Thursday, May 28, 2009

Training update: Grad Novice, here we come

Thank doG the AKC overhauled the Graduate Novice class. Again. The last time I showed in Grad Novice was when Jamie was getting ready for Open and it scares me to think how long ago that was. I know we both had a lot less gray hair back then. Now the exercises are new and improved. It’s a much more reasonable stepping stone class between Novice and Open.

Phoenix and I are going to show in Grad Novice in two weeks at the Ft. Dodge trials and the week after that at the Hawkeye trials. Are we ready? Define “ready.” Are we perfect? No. Are we improving? Absolutely.

Heeling: I’ve decided to try heeling with my left arm at my side. After years and years of heeling with my left hand clamped somewhere between my boobs and my belly button, I’m ready for a change. The AKC regs say if you carry your left hand up, it should be “centered in the vicinity of the waist.” I’m not sure where my waist is these days and I don’t want to become one of those ladies who heels with her forearm supporting her bossom. Like that would happen. I have no bossom to speak of.

Anyway, so far, so good. Having my arm at my side seems to be improving Nix’s heel position and remedying some of our bump and crowd issues. The only problem is my hand occasionally flops around and whacks him in the face. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely by accident but he doesn't
seem to mind. It’s also really convenient to tweak his head position when my hand is right there.

I’ve managed to drastically reduce the amount of cookies I use on heelwork but admit food will probably always be part of the program for me. I’m getting much better at using toys and playing tug to reward effort and build attitude. However, it’s hard for me to reward heel position with toys because releasing to a tug session pretty much destroys the position I want to reward (although the crazy wild dog can tug like the devil while holding his contacts in agility). So food still has its place, at least for me. Everyone has to follow their own heart when they train.

Drop on recall: If I get a nice running recall, the drop is less than ideal. If he slows to a trot and thinks about doing a nice drop, well, it’s a nice drop but then the recall sucks. We’re working hard on getting that elusive running recall in a formal context and I only ask for occasional drops. I am pretty sure he understands the concept of a drop out of motion. It’s the concept of that motion in the first place we’re working to improve, using toys, chase games and intense play to ramp up his speed. Food does not get the level of drive I want. Toys do. Great. More work for the trainer. (Try explaining this type of thing to your cardiologist when they ask about “exercise.” They sure look at you funny.)

Dumbbell recall: Couple of things going on here. We need to work “get it” in about a million different places. The hard, fast, git-yer-fingers-outta-my-way-sister-or-yer-gonna-lose-em chomp I get in familiar training building softens in new environments. And of course, working to build that driving recall continues. More running. Go, me.

Recall over the high jump: This is pretty straight forward. Fronts are improving as he learns to collect all 52 pounds of his bad self and not just slam into a sit in any ol’ spot. Finishes? They remain a work in progress.

Recall over the broad jump: Same as above. I didn’t want to re-type it. Cuz I’m lazy. And tired after running all over the place so that damn fool dog can chase me.

Long down, handler out of sight: What? I have to leave my dog? Alone? For 3 minutes? Are you sure that’s a good idea?


  1. You will be perfect!! Not so sure about leaving that dawg ALONE!! (remember the honey????)

  2. For many people - the area between boobs and belly button can change from week to week If I had a cardiologist, I would have to explain why my heart is in my throat on out of sight stays!!! GOOD LUCK PHOENIX.

  3. Sounds like a LOT of fun!!! You'll be ready for that 1/2 Tri in NO TIME!!! G You're doing GREAT for the tug and play!! I think you're right, everyone needs to use what's right for their dog and since he's use to it. DO IT!! A good mix is really nice to have.