30 April 2012

Tryouts... coming soon

I spent this weekend resting (more reading on my Kindle Fire!) and packing for Tryouts. I ended up putting the rooftop box back on my little car to put all the bulky stuff in it, since I'm picking up my friend at the airport and we'll need to stuff 3 dogs and 2 people in there with all our gear for a short time till we get unpacked. I leave Wed after a lesson, probably about noon, I'm heading out just past Cleveland, then the rest of the way Thursday, so that Friday will only be a short matter of picking up my friend and moseying over to the site to walk our dogs until we can set up, since it will be too early to check into a hotel.

In honor of a whole event where I'm only running my step-child Trig (who I co-own now in order to run at Tryouts), here are some pictures of her. I don't feature her much here on my blog because even though I've been running her since last November and we're trying out for the world team, I don't really  have a great bond with her. She likes me, and I like her, but we don't belong to each other. I would happily run her if I made the team, and feel that we are a reliable pair, but if we don't make it I won't be horribly upset either. My future with the AKC World Team belongs with Strafe.

Here's Triggy!

Copyright Rich Knecht

Also, monster sheltie baby Ryze has not been growing as quickly, and has only gained perhaps .1 or .2 of an inch over the last 2 weeks. He is holding right around 14.5", which is still almost an inch over on the Nobel growth chart, but the mere fact that he finally slowed down gives me hope! I heard from several people who said their shelties grew like weeds only to stop dramatically and stay "in size" (16"). I don't care if he's over that, so I have some flexbility at least.

"Squirt", as his current nickname has come to be, in the buttercups the other day before I mowed them:

29 April 2012


First off, I decided to add an evening workshop on Friday May 11th - as you might guess, this is a way of fundraising for myself for WAO - I leave that Sunday night for Belgium! It's all coming so quickly!

Building Confidence in Blind Crosses
a 2-hour workshop with Rosanne DeMascio
Outdoors on grass in Elkton MD, Friday May 11th
6pm to 8pm, Cost is $60, limited to 8 working dogs. Auditors unlimited for $25

We are located only about 30min from the Wilmington Kennel Club trial site!

This workshop is designed to teach handlers to be confident using blind crosses in a variety of situations. We will cover everything from the basic groundwork up to complex applications. The goal is to make both handlers and dogs more comfortable and confident with the use of blind crosses on course. This workshop is appropriate for any handler or dog who is running courses.

Email me at rdrift@gmail.com to sign up

And then in June my trial plans began to fall apart, so I made the smart decision to hold some workshop series and make money instead of spending it! These are all specific skill focused workshops, they should mesh with anyone's handling system and give each handler some information that will be useful for future training and handling. I love teaching short skill workshops because I feel that the participants get a lot more out of them, even if it is in a very narrowly focused set of skills. It's a great way to learn to be better, and most people can show strong improvement in the 3 hours.

Announcing a series of skill focused workshops with Rosanne DeMascio!
All workshops are outdoors on grass in a level, fenced ring.
Each 3-hour workshop is limited to only 8 working spots for $85, unlimited auditors for $30
Sign up for more than one workshop and receive $10 off each additional workshop!

Rosanne will also be available for private lessons on Friday and Sunday of each weekend, if you are interested in a personalized training session!
To reserve a spot or request more information, email Rosanne at rdrift@gmail.com

Saturday June 2nd 
9am to 12pm  "International Skills" - learn the important skills behind all the most difficult course elements that are popular overseas!
1pm to 4pm "Beat the Clock!" - Work through sequences with multiple options using a stopwatch; find out what's fastest for your dog!
(raindate Sunday June 3rd)

Saturday June 9th
9am to 12pm "Slow down! Teaching deceleration" - learn how to teach yourself and your dog to slow down when it's appropriate!
1pm to 4pm "Blind Crosses! Erase your fear!" - learn how to train them, where to use them, and how they can make you faster on course!
(raindate Sunday June 10th)

Saturday June 23rd
9am to 12pm "Backsides and Push-throughs"  - work on 2 difficult elements of handling that are becoming more popular, from basics to coursework!
1pm to 4pm "The Blind Wrap: a How To" - teach the increasingly popular "behind the back" wrap turn, and learn how to use it to tighten your times on course!
(raindate Sunday June 24th)

24 April 2012


First, here's Kiba demonstrating some of the myriad ways we can use a Fitpaws disc to help keep in shape:

Second, we went for a couple nice walks in the field today, and the beautiful buttercups are back! I used my new camera (a Canon Powershot ELPH 500HS which also shoots HD Video!) to get some pictures. Unfortunately, Ryze would not cooperate in the group shots.

