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Check it out, we have moved!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

No, we haven’t moved into the new house yet (hopefully within the month) but my blog has a new home. Be sure to set a new book mark for yourself when you visit us at www.susangarrettdogagility.com

I am really excited about it, so go check it out, let me know what you think and which one of you will be the first comment entered on the new blog?

 

Today I am grateful for Jason and Andrea at www.webmanna.com for all their help in my making this new blog a reality. They rock!

 

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Hotel Fitness

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Well, starting today I am on the road until June 29th, Yes that is correct, I get home the day before our big summer camp with Greg & Laura Derrett. John is not fond of me planning like this but it couldn’t be avoided. I am in Toronto for the weekend then off to Auburn, Washington to work with those wild and crazy westerners.

I like to work out in the mornings when I at home, but it gets more difficult on the road. So any of you out there that also travel a lot or have a special insight into fitness, do you have any ideas how to get a good workout while on the road?

At home I mix things up with cardio and weights (preferring my medicine & kettle ball work to machines). I used to deflate and re-inflate my exercise ball with every new hotel I got to, but lately I haven’t had room for a lot of extras in my suitcase since the airlines got tough with how much weight I can carry (dog equipment takes priority of course:)).  

So I throw it out to all of you, any ideas for me? You guys have never let me down yet when I have turned to you  for suggestions, so how about it?

Although my first 4 days on the road are at a “dog-less” event, I am grateful I get to take two dogs with me for the rest of my time away from home.

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Party Crasher at Novice Camp

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

 

Snapping Turtle

Pre-historic visitor to agility camp!

Well Novice camp started off with some excitement as this young lady decided she needed to lay her eggs right at the end of my opening sequence!  Every year at the end of May-first week of June, the turtles come up from the pond to lay their eggs. We have two varieties, the cutie-putie type painted turtles and the sort picture here which are snapping turtles.  

The snappers, luckily for us, prefer the water in our woods behind our house at it is a running creek.  The dogs never go back there as the brush is pretty thick. The only worry is this time of year when they come up onto our hay field to lay eggs.

It was entertaining for all of us, as it usually is each year, but this girl wouldn’t leave us alone!   John put up a snow fence to keep the dog’s away from her while she finished her job but once she was done she came up onto the agility field to get a closer look. That is when John loaded her into this wheel barrow to take her back to the woods.

After that adventure was over we all settled into have quite a great camp! It was suggested throughout camp on several occasions that “that was a gem Susan, you have to post it to your blog” so here I will leave you with one of them.

I commented to the group to not be concerned about the speed of their novice dogs. I spend a lot of time rewarding my young dogs close at my hips or “reinforcement zone” as Greg Derrett coined the phrase. In the midst of sequences I will often reward a dog for driving back to RZ. For this reason they are not all “launchy” and “powerful” when we start running courses together.

I used the example of Feature and Encore. When each of them came out most people commented on how “slow”  each one looked. At Feature’s first two trials she could not get within 3 seconds of any of Encore’s times. Only a couple of weeks ago John said to me he thought she would never be as fast as Encore. Well even though that would not change how I felt about her, I was pretty sure John was wrong and she proved it last weekend at the Ontario Regionals.

You shouldn’t want your novice dogs to be frantically grabbing obstacles, squirreling around like mad. The power and the speed will come, but the time spent working on the finesse will pay off down the road. It is far easier to teach collection and thoughtfulness to your young dog before they realize they are equipped with a 400 horsepower engine and a set of Pireili tires– then after!

Today I am grateful for the improvement every dog and handler showed over the 2 days at the camp formerly known as “Novice” camp.  See you all next year at “Growing the Teamwork Camp!”

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Become Inspired . . .

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Some of you may have read the dialogue I had with Donna Rock yesterday on the blog. Donna posted a video or herself which reminded me of these other two. Donna is an amazing person, be around her for only a few minutes and you can not help but be inspired.

The inspiration does not come from any disability, but rather but her great ability. She is one of the most naturally gifted dog trainers I have ever worked with, and I have worked with a lot. Through all the precision she teaches in obedience she is always feeding into the dog’s love to work. She has a very light hearted way with her dogs. She is demanding without being tyrannical about it.

Watch these next 2 videos (and go back to the comments section and watch the other one Donna posted) but don’t look at what Donna can’t do, focus on her amazing; timing, her discreet application of criteria and her brilliant decision making when it comes to reinforcement or controlling access to it.  

On top of her ability Donna has a great sense of humor and not once in all the days she worked with me did she ever complain about how tough the mechanics would be for her. Even when I was teaching hand targets, not once did Donna whine and say “what about me. . . “, she simply innovated and did what was necessary to made each exercise her own.

