Rocket Relay Seminar #3

Really inspiring weekend at the Rocket Relay seminar, yet again. Kelly and Aaron are great teachers and it’s been 18months since their last seminar in the UK, so there was a lot to be reminded of.

I sort of wish I’d taken Dylan to run on the Sunday working slots as it was focused on dogs who have trouble changing/passing. Dylan has always been underconfident with his changes but it was still useful to see how it should be tackled. It still requires the root of the problem to be addressed, which is consistent lineups and jump heights, something we haven’t ever really had.

I might not be actively involved in flyball any more, but I’m still interested in the sport and the basis of the seminar focused on consistency in training, building a reward system, trainer problem solving, and timing. All good things for any dog trainer to learn about! Besides, I’m still assisting with a flyball starter course and (lazily) training Rio a good box turn, so the flyball relevant stuff doesn’t hurt either.

Flyball Training

What’s this? Flyball? I still haven’t joined another team and I’m still not really intending to get back into the sport in the immediate future. But a flyball taster session at North K9 came up, and I do quite want to try and teach one of my dogs to have a properly nice boxturn, so I took Rio.

This was back at the venue that we did our Rally trial at, so that was another good reason to get back there. Ri was absolutely fine with it, so I guess the silence and people-staring-at-her was the reason she freaked out last time. Good to see she doesn’t have any particularly negative associations there anyway!

We did some tug/drive work, some restrained recalls, and a little target work too. Beanie was great for the first 10mins, and then started to get distracted and airy-fairy, particularly as a few of the other dogs had squeaky toys. I elected to take her out into the hall and wait there whilst the other dogs worked, and she improved a bit. I got one restrained recall from her that I was happy with, but it does worry me that she still hasn’t got the same desire to work that she had pre-season.

Her target work was brilliant, I’m really happy that she remembered everything and she was very focused during this session; apparently click+treat = awesome focused times! I’m going to try and get her onto the chute at some point this month too, although I realise my List of Things to Do this month is suddenly looking pretty long.

I did some ball/tuggy swap work at home as well this weekend and she remembered doing that too, which was cool. Maybe one day she’ll run flyball after all.

Level Unlocked: Weaves

Rio can weave! Well, she can do four upright poles, and that counts in my book. We’ll work on taking her to a full set of 6 this week, and then progress will slow down again as I don’t have room for 12weaves at home.

Thus far, I’m pleased with how effective the 2×2 method has been, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the be-all-end-all method. I have been lucky enough to a) have relatively nice weather over the past month, and b) been able to steal 6 weaves from my agility group to bring home. If I didn’t have equipment which was easily accessable for very short, frequent sessions (ie, if you only see equipment when you’re at class once a week), I’m not sure how well it would have worked. I don’t think I’ve really gained the biggest advantages that this method should bring, either, because I have very limited space which means working on entries, and approaches at speed, has been impossible.

Rio also begins Rally this week, which should be fun. Mollie’s class finished last week, but due to her health, she wasn’t able to attend the last two classes so I took Kim instead. Kim does not have the heelwork for Rally, but she’s really cute at doing all the station exercises, and she really enjoyed her trips out, so she’s going to continue as well.

I’m very much enjoying not having flyball training or competitions to attend. I didn’t want to blog about my decision to leave my team – and the sport – before; it was both a very difficult decision, and a very, very easy one. I’m not going to another team and I’m not missing anything about flyball, at least not right now. Whilst I was sort of aware of it at the time, it’s only in leaving that I truly understood of how stressful flyball had become for me.

Drax October 2012, Dylan FD-Gold

Very tiring day at Drax, but it’s always a well run competition and even with three rings and a minor medical emergency that shut down one of the rings at the end of the day, we were still heading home for 7pm. Definitely confirmed my feelings about winter tournaments though, I hate being cold and arriving/leaving in the dark!

I boxloaded for the second team, who finished 2nd, and ran a new seedtime of 20.35! Not all the dogs were running at full capacity at the same time, so there is definitely more to come from this lineup.