Strafe, Seri, Drifter, Kiba
Seri, Strafe, Drifter, Kiba
Seri looking pretty (despite the newly chewed tail, sigh)
Mr. Handsome

Mr. Happy
Buttercup Pup

The two buddy boys out on a walk between rainy periods yesterday. Ryze is a fabulous puppy, very well behaved in the house, quiet and self-entertaining when I'm busy, but playful and noisy and loves to tug when I ask for it. He's also pretty smart. Only downside is that he's STILL growing too tall... nothing to be done but wait and see at this point, as quite a few sheltie people have told me; some of them grow like rockets then stop suddenly, some of them  grow slowly and then spurt late. There's just too much variation to be able to reliably predict anything. I'm still just crossing my fingers for 16 and 7/8" or less. I've pretty much given up on staying under 16" . . . he's already close to 14.5" at 4 months old. I'm pretty sure his knuckle/bone looks more "petite" now instead of having that large puppy-knuckle look, and I also think he grew less this last week and a half than he had been growing weekly for a while there (rate of .5"/week at many times!) so perhaps from here out he will slow down and end up just around 16" somewhere, but it's really impossible to predict. Wait and see!

Last week we held our WAO Team practice at the wonderful facility at Barto. Bev was kind enough to donate the time for the rental and also for our fundraising run-through's afterwards. Thanks to Orchard Hills Training Center! The new building is really nice - it's huge, with no pillars, and allowed us to easily set up large international courses like this one where we really had to run our butts off. Overall Kiba did really well, and I feel like the only major issue we had was the extended double spread jump that we never see here in the US. So our plan for the next couple weeks is to do that plus a few skill exercises, because other than that, we are basically ready to go.

WAO practice was last Tues/Wed, the Regional was Fri/Sat/Sun, but some crazy people are at it again Mon/Tues (yesterday/today) with Anna Eiffert at a special International courses seminar. I would have enjoyed attending for the practice, but didn't feel that it was fair to my dogs' bodies to run that many days of agility in one week. Especially the physical and mental demands necessary for international types of courses. I am trying to be careful and not break me or my dog!

I spent yesterday mostly resting (and catching up on Merlin episodes from Season 4, only 2 more episodes to go!) and getting more details for the Belgium trip finalized. Rental car, hotel for the first night in Brussels, import paperwork for Kiba.

This week is the first full week home I will have since March! Looking forward to it, although I need to do all the stupid home-things I have missed out on. Laundry, always laundry when you're traveling, there's no end of it! Especially since I only have 3 good pairs of running pants that I like to wear. Then next Wednesday I leave for Minnesota for Tryouts with Trig (and Strafe comes along for the ride). I decided to drive since there is no urgency for my trip due to work, and it's just easier and cheaper that way as well. It's about an 18-hour drive for me, but if I pick an affordable hotel and my car continues getting 32mpg on the highway that's not too expensive, and worth avoiding the hassle of flying.

Trig, of course, decided to blow all her coat just in time to be naked for Tryouts... oh well, good thing it's not a beauty pageant!

23 April 2012

Post Regional

Possibly the most exhausting agility trial I've ever been at. Overall we did well, and I got some of the Q's I was after, won some of the money I was after, and my dogs ran very well. The schedule for the trial did not work so well though, and we left the hotel at 6am and didn't get back till 8pm or later both Friday and Saturday, which is a bit crazy.

Friday Strafe had his 3rd chance to earn a local Grand Prix leg, and he did it! So we earned the chance to play in the Regional Round 1 on Saturday.

Also on Friday we ran Team Jumpers, Team Standard, and Team Gamblers. All 3 of my dogs did pretty well, Drifter really enjoyed running in the P16" class, and Kiba ran really well at 22", placing 4th in Team Jumpers by less than half a second behind 1st, in a VERY competitive 22" class (of dogs who are mostly bigger, younger, and used to jumping 22"!). The Triathlon Final round competitors are determined from combined Team Jumpers and Standard, and all 3 of them easily got through into the Final so I was pretty happy with my Friday.

