Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy birthday Sunshine ...

both big T and Sally celebrate today

Sally is 7,  Big T a little older (Sally's littermates also have birthdays today of course - below you see her sister Sophie)

both are so so good for me

and to me

both keep me active, help me be positive, motivate me to do things and are just generally good souls.

It's their birthday but somehow I feel like I get to celebrate too

Sunday, June 09, 2013

We Are All Human ...ALL of us, even Susan Garret

SG posted a video of two spills Swagger had on the warm up day at Ontario East Regionals. They weren't fun to watch - in one clip he wiped out as he came blasting off the dog walk in the other he lost his footing as he took off for a jump and somersaulted through it. In both cases he jumps right up and is, as far as I can tell, ready for more. She clearly states that spills like this are why she hates doing agility in the rain. But she needs to do agility in the rain. If she's representing Canada and flown half way around the world and it's raining she has a responsibility to run. (She also has a responsibility to keep her dogs safe - and I am quite sure if she knew conditions crossed from unpleasant to unsafe she would pull them no matter where she was).

Conditions and equipment weren't unsafe in this case. They were wet and unpleasant and Swagger is a young dog who doesn't let a little something like wet grass slow him down. He may have learned a valuable lesson about how to keep his balance on Friday. I am sure SG will be doing more rain work with him this summer too.  SG is an athlete who knows her dogs are athletes. She keeps herself in good shape, working with a trainer, paying attention to what she eats. She does the same for her dogs. 

She is NOT a weekend warrior who only runs in the rain if she paid an entry fee. Her dogs work in all conditions, on varied surfaces and they need to. Should she have pulled Swagger? No more than any other dog there should have been pulled, perhaps much less than many should have been. I wasn't there. I was an hour away thinking "Yuck today is gross I am glad I am not playing agility today". The trial hosts have lots of experience with agility and I haven't heard a whisper that they thought about stopping the event. 

Were there other dogs there that maybe should have been pulled? I'm going out on a limb here and guessing yes - there were probably dogs running there who shouldn't have been running no matter the weather conditions. Urban dictionary suggests a weekend warrior is "a person who holds a regular job during the week which restricts their ability to party/go on trips/partake in awesome activities, and thus plans epic weekend adventures to compensate."  in terms of agility I worry that weekend warrior dogs go to class/training once a week and get leashed walks once or twice a day with little opportunity to truly build fitness or muscle memory for the obstacles we expect them to do.

 It's pretty hard emotionally to withdraw from any competition. You've paid your entry (not cheap for our sport), changed your schedule, perhaps traveled a long distance and then you realize  you shouldn't be there. Peer pressure is likely going to come into play. I have heard people say "she doesn't look that bad" and "maybe he'll work out of it"  to people with a sore dog. Nobody wants to be the one to say "Why would you run that dog now? You may do irreparable damage if you do". Being negative is no fun. We have huge demands placed on us to "suck it up" "be tough" and "get the job done".  Pulling out runs counter to all of those things. Last year when I had to withdraw from Regionals to work I felt enormous pressure to do it all somehow  - and that was actually physically impossible!

I totally get why people want to play - and I think they should play. I also believe that they should not cast stones without a good  hard look in the mirror.  There is a very big difference in asking "Why didn't you pull your dog?" and "You have completely lost my respect" (just one of a slew of frankly hostile comments on the SG video). We are all human. SG made the same choice everyone else did on Friday. Swagger fell, twice. With games and sports comes risk. Would I be terribly upset if it had been my dog? Yes. Was SG upset? It sure seems she was. Was Swagger upset? Not so much - he won the gambler's class yesterday and was second in standard. I have every confidence that SG will get him the best care and work out a solid plan of action to help him recover from any trauma (physical or mental) he may have suffered and learn to deal with varied conditions better. While she may be sorry she posted the video I am glad she did. It's provoked conversation and thinking - and perhaps more weekend warriors will actually think and withdraw from events when it's in their and their dog's best interest, rather than simply tell other people what to do when they aren't even present!

Sure hope Swagger and SG are ok!

Thursday, June 06, 2013

when it goes south ...

Do you yell? Go deathly quiet? Cry? Laugh and forget about it? Does your response ever upset you? Upset people around you? Upset your dog?

Does it depend on how badly it goes? Is how you react creating a BIG PROBLEM? (for you, others or your dog?)