Today I am grateful that my career  allows me to meet inspiring individuals like Donna Rock.

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I Don’t Get It . . .

Saturday, June 6, 2009

So I am looking over my registrations for the upcoming Novice camp this week and I don’t quite get it. Why do people trip over themselves to get into a masters camp (we have been full for some time for our July Masters camp) but do not want to make the investment in their novice dog? (as I write this we still have 3 spots open for camp this week).  I won’t give you another one of my foundation, foundation, foundation rants (ok I just did:)) but to me it is a head scratcher.

My “novice” dog Feature just debuted at her first “big event.” Her only fault was one knocked bar in her last class (4th to last obstacle). In the three classes where I didn’t have to hold her contacts; Jumpers1, Jumpers2 and Steeplechase Finals, no dog in any height class beat her time except Encore (but only by a few hundreds of a second). She didn’t just beat your run-of-the-mill-dogs’ times here either, as there were more than a half a dozen current and former Canadian and US World Team dogs in that group.

I am not writing this just to boast about how great my young dog is. My point is that this “novice” dog of mine has a career that is exactly four months old.  She just turned two this month and is already performing like a pro. She still has lots to learn, but the start has been an impressive one, even by my standards. 

Now here is the kicker. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Feature is actually my seventh agility dog I have owned throughout my lifetime and every single one of them have been great. Every single won of them has won National or World championships events or both. When I won my first US Nationals with “Stoni” back in 1996 people said it was  “fluke.” After more than a decade of winning with my dogs, doing it in every jump height (7 jump heights in all) I am going to go out on a limb and state I am pretty confident it is more than luck that is behind the success.

I know I can help those of you struggling with dogs making novice mistakes. Why is it then that  you wait until your dog is in Masters before you seek out help? By then a lot of bad habits have been set for you and your dog and change becomes more difficult. Life is so much easier if you start with a solid foundation of understanding in your novice dog.

This past January, Greg and Laura Derrett and I ran 2 camps in Florida. The first one was a novice-advanced level 3 day event. The 2nd was a 3 day masters. Guess what, the masters camp was full in a matter of days, the novice one never even approached half full. In the end, I had Greg and Laura teach the camp on their own and I changed my role to that of student where got to work Feature for the 3 days. It worked out awesome for me, that is for certain! It was amazing to get in 3 solid days of work with my “green” dog just before she was about to start her agility career.

This week marks the first summer in 5 years we have offered a novice camp here at Say Yes. I did it because I really believe it is where the focus should be, but now I realize why I stopped offering them in the past. So what gives? Do you want to come to a masters workshop because you think you may be missing out on some ninja secrets if you only do the Novice camp?  Honesty it would be more the opposite. We teach more concepts in a Novice camp and only work the finesse of those concepts at the Masters level.

So what’s up, how do I (we) motivate those of your with novice dogs or even masters dogs that are still struggling with fundamentals to sign up for a novice handling camp? It is so important but how do I convince all of you out there of it’s importance?

Today I am grateful for a weekend at home. The next three weeks are going to be a whirlwind for me but I promise all of you I will not forget you, the blog will be up and running.

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An Epidemic of “Buck Fever”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My observations from the Ontario regionals this week can be summed up by a comment I am borrowing from a friend. I was talking to a business colleague yesterday and he used the phrase “Buck Fever.”  He spoke about how a marksman on the practice range can hit any target in any situation or environmental stressor. However put that same shooter out in the bush with the adrenaline pumping and he can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Now as a vegan I may not be crazy about an analogy of hunting down a defenseless animal, however the point is a good one and one I saw played out a lot at the Ontario regionals this past weekend.

I saw many competitors, some my students, some just people I have seen at trials in the past that normally execute pretty well. Their handling choices are normally decent, decision making about “what to do if things do not go as planned” is generally instinctively good. However put these people in a “big event” such as the Ontario regionals and they are stricken with Buck Fever.

Suddenly handling becomes less sensible and more erratic, feet don’t move when they should and the mouth goes when it shouldn’t. At home or in an “regular weekend trial” this doesn’t happen. The biggest problem is that your dog counts on your calm, insightful direction to get him around the course. Once Buck Fever hits, your handling resembles someone juiced up on triple expresso swatting at an annoying mosquito in the dark. 

So what is the antidote to Buck Fever? This may be depressing for some of you but, the best antidote to Buck Fever is success. The more you rehearse being at a big event and handling the way you want the more likely it is that you will be able to do it again and again.  Of course immunity starts only with a solid understanding of dog training and handling. There is no cure without consistency away from the big events. Remember you need to be able to hit the easy targets at home first!