Saturday we started with Regional Steeplechase Round 1, Grand Prix Round 1, and Team Snooker in each of the 3 rings. Drifter wasn't running the Regional classes since he isn't going to Nationals, and Kiba didn't need to run PGP Round 1 since she had a bye voucher. Early this morning started out by finding out that Strafe's pelvis had been out of alignment, and although my PT fixed it and worked on the surrounding muscles, he was still a little sore in the muscles/tendons around the area, and he knocked 2 bars in Steeplechase (but had a great time), and 1 bar on a hard but fun Grand Prix course (had a great run otherwise!). Kiba got to run PSJ at 16" since that's what she qualified at, and that's where she'll be again after Belgium - she rocked that course and went into the Final round in 1st place. For Team Snooker I couldn't find a great plan, so even though all 3 dogs ran well for me, none of them placed.

After Snooker I got Strafe worked on again by my PT and she loosened up the muscles some more, stretched him very well, and lasered the heck out of the sore area. I then walked him out for a while and when we checked him later on he felt much better.

Team Relay went reasonably well and Drifter's team with a steady fast sheltie ended up 4th overall, Strafe's Team was 21st overall (out of 63) and so Strafe got his Team Q for Nationals. Kiba's team didn't do that well due to some teammate mistakes, but I didn't really mind since I am not running her in Championship Team in Denver anyway.

Last, and late, Saturday evening was Triathlon Finals. This was an awesomely fun course that had some great challenges.

Due to the lack of a lead out on Drifter, he did not do so well (apparently being semi-retired means no longer staying on the start line!) but Kiba had a really fabulous run at 22" and finished 2nd place with a great time! I was really proud of this run as again, she beat some younger, bigger dogs at their regular jump height. Strafe also had a really fabulous run, but got called a refusal when he *almost* stopped before jumping a jump. This really pissed me off, since he did NOT stop, he did NOT turn away from the jump, and he DID jump it without stopping his motion forward, so really there was no excuse for calling a refusal. My best guess is that the judge called it because he assumed Strafe was stopping, and even though we saved it, he did not rescind the call. I thought we had the fastest time but I went back and looked and we would have been 2nd place, but still, for my 19month old dog to have the 2nd fastest time among some truly World Class competition at 26" is amazing! I just wish I hadn't lost the $155 I would have gotten for 2nd place!!!! I will probably avoid this judge for big competitions if possible now...

Sunday was Kiba's day, and I muddled her PGP Round 2 by aiming her precisely *between* the correct and incorrect obstacles, and she chose to wrap my leg a bit and take the incorrect one. Oh well. No bye to semi-finals there!

PSJ I was determined to WIN after mucking up PGP, and it was a super speed course, almost disappointingly easy, so I wasn't sure whether Kiba would win or not, but we pushed hard and did it, winning another $53 to take home.

I am thinking about using the $210 to buy a Kindle Fire to take to Belgium;)

Oh, I also bought a Pet-O-Bed to bring home. I can't turn down a nice supportive foam bed. Seri approves!

15 April 2012


It's OK to admit you're a nerd. I play video games. I hook up the wifi to my Xbox 360 using the wifi extender in my bathroom cabinet.

But mostly today I spent alternating between walking the dogs around the field in short walks, cleaning the bathroom, living room, and spare bedroom (houseguest arrives tomorrow), and resting my brain, which is a bit fried still from my recent travel schedule. I spent the evening (nerd alert) starting a game of Halo Anniversary edition - they updated the original Halo game to play in HD on the Xbox 360, and I realized that while I did play through the entire Halo 2 game back when it was new, I never did go back and play the first one. And I finished Mass Effect 3 before AKC Nationals so I need something "new" to play for a bit when I'm home. I will go back and replay through the Mass Effect trilogy at some point, since you do get to discover new things you missed on a second play through, but for now it's classic Halo.

Kiba is on a rest and laser and walk schedule, since after running on the carpet at Linda's then running 5 Team runs at 22" in one day, her back is pretty tight. She's moving pretty well though, but I want her rested for WAO practice Tues/Wed this week. And the Regional starts on Friday...

