Monday, March 26, 2012

Herding Fun Day

Porter & I (and Stout!) attended a Herding Fun Day / Training Day at FairWether in Versailles on Saturday. This is the place where we take lessons from Wendy.

Porter & I only ran once, since technically we weren't on the list. But a couple people weren't there so they let us in. I could have ran a second time later in the day, but I didn't want to take someone's sheep who had actually signed up ahead of time. So I was happy that I had decided to come out & watch!

We actually had one of our best runs ever! We ran the Started A course. We had a bobble on the outrun, but I was mostly to blame for that. I didn't really set him up well at the cone. And I was still worried about getting that initial "bend out" so I pushed to hard, too soon and caused him to try a :come by" instead of "away to me."

But once he was re-directed, he had a beautiful wide outrun (Wendy was holding the sheep, so that could have been part of it). He was way back behind the sheep, although he didn't "drop on the top." The sheep were already walking nicely to me so I didn't push it.

I got the sheep through all the obstacles the first time! With no escapes! But as we continued on the course he did get tighter & tighter. Wendy had to yell at some instructions to me on the cross drive. I got paralyzed wondering which way to flank Porter as I stood on the fenceline with the sheep... But we made it across without much trouble.

Porter was starting to back-talk & push by the time we got to the cross drive. I chased him off once and he settled a little. We walked back down the fence line to exhaust. It did take 2 tries for me to get Porter placed to hold them off the gate. But I was just being picky. We could have easily exhausted them the first time, but I wanted a hold.

And then we celebrated! It definitely would have been a qualifying run! I even tried to get myself nervous like I would be at a trial beforehand. And we still did well!

So there's about a month left until the Cardigan Specialty. I feel much better about our remaining training time now!

(photo from 2011 CWCCA Specialty near Houston, TX)

I stayed the entire day on Saturday so I could watch some friends & agility students do instinct testing with Wendy.

I was really impressed with all of them! There were 3 Pyr Sheps, 1 border collie mix, & 1 Aussie / border collie / golden retriever mix. I think all passed with instinct, some with more than others :)

And obviously I'm finally learning some of this herding stuff, because I could see when the dogs were "turned on." Some I could see kick themselves out wide to cover the heads, some split then did little head checks to bring them back together... And some I could see the desire, but not quite having the experience to execute. I could even recognize the barking as insecurity.

So I may finally be getting it  :)

(photo from 2011 CWCCA Specialty near Houston, TX)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Running Contacts

These photos are also from the Louisville trial.

While I never specifically trained Porter to have running contacts, he does do it fairly well. He strides down into the yellow with rear feet separation - I learned that from my friends doing Silvia Trkman's class  :)

But he does pull off the dogwalk and cut it close if I pull too soon or too much (which you can see below).

Below are teeter photos from Saturday. On Sunday he jumped off the teeter before it hit the ground. It was strange, almost like he got spooked on there. I hope it was just a 1 time deal...

Monday, March 19, 2012

That time I tried to kick Porter into the correct end of the tunnel...

So on the jumpers course on Saturday, there was a straight tunnel pointing to the wrong end of a tunnel entrance (the next obstacle was that tunnel). I watched dog after dog fail when the handler tried to pull them to the correct entrance. I knew Porter had a very good chance of doing the same thing.

I assumed he'd be running slower than usual since he had in that morning's run (and he had since had another run plus his obedience run). So I planned a front cross before the straight tunnel so I could push him to the correct end.

Well, "best laid plans" and all that...

He was on fire! He was back to his fast self & so I knew there was no way I could pull him to the correct entrance, but getting in that front cross was also going to be dicey. 

With his increased speed & drive, I was able to send him out to the middle jump in the pinwheel before the straight tunnel. This did give me time to put in my front cross, but it also meant that we would hit the end of the straight tunnel at the exact same time.

As he came blasting out of the tunnel, I continued my path merging into his. I didn't slow up, he didn't either. He was locked onto that wrong end. Our paths began to intersect, but I held my ground, thinking he'd surely back off and turn toward the correct end.


We collided. I bumped him out of my way, he gathered himself, scooted around, and still took the wrong end.

As I kicked him in the butt, I heard the crowd do the collective "ooooh" (well, I heard Megan, maybe a few other voices) followed by hysterical laughing (again, mostly Megan). She said the judge winced as well.

But as you can see from the photos below, Porter was none the worse and continued on enthusiastically. The weave photos I posted earlier were from later in that same run.

So much for all that work I do with "bending to pressure" and "moving out of my space" in our herding lessons...

