28 February 2013

Dogs


This weekend is the beginning of a trial/testing period for Kiba. She is running in 8 runs this weekend, at her usual jump height of 16". I am going to try to video as many of her runs as possible, but the real test is how many bars she hits, and whether they are in any way consistent - is it always a bar that occurs when I am ahead of her? On a front cross? A lead-out? Moving away laterally? So far it is usually when I am ahead but she isn't consistent that I've seen. Some have been on straight lines, some have been on turns, some on a front cross but I had obviously finished my rotation and was not facing her so there was no real "pressure" involved, just the visual distraction of me being in her sight line.



This weekend combined with AKC Nationals 2 weeks after that will determine what I do with Kiba for the next year. My original plans with her were to attend USDAA Nationals in the fall, and then AKC Nationals again next spring, but if she has too much trouble keeping the bars up at 16" I will have to rethink my plans. I will have to consider USDAA Nationals. You don't need as much consistency there, as one or two clean runs can still land you a placement in one of the Finals, and you can do very well in Team even with a few knocked bars. However, for AKC, she will not even qualify, let alone have a shot at Finals, if she cannot run several clean rounds in a row. What I need to do before April is decide whether to continue trying to qualify her at 16", her championship height, or drop her to Preferred 12", or just not run her in AKC any longer. She is just past halfway to MACH2 but not so close that I couldn't drop the hunt if necessary. If I decide not to run her in AKC any longer, do I start running Seri at 20" instead? She's been doing very well physically, I am just not sure she has the consistency to perform in AKC... she's a bit of a "win or E" sort of dog, it goes great or it doesn't..... but AKC courses tend to have consistent spacing between jumps and 20" is a nice height for her.



Anyway, these are the thoughts running through my head today before I delve back into the work of scheduling for my PT's at AKC Nationals. Tough work - we have too many dogs signed up and making it all fit in the allowed days is not easy!


21 February 2013

yes...

it has occurred to me that I have been hiking a lot lately, and taking pictures of hiking a lot lately. Well, too bad! Hiking is good for me, good for my dogs, and I like pictures of my dogs. It's a great way for all of us to have fun AND stay in shape!

Tomorrow I go to ACA to teach for 3 days, that is always a fun crowd but I'm sure I'll be exhausted afterwards. I am glad that is my last big teaching assignment before AKC Nationals so I'll have a couple weekends to recover. Only one more trial between now and Nationals! I'm very excited about taking Strafe and still a bit bittersweet on Kiba... she could go there and smack it down and win, or she could go and misjudge her jumps and knock 4 bars. I am not sure what she will do but I don't have much control over it. I am happy that aside from her vision she is a happy healthy 8 year old dog!

It was cold day with the windchill below freezing (and it was windy) so we hiked with coats on:

Fair Hill has some fun little mountain bike ramps.

Couldn't quite fit dogs and the creek in the shot together here but I tried

My view when hiking. They are all very good experienced hikers, they don't run amok and mostly follow the trail

I love this picture even though Seri is leaning sideways and has a stick poking her in the chest ;)

19 February 2013

just a random "catching up" post

last weekend I was teaching in NJ and had the dogs checked out by Ria on the way home - I don't normally bother having them done every 2 weeks but with AKC Nationals coming up I want to be sure they are feeling their absolute best. They were feeling pretty good, as it turns out.

Today I met a friend and we went for a long hike - originally the rain was supposed to hold off till afternoon but of course it started just as she arrived. But we put on our coats (and my dogs' light jackets) and off we went anyway. We ended up staying out just under 2 and 1/2 hours; this is why I appreciate a friend going with me, I am so much lazier by myself! It was a good hike, lots of hills and varying terrain. And lots of water. And mud. Strafe and Kiba won't be training tonight - they got some training in as demo dogs and during lunch at the seminars, and will do the same again this weekend coming up, so I'd rather focus on hiking and other fitness activities during the week. Too much agility = not good. Tomorrow we'll probably do another, less tiring hike, and add in some core activities and wrapping a jump standard with some short sprints, or something. We mix it up.

See the joy inherent in Kiba's reaction to snow? Yeah, that's pretty much the opposite of how she feels about rain.

13 February 2013

Training

Here is our training course from yesterday:


I wanted to make the starting and ending line a fast straight line with varied spacing (2-3/21-22 is quite tight, I set it around 15 feet), to work on bar knocking.

