28 November 2013

rain. cold. pictures. puppy.

The last two days were rainy and cold. We cancelled classes in case the roads got bad and because teaching in the cold damp the day before a holiday is just unpleasant.

Today was clear of rain but very cold. No one cooked here; we went out for dinner, which was fine. I'm not much of a holiday celebrater. Well, not much of a celebratory person in general. Holidays just are, for me. I know that seems like no fun, but it's just how I am, doesn't bother me.

Got the dogs out for several short walks and runs today (short due to the cold and wind) and we played in the agility ring with wrapping some jump wings and playing on the low see-saw and a couple dogwalks, just to get some good fun exercise in because.... tomorrow we are driving up to New York to pick up my mother's new puppy who is flying in from Poland. Someone is bringing her in cabin so we are meeting them at the airport to pick her up. Going to be a long afternoon/evening; we live 2.5 to 3 hours from that airport, I can only hope that Black Friday will attract people to the stores for mob shopping rather than traveling the highways too much.

Got my pictures from Cynosport. Here's a quick selection. The rest are on my FB page.

25 November 2013

Who's amazing?

Is it me?
Yes, Strafe. It is you.

I drove up to Barto PA to Orchard Hills for our 2nd USDAA trial at 22", hoping to maybe finish up our Tournament qualifications for 2014. Well, we didn't quite finish all of them; but we came pretty darn close. Strafe and I have already found our groove at the lower jump height, and the verdict is that we both love it. He is finding a whole new top speed and I am having a hell of a lot of fun running harder to stay ahead. I think that is perfect for both of us; we can both get a little too caught up in making perfect tight turns, and forget about pushing super hard. Well the lower jump height has forced us both to work harder and that is great! Strafe is even faster at 22" than he is at 26", and at 26" he is nothing to sneeze at!

On Friday we ran Steeplechase and Masters Challenge Jumpers. We had a total miscommunication moment in Steeplechase, on a pretty speedy straightforward course, and it showed me that we need to go back and revisit an issue we had back in May at Tryouts, where Strafe pays too much attention to my general line of travel and disregards my actual side cue once in a while. Oh well. So we still need one more Steeplechase Q for Nationals. Then we had a fabulous Masters Challenge Jumpers run for 1st place.

Saturday began the Team classes, and we won Team Jumpers, Snooker, and Standard with all very nice fast runs. Our Team was in 3rd place out of 21 teams at the end of the day which is great, as it gave us a little bit of room for small mistakes on Sunday and still be able to qualify. In  between the team runs we ran Masters Challenge Standard, and just like 2 weeks ago this class Q eluded us. Last time we had a miscue on the 2 jump, this time we made it 1 more obstacle in and went off course after number 3. Really?? OK so we have a bit more homework for the winter, apparently ;) And this is our only other Q we still need for USDAA Nationals 2014.

Sunday we finished the Team runs, Strafe won 22" Gamblers and then our Team got 2nd in Relay by only .05 seconds which was my fault as Strafe turned the wrong way on a jump and I had to lie him down and call him back before continuing on. We held our spot and finished 3rd place overall in the Team event so a solid Team Q out of the way, so no pressure at the Regional which is great! After that we ran Grand Prix, and it was a fun course with some decisions to be made about handling. I chose the easy turn in the beginning as I felt the time difference wasn't worth the huge effort I needed to make the turn the other way. Strafe turns so tightly with very little extra effort from me, so it's great to just cue the turn and then get ahead again, and boy do I have to run to beat him now, especially at 22"! We had a great run and got 1st place for our 2nd bye of 2014. After that was the fun class of Challenge Finals; this is a class Mary Ellen Barry made up especially for her trial. You pay $10 to enter it, and if you end up in the top half of your jump height and don't have 2 E's in the 2 Challenge classes, then you get to run in the Finals for a chance to win a gift certificate. The Final is just another Challenge Standard class; this one happened to be a really wide open one with several challenges related to "can you even GET THERE?" along with some other typical backsides and threadles. It was fun but boy it was hard as the 10th run of the weekend! Strafe and I nailed it and won the certificate, for a great finish to the weekend. What a good dog! Now we are off of trialing till mid-January. Nice to have a break, and important for the dogs and myself both, but I know I will be jonesing to run again by the time January rolls around. I'm addicted, after all ;)

19 November 2013


I was off in sunny, warm Colorado teaching this past weekend (yes, really, it was sunny and warm on Friday/Saturday, a bit colder Sunday but not bad). I taught at the same facility 2 years ago and was happy to go back; it's a nice heated agricultural arena, and a good group of people too. I was actually part of a 2-instructor weekend, I guess you could call it a mini-camp of sorts although people could sign up for whatever sessions they wanted, it wasn't a package deal.