Dylan was in the first team, subbing for Norah; we finished 3rd in 18.60, which was respectable. I’m pleased with how Dylan ran, his boxturn was a little bit hit-and-miss but didn’t deteriorate completely, and he wasn’t going wide. I struggled running lead with him, his stride pattern was obviously different going over 12″ and so I was anywhere between 0.02 – 0.21 on my starts. Not good enough! He also lost concentration in the afternoon and reverted to looking up at me on the line, but we very rarely run lead dog so it’s not something I can train for. He was clocking 4.8 – 4.9s including starts, and that was consistent all day, which I’m reasonably pleased with. Dyl’s times come with building his confidence through consistency, and he didn’t have that this weekend. I do think this team could be faster, we just need time to settle into a new lineup and feel comfortable as a team. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen, as this team won’t run together again.

Dylan also got his Gold award, finally! He actually got the points for it at Drax in July, but they didn’t have his certificate at any of the other tournaments we went to until now (I’m not sure why it wasn’t at Sutton Fields, but it wasn’t!).

No more tournaments for us until next March now, although I’m currently not sure if I want to continue with flyball at all. I enjoy competing, and I love training my dogs, but I have a lot of problems with the sport. Although I like everyone in my team, I’m not happy with our team structure and don’t think it works for me or my dogs. I did also initially write a whole paragraph here about the “politics” of the flyball community as a whole, including the militant pro-NAFA/European people, but it’s sort of irrelevant to my decision to continue. I will see how training goes over the next few weeks and make a decision for January.

Chutes

Dylan and Rio

Although Dylan and Rio would beg to differ, we had a productive day!

Chutes, plural. Because I had to buy enough wood for two to get enough wood for one, so it made sense. Just trying to sort out matting for the front boards now, and then everything will be polished and done. I’m looking forward to starting Rio’s boxwork, finally!

This past week has been sad, as I’ve been in the position to watch some of the friends I’ve made via my dogs, recieve terrible news or have to make difficult decisions. It’s always a situation where I feel helpless and useless, because there is so little to be said or done that can help.

In that light, there was also something good about today, about being able to build something from nothing and have a finished, tangible product at the end of it.

Training Daze

Rio & Dylan I am feeling very productive this week (with regards to dog training. Other things, not so much).

Dylan did some light work at agility last Tuesday, but I was conscious that he might be carrying an injury, so we didn’t do too much. Enough to test the waters and see what might be bothering him. He worked fine, enthusiastic and chirpy, just a little uncomfortable on the flat. His jumping form was nice, contacts so-so. He doesn’t seem to like our seesaw at training, which is a little bit weird. He actually has a better (ie. more confident, faster) seesaw performance in competition at the moment.

He did a little boxwork at flyball; we have a new flat-fronted box which I love, but it does trigger faster than our old boomerang. So far, Dylan’s turn has looked better and he’s snapping around faster, but the real test will be at Drax in a few weeks when he runs in competition with no props.

He had a chiro adjustment and massage after training, and he was soooo sore in his shoulders, particularly the left one. This is what I’d suspected and it wasn’t a major fix, but it does explain why he was popping the weaves at Lune. He was popping consistently at the fourth pole, which is the second step onto his left shoulder. Another Rio-related injury, but a new one! She’s a lot faster than him and when they’re out racing, she’ll run in front and spin to bark in his face, so he slams on and is obviously jarring his shoulders. That upright build doesn’t help!

Rio & Dylan

Rio and I did a little contact board work at agility training, first time in a high-excitement atmosphere. I didn’t expect any problems and didn’t get any. She loves to work, and she had no problems with the transition from home to arena. I do need to shape her looking forward a little more, she’s currently just offering the 2o2o from wherever she happens to be on the board. She worked the rest of the exercises like a pro, she’s such a superstar. It’s a weird sort of pressure, I think she has a lot of potential, a lot more than my other dogs, and I want to make sure I can reach that!

She was also awesome at obedience, I’m excited about where we’re going with this. I discussed the possibilities for Rally and “proper” Obedience in the future with our trainer, and it was both enlightening and positive. Again, with the potential!

Finally, she did some recalls at flyball and is looking super smooth. The intention is to build a chute this weekend and start her box training, finally. Although I do say this every week, and so far … nothing. A lot more incentive now we have the new box however.