We had a lot of fun training this course. It wasn't particularly difficult for us, but I wanted to try a lot of different options on the line from 5 to 12, which is based on the FCI 2012 Large Individual Jumping course (part of it, anyway)! I am sure the spacing is not quite right, but it was fun to play on anyway!



11 February 2013

WHO got Team and Steeplechase Q's this weekend?



That's right. Crazy Seri dog did! She wasn't exactly perfect, she was still rip roaring wild, but she managed to stay on every course with only minor faults, actually ran clean in Steeplechase round 1 and Team Relay (with some screaming from both of us), and only ran around the broad jump in Steeplechase Finals, which we fixed, for 6th place. So now I have to decide if I want to try to get a 2nd Steeplechase Q and maybe take her to Nationals or not. I will rest her today and then thoroughly check out her body to see how she held up physically - see if her pelvis is still in, her shoulder isn't too stiff, her wrist isn't too sore, her back doesn't hurt, etc.

I also ran Strafe in a couple Advanced classes, Masters Challenge Standard and Jumpers, and Steeplechase, and he Q'ed in all of them, winning both Challenge classes with very nice runs.

I only got 2 runs on video - Seri's first run of the weekend, Team Standard, and Strafe's Masters Challenge Jumpers. They are on my youtube channel, feeling too lazy to embed them.

06 February 2013


Got a few inches of snow the other day. It's mostly melted now, but isn't it pretty?

Yesterday we went for a lovely hike with a friend, saw a movie, then trained on the course I posted the other day. Was good fun. I didn't bother to get video, but Strafe ran the course clean pretty easily, Kiba did well too, and Seri once again surprised me by being able to actually pull out some decent turns and getting around with only a bar or two. I am looking forward to running her on Team this weekend, should be exciting!

04 February 2013

My dog is the prettiest dog.


Well, with my decision to try not to get too hung up on Kiba's performance goals, comes the acceptance that getting a puppy in about a year is probably going to be about right for me. As with Strafe, I worried that it might be too early. Of course, I did have Ryze for a while, and that was definitely too early, but I knew after I placed him for growing so large that I wanted to wait a while before getting another one. Well, with Kiba's retirement being planned for 2014, that seems like a good time to get a puppy. Strafe's breeder is tentatively planning to breed his mother again in September, which means puppy around next January. It will not be a full sibling of Strafe, as she is planning to use a different stud, so the pup may be nothing like Strafe at all, but even if it is a little bit like him, I will be happy. His entire litter has turned out to be nice dogs, so I'm not too worried about anything I might get.
Kiba will be retired by the time this puppy starts competing, leaving me with only Strafe trialing full time, and probably Seri doing a few USDAA trials here and there. She will be turning 8 herself in 2014 though, and since she hasn't been the sturdiest or sanest dog, I'm not expecting to be able to trial her "seriously" into old age. So, the puppy decision was made easier. I like having 2 "serious" dogs running concurrently, it's just the right amount for me.

Why not a puppy off Strafe? Well, I certainly might eventually get one of those, but Strafe is a boy dog. It is relatively simple for me to get a pup off of him when he is 8, 10, or even older if I collect him. And I don't want to miss the opportunity to bring more new, talented BC blood into the USA when I get the chance.

03 February 2013

This week's Tuesday Training Course



Once again, I have refrained from making it ridiculously difficult as I do want a few places to open up, and our training building is only about 60' x 100' so I can't make it backside-backside-backside all the way around. Also that is not realistic anyway, even the hardest courses in Europe still have open sections, and in fact RUNNING HARD is one of the biggest challenges out there! Looking forward to Tuesday, it should be fun. Once again I will have Seri, Kiba, Strafe.

02 February 2013

Kiba's jumping

I was a little down on poor little Kiba yesterday. And by that, I don't mean mad at her - I mean sad about her career. She has done quite a bit for a soft, kind of crazy little dog. When she was young, she was so soft that I thought she'd never make a competitive national-level dog, but she just got faster every year and now I have to stop and think to count how many Finals she's been in! She's still kind of crazy, and still does not have a very good frustration threshhold in training, but now when she gets upset she just kind of throws herself at obstacles instead of running away and quitting, so I can deal with that!

