Monday, December 31, 2012

It's New Year's Eve: 2013 Goals

Wow, I don't get to blog very much any more. I think about lots of things I'd like to blog about ... it's time I don't have. Maybe I'll be better about it in 2013.

So those pesky goals for 2013. I've been thinking about them for several weeks. I like how Kathy Keats posed her questions in the conclusion of the Agility Mind Gym series in Clean Run's December 2012 issue, so I'll use those questions to frame my goals this year.

What have you learned about yourself in the last 12 months?

What a deep question, especially this year. I have learned to endure. I have learned to endure through pain and loss and disappointment and frustration. I'm not patient, so this is hard for me. I don't always do it well ... who am I kidding, I never do it well. But I find at the end of 2012, I might be at peace. Let's see if I can stay that way.

What have you changed about yourself in the last 12 months?

I'm getting serious about keeping my body in shape. Severe sciatic pain in mid-October when I couldn't walk for nearly a day and a half was my wake up call. I still have pain most days, but I'm getting better and I can finally move. I need to be stronger, and I'm working toward that goal.

What do you want to improve about yourself in the next 12 months?
I want to improve my physical condition, for my dogs and for myself. I demand a lot of my body, but only during part of my day. I need to have the fitness to continue what I love doing. It's hard to train dogs when you're in pain.

In my handling, I need to be more intentional while running courses. Neither of my dogs is ready for me to make assumptions (are they ever?). Devon feels the disconnect and stresses and heads for the ring gates. Page goes by jumps.

In my training, I need to be more diligent. Work on something every day. Fine tune when the weather is bad and I'm stuck inside. Take advantage when I have opportunities for more training.

Part 2 -- Ok! Enough about me! Onto the pups!

What have you learned about Devon in the last 12 months?

Devon can shake off bad training decisions on my part and the ghosts of issues past. She has shown me, especially in the last several trials, that she can literally shake it off and continue to run confidently. What could have been a setback isn't anymore.

I have also learned that I need to give Devon lots of time to work out training and become confident. While Devon is bright and learns quickly, it takes her time to be comfortable with training and learned exercises. I wish I had learned this earlier, because she's been telling me this for years. All the obedience training we have done for years came together this spring for her CD. I tried to rush her into the ring and she was stressed and unsure of herself. When she was ready, we got three straight legs with one placement and compliments on her heeling.

The same is true in agility. We came into 2012 with one MX leg, four MXJ legs and 38 MACH points. In spite of some struggles from March through May, Devon ends 2012 with 14 MXJ legs, eight MX legs, 180 MACH points and three double Qs. And more importantly than the stats, for the last three months I've had people stop me at trials and tell me Devon has never run better, faster or more confidently. People can't tell Devon and Page apart on course anymore. 

How has Devon changed in the last 12 months?

Devon is a much more confident agility dog this year. Decisions I've made to run with her from the start, jackpot problem obstacles and reward speed have paid off. She's within 2-3 seconds of Page on many runs. This confidence in known environments has paid off in new places. This year she has several Qs in other locations besides those where we train. This weekend she Q'd in a place she could hardly run in when she started there 27 months ago. She was fast and confident in her weaves. And even when stressed, she shook it off and moved on.

What do you want to improve in your dog in the next 12 months?

I want to continue to build on this confidences and translate it into fast confident runs that are clean with weaves on the first attempt. To do this, I need to be focused and purposeful while still continuing to jackpot her and reward her speed. Devon has shown me she can handle me maintaining criteria and only rewarding criteria, not just every try.

In obedience, I want to finish teaching her utility exercises and perfect them. Devon is solid on a couple of exercises, and spotty on most exercises. It's time to push her through to completion. Even though we are having a ball in agility, we need to begin to focus on the next phase of her career, which is obedience. With training and effort and using the same rewarding and jackpotting techniques I've used in agility, I see great things in obedience training. Now we need to complete that picture and polish it up!

What have you learned about your dog in the last 12 months?
Page is working very hard to read my handling cues in agility. I can see her effort in class and in trials. And she's doing all this without losing speed. She's slowing down to read my cues, and as we become a better team, I'm sure she'll get faster at reading my handling -- and I'll get faster at providing it!

How has your dog changed in the last 12 months?
Page is maturing and not being as willful as she has previously. Oh sure, I still get a long discussion at the table, especially last weekend when I asked her to by pass a tunnel, which she did, only to present her with a table, which she didn't appreciate. But her startlines are become very solid, and we're doing a better job of teamwork.

What do you want to improve in your dog in the next 12 months?
Now that we've come to an understanding about staying for startlines, collecting into weave poles and most of the time stopping for the table (although she does tell me what she thinks), we must get these contacts in hand. I was encouraged two weeks ago when she acknowledged the A frame contact and decelerated and hit it and she even gave me 2o2o for the dogwalk!! But this weekend away from home they fell apart.

So that's our goals for 2013. We'll see how we do with them in about 12 months!