MAX200 to test the size. I do wonder if Ty has some teeth issues going on, since she'll often chatter on a metal one. I'm glad I did order just one, because it still seemed a bit too thick. Then, because I really wanted to have the new ones before our Memorial Day cluster, I plunged in and ordered a set of 8 of each type one size smaller bit diameter. Fortunately, that seems to have been enough. Aren't they pretty??? The stripes are blue and green and the craftsmanship is impressive.

I had recently read on the Ring-Tested-Obedience list about letting new articles air for 6 weeks before using. Six weeks? I didn't HAVE six weeks! I unpacked them last Tuesday night and let them air out overnight. The next afternoon, I put out 2 unscented leathers and 2 unscented metals and added a scented one. Ty made several mistakes, picking up several of the new leathers incorrectly. Didn't seem interested in picking incorrect metals. We muddled through with small levels of success, and before quitting for the night, I had her take all of the remaining ones that she hadn't yet picked up, to get her spit on them. 

We did them again Thursday evening on the eve of my weekend trip to Lakeland, FL. I really wanted to see if day 2 would be better. I started with just 4 unscented out again, and after each successful pair, added a couple more. She was 6 for 6 that night, and 4 for 4 yesterday evening after we got back from the quick trip south. Yeah, Ty! She was working with great enthusiasm and speed last night, and seems to be picking the new ones up really nicely. I love when equipment helps improve my dog's performance!

I like to have 8 of each article type because it allows for enough for several trials in a weekend without having to put used one back in right away. We are showing once on Friday and twice on Saturday at the Memorial Day cluster in Kalamazoo, so my hope is to only have to use the one set, swapping in new articles for the used ones.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Update on my Training

April marked the first month I showed on two separate weekends in obedience in a very long time. Ty & Joker were entered at the Greater Toledo OTC. Ty was entered in Utility in both morning and afternoon trials, as well as Open in the afternoon trial. Joker was entered in the morning trial in Rally Excellent B and Utility B.

Joker finished up his RE title with a 97 1st place effort. It was great to go in the rally ring before Utility, since it was our first time showing obedience on the field turf. It was also our first try at Utility somewhere they've never trained. They had both showed in Novice and Open in the facility before, though, so it wasn't brand new for them.

Joker managed to pass everything except the first article. We had glove 1, and he headed that way on both go-outs. One proud moment came during DJ. The bar on the left was the first jump, handy since he was over in that direction. When he sat on the 2nd go-out, he did a small shoulder movement towards the high jump on my right. Although we had worked on jumping from off-center when we were in SC, it hadn't gone particularly brilliantly ("I'm supposed to do WHAT? How about if I just sit here and look confused?"). But that shoulder dip gave me hope. Sure enough, he took the 2nd jump confidently. All in all, I was very pleased with his day.

Last month, I wrote, "Ty's sit signal, which was so poor last month, has been going very well (oops, hope I didn't just jinx myself)...". Yup, you guessed it. I jinxed myself. It went away again. In both trials, Ty did her down signal nicely, and then did not do the sit. She also didn't come on my first signal in the AM trial. She passed everything else, including very straight go-outs in the first trial, BUT she is clearly picking where to stop. Not an NQing shortness, but certainly scoreable. In the 2nd trial, she veered a bit to the right of center, and also got distracted by a flying dumbbell in the adjoining Open ring just as I started to give my jump signal. So that was also an NQ.

The highlight of the weekend for her was her Q in Open B. She took several trials to get her CDX back in 2009, and hadn't managed to pass stays the past two times we'd tried. We had been doing LOTS of stays around the house (note to self: get back to doing that!) and it paid off. She also earned her first OM points.

We showed again at the Saturday Progressive trial, again just on Saturday. I'm thrilled to report that Joker earned his 2nd leg. He did a grand job. We had Order III, with articles first. It was nice to get those out of the way successfully. Ty also managed a Q, doing very fine signals. But I suspect her apparent response to my sit signal was luck. Sometimes, I get lucky. The metal article  took flight out of her mouth as she left the articles pile, costing us 2 points, and she again stopped somewhat short on her go-outs. Imagine my surprise and delight when little Mr. Joker placed 3rd in the class with a fabulous score of 195 (I don't think he has ever scored that high in his brief career), with Ty in 4th place with a 194. A very fine day at the dog show. A fun fact: there was 1 OTCh. point available for that 3rd place, so I can now claim Joker has a Phantom OTCh point (phantom because it doesn't count since he doesn't yet have his UD).

Gryff continues to have soreness in his iliopsoas muscles. I resumed laser treatments a couple of weeks ago, and found out that the early treatments probably weren't really getting to the right spot. I think yesterday's treatment finally was, so I'm hopeful that he can get some relief.

I did pull my bike out of storage, pumped up the tires, and have been biking the dogs a couple times a week. Gryff is on a flexi leash while the other two run free. We've been going up and down my looooong driveway (property is 600 feet from road to back) or doing laps in the building when it's been nasty outside. I can much more successfully keep Gryff in a trot on the bike than when I'm walking.

Next up: three trials in two days at the Kalamazoo Memorial Day cluster, then the Flat-Coated Retriever National in Maryland in June. We are going to a Mother's Day obedience match to see if I can catch Ty stopping where she chooses on her go-outs. Or catch her doing it right in a relatively new place so she can get a jackpot.