Rave - 5months

We got to play with Rave a little as well, who is 5months now and the fluff is dropping away, replaced by legs. He is such a nice puppy, I like him a lot. He loves Katie and is going to be very good for her, I think!

Sutton Fields Sept 2012

I love this tournament; my dogs and my team always seem to run well at Sutton Fields, and it’s always been my milestone tournament as well. Kim got her first sub-20 time in 2006, retired 2011, Dylan did his first Open 2008, Mollie retired 2012. Dylan got back to sub-20, 2012.

Kim ran in Starters on Saturday, our super-starter team of Snoop, Mylo, Kim, and Diva. We ran these four together at Larden Green and they are such a good little team, we came 1st again. Kim is obviously the experienced one on the team, but the others are true baby dogs; capable of running up and down, but still learning changeovers and occasionally making some silly inexperienced mistakes. It’s a proper Starter team, and these dogs will be ready for Open next season.

Sutton Fields: Mollie

Mollie’s team ran on Sunday and came 3rd, with a BreakOut time of 22.10 – this team won’t run together again so it’s sort of irrelevant. Mollie and Bailey are both officially retired now; they have both been superstars, rolling on with their own unique takes on flyball, but consistent team members to the end. Retiring Mollie does make me sad, she is still raring to go and loves flyball, but at her age and with her fading eyesight, it’s just too much to let her run these days.

Dylan was back running over 9″, the same team as we had at Larden Green. All the dogs were on top form, it was so nice to be running in a seriously competitive team. We were seeded on 20.12 so knew the sub-20s was within easy reach. Dylan clocked some easy 4.6s times, Roxy was consistently producing 4.6-4.7, height dog Ronnie was getting down to 4.9, and even Chip got his act together at the end of the summer and went down to 4.6 at times. We eventually got our 19.85 at the end of the day, with Chip, Dyl, Ronnie, Roxy. I also feel a little bit smug for not getting a single light all day, even when we got dropped into lead dog; 4x rolling starts, I win!

I can’t wait to get the new box and start training for next season; I suddenly feel like 4.5s is within Dylan’s capabilities, and that has never really been a prospect before. I’m pretty excited for next season, but I’m also a little anxious as I’m still not sure if I want to continue flyball after this year. We require some changes within the team to really reach next year’s potential, and considering those are changes of attitude and control, I’m not sure it will happen.

Friendship

British Flyball Championship 2012

Mollie I can’t believe it was a full week since we were sat outside at Arbury Hall, sorting out the last minute arrivals and putting up tents. It was a bit weird being there with just Mollie and Dylan; Rio was at home recovering, and we didn’t want to take Kim for her to be sat around all day. She’s a lady of luxury these days!

It rained Thursday night, and we got scattered showers throughout the day on Friday. By the first division it was clear we were going to be running in some serious mud. Mollie’s team got in to the Champs at the last minute due to another team withdrawal, and ran on Friday morning, first thing. They did so well, running their socks off, and came 3rd in their division. There’s a good chance that this is Mollie’s last Championships, and this is the first year she’s not won. She had a blast though, as always!

Dylan’s team also ran on Friday. We did not have such a good day, although we also finished 3rd. Unlike the third team,, I don’t think we ran our best and we lost some legs on silly mistakes that shouldn’t have happened in what is theoretically an experienced team. I have to admit I came away extremely frustrated and very disappointed, but a few hours of reflection and time with the camera gave me some perspective. Dylan ran really well, I am very proud of him. We hopefully have several more years to reverse our bad luck at the Champs, and he was just happy to be there.

Dylan

Our top team were on Saturday, for the first time. The ground staged some miraculous recovery and the team actually smashed their seed time (which went unrecorded on interference, although all four dogs were able to complete their legs properly). I was on the line for this team and I was so proud of them, they kept cool under pressure and held it together to come 3rd in a very tight Division. They simply weren’t fast enough to beat the Division winners, but this team is still a relatively new lineup (a month old!) so we have high hopes for next year.

