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!

Monday, June 16, 2014


oh Sally you are so fine

so fun

so gorgeous

so talented

TTL photo


such a good teacher

8 years old today(ish) and 7.5 years older  then anybody thought possible

I will never be able to thank the dream team who made it possible to get to here enough - Big T, Mum,  the Aseolites who loved you to life, Dr A, Shelly and her team, and Monica Segal.

Happy Birthday Baby

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

In every failure lies success ...

...but sometimes admitting to the failure or finding the success in it is challenging (to be polite). DBAD TODAY! the topic is success - check here for much more succinct and important posts on the topic . I have yet to miss a Dog Agility Bloggers Action Day though so figured I ought to weigh in. 

As my favourite statesman Winston Churchill said "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts." He also sagely said "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." I personally suspect the optimist can find success more easily than the pessimist. (There's a Ph.D. in that topic I bet)

But what a heck is success? I can't define yours - you can't define mine. I can't even tell you for sure how Brody defines success tho I am pretty sure there are a whole lot of cookies in his mental image of it. My definition changes.  Yours probably should too. This year agility success might involve getting all my equipment set up and playing agility at home. In 2008 it involved winning a national title. Range is good. Variation is the spice of life. 

Another, tangentially related point I have addressed before is that  success with one dog may not be success with another dog. Having Sam do a short successive series of jumps and tunnels is success for us. Running clean and fast and happy over a masters level course is success for us. Success for Dora is keeping it somewhat together for a day. Success for her brother Gade is a title/ 

As I processed this topic a warped line from a song kept running through my head. "Success what is it good for? Absolutely NOTHING". Not quite true perhaps - but it certainly doesn't have to be the driving force (at least in the traditional, how everyone around you defines it sense of the word). Define your success. Develop a plan to achieve it. Use "failures" as stepping stones to it. Be prepared to redefine it and rewrite the plan as needed. Enjoy YOUR success! 

Friday, May 16, 2014

What kind of trainer are you?

ALL the quizzes.

All over facebook:
What kind of storm are you?
What's your best feature?
What's your spirit animal?

You get the drift.

It made me think what a great quiz what kind of trainer are you would be.

What adjectives would you apply to yourself? To trainers you'd like to emulate? If they are different words consider why they are different. Here is a good place to put positive self talk into practice. You might say you are soft - another person might see you as kind. You might label yourself indecisive while someone else might see the same trait as willing to experiment.

If you aren't seeing yourself in a positive light have a good hard look at the words you have chosen. What is the best  aspect of the word you have chosen? How can you build on that aspect until you feel more positive about your word choice?

Let's say I call myself lazy as a trainer. (Actually I tend to think of myself as a lazy trainer). What's the plus to being lazy? Training sessions are short and sweet. I don't want to waste time or energy so I put a plan in place before I start work. I set goals for the vast majority of sessions, and as I don't want to repeat things needlessly I take either pen and paper or mental notes on how things go. See? I'm not lazy. I'm efficient. Truth!

So what kind of trainers are there? The list is endless - but here's my take on just three types. See yourself? See other people? (and here I'm going to pretend that only positive or at least mostly positive trainers exist in the world - my blog - my rules)

The superstar trainer.  They get the fine art of training. The science. They may tackle issues in different ways and have different areas of expertise but they are superstars in their own right. The superstardom may be local, national or international but they are magnets. They attract people and can make you BELIEVE.

The hard working pet dog trainer. They have a school, or not. They do stuff with their dogs, or not. They get frustrated by the same old same old issues and the people who think they can teach everything their puppy needs to know in one hour once a week in a group class.

The personal trainer. They have purpose but life sometimes gets in the way. They play sport(s) with their dog(s).  They like learning and they like teaching. Some are better than others. Some are more competitive than others. But they have commonalities. They take classes. Often with superstar trainers. Often with a variety of superstar trainers. They can get a bit desperate at times trying to achieve sometimes elusive success. They often work hard in spurts. Consistency can be missing at times.

All good people. All doing good things. All with laudable individual characteristics.

What kind of trainer are YOU? What kind of trainer do you want to be?
The first step to getting there is figuring out where you are now.

Monday, May 12, 2014

I really otta teach more

Today I hosted a smelly workshop at the barn ... such a good environment to gently test commitment  - pigs, horses, cattle, chickens ... you name it they can smell it. So far the dogs in all four workshops have come, had a look around and acclimated very quickly. Every dog has worked scent though not always as well as in a familiar place.

I love groups like this - dogs know the game, handlers know the game but teams need a confidence boost and a reminder about what I think are the fundamentals (timing and reward placement). We did a handling circle, then a double row, then a room search in a tack room. The group brought lunch - so so yummy and generous of them! Then we went back to work introducing the vehicle search.

As usual I started simply with a very obvious find on a very simple wagon. Then we moved onto the old tractor and finished with a horse trailer. SO MUCH FUN!