Doing my level best to try and keep this blog more of a monthly and less of a quarterly edition thing this year. Hence I am getting this post in BEFORE work takes over my life once again. So trialling successes of late...we’ve only had two trials back this year so far and I am for the most part very happy with how the dogs are running and how my calf muscle has healed up allowing me to go run again. On the Saturday the 17th Cloverdale held their fun teams and gamblers event. Games in WA are still a rarity although looking at the Canine News we seem to have quite a few coming up thank goodness. There is a reason why so few dogs have their Masters titles in any games over here and it is really form a total lack of games being offered. There seems to be about three lines of thought when it comes to games – there are those who would rather games were dropped all together in favour of regular agility and jumping events because there are serious arguments for the fact that doing the games with our dogs is actually counter intuitive with their training. To a certain extent I agree (that it is counter intuitive not that they should be dropped all together). I refuse to do anything less than 12 weave poles in the gamblers classes as I have seen plenty of evidence that weave pole performance in regular events can decline due to dogs repetitively doing 4 or 8 or 6 poles in games. Some die hards may argue if the poles are trained correctly then the dog should just weave however many are in front of them regardless of what they have just done in a gamblers class. My answer is our dogs are not robots and that muscle memory is a strong element of their performance and there is no way I should be calling my dog out for not completing 12 poles when I have just asked her to do 4 and 8 poles only over and over in another ring. Weaves for high drive dogs are a huge control issue. Most dogs who like to run flat out and have strong drive to complete obstacles and just run as fast as they can would see poles as a frustrating obstacle. Our fastest dogs here in the West frequently can be witnessed barking, growling, yipping vocally whilst stuck doing the poles. I may be anthropomorphising a little here but frankly I think they get pissed when their handlers can take off on them to get further ahead and they are stuck doing the poles, they literally have to apply serious self control to make sure they get all the poles done properly – letting them do 4 and 8 poles over and over is just like giving them the okay to do that elsewhere. So hence in a gamblers class I will rarely use the 4 or 8 pole option and must admit I get a little grumpy if the 12 poles are not an option because automatically my possible points are restricted. Another element of retroactive behaviours seen and allowed in games is dogs getting to do whatever obstacles are in front of them irrespective of handlers plans, on the way to gamble lines or sequences in Strat Pairs if dogs take obstacles the handler doesn’t intend them to take it has no bearing on qualifying. This does lead to slackness on the handler’s part and also more out of control behaviours by the dogs on courses. So I can see the point of view of those who don’t like games and want to see them dropped. However I truly believe that with the right approach and outlook games can serve an excellent purpose in training as well. Again people are probably thinking – Here she goes again...she’s training in the ring Ummmm Ahhhhhh! Well. Tough. The only person it affects in games is the judge, myself and the dog. I don’t use up any extra time so I don’t see a problem. Example: The other night in Excellent Gamblers Cypher didn’t quite give me his proper four of the floor behaviour on his dogwalk the first time round. Rather than rush off and try and stick to our plan of doing a course that would give us all the needed points I decided then and there to work his contacts. So we did the dogwalk, aframe and seesaw several times over till I was happy with the performance he gave me and the whistle blew. We were completely out of place when the whistle blew but I tried to get us down there (he took a seesaw on the way which I should have insisted on a finished behaviour for him but I rushed him which was stupid) however we ran out of time to do the gamble. I’d rather blow a games entry like that (making sure his contacts are consistent because no way could I have done the contacts that often in a regular agility event) than get all hung up on getting the pass. Gamblers allows you to correct things straight away if you are not happy with them and that’s why I will always play that game. Snooker is a little different. But again it comes down to clever handling. I think people get all hung up on where they have to go and what they have to avoid and what points they get and stress themselves out way too much about these things. Snooker can be just like a normal regular Novice/Excellent or Masters Agility course. So long as you can cope with not having your course numbered in the usual way. Yes you have to have a course planned in your head. But really all it is, is single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle, single bar, obstacle then closing sequence. You can make it as easy or as hard as you like especially in Novice and Excellent. Masters might be a little more difficult (well okay sometimes it’s a LOT more difficult but hey that’s why it’s called Masters) but for the most part you can run a course. Strat Pairs is a little different from both Snooker and Gamblers in terms of negative and positive aspects. And probably I can see with some high drive, very fired up dogs that it could create huge problems but it also depends on how well you handle and plan your attack. You don’t have to rescue if you don’t want. That can be an agreement right there that will make things easier for you. You don’t have to have a gazillion change overs. You can choose to work particular sequences according to your dog’s strengths or even if you want to reinforce behaviours you can choose to take on certain obstacles. So the games, ultimately can work for you or against you and I think it’s up to the individual on how they want to approach them. Me? I am of the – well I love running agility and doing trials so if games are all that’s on offer I will take them up and still do my level best to maintain the same criteria I have for any other agility or jumping event. So the three train of thoughts are (returning to my clearly derailed point I was trying to make from earlier) – 1) Games suck, get rid of them 2) Games are great because I can get away with crap training and crap handling and still pass 3) Games are good because I can treat them like regular classes and it’s just more opportunities to play agility. Also people might have the concept that the games are less competitive than regular agility and jumping – which is quite possible but is certainly not going harsh my sense of pride in achieving three games wins at the last Nationals that’s for sure.
