Saturday, February 28, 2009

Royackers Agility Trial

This was our first time out at Royackers Kennels, a great facility in Ariss, near Guelph, Ontario.

Blaze did 5 runs today, 2 standard, 2 gamble, and a steeplechase. He got 3 Q's, but would have had 5 if I hadn't messed him up, again. I messed him up on his second standard run, we were about 3 or 4 obstacles from finishing... and I did something I haven't done in a long, long time. He had just completed the weaves, and did them great... I was so happy, as this has been our challenge for a long time. Then from the weaves we had a 180 degree turn to a tunnel, did that no problem. From the tunnel we had to go straight ahead to another tunnel, there was a jump off to the right that was pretty close, and to the left of the tunnel opening was the frame, with the ramp right beside the tunnel opening. Well, I was so damn happy he got those weaves, and the end of the course was so close (tunnel, tunnel, jump, jump), I did a "pre-celebration" in my head, thinking that, "yes, we are going to get this one!", I lost my focus, and was totally in the wrong spot to direct him to the tunnel opening that was beside the frame, and he went up the frame.... Smack the Handler! That kind of tunnel opening is usually no problem for him, and I could tell he was confused, as he didn't immediately go up the frame, but paused, and when he did go up the frame, it was with hesitation, not confidence, so I knew that he was not sure what I wanted. I always feel bad when I mess him up like that, as I know he has the ability to be clean, and he is not clean because of me! His steeplechase run was great. I love steeplechase, as I use those as "fun runs", I go out there and I run him really fast, as he likes that, and I can practice my handling at a fast speed, which I don't normally do in my other runs. There were two sets of 6 weaves, which meant two entries.... again, he did these great, no hesitation, and I did not baby any of our weave entries at all, just kept my pace, said "weave", and let him go. He ran that course in 39 seconds, one of our fastest runs ever I think. The SCT was 51 seconds, so for Blaze that was excellent. Then came the gambles. The first gamble was tricky, but certainly do-able for Blaze. He had a great opening, getting the mini gamble twice. Then, the closing was straight out to a tunnel, then a 180 turn to go up the frame. Then, the handler had to cross the gamble line, as the rest of the gamble was on the other side of the line, and it was a jump, straight out to the dog walk, and then a final jump. Because I was near the end of the running order, I got to see a lot of runs before we ran. A lot of people were getting the gamble, but running out of time, so I thought that time must be really tight on this one, so no time to waste! When the buzzer went for us, I was a bit frazzled, worried about wasting time. So, I did not take my normal time that I take to set Blaze up for his gambles.... This is something I have tried to always be careful to do for him, as when I take an extra second to really set him up correctly for his approach to the gamble, it always goes better, and because we are in veterans now, I always think to myself.... "we have lots of time!".... Well, I was rushing, did not take that extra second to set him up, sent him out to the tunnel incorrectly, he was unsure what I wanted, took the jump (no big deal really), went out towards the tunnel, came back to me, at this point I knew we would run out of time for sure, and that Blaze was not sure what the heck I wanted anyway... he did then go out to the tunnel, and started up the frame, but then jumped off. I was mad at myself for ruining Blaze's chances at a Q. He certainly could have done that gamble. Our final run, another gamble, was the highlight of the weekend. When I first got there in the morning and saw that the last run we were doing was a gamble that had 12 weaves in it, I just wrote off that run, as although he is certainly capable of doing weaves at a distance, weaves have been our problem for a while, and for him to go out away from me to do weaves.... well, forget it. Also, he has typically been good for one or two weave entries per day, and by then he had already done 4 weave entries... so I thought there is just no way he is going to do those weaves... Anyway, the mini gamble in this one was a bit tricky, but I always try them anyway, and if there is any hint of a problem, I step in right away. This is what happened, he did not get the mini, my fault I am sure, so I stepped in, and ran him really, really fast through the obstacles, just basically hitting whatever was in front of us, I abandoned my original plan. He loves this type of running, so it really pumped him up. When the buzzer went, I talked to myself in my head.... I said to myself... "set up your dog, set up your dog...." I took that extra second to set up Blaze, then just went for it. The gamble was a jump, out to the weaves, then two more jumps, with a distraction jump closer to the handler. He went out there, did those weaves, but I did not lose my focus, and he did the last two jumps no problem, BAM!, a successful gamble with those dreaded weaves!!!!!!! Whew, I was so happy it was great. But, because I abandoned my original opening plan, which included two mini gambles, I was not sure if we had enough opening points. Not that I really cared, as I was so happy he did that main gamble, I was trying to count the points in my head afterward, but I couldn't remember exactly when the buzzer went, and because I was just doing random obstacles, I couldn't really remember exactly what I did..... I waited anxiously for the results, and sure enough... 28 opening points, yippee!!!! One more gamble Q. I was just elated that Blaze did so well, and that his only errors were my errors. This certainly gives me more incentive to improve my handling for him. And oh-so happy about all those weaves he did! It was a blast.

