Sunday, April 19, 2015

Love of a Sport . . . You Have it or You Don't!

Yesterday, I packed up all three dogs and we took a trip to the Mardi Growl in Willow Grove, PA!  Tessa was entered in Intermediate Freestyle and we performed her "Just the Way You Are" routine.  Dean Dog and Bandit were entered in Innovations.  Dean was entered so I would be able to bring him along to the event!  We performed his "Smooth" routine with a toy simply to amuse him (and he was definitely amused!).  With Bandit I was doing more, "This is the Freestyle ring and it's a fun place!" work!

We didn't go for the whole day.  Tessa was scheduled after lunch, and Innovations is always at the end of the day, so we didn't need to leave home until mid-morning.  The dogs were in a thrilled frenzy because I was packing up the car - I even put Bandit's smaller metal crate out there - and cutting up treats!  Once all gear and dogs were loaded up in the Fit, we had a pleasant, and uneventful 2+ hour trip out to the site.  It was a new site for the club, and I had a little trouble finding it, but did get there.

Although the site is in somewhat of an urban setting, I was pleased to find that the entry to the building was around back and the whole lot was quite secluded from the busy road out in front.  I would have felt perfectly safe crating out of the car, at least for short periods of time, but . . . it was hot out!  Too hot to leave dogs out there for long.  That meant they all had to go in!  I wasn't sure how that was going to work.  The last time I took all three of them to an event together, Bandit really struggled.  But . . . he did much better this time.  I guess more experience with crating at classes has helped him.  He seemed to understand the deal this time around.

During the lunch time, I took Tessa out in the ring to familiarize her, since we had never been there before.  Bandit, with a towel over the front of the crate, and the top zipped shut, did just fine!

Bandit's triumph of the day was staying quiet in his crate the entire time Tessa and I performed!!  Oh, I said her cues VERY quietly so he wouldn't hear me across the room.  Still, knowing Bandit - I'll bet he did hear me!  He stayed quiet like a champ over there!

Now . . . Tessa.  And the tie-in to the title of this blog.  * Sigh *

She was in a good mood, she was wiggly and waggly. But . . . as we prepared to go into the ring, a young girl noticed Tessa and started walking straight toward her.  I asked the mother to please keep her back.  The mother agreed, and moved her off, and then promptly turned her attention to a table of awards, and the girl circled back and started coming toward us again.  I moved Tessa out of the area.  The mother finally got the child and moved her further away.

Then . . . as I entered the ring with Tessa's jump prop, I accidentally banged it against the ring gate and Tessa startled.

So . . . I had a somewhat shut-down Tessa in the ring.  I will say this - she worked through it.  There were some spots in the routine where she got "stuck" in a sit, but she did all of the moves, and, of course, her jumping was absolutely lovely!

I was proud of her.  I know she was nervous.  She gave me everything she had.

Later, after she was crated, I had a moment of clarity.  I was walking across the room, and suddenly, there along the wall, back toward the back side of the room there were all of these jump stantions!!!  Stantion after stantion after stantion were lined up against the white wall!!  And suddenly I realized that I would set the entire course up myself if I could - I wanted to run Agility with Tessa in the worst way right in that moment!!

It's not that I love Agility more than Freestyle - I don't.  But TESSA does.

It wasn't really Agility I wanted in that moment, I wanted that Tessa - the one flying through the air, confident, bursting with joy!  The one who comes off the course with an attitude of, "we did that together and that was AWESOME!!!"  Not . . . "well, that happened, and we're leaving now".

Of course, I knew that before - it wasn't news to me.  But it hit me on a sensory level when my eyes were filled with all of those stantions!!

And then, I had in front of me, a young boy just bursting with enthusiasm for everything that was happening.  I could see that there is real potential in Bandit to love this!

I really need to start thinking of Bandit as my Freestyle dog. 

Yes, I'd like that last Intermediate leg with Tessa.  I'd hate to leave that undone, if we can get it.  But . . . I need to start focusing on Bandit's Freestyle training, choreography for Bandit, and preparing Bandit to be my Freestyle partner.  Then, Tessa can go along for the ride when Bandit and I go to compete, and eventually we will probably pick it up.

Yesterday, Bandit loved everything about the competition.  Including his time in the ring!!

That's where I need to put my mind right now!

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Heeling and Rally

I set out, about a year or so ago, to really work on Tessa's heeling to try to make it fluent, pretty, enthusiastic.

I failed.  I tried many things.  I took Precision Heeling, IPO Heeling, and FCI Heeling through the Fenzi Academy!!  Tessa enjoyed the classes, but her end result heeling didn't end up changing all that much.  She has a mean pivot into heel and side, but when we are moving forward, she still lags, and is often tentative.

I was pretty much on the point of giving up on it . . . and, as happens so very often, something unexpected happened!!

This session I decided to sign Bandit up (at bronze) for Rally Skillbuilding 1.  I had no intention of doing any Rally with him at all, except maybe as a retirement sport years and years from now!  But I saw the class, and decided I wanted to do it.

There was some nostalgia involved in the decision.  Speedy and I got started with Rally.  We got into dog sport competition with Rally.  Those memories of Speedy and I training and competing in Rally, as well as our early years in Freestyle, were our "heyday" in a sense.  I think I felt like maybe I could recapture some of what Speedy and I had if I did Rally with Bandit . . .

Wrong reason but right decision.

Just from what little I have done with Bandit for the Rally class, I am amazed to see that he absolutely LOVES it!  I'm not sure why.  We have worked, almost entirely, on sits, downs, stands, and starting heeling.  But he clearly adores the work.  And his enthusiasm for it makes me love it!

And now it's not about Speedy or nostalgia or recapturing our glory days at all.  It's about doing something that Bandit seems to have a very strong affinity for!

So, while Bandit and I are having a party, I noticed an exercise that I thought might do Tessa some good!

There is a preliminary heeling exercises where you have the dog sit in heel, talk in an excited voice and feed treats, and then toss a cookie forward.

I saw that and thought, "hmmmmmmmmmmm"!!!

Tessa and I tried it.


All I can say is . . . WOW!!

First of all, she thoroughly enjoyed the exercise.  She liked it when I had her in the sit in heel or side, and was talking to her in an excited tone of voice!  And she liked springing forward to get the treat that I had thrown ahead.

We completed that part and then the next step, and before I knew what was happening, Tessa was driving up into heel and was heeling with enthusiasm!

I don't know that it will be enough to carry over into our Freestyle competition in a week and a half, but long term . . . I think there might be some real possibilities for us!

Here is a video of Bandit doing some of the class exercises.

And here is Miss Tessa!  Look at her go!