So I am looking over my registrations for the upcoming Novice camp this week and I don’t quite get it. Why do people trip over themselves to get into a masters camp (we have been full for some time for our July Masters camp) but do not want to make the investment in their novice dog? (as I write this we still have 3 spots open for camp this week). I won’t give you another one of my foundation, foundation, foundation rants (ok I just did:)) but to me it is a head scratcher.
My “novice” dog Feature just debuted at her first “big event.” Her only fault was one knocked bar in her last class (4th to last obstacle). In the three classes where I didn’t have to hold her contacts; Jumpers1, Jumpers2 and Steeplechase Finals, no dog in any height class beat her time except Encore (but only by a few hundreds of a second). She didn’t just beat your run-of-the-mill-dogs’ times here either, as there were more than a half a dozen current and former Canadian and US World Team dogs in that group.
I am not writing this just to boast about how great my young dog is. My point is that this “novice” dog of mine has a career that is exactly four months old. She just turned two this month and is already performing like a pro. She still has lots to learn, but the start has been an impressive one, even by my standards.
Now here is the kicker. This is not the first time this has happened to me. Feature is actually my seventh agility dog I have owned throughout my lifetime and every single one of them have been great. Every single won of them has won National or World championships events or both. When I won my first US Nationals with “Stoni” back in 1996 people said it was “fluke.” After more than a decade of winning with my dogs, doing it in every jump height (7 jump heights in all) I am going to go out on a limb and state I am pretty confident it is more than luck that is behind the success.
I know I can help those of you struggling with dogs making novice mistakes. Why is it then that you wait until your dog is in Masters before you seek out help? By then a lot of bad habits have been set for you and your dog and change becomes more difficult. Life is so much easier if you start with a solid foundation of understanding in your novice dog.
This past January, Greg and Laura Derrett and I ran 2 camps in Florida. The first one was a novice-advanced level 3 day event. The 2nd was a 3 day masters. Guess what, the masters camp was full in a matter of days, the novice one never even approached half full. In the end, I had Greg and Laura teach the camp on their own and I changed my role to that of student where got to work Feature for the 3 days. It worked out awesome for me, that is for certain! It was amazing to get in 3 solid days of work with my “green” dog just before she was about to start her agility career.
This week marks the first summer in 5 years we have offered a novice camp here at Say Yes. I did it because I really believe it is where the focus should be, but now I realize why I stopped offering them in the past. So what gives? Do you want to come to a masters workshop because you think you may be missing out on some ninja secrets if you only do the Novice camp? Honesty it would be more the opposite. We teach more concepts in a Novice camp and only work the finesse of those concepts at the Masters level.
So what’s up, how do I (we) motivate those of your with novice dogs or even masters dogs that are still struggling with fundamentals to sign up for a novice handling camp? It is so important but how do I convince all of you out there of it’s importance?
Today I am grateful for a weekend at home. The next three weeks are going to be a whirlwind for me but I promise all of you I will not forget you, the blog will be up and running.