Here endeth the unplanned rant about games. Geez. I have no idea where that came from – whatever, we have lots of games coming up so maybe now’s a good time to say it. Where was I? Ah yes Cloverdale. So whilst Cy and I had a good practice run in the ring in Excellent Gamblers he pulled off two lovely runs for the team in Agility and Jumping, going clear in both helping the team to 2nd place out of 23. Raven had two nice runs as reserve for the team – one bar in Jumping and one missed bar in Agility. Gamblers was a little different and brought home to me the full impact really of her dislocated hip from last year. We were in Masters and she was flying round the course – running contacts being her forte meaning she could gather all her points fairly fast and in good time – whistle blew and I knew we couldn’t mess around so I head down for the gamble line and she must have though we were heading out so I had to make a sharp call to get her to turn to the gamble line. She turned but then for the first time in seven and a half years of competing in trials she stopped dead on course and just looked at me. No yelps or cried of pain just stopped running all together. Looking at me with the oddest expression, ears up and alert. My stomach dropped immediately and then I just patted my leg to see if she’d trot over to me and she trotted over to me fine. No lameness or soreness. She was, to all intents and purposes, totally sound. We left the ring and I let her warm down, watching her all the while, she was keen as usual for her treats and I started wondering. I recalled the course and then the turn she made and realised that was the exact same kind of turn on that side of her hip when she dislocated it. I daresay she felt a twinge or something and that rather vivid memory I am sure came crashing back about the day she had slammed it into the dislocation on course. Here is my nearly nine year old seriously kami kaze Border Collie who looks like she might just have developed a skerrick of self preservation for once. Whilst I wish I could take that day back in hindsight it really does look like it has given her little bit more caution about throwing her little body round the course without a care in the world. She went onto run the agility course last night and it was all good. So I may not have the fiercely lunatic insanely mad Raven on course anymore and I think that has to be a good thing in terms of her own safety.
Spryte had a very good night for her first trial back. She ran as a reserve for another team and had two beautifully clear and super fast runs that I was extremely pleased with. Start lines were great, contacts were good and we ran very in tune with each other. The Novice Gamblers we went in uncovered the dogwalk contact weakness though as she started to do her four in the colour trick again. So I made the decision then and there to just work her contacts not caring if we passed or not. Somehow she still managed to get enough points to pass even after working the contacts several times over. So that was a nice surprise at the end of the night.
The following Friday was a fundraiser trial run by the Agility committee, gearing up for the Nationals here in 2010. Spryte had a great night going clear in three out of four runs (picking up three first places in the 400 class and three third places overall) only missing the Open jumping pass because I momentarily forgot she’s still a baby dog really and doesn’t just do obstacles in her way. The only thing I wasn’t happy about was her dogwalk contact and I am going to be working on that intensively for the next month or so before the BC Nationals. Cypher had two runs and ran clear in Masters Agility, saving my ass a couple of times when I didn’t give him the clearest of directions and knocked one bar in Masters Jumping (probably because I was in a huge hurry as the judge had measured the course wrong and given a wrong course time – Cy was a second over course time) but I was very happy with his efforts. Raven had two runs and did a cracker run in Agility but I gave a late turn command (probably my subconscious still worried about her hip) and she took a jump off course and in Masters Jumping...well let’s just say various factors came into play causing me to get the course completely wrong. And that’s all I have to say about that.
But speaking of Spryte I would like a comprehensive inexhaustible list called 1001 Ways to Proof your Two On Two Off Contact. So far I have:
1) Will send over dogwalk and get into position without handler moving. (Handler can be at any point within a 20 meter radius)
2) Will wait and be called over dogwalk getting into position without handler moving (Handler stands at any point with 20 meter radius of the end of the contact)
3) Will hold position when handler blows by at any speed and at any angle on either side.
4) Will hold position when handler front crosses with side.
5) Will hold position is handler runs in opposite direction past the contact.
6) Will get into position if handler only runs halfway, quarter way, three quarter way and stops dead.
7) Will hold position even when other dogs blast by chasing favourite toy
8) Will hold position even if handler throws favourite toy or food past the contact
9) Will hold position even when handler is talking, praising yelling and wait for release word.
10) Will run into position regardless of how far laterally the handler runs away from the contact.
Can anyone thing of anymore??