This photo amused me, taken by an auditor.

pic by Katie Pladsen
And it occurred to me that I forgot to post Strafe's Cynosport video here on the blog:

Strafe Cynosport 2013 from Rosanne DeMascio on Vimeo.

And then also there's Strafe's winning Grand Prix run from the other weekend at High Octane.

We are off to the same facility (Orchard Hills, in Barto PA) this weekend for another USDAA trial, this time only Tournament classes. Crossing my fingers to finish up all of our qualifications we need for Cynosport 2014; would be nice to get those out of the way early.

10 November 2013

Kiba Cynosport 2013 from Rosanne DeMascio on Vimeo.

Kiba's Cynosport video above. Please watch it :) This was Kiba's last trip to USDAA Nationals and we had a great time. I will miss running her at that event next year. She still has at least one big event left to run - AKC Nationals in Harrisburg this spring - so this isn't a true retirement video. But it's definitely a bit of a mile marker on her journey towards retirement. I was really pleased with how she held up physically during this event, considering the arthritis in her front feet. So I've been sort of entertaining the idea of attending the UKI US Open next year and seeing if I can get Kiba to measure into 16" for that. Haven't made any decisions there.

This weekend I went to a USDAA trial. I ran Strafe in 22" for the first time, and he LOVED it. He also is measuring smaller than ever before, both days around 20" tall. I am now thinking when he gets older it won't be too hard for me to get him to measure into the 525mm class for WAO if I just teach him to relax under the wicket a bit.... interesting, as all of his 2 year old measurements were between 20.25" and 20.75". Sloucher!
I ran Strafe in 5 Advanced titling classes and he qualified in all of them. This means we have fulfilled all the requirements for his AAD title EXCEPT that you have to have 3 judges, not 2. So he has his Advanced Standard title, but not his AAD until we get one leg of any kind under a 3rd judge. RIDICULOUS rule, if you ask me, and seems designed to keep well-prepared dogs from completing the title in 2 weekends. I have no idea why this made sense to whoever made this rule. It's just plain stupid. Anyway. I also ran Strafe in both Masters Challenge classes, plus Steeplechase and Grand Prix. He won GP, Steeplechase Finals, and MC Jumpers. We had a pretty dumb off course in MC Standard so no Q there. But overall 9 Q's out of 10 runs this weekend, what an amazing young man he is!

Seri came along this weekend to stay out of trouble and I entered her in P3 Jumpers on each day. She probably won't ever be allowed to do weaves or contacts at a trial again due her chronic injury issues and complete and utter disregard for her own body, but I think she can handle running around over 16" jumps pretty well. Saturday someone filmed me, and below is the video (sound warning: she's loud), and on Sunday we actually qualified (no video)!

08 November 2013

Link: my favorite run from Cynosport.

on paper, not my favorite course, it didn't look like it had any flow at all. but when I got out there and ran it, I thought it went pretty well! Watching my own video, it doesn't look like I was working very hard, but I assure you I was! We won that one by .04 over Feature, with Solar in 3rd. Good company for sure!

I have most of my runs on video now but I'm leaving this evening for a USDAA trial so I'll compile Strafe's videos into something fun to watch next week. Kiba's video is processing on Vimeo so if you're on FB watch for the link soon. I'll post it here on Monday!

03 November 2013


Weekend off, that was nice. Yesterday I drove a rescue papillon to the airport so he could hitch a ride north. Arranged by my mother but she wasn't home that day so I got the driving duty. Was fun to see the small plane come in, and happy the tiny little dude is getting fixed up. That was the extent of my "work" for the weekend though. I haven't even finished all my laundry from Cynosport yet. Yep. Lazy. A 2 week trip up and down the eastern seaboard wears me out mentally. Although I really should finish my laundry...

