Saturday, December 6, 2014

Strike's First AKC Trial : Review

November 29, 2014 - Purina Farms

I finally got myself to enter an AKC trial.
Of course due to school,  I can only ever enter on Saturdays and maybe a Sunday ever here and there, so we just competed on one day. 
Strike was measured before the trial by both judges,  both measured him at 20.25", which I think is a perfect size. ;-)
He was entered at 20" in NoviceB for both standard and JWW (we don't do T2B or FAST).

So we ran JWW first. I was a little nervous as Strike isn't very comfortable on the turf. I set him up and took a deep breath, all I had to do was keep up (haha)! He seemed so calm on the startline so I figured maybe he was tired, but as soon as I released him,  that proved to not be the case. He took off, I ran for my life and we even bumped into eachother at one point (my fault!!), but we kept it together and finished the course clean! I was ecstatic that he kept his footing on one of his least favorite surfaces. We partied and played outside before going in to check on results and when we did,  I was over the moon. Strike received first placd AND ran at over 7 YPS his first run ever in AKC,  even with bumping into me and being on turf!! We partied even harder after that!

Next was standard (like 3 or 4 hours later of course). Now a lot of my friends know that Strike has a phenomenal running dogwalk, but I planned in advance that I didn't want to use it in his first couple trials (I, personally,  just wasn't ready for it in a trial situation). The course seemed flowy and we learned the broad jump the day before (oops). The first obstacle was a tunnel so that was awesome and a nice booster. He his the aframe contact by a toenail, but got it nonetheless and will be working on that more in the near future. Awesome teeter, fast ground speed and a STOP on the dogwalk to a 90° turn to the table. The next sequence I was a little on the fence about. Chute, out to a tunnel.  So I figured well, take a chance and try to send to the tunnel while trying to get ahead or running all the way to the tunnel entrance and not keeping up later. So I took the send chance and sure enough I pulled him back to me too soon. Luckily though Novice can have a refusal and I managed to get him back into the correct side. The rest of the run flew by! He also took first place in standard!

Overall it was really fun!  He exceeded any expectation I could have ever had (I don't set expectations (: ).
I'm so so proud of him, I couldn't ask for a better dog! I'm so happy to get the opportunity to even trial since we hardly ever to get to train because I'm in college and only see him on weekends.
Can't wait for many more!  :)

Friday, October 3, 2014

Your Reason?

Agility : A game we play with our beloved dogs. Big or small, fast or slow we compete, but for what reason?

Watch your fellow competitors in the ring and see if you can't tell what their reason is.
Is it for only for titles and bragging rights?
Is it something more?

It's not uncommon to ask what everyone's biggest trial pet peeve is and get "negative attitude and being disrespectful to their dogs".
Of course the negativity doesn't come from a Q, but from an NQ. A dropped bar, an off course, a refusal, maybe even a performance that couldn't get to the first place spot... most likely caused by handler error. So what is their reason to compete if you can't always have fun?
Our dogs are only with us for limited amount of time, why not enjoy every single minute?

Is the Q really that important? Does YPS mean the world to you? Does the MACH have to be acquired as quickly as possible? What does the title do to you? Would you still run your dog if they couldn't tryout for international team? What if your dog suddenly suffered an injury or problem where they could no longer run as fast? Would you still be running them?

I have the same reason of why I play agility and the reason applies to all of my dogs. My slower dogs, my fast dogs, my future dogs... I love to play with them all. To me, it's not about the Q, the YPS, or the titles... it's about the bond. The quality time we get to spend with each other on the course, and off. No run is a bad run, every run is a learning and bonding experience.  My dogs are my best friends and nothing can stand in the way of the happiness we share as a team.

What is your reason?

below: My past, present and future agility dogs.

Monday, July 28, 2014

What is he?

Your dog. Your loyal companion,  your brave protector,  your faithful teammate. 
This is what you see, but what does he see? His master, his bestfriend, his savior?

A lot goes on behind the scenes of agility teams. All very different experiences, but what is actually happening?

Is your dogs sole job to run agility? Do they have a special daily routine of walks, hikes, swimming and play?

These questions are hard for others watching to answer, as so many people seem to mock a great relationship with their dog in front of others, when really it may not be as it seems.

Person X may act like they adore their dogs on the start line with praise, have a good run and show off to the crowd. But behind the scenes they crate their dogs all day without a simple praise or cookie thrown at them. They're in the crate, before the run and after, watching and waiting for their turn, for they know the only time they will be getting out is to run. What do you think this kind of person thinks of their dog? A way to the trophy, a way to stardom? Now what about the dog, what he thinking about his handler? I wish he would play with me? Why do you crate me after I run my heart out for you? Why do you push me so hard in training only to never really reward me?