I posted videos from AKC Nationals on my youtube channel. I'm not embedding all of them - it's past 10pm here and I still need to laser the dogs and go to bed!

PS I hardly recognized Ryze when I got home, he's grown a ton, and it's ALL leg! Keep crossing your fingers for me that he stays under FCI Medium cutoff, as he is certainly not staying under 16"!

Here's a random picture to complete my post and add some visual variety. Me, riding my horse in a Jumpers competition circa 1997...

12 April 2012

Lots of Agility April

After I got back from Reno I spent a whopping 3 days at home before driving down to North Carolina to teach a seminar over the weekend. After the seminar, we packed up the van and I drove from North Carolina to Ohio to participate in one of Linda's Tryouts Prep camps. I wanted to run both Trig and Kiba, to practice for both Tryouts (Trig) and WAO (Kiba). Kiba ran absolutely great and is very ready for the competition in Belgium in May. I was especially pleased with her jumping. Since she has historically had some issues with taking off slightly early (over any height) I have been very careful to watch her jumping while working her up to 20" and 22". Well, she ran fabulously on both the carpet and grass, at 22", on very difficult courses with difficult jumping situations. She did have to take a few extra strides to think about the extended double, but she was able to clear it the first time through. I was also pleased with her weave entries, which is something else we've had some issues with - she isn't *bad*, she's just not as reliable as Drifter, so I have to be aware of her minor issues and remember to handle them properly.

Trig ran quite well for me too, and I was pleased with her overall. She did some really tricky sequences very well, and I think I'm getting a handle on how to run her. She's quite different from my usual dogs, as she really does better with an "in your face" handling style and lots of verbal assistance.

After the 2nd day of the seminar we decided to just go ahead and drive all the way home, so we got in quite late last night. Consequently, today we are tired but happy to be "home" in North Carolina (you'd be surprised how many people think I live here!). Tomorrow we have one day of a local USDAA trial to get Kiba used to competing at 22", and try to get Strafe a Grand Prix Q and another Steeplechase.

Saturday I finally head home.... and have to prepare for the next week of craziness!

03 April 2012

AKC Nationals 2012

Despite the blog title, this was a bit of a daunting trip. My first airborn dog trip alone. I managed though; it helped to use an airport and airline and shipping office that I was familiar with on the way out, and the airport and parking lots I'm also familiar with as far as dogs go. It was a long trip for us since I wanted to fly direct and not mess around with connecting flights. I drove 2.5 hours up to Newark area, stayed at someone's house Tuesday night, flew 6 hours to San Francisco then drove 4 hours over to Reno on Wednesday.

There are snowy mountains between San Francisco and Reno! A pretty drive!

I got into Reno without any major hitches around 6pm local time. i checked into the (very nice) hotel, ran to Whole Foods for a quick shopping trip, then ran to the airport to get my room-mate who flew directly into Reno.

Thursday was a resting day, mostly. I went to the site, got my borrowed crates, chair and cooler (thanks Barbara P!) and checked in. I signed Kiba up for the practice run to enforce her contact behavior. We crashed early Thursday night. the 3 hour time difference is rough!

Friday started out with the "Warm up Standard run", in which I drilled Kiba's contacts a bit. She was feeling pretty fresh and almost went off course ogling a dogwalk ramp, which I also briefly paused to correct. I felt that she ran pretty well for a warm up though. In the afternoon we had the Time 2 Beat run. This is new for AKC Nationals and they added some excitement to it by giving the winner a bye into Challenger Round (which passes down the line to 2nd, 3rd, etc if the winner doesn't need it). Oh and also $50, which I didn't even realize until afterwards. This was a fun but not all that technical course, which was apparently the theme for the weekend aside from Challenger and Hybrid rounds... i planned 2 blind crosses and they both worked well, and Kiba ran very nicely, winning handily even with a nice faceplant after the 3rd jump. She drove hard and turned tight and overall I was very pleased. So we started the weekend strongly with a bye into Challengers (which I hoped we wouldn't need) and $50 (which I always need).

Trig ran well in T2B for me but she almost fell off the seesaw, which was more angled in our ring than the others. She saved it, but I held her for a second to be sure she had it, and then she knocked the triple which was next - it was a very big distance and also in the deep dirt, which she hadn't had a chance to adapt to yet since I didn't run her in the "warm up".