Ring 1 Sunday

Division 1 was amazing to watch, as ever. Very close racing between all the teams! Live Wires took the title again, but it came down to their last race, which went to 5 legs, against Extreme Racers. I was rooting for Extreme to win, along with most of the Northern contingent, since they’ve taken the British Record to new levels this year and were the fastest team in the Division. They have a history of having some bad luck when it comes to the Champs and it struck again, with a light in the final leg. Next year! I’ve also never been as hot in my life as on Sunday, baking sunshine but hot, still air that made us all feel like joining the dogs in the pools. Probably a good job we didn’t!

I always really enjoy the Champs and this year was no different. I do want some major changes within our team however, and without them I don’t know whether I’ll be back for next season. We are due some team talks in the next few weeks and so I will wait and see what the outcome is.

Training

Very happy with Dylan’s agility training this week. We still have runs in competition where I have no idea what he’s thinking or why he’s acting the way he does, but that is a general Dyl-me problem, not an agility-specific problem. In terms of actual agility, it feels like we’re at our peak right now. I can’t retrain some of our bad habits (wide turns!) but we work with what we have and it’s good.

Super confident dogwalks, just what I love to see. He sometimes stops just off the contact, but that’s my fault as I quick-release 80% of his contacts and I spent too much time when he was younger rewarding for “trying to stop”, so his criteria is a little vague. I wanted more independent contacts but I’m so used to managing Kim’s that it’s not too difficult for me. I want Rio’s to be more independent though, Dyl really struggles with dogwalks where I’m a long way behind him, and I don’t want that again.

Flyball … hmm. We’re still not sure what our lineup for the Champs is going to be, which for me is frustrating. I hate feeling unprepared going into an event I care about! I’m confident that Dylan will be happy with whichever dogs are on his team, as the two reserves are both smooth coated, predictable, and non-scary in Dylan’s eyes. We should know what we’re doing by Saturday, although that leaves us with just one training session to go.

Dylan is running really well at the moment however. There is always work to do on maintaining his turn but I’m happy.

Larden Green 2012

This was such a fun tournament. I think everyone knows what an absolute Olympics fangirl I am, and I was gutted not to get tickets for our home games this year. Instead I’m glued to the television 24/7 watching all the coverage, so I was panicking going into this weekend knowing I would be missing some of the events. Cue DAB Radio purchase … thank goodness for that impulse buy, as it got us all through the weekend! The whole team was huddled around the radio between divisions – and even between races, at times! – and it was a little bit special to have us all crammed into a caravan, cheering for our athletes on Saturday night as they brought home all those gold medals. Immensely proud of being British at the moment.

The dogs also ran well this weekend. Kim was in Starters with Diva and Mylo, and we borrowed a Chilli Pepper dog in Scoot. A four dog Starter team, and they won all their races! It was a four team Starter division so we raced everyone twice (same format as a 7-team div) so very proud of all of them.

Dylan’s team had a bit of a shake up as we have some dogs returning to the team, so he was running over 9″. We tried to reduce any changes for him, so he continued running second, into Chip (or on the front when Chip was out). The dog running in third was different, but is the small height dog and one he’s comfortable with. He is massively overjumping over 9″ and his box has deteriorated, as expected … he takes a long time to adjust, especially as he’s been running over 14″ all season. However, we were able to get splits this weekend and he was running fairly consistent 4.7s (including my changeovers!) and I’m happy with that. If he stays at 9″, he should improve on those times and if he transitions to the new box ok I’d expect him to be running 4.5-4.6s. Which would be awesome! We came 2nd with a fastest time of 20.12 (OLYMPIC TIME!), so very happy.

Mollie finally got to compete again, with the new dogs we had the few extra we needed for three teams. She’s not as fast as she was when she was pulled at the start of the season, probably running about 6s now, but she’s consistent and having a blast, as ever. The team came 4th, not too shabby!

No idea what we’re doing for the Champs now as we’d only entered two teams, and unfortunately now have more than enough dogs for three! In some ways I want our “normal” team to go, as we have run together all season, but the dogs and the team are not consistent at all. But reshuffling the orders at this stage is a little late. We’ll see …