Person Y may be the complete opposite.  Not always thrilled with the run, but thrilled and appreciative at how great their dog is either way.

Respect your dogs. They do so much for us. Winning ISN'T everything. Having an inseparable bond with love and care is.

Ask yourself what your dog is to you. Now ask yourself what your dog thinks you are to him.

Be the best friend and he will be eternally grateful.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Your Mental Game

Some level of physical fitness is key in agility not only for your dog, but for you.  However mental fitness is not to be overlooked.

It's natural to get aggravated or upset, but in training and competing, these can be a real setback for many teams.

This sport is a fun game. Take the fun out and your left for negative thoughts and/or actions.
"Success" and "failure" are words put in to our heads and stuck there to create an outline of ourselves and what we expected a particular outcome to be.

If you go in to your first trial with your green dog and set expectations,  odds are that something will not fit your expectation and in turn bring you down mentally or emotionally.
If you go in to your first trial with your green dog and don't set any expectations,  you are more likely to recognize and celebrate all of the little brilliant moments in each run, Q or NQ.

With all trainers/competitors,  you are bound to find at least one setback in your training or in trials. Whether it be your dog not listening to you yelling "touch!!!" on the dogwalk during trials, bars starting to come down frequently,  broken start line stays, naughtiness or something else, something will arise. No one is perfect and having a setback doesn't make you the worst handler ever or mean you should give up. Take that setback as a guide to strengthening your team, instead of dwelling in your so-called "failure".

Too Serious - Too Selfish
Competitive people exist, you may be one of them.  Nothing is necessarily wrong with being competitive, but be aware of who is around you.  Don't be the asshole handler who gives their competition insulting remarks, nasty glares or attempts to distract the dogs running against them. Winning can be fun, but if you're not having fun,  what is the point? Also remember you have a teammate who doesn't care or know anything about placements (because they're dogs). They're doing most of the work anyways,  so stop acting like you have a constant spotlight on *you*. If you take a more fun, leisurely approach, you may just Q more or be more happy with an NQ. No one likes a grouch complaining about their run

So how do you stay positive,  even when you just NQ'd every single run of the day due to broken start lines messing up your line?
Relax and take a deep breath.  This isn't your last trial and maybe you weren't ready for it to begin with. You can't always be on top of your game and Q every run.
Go in to your next trial with no expectations (though that can be difficult). Run like you train and hang on. Pick out the brilliant moments, there is always something, even if it is as small as not barking at the start line.  Embrace those brilliant moments.  Don't hang on to those speed bump moments or errors in your handling. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone occasionally forgets a cue or trips over a wing. It's not the end of the world, unless you bet your life on a Q... but if that's the case then you seriously have deeper issues.

Go out, take a deep breath, run like hell and have fun. Embrace the little things and don't sweat the mistakes. Take a positive approach to every course and have a blast running and challenging your team to anything that crosses your path.

Look at your teammate and smile before AND after each run. Every team has greatness inside them, don't let a negative mindset ruin yours.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

It's Just You and Your Teammate

If you know me, you know that I'm not one to ever post song lyrics as a status or as some creative caption for an instagram photo... However,  being stuck in one of the university centers while studying for finals last week, I got to hear a lot of music and one lyric stood out to me more than anything else. Heard in John Legend's "All of Me" -
"Even when I lose, I'm winning"
I find this powerful, not necessarily in his context, but when applied to agility.
When you're entered in a trial, you're clearly running against others for the best time with a clean run. You are competing for placements... or are you competing for another reason?
I guarantee someone will not answer the question of "why do you compete in agility?" with the answer of "because I'm competitive and I want to beat everyone". Why?  Because agility is not just the physical game,  but the mental game. It's a learning and bonding experience.  It's a game we play with our dogs.
Back to this lyric, I truly believe it reflects how I personally feel every time I step in to the ring or even on my field at home. It's not about beating my competitors.  It's not about first, second, or third place. It's not about showing off. Winning is fun, exciting and a great confidence boost, but what is losing?  Is it giving up? Blaming your dog? Admitting defeat? Absolutely not. Who says you have to be the best all the time? Who says you have to be the best at all?
You may have a dog who struggles to even make time on the course,  but your small victories such as a hit contact or no knocked bars - that is winning.
Every single run is winning because we all have little issues to overcome, improve or learn. Someone may always be "better" than you,  but never forget that you're winning every time, even if a numbered score shows you're not.
Physically, you have competition.
Mentally,  your only competition is yourself.

Strive to improve,  to learn from every experience and most importantly - appreciate the little things and know that there is no such thing as 'losing'.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Strike's First Trial - Recap!

