Thursday, August 23, 2012

7 days and counting

After two perfectly wonderful months of doing basically nothing, all Hell is breaking loose.

No. Wait. We didn't do nothing. Phoenix and I trained. We trained a lot. We did some matches and trained with friends and trained in the park and trained at home in the back yard while the neighbors' friggin' feral cat population marched up and down the lane. But we didn't travel. And beyond a few local agility trials, we didn't trial.

Not to mention I haven't taught a class for nearly three months. Kinda glad I didn't schedule anything for July and August, given the record-setting molten lava blast furnace summer we've had this year but teaching keeps me on my toes for working my own dog. Left to my own devices it's easy to get lazy.

Well let me tell ya sister, those days are over! (The days of not trialing, not the days of the neighbors' feral cats. They show no sign of stopping.)

Starting one week from today, we're launching back into the thick of it with trials 8 of the next 11 weekends. This includes AKC obedience and agility and UKC obedience. I WILL have Phoenix ready  to show for his U-UD in November. There. I wrote it out loud.

Plus, I've got two classes starting the first week of September: a puppy/young dog foundation class and a Utility class. Helping other people with their dogs always inspires me to work harder, more creatively, more passionately and more joyfully with my own dog.

I have enjoyed our the last couple of months "off" very much. Phoenix and I needed a break after the spring roller coaster of obedience, agility, Malinois nationals and seminars. I needed time to regroup and implement some new training ideas. Some of them have taken root and grown, others not so much.

There's been no pressure to achieve anything, which honestly creates the best training environment. There weren't (and still aren't, in spite of our looming September-October-November schedule) any self-imposed deadlines to make me crazy. Crazier. Whatever. We'll just go and show and have fun. It is what it is.

I'm not holding my breath that we'll go back into the ring next Thursday with all our problems solved. Are we in a better place with our training and showing than we were one year ago? Absolutely. Are we in a better place than than we were six months ago? Yes, I think so. We're making progress even though it often seems like three steps forward and two steps back.

Phoenix is a puzzle. With him (and I suspect, with many dogs), it's a balance between finding the magic technique to "fix" all our problems and discovering what DOESN'T work. I've seen lots of trainers use techniques that clearly aren't producing good results, yet they are determined to use them because that's what their instructor told them to do.

As much as I hate cliches, Phoenix's greatest gift to me as a trainer has been teaching me to think outside of the box. If traditional "solutions" don't work, try something new. The joy in working with him is watching him light up when I manage to choreograph a training session that addresses what he really needs for clearer understanding of his job and delight in performing it. He is a very funny, willing partner but he has no patience for mindless drills or repetition.

Now I need to go take more ibuprofen. We did more tugging in last night's workout than was good for my wrists and hands. It always seems like such a good idea at the time . . .


  1. I don't understand why people can't embrace new ideas. Getting stuck in one training technique that's not working for the dog is so frustrating for the dog and a waste of your time. But if you suggest something different to try, they look at you like you've grown two heads. Then months later you see that same person doing what you suggested, but they said someone else showed them and that it's fantatic! Go figure.

    I like to try different things until I find what works for that dog. I have three dogs in training and I have to really think about which dog is in the ring with me so that I remember which technique I'm using!

    Good luck at your trials!

  2. As the saying goes, the definition of stupidity (or insanity) is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results.