Thursday, May 19, 2011

Agility at the DCA national specialty.

The plan for agility day .... get up and be out the door by 6:30.  I am so not a morning person any more.  However, we did manage to get out the door and over to Dunkin Donuts for coffee and a snack, and be on the highway by 6:40 I think.  We got to the agility site around 7:15 in plenty of time for the first briefing and walk thru.  Steeler had to be measured as well.  This time he measured right at 22 inches so at least I didn't have to move him to the 24 inch class.  Although, looking at the photos from the trial I really had no reason to be concerned.  I am probably going to order some prints so I will have to see if I can scan them and post them.

First up for the day was Novice FAST.  A general explanation of FAST is that you have a set amount of time and you make up your own course to accumulate points and somewhere in your plan you have to do a series of obstacles from behind a line before you run out of time.  In Novice (20 inch) you have 32 seconds and you need 51 total points to qualify.  You have to get the "send" and that gives you bonus points as well.  So basically - for this course - Steeler needed to get 21 points and the Send.  Well, he got 63 points in 26+ seconds!  That got him a second place!  Missed first place by a point.  :-) 

Next ... a lot of waiting.  :-)  We watched open FAST, Excellent FAST, Excellent Standard and Open Standard, and then we got to run again!  We had a few handling errors in our Standard run - but overall I was pretty happy with our efforts.  Our last class of the day was Novice Jumpers with Weaves.  Steeler had a great run for another 2nd place and a Q.

All things considered - I was very very pleased with the spotty boy's performance in obedience and agility!  Now we just took it easy for the next several days and played "kennel help" for my friend Dawn.  There was the welcome party, the top twenty and the awards banquet to go to during the week. 

I also managed to take some time to visit my great Auntie Berna in Cincinnati which was fun.  I took Steeler with me and she had to knock on all her neighbors doors and introduce me and Steeler.  I can only hope that when I am almost 90 years old I am in half the shape that she is in! 

Wednesday night after the banquet we got most of the car packed up so we could leave bright and early Thursday morning.  On Thursday we drove from Ft Mitchell to Afton NY to see one of Dawn's puppy owners.  We got to NY around 4:30 and the dogs got to stretch their legs a bit.  We got to sit down and visit and have dinner and then we let the dogs play.  Steeler got to take turns playing with both puppies (8 months old) and he got to RUN.  I don't think he has had much of a chance to do that since we moved in December.  He definitely needed it.  We got on the road again around 7:30 and the dogs were all silent for the next 4+ hours that it took to get home. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dalmatian National continued ....

..... OK so here is the rest of the National story.  I picked up Steeler's number for Beginner Novice.  And yes I was my normal neurotic self.  LOL. I am pretty sure that I watched 7 dogs compete before me but when I entered the ring I had no idea what the heeling patter was!  In Beginner Novice the heeling pattern is done with Rally signs.   His heeling wasn't pretty - or at least not as pretty as it can be when I am not nervous, but it was TONS better than it was the first time we entered the obedience ring.  It got a little bit better with the figure 8 exercise as well. I think I need to work on my attitude entering the ring - when we are just practicing things seem SO much easier!  Steeler's sit for exam, and his stay were solid!  His recall however - well he came, with a LOT more speed than usual.  I was pretty sure that I had NQ'd here - not that I was worried about whether we qualified or not.  But since that was the last exercise I was on my way out of the building to spend some time outside with Steeler when everyone asked where I was going .... "you qualified ... come back!"  Who knew!  Out of 9 dogs that were entered and the 8 that competed, there were three qualifying runs.  Steeler came in third with a 181.  I entered the ring knowing that I wasn't there to worry about a great score - I was going to tell Steeler to sit if he needed the reminder, and I was going to double command if I needed to.  So I know I lost a lot of points for things like that. 

We were also entered in Advanced Rally, which didn't go so well.  We pretty much went from the obedience ring to the Rally ring.  Steeler got his nose stuck  on a spot on the floor.  So I ended up walking him out of the ring.  So many people came after me to tell me it wasn't his fault that someone's dog had pee'd in the ring.  Which was fine- I wasn't mad at Steeler.  Part of our new program is keeping things as black and white as we can.  If he chooses not to work with me (and clearly dog pee at that moment in time was more interesting than a stressed out Momma) that is fine but he is not going to get rewarded for it. 

After all my obedience and rally stuff was finished we hung out and watched and chatted with friends for a while.  Then we headed over to the agility venue for run thru's.  The training club has hosted run thru's the night before our agility trials when the nationals have been in KY.  It's a nice facility, indoors and air conditioned!  There is not a lot of shade around - but we were lucky to have cool days so it was easy to crate out of the car for the run thru's.  We hadn't been to agility class in a month, and the last set of run thrus that we went to were not all that successful.  So I wasn't really sure what to expect.  I decided that since there was no food in the ring (toys were ok) I would start away from the ring gate for my first run.  I was sufficiently nervous that I decided to leave Steeler on leash and ask him to do the dog walk and offer him the toy to see if he wanted to play.  WELL - he did want to play!  OMG!!!!  :-)  So I took the leash off and we did our own thing and played tug with his stuffed sheepie.  Our second run I was more confident and we started at an actual start line near the ring gate.  Steeler was great!!!  Of course I had to pick up stuffing along the way - but just the fact that he was willing to play with me in a new place with lots of people around - well that is awesome!!!!  After our runs Dawn and I packed up the pups and headed back towards the hotel, picking up dinner along the way.  I think both of us were exhausted, and Saturday was going to be an early morning! 