Strike competed in his very first trial over this past weekend - All 4 Fun USDAA (3/22-3/23) and blew me away! Honestly, I wasn't too sure how things would pan out because the winter months were so harsh and left us with very little training time. As a result of that, I attempted to stop him on his contacts. I don't want to use running contacts in trial until we get more practice in more locations.

Starters Gamblers - NQ
Before the run, we walked by the speaker and Strike was startled when the judges voice suddenly came blasting through calling out numbers. He was pretty spooked, so I tried to get his attention and comfort him the best I could, worried that he wouldn't even run for me. To my surprise, he was totally fine once the run started. Took our time playing around, but I wasn't in a friendly place at the buzzer and forgot I was running my starters dog (not Ace, my distance pro) and so I didn't support the send. Totally my fault and we finished the run on a good foot!!

Starters Snooker - NQ
Didn't last too long... I got whistled off. I'm used to CPE snooker, where if you knock a red, you get another and continue on to finish your red-color(x3). Well... Knocked a red, but apparently we were supposed to start the sequence after our 2nd red-color, which is where I messed up and the run was stopped. My bad!! ;)

Steeplechase - E
Super fun run!! He chose the wrong end of the tunnel... Not sure why, but he was on fire for the rest of the run! He even cleared the broad jump, which I actually didn't even train (oops). So happy with how tight he can turn and how well he can keep up bars in tight areas! 

Starters Standard - Q/1st place
My first concern was the tire right out of the chute which he ended up handling well, but did knick the tire (but not hard enough to break it). Great great great weaves and stopped contacts (yes, I actually got him to STOP!!)

Starters Jumpers Q/1st place
The last run of the day. We had been at the trial for 11 hours (sadly, I am not exaggerating...) I was burned out and exhausted, I can't imagine Strike was any more awake, but we ran and he did wonderful! I forgot to cue a right turn at the end on a close to 90 degree angle so he passed up the last jump, but he could go back and fix it because starters doesn't fault refusals (woo!)

Starters Standard - NQ
Pretty quick, but Strike and I were both pretty shocked when he slid off of the teeter as it was falling! (Through observation of the rest of the class, the majority did the same thing. I was first to run, otherwise I would have been sure to stop him better!). That shock is probably what caused the bar afterwards, but he ran the rest of the course nicely! 

Starters Jumpers - Q/1st place
The most connected run I felt that we had (besides steeplechase)! We had a LOT of fun and he was really bookin' it! He ran 6.3 YPS (not bad for running at 26"!!) and just sailed over the jumps!!

I am thrilled with how well he handled his first trial and how confident he was. I just need to work on trusting him more and running faster so that I can keep up with him! I can't wait to continue our journey. The future is looking bright. :) Click here for the video!!
Me and Strike with his first ever Q ribbon!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Respect for Your Fellow Competitors

I've been around many groups of agility competitors for quite a few years now, from the young crowd to the old, the small dog people to large dog people. No group in particular had many issues with their "competition"... Though quite a few individuals were cheerful to their competitors' faces, behind the scenes was tragic in how they viewed eachother.

Rivalry has always been around and there is nothing wrong with being competitive, but when things get personal, it's ugly.

I've heard just about everything from many people... It's rude. You have no idea what each dog-handler team goes through or what they have experienced.

"Clearly they don't train their dogs, so why even enter?"
"Why does he/she even try? The dog just gets the zoomies and runs away."
"Just give up already."
 I've seen a lot of teams come out on the field with a fairly new dog. Training at home or even in a class is nothing like competing. The sights, smells, sounds and surface of the floor could be all brand new and to some dogs, they may be curious about this. It's not that the handler doesn't train the dog. Besides, they could be working through issues that you don't even know about.

"Why waste your money if you can never even make course time?"
"That handler is too fat to be able to run their dog properly." 
"Ugh, get out of the ring already. Your dog is too slow anyways."
Obviously I have never heard anyone directly tell someone this, but I do hear it muttered ringside. It makes me sad. You don't know what that team could be working through. Stress, fear, physical disability (handler or dog) or something else. Since when is this sport about having to be the fastest? Some people like agility because it's fun for them and is a great way to bond and play with their dogs. It may not be about the Q, placement or YPS to some people. It's about the fun.

We don't all have the same goals in agility, but that doesn't mean your goal is better than the goal of someone else. They're in this sport because they love and enjoy it. Don't be the one to bash on everyone just because you don't like them/their dog/their handling. Don't try to bring them down either. If you're going to be the bully of the agility world, you may as well just stop altogether because you have a very negative mindset.

Odds are that those people who you dislike are in it for different reasons than you are. Respect them.
Bree - my slow dog. She no longer competes, but she loves playing at home!