she clearly took off way too early here
Anyway, on to the jumping. Kiba's a little thing, her structure is just so-so, but she has always had some drive, and she is light weight. But she's never been a very good jumper. She just moves her legs so fast now that people have a hard time seeing it. She takes off early. I think she has a mild form of ETS. It is getting worse as she is aging. Back when she was 5, there were two main reasons I dropped her to P16" from C22" in USDAA - one is that her back was quite tight and the lower jumps seemed to help, and the other reason is that she just could not get a Grand Prix qualification at 22", and it was always ONE BAR that was losing it for us. I could see that even though that doesn't sound awful, one bar, it meant she was struggling. This is a dog who used to RUN AWAY from a jump when the bar fell down, now she was knocking a bar or two every weekend. Jumps had become difficult for her. So I dropped her down to P16" where she has proceeded to get PGP Q's usually 2 in a row every year (this year included) with hardly any bars. But since last June or so I am seeing a new trend, and that is that the "one bar" issues have returned. This is especially noticeable in AKC where we chase the ever important "Double Q", and I can't even count how many of those she has missed over the last year due to "one bar". And it isn't usually on a tricky handling sequence, a hard front cross, anything like that. It's on relatively simple sequences, sometimes a straight line, sometimes an easy 90-degree turn. Yesterday it was the 2nd jump on the course.

Super cool photo! But what you can't see is that the next photo in the series was her almost landing on the bar!
We are entered in the AKC National this year, in 6 weeks time. I am going to approach it with a vengeance because I felt that I gave it away last year, that Kiba should have "had that" - it was my fault we didn't run clean in the Final, not hers (although she did me no favors either ;)

But I am also going to have to let go a little bit. I have to let go because otherwise if we go to Tulsa, and she hits one bar every day, I will be really upset. I have to let go because the bars are not really her fault. She does not mean to hit them. I think she hates hitting them, actually, so I am pretty proud of her for continuing to run so hard all the time for me. We will still try hard, and we are still on a mission to do enough jump training and conditioning that she can get through the National without even a single bar, as she did last year, but I will also be working to step back from the NAC dream with her and just accept her for who she is - a dog with a jumping problem. I will probably continue with my retirement plans for her - we are going to AKC Nationals this year in Tulsa, USDAA Nationals in TN, and then AKC Nationals next year on the East Coast, and that will be her final big event, just a little over a year from now. She will be about 9.5 years old for that, and hopefully still jumping 16" - though so far we have done 4 days of AKC without any QQ's, I am still optimistic that we can get through them even with her jumping issues.

It took me 3 weeks to teach her a strong verbal cue for these monster spreads, or she landed on the back bar every time.
Here is a video I made a while ago to study her jumping takeoff's, it is from WAO so she is jumping a little over 20" instead of 16", but that just makes her issue a little more obvious. It is in slow motion because it is more clear that way. Here is another one of her in the summer jumping 16" at AKC trials.



01 February 2013

AKC today

slogged through heavy (but brief) snow this morning to get to the trial, where it had hardly snowed at all. This was the only day I entered, since I decided pretty late to attend this trial and Friday was the only day that hadn't filled.



The morning started out with Strafe putting in a really lovely run in standard, clean and 33 seconds and change. Lovely, pushy contacts (for him, I WANT pushy), and nice easy jumping. One of my goals with him this fall/winter has been to get more confident, stronger jumping from him - less adding strides and being cautious. And I think at Williamsport a couple of his knocked bars were due to the transition of him attempting to go faster and be more confident, and accidentally over-doing it and ending up too close to the next jump. Today I was really happy with his jumping; he felt fast, confident, no extra strides being added and no bars down. He did unfortunately go off course in JWW! It was weaves and a push to the far side of the tunnel, well the little booger committed to the near/wrong side of the tunnel practically before he left the weaves! I had barely begun to step in and push and he was gone, FWOOP straight into the tunnel. So I'm a bit sad that our Q rate is not as high as it used to be (it peaked around 75%!) but on the other hand it is hard to Q every time when you are also working out some kinks like deliberately making your dog a bit "pushier"...



Kiba started with JWW, and sadly knocked the 2nd bar. I don't have video, but I suspect I began moving dramatically to the side just as she prepared to takeoff. Not a big deal for my other dogs, but she is becoming more and more sensitive with her jumping issues this past year :(
She had a gorgeous standard run for a Q though, I enforced her contacts so she did not catch Strafe's time but she was moving quite well.



Drifter was also running, and I was hoping for that final QQ but it was not to be - he slipped and fell in the tunnel and when he came out he got confused about whether he was supposed to take the aframe, and even seemed to think perhaps the judge was me (the judge was closer to the tunnel exit than I was), so he got a refusal. I did not run him in JWW to save his toes.

Now we have the weekend off to go hiking!