I am not a seminar junkie but you couldn't guess it by looking at my calendar this year. A conditioning seminar and two obedience seminars (Bridget Carlson and Denise Fenzi) are on my list, with the outside chance of a Michael Ellis seminar, pending timing and finances.
Yesterday Phoenix and I spent the day at a canine conditioning and fitness seminar in Muscatine. It was interesting in both material and the way Phoenix reacted to it. I know I need to get a better plan for pre- and post-run routines at trials since what I've been doing is probably the bare minimum in terms of preparing my dog to run safely.
First, the material was great. The presenter (Dr. Laurie McCauley, from TOPS, Grays Lake, Ill.) covered in-depth techniques for warm ups, cool downs and massage for canine athletes, all aimed at preventing injuries. Lecture was mixed with hands-on practice on our own dogs.
This is where things got interesting.
Phoenix did not want to be stretched. He did not want to be massaged. He was clearly out of his comfort zone being asked to lie down (be vulnerable) in close proximity to a bunch of dogs he didn't know. He was so tense it was difficult to do many of the manuevers. Gradually he relaxed but I don't think he really enjoyed it, probably because of the environment (which he perceived as stressful) and I was doing a lot of fumbling and odd things to his back, legs and feet (which he perceived as unnecessary - remember, he is the dog who sees things in black and white: good, fun, right, normal, okay vs. weird, odd, wrong, bad).
He wanted to work.
During the stationary work (stretching, massage), he was . . . um . . . contrary. I asked him to roll left, he rolled right. I asked him to stand up, he laid down. I asked him to face away from me, he stuck his head between my knees. Well, you get the picture. By about 2 p.m., he was thoroughly fed up with being fussed over.
But at breaks or when we did more active work, he lit up. Ears came up, tail came up, eyes were bright and engaged. Going out on the floor to do heelwork or retrieves, he was in his element. THAT was what he wanted to do. YES! That's what I want to take in the obedience ring soon! Sure, I would like him to be more relaxed and compliant when I stretch him out or massage him (we've done a small amount of this but clearly not to the degree we experienced yesterday) but I was happy to see that he clearly thought his job was working, not the touchy-feely stuff.
Toward the end of the day we were able to do more physically active exercises like cavalettis and ladders and he enjoyed those very much, especially working with exercise balls, which was a new concept for him. Plus we learned several tricks and exercises that very much resemble things we already do in obedience training. I think Phoenix breathed a sigh of relief - finally, something he understood!
Due to a weather delay the seminar didn't start until 10 a.m. and it ran until 7 p.m., which was a pretty long day. By the end of it, I was pretty sure I needed to quit my job so I would have time to do all the stretching, massaging and strength and endurance conditioning - let alone training - Dr. McCauley suggested for keeping my dog competing safely. I hope the Farmer will understand.