Sunday, January 22, 2012

The year of the seminar

First things first - I was supposed to be helping with a ring-rental fun match at my club this morning but obviously I am not. A light glaze of ice on everything and freezing mist in the air when I went out with the dogs at 6 a.m. convinced me that trying to skate to Iowa City was not a good idea.

Okay, seminars.

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.


  1. I'd like to attend that type of seminar that you and Phoenix attended. I admit, I don't know a whole lot about warming up/cooling down, so it'd all be very helpful. I can imagine Layla being like Phoenix though, and not being very happy about it!

    I'm looking forward to hearing about the other seminars as well. There are a LOT of people who are going to Denise Fenzi seminars lately. I admit, I didn't know who she was and had to look her up. The seminar looks like a lot of fun.

  2. I LOVE me some seminars!!

    Where is the Michael Ellis seminar going to be?

  3. yes! where is the Michael Ellis seminar going to be?? inquiring minds and all of that..