The Care and Feeding of a Training Partner

What is a training partner? It is someone with whom you can get together regularly to train your dogs. It is someone with whom you can talk over training issues. It helps if your TP has a similar schedule to you, so it isn't too hard to find time to meet. Having similar long-term goals is helpful, though not critical. It will help you a lot if your TP is more experienced than you are, because you will be able to learn a lot from her. Those of us who have been doing this for a long time enjoy seeing new trainers getting hooked on the sport we have loved for so many years. But it doesn't have to be someone more experienced. I continue to learn from new trainers. Sometimes, because of no preconceived ideas, new trainers come up with fabulous 'think outside the box' solutions that experienced trainers don't.

Having dogs at similar levels is another benefit, because you'll need the same equipment for training, and you can each supply some. It means you can go to trials together and cheer each other on (or commiserate on the days it doesn't go so well). For many of us, the social aspect of dog competitions is a large part of the fun. Of course, even if you aren't at the same level, most trials have classes of many different levels going on, so you can still go to shows together.

Where should you look for a training partner? If you are taking a class somewhere, ask your classmates if they would be interested in meeting outside of class to practice together. It makes you more likely to do your homework and it simply makes it more fun. You can help each other by calling commands if the dogs are advanced enough; doing stand for exams; putting out scent articles; holding a young dog for recalls. Sometimes it is helpful to simply train alongside each other, but it is even better if you can take the time to play judge and provide distractions for each other for at least part of your time together. When I wrote The Art of ProofingI used different types of bullets to show what you could do by yourself, with one helper, and in a larger group. 

Another potential place to look is at a local dog club. Even if there isn't an obedience club, you might find someone interested in obedience training who belongs to an agility club or a conformation club. Attend nearby obedience trials and matches and watch people. Look for someone whose dog works like you wish yours would. If you are already competing with your dog for titles, find out where your fellow exhibitors live. Addresses are usually listed in the back of the trial catalog.

I am blessed to live in a highly active dog training community with many opportunities within a 2 hour radius of Ann Arbor. I once met a friend who lives outside of Chicago (which means we are 5 hours apart) at another friend's training building that is about 1/2 way between us.

In thinking back over the many training partners I've had over the 25+ years I've been training, I think fondly of the friendships, the hours and hours spent training and problem solving, and the thrill of victory, not just for myself but also for them.

If you don't already have one, I encourage you to find someone to train with. I don't think you'll be sorry.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

A Really Fun Saturday

I had a Really Fun Day yesterday at the Progressive obedience trial in Birch Run, MI. Ty & Joker were both entered just in Utility, since the trial closed before my 2-week-ago success in Open B. I showed Joker 1st. He has been in the ring just twice this year, and both times passed everything but articles. I trained them more diligently in the past 2 weeks. His gloves are also weak, but have been improving. Isabella Hutton was a fill-in for Robin Shea, who had to cancel. We had order 3. Joker did very confident articles YEAH, though I got some teasing at his really dreadful set-up for the 2nd one. I gave up and let him sit there crooked! His glove was fine, his heeling was quite good for him. His signal down was slightly delayed, then he collapsed into it, which isn't quite his normal style. The rest of his signals were fine. Moving stand? Zero off. And lovely Directed Jumping with spot-on fabulous go-outs. Leg #2!!! I was just SO happy with the boy. He turns 10 on May 5, though he in no way acts that age.

Ty's sit signal has continued to frequently elude her in training, so I vowed to take my time giving it and to try to be clear with it. 

She did both articles, tho the metal one flew out of her mouth as she left the pile (which cost us 2 points, and makes me continue to wonder if there is some tooth issue going on with her - but that's another post!), Glove was fine, Heeling was fine, though loose by my standards. Good drop, and SHE DID HER SIT SIGNAL! We had a major party after her finish and before setting up for the MS. She seemed quite thrilled by all the hugs, petting, praise, and leaping around. Her MS was fine. On her go-outs, she once again stopped before I said to, both times. I think she's stopping about 7-8 feet short of the end, so nowhere near NQably short, but she is clearly picking. But they were both very straight, and she did her sits and jumps great, so she also Q'ed. What a fine day.

But it doesn't stop there.

First and second place were a 198 (1st leg, too!) and an I-don't-remember score between 198 and 195.5. And little Mr. Joker was 3rd with a 195!!!! And Joker earned a phantom OTCh point! (phantom because he doesn't have his UD). Whoda thunk it?  Ty was 4th with a 194. She is already 10% along the way to her OM1.

Given that Joker's first Utility leg was a 178 and I was thrilled with that, you can imagine how up on Cloud 9 I still am with a 195. He really is getting this Utility stuff figured out. And gee whiz, he's cute :-).

Raissa Hinman finished her 3rd generation UDX on her wonderful Aura, who also became the first Malamute OM1 yesterday. This just 8 days after finishing her MACh2. And less than a month after her 17 year old son finished the MACh2 on one of Aura's aunts.

This was the first time I'd shown north of Ann Arbor in quite a long time, so I got to see some different people than when I head south, which was fun.

Our next trials will be Memorial Day in Kalamazoo. Time to go fill out entries!