I still suffer from occasional minor bouts of BF myself, especially when I run a new dog for the first time. However just like your immune system, recovery is faster the more you have fought it off in the past. So this past weekend my standard, jumpers and Steeplechase runs with Feature where all pretty good.  I was completely relaxed (cold due to the weather but relaxed) going in. Even on Saturday where it was Day One and we were the first team on the line to start the competition, we ran well and she was only a few tenths of a second behind Encore who won the class. No BF for me here.

Where I did get hit a bit was in the Gamblers class. Quiet honestly it is because I rarely do Gamblers in Canada and it is a lot harder than anywhere else in the world (to start there is a minimum of 18′ distance challenge).

The first step to overcoming BF for all of us is to rehearse success.  Don’t wait for it, go out and create your own success. Since the judge won’t let us have a “do over” you need to rehearse this success in your mind before you go in.  Run your run many times before you step to the line. Then when you actually step into the ring you are on one of your “do overs.”  You should know exactly where every obstacle is, how you plan on executing,  what your next move is and when you need to leave to get there.

Recently someone posed a question to the blog about what to do when your visualization before a run turns to crap.  When you can’t seem to visualize your run without your dog going off course or knocking a bar. Here is a secret I learned from my good friend Greg Louganis. It is a good one, so take note. Allow it to happen. Don’t visualize only the perfect runs. If you brain needs to open the door where crap happens, go ahead and look in through that door.  Acknowledge that that scenario is one of many possible outcomes. How are you feeling? Did you cause the error?  How can you compensate for it?  Adjust and finish that run with your ‘blip’ in it. Acknowledge that you still love your dog just as much even though you didn’t run perfectly together. There is still no world peace and the outcome of your run hasn’t changed anything of any real importance in your life. Now you should be able to close the door of failure and go back to visualizing success. 

Learn from your struggles to visualize. I struggled visualizing my second gamblers runs this weekend with both Encore and Feature but I ignored it. Perhaps next time this happens I will look at possibly altering my opening plan until I could visualize it well and go with what I have succesfully run in my own mind. This is not, by any means, all the mental prep anyone needs to do well in sport, but it is a start.

 Realize that Buck Fever hits everyone hard at some point in their career but it is not fatal. It is a normal process for anyone putting themselves out there to be judged in any walk of life. It is simply an affliction that attacks our humility.  A full recovery can be expected.  You can build your immunity first by improving your handling and dog training skills.  However resistance to disease does come with continued exposure. So don’t step away from your chance to perform under pressure, you will get better eventually. Everyone that sticks with it does. Rather than judging yourself, learn from your experiences and as the slogan from this weekend says, learn to “enjoy the ride.”

Today I am grateful for the booster shot against Buck Fever that I received this weekend. Just like most inoculations, it often hurts at first, but the long term benefits are worth the momentary pain.

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Positive Results from the Weekend

Monday, June 1, 2009

Another Ontario Regionals has been put to bed. The rain, wind, hail and 9 degree temperature made us all very grateful for the bit of blue sky we saw on occasion on Sunday afternoon.

Our championships up here in Canada are geared towards consistency across the Jumpers, Standard and Gamblers classes.  I tend not to work Gamblers too much at home, so my focus is always to do well in the regular classes. I have been doing more distance work at home but trying to balance with close work as to not lose what I have in my handling relationship with my dogs. Remember balance.

Well, we had an outstanding weekend in the regular classes with either Encore or Feature winning all of the 26″ Jumpers and Standard classes and Feature winning the Steeplechase finals as icing on the cake (Encore ran in 22″ and had a bar in the finals). 

However my lack of focus showed with Feature in Gamblers where I tried mini gamblers (not a good plan with a dog that has had less than 5 months of showing). If I had been more patient and just tried to accumulate points she would have been the overall winner as well. In the end she was 2nd place in the overall championship, 1 point behind Tiffany Salmon’s great (world team) dog “Rio”. In 6 classes Feautre had 2 1st place finishes, 2 fourths and only 1 fault (knocking one of the last bars of her last round of the weekend).

I didn’t bring along my re-charger for my video but Lynda’s husband, Johnnie-videographer-”Spielberg,” caught my runs for me.  This is one of my favourites  however there are a few more up on my youtube site (www.youtube.com/clickerdogs)

Last year I had to sit out the Ontario Regionals as my back went out and for a full week I couldn’t walk without the use of a cane. Even though this past weekend we had to ran in mud, rain, hail and freezing temperatures; I am happy and grateful to report all is well with my health. God is good:)!


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