Back to work Thursday. Movies I’ve seen on the holidays (this is me comforting myself with the affirmation that I actually did non job/chore/errand related activities on holidays):
1) The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Do NOT see if you are looking for light hearted, uplifting movie that will leave you feeling all happy) Very good dramatic film, excellent acting even more superb makeup and a truly unique story. F.Scott Fitzgerald deserves his vaunted place in literary history.
2) Yes Man – Yes, yes I know you are probably not a huge fan of Jim Carrey (the number of people I speak to I have to wonder how the man makes money as so few people actually list him as one of their favourite actors but I digress) but anyway. This story was good, light, funny and very entertaining and with an underlying message that pops up in my head on a disturbingly frequent basis. Here’s a quote from it that I like: The world's a playground. You know that when you are a kid, but somewhere along the way everyone forgets it.
3) Tropic Thunder – Irreverent and hilarious – it’s worth it just for Robert Downey Junior and Ben Stiller’s performances alone, also it has reduced the size of the stick I envision up Tom Cruise’s ass as his performance is really quite jaw dropping (and that’s more in the “Oh my god I can’t believe he looks like that and says those things” than the “Oscar performance right there” way)
4) Gabriel (Aussie made movie on DVD) – I’m all interested in the stories at the moment...the whole Angels falling to Earth, What’s Michael’s gig and wow Gabriel is really a bad ass warrior arch angel isn’t he? I like reading about the mythology around the fall and the creation of Lucifer and all that kind of thing. Possibly Supernatural the TV show is seeping a little deep into my psyche these days but I just find it all profoundly fascinating. And this movie scratched that itch. It has a Dark City feel to it and it was a good watch for me.
5) Zack and Miri Make a Porno – This was funny and amusing and also irreverent in a South Parkesque kind of way. Besides it had two actors in it from the Kevin Smith films and I have always been a fan of theirs. Good for a light hearted fluffy comedy hour and a half. And no i did not pay money to go see it at a cinema – we downloaded this one.
6) Madagascar 2 – Awesome! Loved it and the Penguins get way more screentime and I have decided they are the best animated characters EVER. It was as good if not better than the first one and at one point I laughed so hard I had tears of laughter running down my face. David Schwimmer as the hypochondriac giraffe is a sight to be seen.
7) Australia – Don’t care how many critics bagged this they clearly had the wrong expectations going into it. I loved it. Showcased outback Australia absolutely beautifully, the cinematography was stunning and Nicole Kidman was not only tolerable but even amusing in parts. Hugh Jackman was...well Hugh Jackman, nice to look at, good to hear and he played his character very well. Of course there are all underlying issues of race and gender and historical recounts etc etc but I don’t go to the movies for the visceral, critical academic conversations I plan on having with myself later, I go for the escapism and I poke my tongue out at anyone who wants to frown on my escapism parade.
8) Twilight – Saw that one twice. But with good reason. Read the book like 13 times already. You think I jest. Sadly I do not. The Twilight saga is kind of like the equivalent of my guilty crack literary addiction. Dare I use the word ‘literary’ in the same context without invoking the wrath of the critics of Literature with the big ‘L’? Yes I do dare. Twilight has hooked so many teenagers into reading it’s perceived trashiness and popcorn quality is far outweighed by its positive effects on kids and reading. Anyway – it’s a good vampire romance flick with an awesome Vampire baseball scene and a very amusing Bringing the human over to meet the Vamp family scene that makes me smile just thinking about it.
And that’s about it on the movie front. In other news I have decided that the Nintendo Wii is the BEST invention by a gaming company EVER. Seriously I cannot speak highly enough of it and I spent the first year after it came out mocking anyone who talked about it because honestly how lame is the name WII??? *smirks* Heh, wanna come over to my place for the wii? Wanna wii together? Yes I am probably five years old but I really do think the PR or marketing division of Nintendo should have anticipated the inevitable mocking of the name ‘Wii’. Anyway. We have one now and it is AWESOME. Finally a video game a kid can play all day and have done some exercise by the end of it. We have Wii Fit (plus Sport, Play and Guitar Hero 3 & World Tour) and I can tell you know that game is a workout and a half! Yoga, Muscle, Aerobics and Balance exercises that have been turned into GAMES. I’m sweating within 15 minutes of doing the stuff in that game but I never feel like stopping because it’s addictive. And I have this thing where I have to keep improving my score or I get very pissy. I have even changed my mind about the Utopian Classroom being filled with laptops. I want it filled with Wii consoles and monitors because you can do EVERYTHING interactively and using multiple muscle groups. So yes I am a born again wii convert addict. And Guitar Hero is very neatly scratching that itch I had a while ago to learn music...yes I know it’s not real music but seriously the hand eye coordination needed and the fact that you can make nice sounds and music happen is all good enough for me. Plus the fact that I think I’ll be in my 60s before I even get to look at expert level means the longevity of this game is limitless!