Monday, December 01, 2014

The Weather Outside is Frightful ...Let Us Learn, Let Us Learn, Let us Learn

I am a teacher.

I am a teacher because I love learning.

I sure didn't love school as a student. (Let me be honest - there are things about the institution of school I am not to fond of as an educator either.)

DABAD topic of the day:  Continuing Education
tons of blogs way better than this on this topic at the link here

and onwards we will go

My biggest single thought on this? DO IT! Never stop learning.
Know your dog area well? Super cool - great for you -  go find something else to learn.

How should you learn it?

Take in person classes - find somebody positive, somebody fun, somebody you want to learn from.

Take online classes - my go to academy is Fenzi Academy -  the next session of classes actually starts today - GO SIGN UP

Join an online community - FB has some neat training groups, Susan Garrett is opening her Handling 360 course this week, there are cool yahoo groups so many - find your niche - meet some like minded folks interested in what you want to learn

READ - lots ... ebook, print book, articles ... whatever turns your crank

My mind is on the mind game stuff at the moment so here are a few suggestions:

 Not Just About the Ribbons
Trials Without Tribulations (at $15 it's a GREAT ebook buy at the moment)
something by Lanny Bassham

talk about your learning ...share your wisdom.. find something new to do

Brody and I just played through the list of Novice Tricks ... at the age of 13.5 Brody knew way more tricks than needed to send off for a title! Little superstar ... now that's motivated me to actually train some new tricks to Sally and try Dora with a few too

Short - sweet, and to the point huh? Busy busy days around here ;)  more soon!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

it just makes my heart hurt ...

I err on the side of caution. This I know. I laugh at myself sometimes.

"I'd love to enter the trial in a month but Sally was sore a year ago at that time so I won't."

"I volunteered to work and Sally will be too stiff if she sits in a crate for the day - even if it would be after her classes"

"Oh Harri horse looks a little stiff, we'll go for a walking hack instead of the ring work we had planned."

"Oh you didn't leap up when I put my shoes on, perhaps you aren't in the right head space to learn something new - lets reinforce what you do know"

and so on ...

That said I am pretty sure my animal gang would pick playing  training here over some of the other options. Many years of listening when I see an animal in discomfort have left me with some doozy statements that rattle around my head at times.

"He's old, I want to show. What if he is never sound again?"

"She's not really lame, just uncomfortable"

"Do you think it's painful? Couldn't it just be mechanical?" (and the answer to that - no matter the species in sudden onset change of gait is a BIG RESOUNDING NO)

and so on and so on ... right down to "I can't see it" (umm playing ostrich helps no one here)

I am sorry if it was the only show you had planned. I'm upset for you if it is the only show you can get to in two months. I understand the devastation of withdrawing if it's a title on the line. Really, truly, I am and I do.

Seriously though there are so many reasons to respect what your animal's body is saying and NOT trial or show if you suspect or see pain or discomfort anywhere.
1. Your animal partner plays the competitive version of your sport for you. They would have just as much fun playing at home when conditions were perfect and you were in the best mood. We have a HUGE responsibility to consider their interests. And I'm going to take that further and add ahead of our own. That's right. We control what we do as a team therefore the onus is on us to make the experience as positive, stress free and painless as possible for the animal half of the team. (If we can do it for us too all the better!) They TRUST you to make the right call for them.
2. You may make things much much worse by pushing through it, whatever "it" is. That is not OK. (be grateful that's as much as I'm saying on this one)
3. If your animal is painful they cannot be themselves. Maybe they will be worse; maybe they will be better but either way it's not a true testament to the state of your partnership.
4. People who are new to a sport, or young, are looking around and up to everybody. What kind of example does it set if you will show a sore or sick friend? Don't be bitching to me about them or anybody else when they bring their dog with worms or that was exposed to kennel cough, or their lame horse to the next show if you are demonstrating less egregious examples of trialing animals not in top form.

I had a nice conclusion written up - I erased it to leave you this thought. If it feels at all wrong, At all like you are pushing it, if somebody else can see your dog or horse is not Quite Right if you get that sinking oh dear feeling .. even if things are  not absolutely clearly WRONG please let them stay home and recover well and wholly. Please. You make my heart hurt when you don't.