The Dalmatian Club of America National

So..... D and I left for Fort Mitchel KY later than planned with less stuff than planned. We had planned to take the car top carrier to put extra crates for the room and stuff in it, but we were driving into tornado warnings and bad storms and D's jeep didn't have the cross bars that my carried needed to attach properly. To say that our departure was a bit chaotic might be an understatement. I didn't help matters by being later than I thought I would be. So we got a late start and we were both a bit stressed out. We did manage to get all three dogs in the car and all the stuff we HAD to have.

We made it to Scranton PA before deciding to find a hotel for the night. We had pulled off the highway to get gas, and the attendant said that we were driving into tornado warnings. FUN! So we stayed at a Days Inn. And remember, there is no more pulling in Steeler's world. EVER, and that means in a downpour there is still no pulling. I don't think either one of us were happy with how wet we got. And then we had to do it all over in the morning. We had a few hours of tough weather driving wise, but once we got through the remainder of the storms the roads were fine.

We pulled into the Drawbridge Inn sometime between 5 and 6. Checked in, moved the crates around, and got the dogs in. I managed to get in touch with Lisa and join her group for dinner. I got to hear about the road trial and had a great time.

Got to bed around 10 PM, and didn't set the alarm since I had decided last week that I wasn't going to show Steeler in Obedience. So I didn't need to be at the show ring at 8AM.

So we got up, went to breakfast and then Steeler and I wandered over to see what was going on in the obedience rings. Steeler settled pretty well and we hung out and watched for a while, exchanged some text messages with E and eventually ended up on the phone talking. After some discussion about the pros and cons we decided that if I felt like I wanted to I should go ahead and pick up Steeler's number for beginner novice.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

May???? How did that happen???

Oh my! How on earth did it go from January to MAY!!! LOL Well I must say I thought I was back to my training blog in January, but that was apparently not the case. Now that winter has come and gone, the house is rented, and my stress level has finally decreased - things are finally calming down. Steeler and I have been working on agility and obedience between January and the end of March, with the goal of competing at the Dalmatian National in Fort Michell, KY at the end of April. Well as a warm up, I entered Steeler in a Beginner Novice run at a real actual trial. UGH! What a disaster. I don't know what the problem was, my nerves? Steeler's anxiety? But he literally pulled me from sign to sign on the heeling pattern. We do a lot of Rally. The sign's really should not have been interesting to him at all, or so I thought. There is always something to learn as Steeler has reminded me time and time again. So after viewing the video, and a lesson with my obedience instructor (E), we devised a plan. This is going to sound so incredibly simple, but really it's not. In the discussion with E - she reminded me that really the last couple of years we haven't really been doing a lot of training, yes we go to class every week, we occasionally go to run thru's or show n go's but really how much time have I spent training outside that environment. The reality is that really I wasn't doing any real consistent training.

I don't really remember how we arrived at this idea - but it was a relatively simple thing - no more pulling on leash EVER!!!! No more getting cookies for just sitting around, no more Mom being a Pez dispenser. It sounds like such a simple thing. But really it was and is HARD!!!! But what a change. I worked hard for the month between our decision to give this a try and the national. 25 out of the next 30 days there had to be some sort of training if I were to consider showing at the national. We dropped just about everything else as far as training went. No working on heeling or retrieves etc. Everywhere we went, you will walk right here with me .... you don't get to pull me to the next bush to pee. You don't get to pull me over to friends to say hi. Those things became "real life rewards".

Steeler didn't really think this change in "The Rules" was such a good thing at first. We were entered in an APDT Rally trial the following weekend, and after some discussion I decided that I was going to go and give Steeler the opportunity to decided whether he wanted to work with me or not. The Saturday trial was not pretty! We walked into the ring, got the slowest sit ever, and when I asked him if he was ready he wouldn't even look at me. LOL oh that was hard. I said thank you to the judge and walked out of the ring and put Steeler in his crate, no words and he had to walk through a crowd of kids saying LOOK IT'S a Dalmatian. We did that twice on Saturday. Sunday was a bit better, I got more attention and was able to do a couple of signs and have a big party in the ring.

The following weekend we were again entered in another APDT Rally trial. Thankfully close to home. Huge change in attitude during the week. We were able to do the whole courses with lots of reinforcement for choosing to work in the ring. So after three plus weeks of working I was still undecided about whether to even bother going to the National. E didn't think that we were actually ready to go in the ring just yet, but at the very least, it would be a week where I could concentrate on working on our program. So we went......

To be continued!