Well all good things must come to an end and so we must leave the sunny south and head back home. We had a great time in Florida, topped off with one of my favorite trials of the year the “Dog-Gone-it!” trial in Orlando. I must take this opportunity to encourage all of you all to join us next winter at the Orlando trial. The trial site is beautiful (not to mention the Orlando outlet malls:)) the people very welcoming to us northerners and to top it off, they always seem to pick some of the best judges in agility. I think this is our tenth year going to this show and it definitely is a keeper! Feature started her agility career off with a bang having 2 great weekends of agility down here in Florida. She managed to qualify (and come first) in all of the games classes plus got her 3 standard legs thus earning her novice title. In addition she came in 2nd in the Grand Prix in Orlando and got two Steeplechase Qs! I am very pleased with the baby dog’s start to her agility career. I will post video when I get home, but for me the highlights where her beautiful jumping, the way she followed by body language so well, her weaves, dogwalk and seesaw. Her running A Frame is still a work in progress so, although I am not disappointed , I am not satisfied she understands her criteria. She is now getting into the game and getting very excited outside the ring. She pushed me for an early release on 2 of her dogwalk contacts but gave me beautiful nose touches even at the trial the weekend before which was on a surface of packed dirt. Overall I am thrilled at the performance of my 20 month old puppy. However, I must tell you though she wasn’t the only impressive 20 month puppy there. A young handler by the name of Tori Self had an amazing BC, Revolution, that was putting in times within one and half seconds of Encore and won the GP in Orlando (missy En knocked a bar:(). Tori and I where partnered together in the Novice pairs on Saturday and our two youngsters where 12 seconds faster than the 2nd place finishers! Tori and another young handler from Florida Gabreille Blackburn really impressed me. I didn’t get a chance to speak to either of them much but it appears that Tori is following Greg Derrett’s style of handling so that means her dog is just going to keep getting faster and faster! Gabrielle has 2 really fast dogs but sadly for us, she didn’t make the trip to Orlando so we didn’t get to see as much of her. She is the same Gabrielle that wrote that inspiring note about her Sheltie Q. Wow, is all I can say, I would guess each of these young ladies are in their late teens– at best and with that much talent as dog trainers and handlers already, it is very obvious the future is INCREDIBLY bright for both of them! There were also a few talented junior gate keepers working the novice ring and what a FANTASTIC job they all did. In particular was the cutest little boy, Javon, he was maybe nine or ten years old with big over sized glasses and a big booming voice. He had us all snapping to it, getting to the line without delaying the ring. There was another young girl working the gate as well, she too did a terrific job for her first time gate stewarding. Shame on you if you were one of the “grown-ups” that gave these dedicated young kids a hard time at the gate (you know who you are) I am sending out a cyber red raspberry your way. Not only were these kids great gate keepers they added colour to the trial and put a smile on my face each time I came check in.
One training tip I took away from the trial (there were a few) was an observation of confusion while weaving with handler’s motion or lack therefore. I saw more than one young dog (Feature included) that pulled themselves out of the poles if their handler stopped moving. The dog’s had not made a mistake but it appeared they were misinterpreting their handler’s lack of motion as a non-reward marker. On my DVD I mentioned using a non-reward marker (like “oops”) before you stop and start again. I know I have proofed this a bit at home but obviously not as much as it needs. Your dog needs to learn you lack of motion is not a NRM. Make certain when using a NRM that it always comes out of your mouth BEFORE you stop your motion when pulling the dog out of the poles. If you mess this up your standing still will become the pre-cursor for your NRM. Soon you dog will think he is incorrect if you are not moving or talking while he is weaving. Easy one to fix but be on your toes to avoid it but becoming observant about how you indicate a mistake to your dog in training.
Today I am grateful for the 26 hour drive home. Really, so far the weather has been great, the drive smooth and I have been able to clean up alot of emails while John does all the driving (yes of course I am also very grateful to have John to do all the driving!)