First, answers to gardening questions: yes, those mini roses are crazy hardy here in east central Iowa. Winter temps here can and do drop to -20. Oddly enough, last summer we had an onslaught of Japanese beetles and they only munched on my pink mini roses, not the coral colored one. Never saw a beetle on it all summer. Sprayed the hell out of the pink ones and kept ahead of the worst damage. No, I don’t have the specific name for the blue iris, sorry - they are just a bearded variety that caught my eye in a catalog a few years ago.
Okay, dog obedience.
Someone asked me recently if my decision to drop out of the agility scene to focus on Phoenix’s obedience work was working.
Honest answer: I don’t know. Our last obedience trial was in mid-May. Our next trial is in a week and a half and I really don’t expect to see super results this fast. We’re doing Utility only, no Open stays for us for awhile.
But I can tell you I feel a whole lot better about our training and time management. Really, really a whole lot better. Not only did I put agility on the back burner, I’m taking a break from teaching as well and not teaching any obedience classes for my club or privately until fall. (I am sort of in charge of a very loosely organized weeknight training group, kind of a selfish excuse to encourage other people to come train with me at a local park. So far, the weather seems to be winning but we’ve had a good time when we manage to get there.)
There are seven days in a week.
Mondays I usually work late, getting the newspapers out, so training on Monday night is a crap shoot at best. I always want to train but I don’t always get home from work early enough to realistically have any sort of decent training time and sometimes I’m just not in a good place mentally after the day’s deadline insanity.
Until this spring, I always had an agility class to go to each week. There went the 2nd night of the week.
And I was always teaching an obedience class as well. There’s the 3rd night of the week away from home, even though I could train my own dog before teaching the class if I scurried home from work and got on the road fast enough.
If I was trialing on the weekend (and I usually was, either obedience or agility), that took care of Saturday and Sunday (days 4 and 5). I know you can train at a trial or at the hotel or wherever but you don't always have the room or the equipment to work the things you want to. If I had to drive a distance to the trial, there went Friday night (day 6).
Do the math. Many weeks that left me with ONE NIGHT with no other obligations when I could train my dog when and where I wanted.
Granted, the agility class night did provide training opps but we all know class time is mostly for the handler, not the dog. You’re supposed to learn from your instructor, then go home and teach your dog. Which is really hard to do if you’re never home.
So I reluctantly dropped agility and guiltily quit teaching and I’ll tell you what - it’s fabulous!!!
I’m not frantically splitting our limited at-home training time between two venues. I’m not desperately throwing all my time and effort at whatever venue I’m entered in for the coming weekend.
Not trialing in agility has freed up a staggering number of weekends. I can spend the time hooking up with obedience-only friends to train or making use of training sites that are vacant because everyone else is at the agility trial.
I feel like our training is calmer, more clearly directed at specific goals. Knowing I have most weeknights and many weekends at my disposal, to use as I want to, has taken a lot of pressure off me, and consequently off Phoenix.
I’m looking up obedience trial dates that I’d previously abandoned to do agility. There are a surprising number of new trials that have been added in our area over the last couple of years. I was always peripherally aware of them but opted to go the agility route instead. Now I’m looking forward to trying out some new trial sites and dates.
Will this guarantee instant success? Probably not. But it has freed my mind from the clutter of too many obligations. I used to thrive on the gone-every-weekend-and-most-nights-a-week lifestyle. I guess back then I had dogs who excelled in spite of my haphazard training style.
Working Phoenix will never be a casually, laid-back experience. Right now, asking for 110 percent from him means I have to give it, too. He is a demanding and draining dog and I don’t think anything I do with him will ever qualify as “easy.” But I’m looking forward to a summer of one easy choice - training obedience.