You can already see he is locked on to the wrong end of the tunnel

Porter is bracing for impact...

I think my next stride is where I made contact.

And he exits the entrance... (Notice the little dust balls he's kicking up?)
He was fine. Never slowed down...

The Weaving Wonder

Porter went 4 for 4 on his weave poles this weekend. It's been a loooong time since that has happened.

The Big Louisville Dog Shows

Porter had a fairly good weekend at the Louisville Trials!

He earned his Excellent A Preferred FAST title (XFP) and his first obedience title: Beginner Novice (BN)!

So now Porter's full AKC name is:

Raconteur Porteur Du Jaune OA NAJ NF AXP AJP XFP PT BN RA CGC
(We won't list all those other organizations' titles right now!)

I'll be adding photos from the trial as the day goes on.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

Some agility blogs are taking part in a Blog Action Day. The topic today is: If I Knew Then What I Know Now.

I may not be a “big time” agility blogger, but what a great topic! And a perfect excuse for me to tell the story of Porter & my first agility trial. Ahhh, the beginning... It was September of 2007.

My first agility trial with Porter was memorable, to say the least. It was the only trial I can remember ever being held in Lexington. It was a small English Springer Spaniel specialty (held outside) that had been opened to all breeds. One ring, one judge, one day. A lot of my instructors would be there competing. Perfect first trial, right?

Not really. We arrived before the first class started so we could be measured, maybe 7:30 am. I then waited until early afternoon for my first class. My nerves were outrageous. I took to the course & Porter & I did fairly well. Until the table. As Porter jumped onto the table, the judge blew the whistle. She then walked over & asked to see Porter’s collar. I raised his ruff and showed her the brand new pretty collar I had bought just for trialing, complete with a shiny brass name tag. She promptly excused us from the ring. Oops. I knew you couldn’t have tags on the collar, but I had no idea you couldn’t have anything riveted on there either.

I left the ring totally embarrassed. Due to my ignorance, I didn’t even get to finish the course! Everyone saw what a fool I was! Everyone knew now what a newbie I was! Everyone was looking at me with pity! Ok, not really, but that was what I imagined. John approached me to ask what that was about, instructors approached, strangers approached. The stress was building & I was about to erupt into tears. I barely made it outside the crowd before I did burst into a crying mess.

John, Porter, & I found a quiet spot where I cried it out. I sent him home, ready to steady myself as I waited for my next class. And wait was just what I did. We waited & waited, dog after dog, jump height after jump height, class after class. We waited until almost dark.

And finally they began to set our course, the last course of the trial, in the dark. Yep, the sun had gone down. People pulled their cars up close to the fence to shine their headlights into the ring. Everyone, except us novice folks, had long since abandoned us. We walked the course in the glow of the headlights. I was still highly embarrassed & was determined to make this run count. I had been there over 12 hours after all.

As we lined up to run, the judge announced that everyone needed to turn off the headlights so they didn’t shine in the dog’s eyes. So we ran our first ever Jumpers course in the dark. Porter missed the weaves twice, but I just went on, my day had been long enough. Come to find out, months later, we actually qualified in that run. I guess the judge didn’t see Porter skip those poles. Or she just felt sorry for us… But I ran that run just like I ran the first: completely terrified that everyone was watching us, judging us, critiquing us. When obviously they weren’t, not even the judge.

So back to the topic on hand: If I knew then, what I know now.

Well, I know now that no one was really watching us. And if they were, who cares? I didn’t know them, they didn’t know us. They didn’t know what struggles we’d had or how many trials we’d been in. They didn’t know I was about to throw up or burst into tears (ok, maybe they did know that). But my point is: I realize now how little any of that mattered. No one remembers that day but me. And I overcame it & learned from it. And I’ve helped others learn from it by relaying the story!

Porter & I have gone on to do some great things. And some not so great things. But we’ve done things. And isn’t that what it’s all about? Getting out there and training our dogs, enjoying our dogs, and learning from our mistakes.

Now if only I could realize all this when it comes to herding trials…

And I include these old photos below to show that it does get better! Perseverance pays off! You know, all those things people tell you that you don’t believe at the time. “If I knew then, what I know now!”  :)
Our 2nd trial & first ever ribbons! Only a mere month after our first trial!

Still our 2nd ever trial: We even qualified the next day!

Our first Cardigan Welsh Corgi National Specialty (in April of 2008 - less than a year after our first trial!)

I think we qualified in both classes, earned a title, & received our CGC!