I also managed to lose Strafe's brand new blue height card for USDAA. How, I have no idea, but I received it right before leaving for my trip, so there's the off chance it somehow got lost in a trash or recycle pile while I was gone, or fell off a table somewhere, or something. I wish they worked like AKC and just had new ones on site to use :( So I have printed our USDAA info for temporary use this weekend, since Strafe is now 3 years old and needs to be measured again. We are running some Advanced classes this weekend, if we qualify in literally everything we will finish our AAD title but I'm not counting on it. I'd really like to get some 2014 Tournament Q's out of the way. This trial has everything except Team. This is actually Strafe's FIRST trial running at 22". My reasons for dropping him are several: I feel that now he is 3 I have a handle on his jumping talent, which is pretty good, and I think he can go back and forth between 22 in USDAA and 26 in AKC fairly easily, and since 22 will be easier on his body and I have no interest in doing IFCS, that is what he will jump from now in USDAA. I also happen to really enjoy being in the biggest height class; I like the competition. And while in several classes at Cynosport this year, the 26" winning time was actually faster than the 22" winning time, the 22" is still the biggest class by far and generally has the largest amount of competitive dogs. I'd like to run Strafe there. I also admit that several dogs who can beat us in 26" are significantly larger than Strafe, so I'd like to lose that disadvantage ;)  26" is a big jump for Strafe, who measures 20.25 to 20.5" depending on how he stands, and he usually slouches which makes him look more like 20".

So this week we are back to normal; classes, a private or two, back to hiking in the cool fall weather. And it is finally cool like fall, after several weird days of warmth.

I like to bring 2 dogs, it's easier to walk them on leash and I like to think it makes them feel a bit more special to get more individual time with me :)

01 November 2013

it really isn't about quantity

I heard my first rumor about me in a while - that I train a lot/too much/all the time. I heard it second hand, through someone who thankfully defended me.

When I was giving a phone interview recently, I told the truth, that I train about 10min at a time, probably 2 or 3 times a week. The interviewer said something along the lines of "huh, all the big trainers are telling me the same thing, why do you think that is? while we smaller time competitors are going to long classes all the time..."
Well first off, I am betting even in a 90min class your particular dog is probably only working about 10min. Second off, well, we are "big name" trainers and handlers because we know exactly what to focus on when we train. I really focus on one skill at a time, for the most part. If I go out in my field, I may not have a written plan and a video camera and a notebook, but I am usually going to pick one weakness and spend 5 or 10 minutes working on making it a strength. I don't spend much time practicing strengths - things my dogs are already good at. I try really hard when I train to make sure my dogs not only practice something, but actually UNDERSTAND it. If they understand it, then they don't need to practice simply to do it over and over. I don't know about you, but when I was in school I HATED homework that asked me to do the same basic thing over and over just to practice it! I wanted to do just enough to understand it, then do something else. I try to do the same with my dogs. I seek to get them to understand the behavior, such as a weave entry, then I test their understanding in increasingly creative ways, in short sessions, and reward them for getting it right. I don't go out and rehearse the exact same entry 10 times in a row. I think my dogs and I would both get bored with that very quickly.

So no, I really don't "train every day" or "work my dogs so hard". My dogs have good conceptual understanding of what I want from them. We work hard in short sessions, we play hard in short sessions, and we mostly just hang out and go for walks together. When I teach, I try to tell people, at least 90% of your activity with your dog should NOT be agility, it should be "other stuff" - hiking, simple walks in the park, swimming, a little bit of play or fetch in the yard, romping with a tug toy, whatever. I follow that myself too! And my dogs are certainly trained, and well-trained at that, but it is not because I am out there for hours a day drilling them. I hate drilling! Why should they enjoy it?

Anyway, I hope this doesn't sound like a defensive post, as it really isn't intended to be. But when you are next thinking up your training plan, maybe put a little more emphasis on quality and understanding, rather than quantity of repetitions. And then go for a walk! Your dog will thank you!

Speaking of walks... my challenge to myself for the winter is to get me and Strafe back into tip top shape. We slacked off after the EO, and while we both got through Cynosport without issue (my PT still tells me my dogs are in good shape compared to quite a few out there), I was not happy with my level of physical tiredness on Sunday, and I still think Strafe needs a bit more strength in the rear.

not always the most stylish jumper...