Tuesday, January 24, 2012

On Making Lemonade

I’ve often said “I was making lemonade!” when I come off a course early to celebrate something done well at a trial or come off a course to celebrate a run where I tried something new.  “Making lemonade” is what happens when a run is an NQ early on the course and I decide instantly that I’m going to reward X or I’m going to try a specific handling move that I have wanted to try but I might not be as willing if there was a Q in play.  Now as I’ve written about in my blog awhile back – I get mad at myself if I let the thought of a Q get in the way of handling the way I really want or training something I really should.  I call this the curse of the AKC double Q only because I find this is the place where it most affects my decisions.  That has started to change for the better.

However this weekend I am really proud of myself because I took risks on the standard courses with BOTH Feisty and Sinco that actually created two very fast clean runs with some very fast lines and turns.  Now some have said it is because we got our MACHs I can do that.  However I disagree because I really was not that concerned about earning their MACHs and I still have a very substantial goal which requires even more Qs and speed points than a MACH and that is to keep the two dogs in the top 5 for their breeds through the end of June.  I was not at all stressed about getting the last Qs of their MACHs – many years ago this used to be a huge stressor for me but as I’ve written in other blog posts this is no longer a stress point for me.

I really believe because I’ve allowed myself to take chances when there wasn’t a Q on the line in the past, I was able to take those handling risks this weekend with a Q on the line.  I did things I’ve trained a lot – like wrapping my dog around the last weave pole for a nice tight turn on Saturday’s Standard course and leaving both dogs on the teeter and running out ahead to show them the straight line over the last two jumps.  This weekend there were lots of opportunities to do tight rear crosses into weave poles.  Again this is something that I’ve trained a lot and have set up in classes so I feel confident in this skill.  I was very glad to have that skill this past weekend with both dogs because it made it much easier to do the courses.  This is also something I will work on when I have an NQ because it is a difficult skill that needs to be maintained.

Last weekend I NQ’d with Feisty on the table and I ran really fast the rest of the course and handled the last several obstacles at a distance and layered jumps which was really fun to do and she did it beautifully and it actually worked very well and better than it did for most people who ran with their dogs closer to the obstacles.  Now I know if she is running really fast I can trust her distance skills.  There was another run two weekends ago where she NQ’d on the third obstacle with an off course and I left the ring and still rewarded her.  I didn’t think there was anything on the course I really wanted to try, I didn’t want to risk mental or physical injury to her and I decided the best reward would be to reward her for a short course.  She had been slow off the start line lately so this might help.  It has… she has been faster off the start line ever since. 

So the lemonade is tasting really good these days and I can’t help but feel like it is paying off with both dogs but most especially with Feisty.   This past weekend she double Q’d on Saturday AND she took 1st place in both classes with smoking fast runs!  On Sunday she had another super fast standard run and was only .10 behind first place.  This from a dog who until the last few months NEVER placed at all and often just loped through the course.  I knew she was really fast in training and with good training in trial settings I am seeing her run fast at trials.  Not only is she running faster at trials but I’m starting to see it in more runs on a weekend.  It started last Fall where maybe 1 in 10 runs she would run as fast as I knew she could.  The last few trials I’ve seen it more like 3-4 runs in 10.  So I see this as huge progress and I truly believe careful handling of her trialing experiences have contributed to her increase in speed at trials and her improved attitude.  The other exciting thing is that for the last 2 weekends and 6 runs at AKC trials Feisty has WANTED to play tug BEFORE every run!  This is huge because for her it means she feels comfortable in the environment.  I have not been able to get her to play at an AKC trial for years.   I play with her only 1-2 dogs before we go so it raises her energy level and gets her revved up and yet not stressed so she is ready to go.  I think it is also helping her to come off the start line faster.

So this is another way you can “train in the ring” at any trial without violating anyone’s rules.  If it helps to have a plan of “if this then this” I recommend it.  It takes practice to be able to think quickly on your feet to decide what to do.  I also trust my intuition and go with what “feels right” in the moment.

So even in winter we can all enjoy some lemonade!

Annelise and Feisty who would like her lemonade beef flavored please and Sinco who would like it any flavor other than lemon…

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