Sunday, October 23, 2011

Things to Work on for the Team

The past few posts have been about successful weekends with Dally and LaMesa, which are always great to type and read later. :-) This post I wanted to put a few things to "paper" in order to have accountability for our training. No run is ever perfect, whether in class or at trials. There's always something we need to work on:

Dally and I have really started to click as a team lately, which has been great. I wish I could tell you how it happened, but I can't because I don't know how it happened--it just did. Now is the time to start nit-picking on our teamwork and our runs. We've been getting better about shortening the amount of yardage Dally has to run.

We lose time during our runs with Dally's slow weaves and her slow moving on the teeter. Her slow climb up the teeter kills me some times--it's like she know exactly where the tipping point is, so she just saunters up to the mid-point and waits for the teeter to tip. I don't think it's a matter of her being afraid of the teeter, because she likes the teeter. I just can't figure it out.

Her weaves are another concern. In class she can have some of the prettiest weaves, hopping between the poles as a fast weaver should. But then we go to a trial and she tries to shuffle as quickly as possible through the poles, which means a slower weave. I've tried many different things--clapping my hands through the weaves; saying "Go, go, go" as she goes through them...anything. If anyone has any tips of what I can do during a trial for her weaves, I'd be willing to hear them.

Our teamwork just needs time--Mesa will turn two in a couple of weeks, so she's still very young and still very green at trials. She keeps her focus on me pretty well at trials so far, which is great. I just wish I could harness all her energy before her run (she barks so much and gets herself so worked up waiting to run), because she gets tired quickly.

For Mesa, I have to remember to hold my signals for her and tell her sooner. She's so much faster than Dally that I have to think faster, as well as run faster, than I do normally with Dally. I'm told this will come in time with us, so I have to keep the patience and praise the little things that we do well.

If only I could take some of her speed in the weaves and teeter (she has gorgeous weaves and a great teeter) to Dally, it'd be perfect!!

What things do you feel you need to work on with your partner? And any tips you have for me would be great.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Very Successful Weekend!

A few weeks ago, I think I had probably the most successful weekend ever with Dally in our entire career. We visited the Hamilton Dog Training Club's trial in Fairfield, Ohio, at Game Time (an indoor soccer facility, the type with the astro-turf with the rubber pellets--Dally loves that place) Sept. 24-25. My goal for the weekend with Dally was mostly just to finish her MXP (she needed two Standard Qs to do so) and maybe get at least one double Q. Mesa's goal was to finish her NAJ (she needed one leg) and try to be clean in our Open Standard debut.

Dally and I exceeded my expectations by not only earning the last two Qs for her MXP (which takes 10 qualifying scores in Excellent Standard B), but we went 4-for-4, earning two QQs, thus bringing our total to five QQs, and leaving only one more qualifying score needed to finish her MJP! She ran so well, and saved my butt a couple of times--we ran like a team!

Saturday's runs: Standard -- finished 60.55/77 for 16 PACH points on what was a fast, fun course. There were a lot of twists and turns. At one point, towards the end, I was late on a front cross in a serpentine that caught Dally off guard. Thankfully I got her stopped before she crossed the plane where we're get a refusal. She came in second in that run. Jumpers -- finished 40.56/52 for 11 PACH points and first place on a course that saw a big pinwheel. I was proud of her for not popping out of the weaves to take the tunnel that was calling her name (last year she would have done that). Also, it's nice to see her taking jumps so tight around the standards, which cuts down the amount of yardage she has to run.

Sunday's runs: Standard -- finished 64.85/76 for 11 PACH points and second place. This saw a tunnel-weave pole-tunnel combination that can be scary if your dog is blazing out of the tunnel towards the weaves. Luckily, Dally collected nicely into the weaves and once again stuck in through all 12 and didn't get sucked into the tunnel. Jumpers -- finished 41.30/47 for 5 PACH points and third place. This was a tough course--lots of different crosses and a handler could easily lost, as you can see by my video. I was so nervous about getting lost (I'm notorious for it), so I was just hoping to get through without any mistakes. I don't know how, but I pulled that one out and Dally stuck with me--even when I threw in a rear cross on the flat towards the end that I didn't even walk (there was no way I was going to beat her for a front cross there). This showed how our team has come together more because she stuck with me, instead of giving up like she used to.

One of the things that makes her MXP so amazing is that she earned all 10 Qs this summer--her first Excellent B Standard Q came at Hamilton in May, when Merinda ran her for me while I recovered from my stress fracture. So from May 22 to Sept. 25, a total of four months of limited showing, she earned her Masters in Standard! Not to mention earning 5 QQs in the past four weekends of trials! And our first weekend of going 4-for-4!

The one thing about this weekend that stressed me out was experiencing conflicts between rings for the first time...ever. Previously, when I showed Mesa and Dally, they were one-ring trials, so I didn't have to worry about any conflicts. But this weekend there were two rings, so the chance of conflicts was high. We'd have to be there early in the morning so I could run Mesa in Jumpers, then wait until early afternoon for Dally's runs (they ran tall to small). Once I'd run Dally in Standard, there was a little time to crate her before I had to walk her Jumpers course...and then walk Mesa's Standard course. Essentially I'd have to memorize two different courses at the same time and hope I didn't mess either dog up for the other. (Truth be told, I was trying to focus more on Dally's courses because her QQs mattered more to me that weekend. Plus, it helped that with Mesa in Open, the Open courses were very similar to the Excellent courses.)

My one big goal for Mesa was to finish her Novice Jumpers title. We accomplished that Saturday morning, with a time of 28.53/38 and second place. I wanted us to run clean so badly--on paper, we did. However, she missed her weave entrance because (1) I signaled with my arm, then dropped, then picked it back up, thus confusing her, and (2) I was too much in her space (she's used to taking her weaves at a distance from me, thanks to the 2-by-2 training). Her first Open Standard run was a train wreck (there's no video of it, which is good and bad).

Sunday saw her debut in Open Jumpers, and it was a learning experience for me. She knocked the bar on the third jump because I was too slow and too close on my front cross. We're not exactly sure why she knocked the bar on the triple, but she missed her weave entrance because of me, once again, dropping my arm and confusing her. Then, towards the end, she was done it seemed. Her Open Standard run (yet again, no video) was another wreck. The main problem is trying to switch my mind off from veteran dog that can correct my mistakes and figure out what I mean on the fly (Dally) to novice dog who takes everything I do literally. It's just a matter of building that teamwork between Mesa and I that Dally and I have--it'll take time--and I have to remind myself to keep the positive attitude with Mesa and be patient. Once she gets it, she gets it--which is great! She's only 23-months-old while Dally's 6-years-old. It's going to come.

Our next trial is the last weekend of October at Circle G Arena in Lewisburg, Ohio, where I hope to finish Dally's MJP and perhaps get her sixth QQ, which will qualify her for the AKC Nationals in Reno, Nevada! Now, whether we go to Reno or not is another story...but to qualify her within a few months, when we went so long without ever QQing is amazing!