Saturday was Rounds 1 and 2. I wasn't really excited about either of these courses. i felt that the only reason they were challenging was because people ran them with "Nationals adrenalin". They were very typical local type courses. Kiba ran clean with a great run in Round 1 for a 1st place, Trig also ran that one clean and was about 2.5 sec away from 1st (not sure what placement, not top 10 though). In Round 2, Standard, I was determined to not "go for it" since all I needed was clean runs, and kept telling myself to hold contacts so I would still have them on Sunday. And I did it; I held contacts and didn't try to win the class - we got 4th anyway but I definitely enforced a stop on all 3 contacts, probably losing us a second or so of time. You can see in the video I'm running "for clean":

Trig had a very good Standard run going and I felt that she was running very well but then she knocked the panel near the end. Her time was pretty good, only 2 seconds off the fastest dogs, which I was pretty happy with.

On Sunday we had Hybrid, Round 3. I knew this run didn't matter much for Trig since she couldn't make Finals or Challenger Round due to the ultra-competitive nature of the small 26" class at Nationals (it's pretty much all World Team members and hopefuls), but I still wanted to put in a good competitive run just in case the World Team deciders were watching ;) and we did - I felt that she ran very well on the toughest course she had all weekend, and she ended up around 15th place with a good solid time. If she had run all 3 clean she still would not have made Finals, but she would have been around 8th or 9th overall based on her times, which isn't too shabby! With the bar down she was 21st out of almost 50. So top half at least!

Trig's brother Rush was also at Nationals, and ran 3 clean runs, missing Finals by only 5 dogs! That's great for her first time there, and with such a young dog.

Rush on left, Trig on right. He's less than an inch taller but Trig scrunched for the photo.
So then Kiba had to run Hybrid. It was a good course for us, although I chose more rear crosses than usual in order to both babysit her teeter and to get the best line through the middle section. It worked great, and once again we won even with a slightly imperfect run - she stopped short on her seesaw and I made her come down farther after it landed in order to make sure the judge saw her feet in the contact zone. Aside from that she was once again fast and tight for 1st place, cementing her spot in Finals and passing the Challenger Round bye on down the line.

We had about 6 hours between that run and Finals, due to waiting for Challenger Round. I got my Finals shirt (a nice dark grey which made the logo really stand out), picked up Kiba's ribbons, and got her worked on one last time. The hard surface was affecting most dogs' feet and backs a little bit, and she was no exception, so I minimized walking and stairs for a while and let her sleep.

L to R: Finalist ribbon, 1st/Q in Hybrid, 4th/Q in Standard, 1st/Q in JWW, 1st/Q in T2B, the most ribbons I've ever gotten at AKC Nationals!

Finals on paper didn't look overly difficult, but as always, the adrenalin and stress would cause mistakes. The discrimination, while not as tightly spaced as the one from 2009, was definitely going to be an issue due to the dog jumping straight towards the wrong obstacle. Aside from that I was a bit disappointed as it seemed like just another "fastest dog wins" course, so popular in Final rounds here in the USA. I really want more difficult Finals here.... I want "best handler wins"! Not to say that isn't always the case now, but I want a harder test!

Regardless, this particular handler still managed to mess it up. I rarely make stupid handling mistakes but I surely did in this run. I will admit I did not like running after Ashley and Luka, because they put in a great round and the cheering was still going on when the timer told me to go, which unfocused me a bit. Kiba was good through the weaves, working hard to stick her entry. I was too focused on her at that point, and as soon as she finished her poles I stepped across sideways and got a really nice tight turn on the next jump, executed my front cross in the right place..... and over-rotated, presenting Kiba with open space instead of the next obstacle. Predictably she did what I've trained her to do, and didn't go out and take the jump. So there went our shot at the prestigious NAC title. Duh! I still can't believe I did that - not to brag, but it is so rare for me to do something like that! I took that part of the course for granted, and hopefully i will never do so again!

We have videos on order from 4 Legged Flix, so I should get them soon, until then, sorry. Here's some more pics of my drive on the way from Reno back to San Francisco on Monday (a VERY LONG travel day).