Does your reaction depend on how important the thing is? By that I mean if a rule is wait until a door is open before going through it and another rule is don't counter surf - do you get more upset over whichever rule matters more to you? Or is a rule a rule?

Is an incident treated the same way no matter who is around? If dogs are not supposed to jump up on visitors is the reaction stronger if they jump on some people?

Is your approach positive or punative?

Yelling is ineffective and it also makes me feel horrible. I don't think I'm alone in that. Not yelling has a really positive impact both for you and for those around you. (Kids, spouse, dogs, whoever!)

Mistakes happen, they are a learning opportunity. Sounds so easy. So hard to truly internalize tho.

There is a woman at the barn I ride at - quite a nice rider generally - who has a terrible temper. A temper bad enough I won't let her help me bring horses in. If one of the youngsters stepped on her, or stopped and stared at something I honestly don't know what she'd do. I do know she loses any semblance of self control when things don't go according to plan. It's quite sad as she's quite a lovely person otherwise.  You have all seen the agility dogs who make a mistake and drop and cringe; perhaps leaving the field or otherwise taking action (that usually doesn't include agility). I often wonder why things going wrong upsets them so badly. I don't see handlers melt down angrily but it seems that the dogs are sensing things going wrong sometimes... or perhaps they just worry things might go wrong?

Tension, anywhere in the team, is not constructive or helpful. Challenges are one thing and pushing your team can be a huge rush but it is important to work through what you will do if things don't go according to plan. (And yes I truly do believe visualizing and expecting success is a worthwhile component to the mental game of sport!) Figure out how you are going to deal with things before you have to. That way it's much harder to provoke a reaction  that isn't intentional.

One of the nicest things I've heard lately was a comment on a dressage test about what a pleasure it was to watch Nelly and I as we were a happy team. Nice eh? I'm still glowing!

And do keep in mind the errors aren't personal. Your dog isn't trying to be BAD, or to get you, or to make you crazy - honestly! Once I really understood and internalized this my frustration level dropped.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Making our sport better one organization at a time, two words at a time ...

The broad topic for today's DABAD is improving dog agility organizations.
I have been thinking about this off and on since it was originally posted. Should I focus on AAC? CPE? Things that would make the sport better for the dog? the handler? As usual, so many ideas that I fully expect other people will nail much more expressively than I could ever hope to.

For me?

Every organization I have played with is made better by the use of the words Thank You.

Ever thanked a trial host? I hope so. Has a trial host ever thanked you individually? I hope so. You know if you have ever read this blog I thank my dogs often and in many ways (Sally loves her chicken hearts!).

Thank you is more than the words. You have all heard the saying actions speak louder than words?

Here are some easy ways to offer  thanks  (human/human)

Trial Hosts

  • offer incentives (for volunteers or regular attendees a little break on a later trial is always appreciated by me!)
  • have raffle draws for volunteers
  • feed people  - anything - it doesn't have to be fancy - cookies/ a veggie tray can be much appreciated)
  • say the words thank you! (some hosts are so good at this - others are not) 
  • for big events like regionals or nationals contact your last set of volunteers/entries individually and ask them to help/particpate again, don't presume that people will see the sign up and think "oh that was so fun last year I have to go again". People like to feel valued. A short note to them saying " last year was amazing can we sign you up this year?" will likely get better results. I am not volunteering at a big local event, nor am I running in it partly because of finances, partly because no one asked me to help out
  • be personal - smile, ask after people or dogs, listen - yes you are busy but if you ask either preface your ask with "I'm so sorry I'm really busy right now but I can't wait to hear how (whatever) is" giving you a valid reason to listen for a minute then excuse yourself or ask when you have time to truly listen


  • the hosts are the reason we can play - say thank you! I am actually appalled at the number of people who aggressively assert their priority over everything else when wanting HELP from a host. We had a general unstated rule in my house, if you were dying you waited your turn to ask for help (if the blood was making a mess you might be able to interrupt). Wish more agility people got that.
  • Drop a little note in the box set up for next trial entries that says thanks
  • email the host or judge or both letting them know you appreciated their work
  • use social media to express your gratitude - on the cpe list the JUDGES often thank the participants and host - lovely but a little backwards if you ask me!

The benefits of sincere thank yous are enormous. Happier hosts will hold more trials if they can and listen if you have constructive ideas to improve trials. Happier participants will come t more trials if they can and feel like they are a part of things. They will volunteer more and give more. Happier dogs are why I play this game!

anyhow - happy reading and thanks Steve for organizing another great topic!