At the very least think about it.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Stress and Nerves

In an A HA moment of epic proportions  I may have tripped across a key to success (for dog sports and beyond) that I have never articulated before even as I live it. My theory? People who are holistic in their approach - seeing the interconnections between play, training and competing in dog land are better able to set goals that are achievable and make sense in terms of team development and will therefore be better able to be successful in the long run. How's that as a run on sentence? Awesome eh?. Bear with me, bare with me? Whatever... too busy thinking to check which is right here!

My working theory is largely developed from Face Book posts and conversations with a wide number of people in a bunch of different sports. So it probably has little, or maybe even no merit. But it's got my brain working. So maybe it will trigger some thought for you that will make sense; or help you think through your attitude in times or triumph or despair. (Let's be real - if you stick with a sport long enough - either showing or training you will likely get both ends of the spectrum!)

It seems that people who see their world in segments are less likely to be able to see the big picture and the value that can come from errors and mistakes, Their goals are tied to specific events and frustration with themselves and their partner builds with each failure to achieve whatever their goal is. 

Each mistake or frustration leads to another and the cycle of stress and unhappiness continues to spiral down down down .. the flames get higher and higher and people give up. Either on themselves, the sport or their partner - all of which SUCK.

Big picture people get that a mistake is a chance to learn. A show is a place to test yourself. An imperfect partner is teaching you more than a perfect partner ever could.

and there you have it - random musings as I try to avoid thinking about the coming winter! 

Thursday, November 06, 2014

eight years later ...

just a little over 8 years later and Sally celebrated her anniversary here by running with 10 other dogs ... she got a turkey neck... it was, in Sally terms, a very good anniversary.

It's impossible to imagine it was just eight years ago, and impossible to imagine it was only eight years ago that I first met Sally. The Thursday before Thanksgiving weekend she had been adopted into a fabulous home to be a second dog to a lovely couple. Their house was in behind Toronto's Seneca College and they were so excited to meet Sally. I quite honestly can't remember if I dropped her off or not. I suspect I did as I was so excited for Sally (Daisy at the time) and optimistic that this quiet little puppy would be a great fit for this amazing couple.

By Monday the adopters were hysterical. The puppy wouldn't eat, or play, or do any normal puppy things. They were terrified she was going to die. They begged the rescue I worked with to take her back. Instantly. Faster than instantly actually. I remember having to put them off an hour or two to finish some Thanksgiving something then driving up fully expecting to talk them through feeding little puppies. One look at Sally and I knew she was coming home for vetting the next day if she made it through the night. I was sure the puppy was dying.

I hugged them and thanked them for caring enough to do what had to be done and alked out the door, unknowingly starting a journey I had couldn't imagine.

Sally came to school with me - hidden in a crate under my desk I seriously thought about how I could go on leave to care for her. I took her to the vet after work and she thought the puppy was dying. My orders? Take her home and do what we did best. Give her palliative supportive care and report in daily.

Luckily my immediate supervisor had a huge heart - and loved dogs (in fact he had adopted William Wallace, another sad sack puppy, from me a few years previously). Sally was at work every day until after our Christmas holiday. Just over two months under my desk in a little bed.  She ate home cooked meals every two hours, around the clock for two weeks then gradually I started extending the night time hours - eventually getting her to 6 hours at night.

She was always so brave. She was always happy to see people and she was a total heart thief. It was a few weeks in that Big T announced the puppy would be known as Sally, would live, and was staying with us. He felt strongly that knowing she was loved was going to be what pulled her through. It seems he was right.

Much of her journey after she made the one year mark is in this blog. Life with Sally is not easy. But it is always adventurous.  That she has made the 8 year mark is simply astounding. Sally is Sally. Will always be Sally. Such a special girl.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Going on a Lion Hunt ...

No not literally - it's a line from an old camp song

gotta go under it
gotta go through it
gotta go over it

are all other bits of the song ....

sometimes you just gotta go outside the ring to refocus and figure stuff out... BLOGGER DAY today - YAY! Click there or here if you prefer to get lots of links to lots of people's blogs on the subject.

Any long term reader of this blog will know my life works in this pattern - play, play play  whoops I mean train, train,  compete, have the wheels on the competing bus fall off (illness in family, self, canine partner, build a house, run a farm, get a new job and so on and so on) and repeat cycle ... multiple times over the last 8 years in fact. Now I live where trials are all over 2 hours away and I can't easily be gone from home for more than five hours. Challenging.