Friday, February 13, 2009

February Training Weekend

Mike Bauer, giving some instruction and tips to Me with Eros.

February 7th & 8th 2009, the Capital City Schutzhund Club hosted their annual February training weekend. This was my first opportunity to attend. This year they invited Mike Bauer, a 5 time WUSV competitor to come out and share some of his training insights with the group. Unfortunately, I was only able to attend on the Sunday, and missed all of Saturday along with Saturday evening's dinner and socializing. I had never met Mike before, and was very pleased with his easy going manner, and his willingness to help and point out where he thought the handlers could improve. It is always so refreshing to hear another opinion of your work with your dog, especially from someone who has had world level experience.

Mike offered me some great tips, and I was very happy to get his advice. I had been really re-thinking my whole training philosophies since our disastrous showing at the Buffalo trial, and his tips were welcome. Eros was worked in obedience and protection, and much to my surprise, Eros showed great nerve and fight in the bitework phase. Eros has never been worked in defense drive, only strictly in prey. He also has very limited experience on new and strange helpers (my fault = bad handler!). I informed Mike right at the beginning of the protection session that Eros has been, up to that point, trained only in prey drive. I was lucky to have Mike work him in the bitework phase. Mike pushed Eros more than he has ever been pushed, and that was also the first time Eros had ever seen Mike. Eros took everything Mike through at him in stride, and showed no evidence of fear, unsuredness, or lack of courage. I have to admit, I was a little surprised at Eros' performance, as I had always viewed him as somewhat of a softer kind of dog whose great drive made him look so good in bitework. This one little session proves that not to be the case at all. In fact, I was elated when Mike said more than once while working Eros in the bitework session that, "This is a nice dog!". He said it in a real genuine tone, and with enthusiasm. For this to come from a 5 time world competitor who's standards for "nice dogs" are quite high, I feel it really means something... Now, on to some serious training!

For many reasons, I did not work Arlo in the seminar. In hindsight, I wish I would've had given Mike the chance to see Arlo's bitework. I would've liked to hear his opinion, as this is what I've been struggling with for some time.

A big thanks to my friend Trish for snapping a whole bunch of great photos for me.

Mike working on a distraction exercise by swinging a ball around. Eros has nice focus, and only needed to be corrected once for looking away, and then he did not look away again.

Mike now throwing the ball past Eros... nice focus again.

Getting ready to start heeling.

Mike giving me some tips, must be important, he is very intense!

Some nice attentive heeling, not Eros' best work, he was stressed (so was I)

Nice attention.

Waiting for protection to begin.
Nice barking.

Nice bite.
Little run with the sleeve.

Hold and bark.
Hold and bark after the out, no re-gripping this time.

The bite.

Me walking around Eros during the guarding phase, normally he'll look away from the helper at me, not this time.

Eros getting pushed into the crowd a little bit. He's got some sleeve goober on his nose...
Mike adding some physical distraction...

At the end, love this photo, we are all smiling. Not sure who was speaking or what was said.