I spend way way more time outside the ring playing working really hard than we do competing. There are some super cool benefits to this which I would encourage anybody who wants to maximize the opportunities outside the ring to take advantage of

The dogs are fit.  Not just ring fit but truly well conditioned  athletes - our playground means they swim, go up and over, under and through on a daily basis. They work their wind and muscles at least briefly every day.
Blind and deaf Brody still believes daily exercise is a key component in a happy life.

The dogs are keen. Sally and Thea got to play agility last week when we had guests. It's been at least a full year maybe a little more since Thea has seen a dog walk. More than that since a teeter. Two visits to the agility field and BOOM Thea was begging to do more. Ended up putting a teeter back on the girl. Crazy.
Sally is always keen. I likely would not be embarrassed to run her (running me is another matter) at a trial tomorrow. Yes some of her skills have faded a little. I had to actually move with her the first time I sent her to the aframe from 30 feet ...I didn't need to move the next time tho. Just a tiny bit of practice and she's ready to rock and roll. Sally and her brother Duncan waiting their turn for something or other:

The young ones are always keen to learn more, more, more. Short bouts of infrequent play have them begging to be the chosen one for just about anything.

The dogs love trying new stuff. Scenting, my pathetic efforts at heeling, going for car rides, playing crate games or recall games - whatever.

It sounds trite but, for me anyhow, the joy in life is the journey. Getting outside the ring and focusing on having fit, happy, healthy teams is critical to me being able to enjoy the competitions I can get to. Yah it's lovely having titles adn yah I am very proud of the work the dogs do (see all the Saving Dinah, or nationals or regionals posts if you doubt that) but if I am proud of anything personally (and I'm not much given to pride) it's that the dogs are all around athletes leading as happy a life as I can provide. Being able to build a house at the worlds biggest dog park and do all kinds of very dog directed things here (fenced yard, dog wash, flooring choices, location of house choice etc) has been very exciting and rewarding.

The ring will call me again soon - she's exerting a siren pull of late - but it likely won't be a long relationship til something else bounces up to distract me for awhile. In the meantime the dogs and I will continue having fun.

(On a slightly divergent note I'm setting up a general dog sport club - how's "The Ribbon Factory" sound?)

Monday, August 18, 2014

May I please ...

... age as gracefully as Brody. Ever the good sport.

His vision is nearly gone, his hearing is truly diminished (he even misses the food cupboard opening!) and when we walk together it's my job to stay with him - a total role reversal of the last 13 + years.

He may feel an ache, a pain, a momentary lapse of awareness but he doesn't let it get him down. Sometimes he has to stay home and he is pretty expressive about telling us he could keep up if we'd give him a chance.

Brody is learning to woof and ask for help if he gets stuck - or can't find me. I have learned to listen for him.

He still hates being groomed, still insists on finding burrs. He's still Brody.

When he knows where we are going he still bombs ahead with tail flagging madly and there is nothing he loves more than getting a little job to do.

I wish all dogs could retire as well.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Trying a little something ....

I have written a lot about the mental game of agility .. the mental game of training and competing in a broader context too ...
I am launching an online course on Mind Matters to help people understand the way their minds work and influence their relationships with animals. A huge component will be dealing with stress in training and showing too. I've been letting this percolate for a very very long time and am very excited by the way the pieces fell into place.

The rough syllabus looks like this - tho it's adaptable - and people who have signed up have already made great additions to it

Identifying your style – learning, personality, introversion; how to use what you learn in your life 
Planning for success ; Training for Success;  Understanding the brain and it's influence - keeping your brain as healthy as possible 
Finding Focus; Training for Failure; Memory and its role in success - making courses and plans work for you
Identifying  the concerns;  Coping techniques:  visualization, mantras and keywords; what to do if and when it gets derailed
Creating your Personal Plan, Filling in the little details, Testing Your Plan, Revising Your Plan, Doing your plan
Making it all work for you: short, medium and long term; Different Types of Healthy Goal Setting
plus whatever other amazing things get added in by students and myself 

There will be lots of case studies, discussions of research ( I am a total brain research nerd!) and time to consider individual issues, book and article reviews and discussion as well as lectures and assignments. With two awesome folks lined up to give their own unique feedback, amazing students already signed up and my brain exploding with additions to the course

My goal now is to have a small in person workshop in the fall too but it would be amazing if people who wanted to come to that did the front end work on line-  there is a lot that will work really well with this format  with a seminar in person as follow up.

I'm excited! If you are interested in joining in let me know and I'll get you the info - as it's a first time using this format it's a very reasonable cost too!