Monday, August 18, 2008

Run Lola Run

We went to a little DOCNA trial over the weekend, just one day and just 3 runs. There's a USDAA trial next weekend and I didn't want to wear out myself or the dogs though I only entered one day of that trial too. I'm trying to take it easy on the dogs since they're getting older.

I woke up at around 4:15 Sat. morning to the sound of heavy, pounding rain. Lola was snugged up next to me all toasty and warm and I rolled over and went back to sleep, extremely grateful that I'd signed up for Sunday and not Saturday. It rained solidly until around 12:45 pm and I guess they finally called the trial at 11:00 am due to thunder & lightning. It's so unusual to have rain all day and it's been forever since we've had any rain. I woke up at 5:00 am on Sunday morning to a light drizzle and cloudy skies, nice and cool for the dogs. Could be perfect conditions for the dogs as long as it didn't rain.

And it didn't. In fact by the time I had my standard runs the sun was shining and I was cursing my luck that they hadn't run masters (or whatever it's called in DOCNA) before the other 2 levels as it had been advertised in the premium. I could have had all 3 runs done by 10:00 am or so! After seeing the dogs so unhappy about running in the heat at Regionals I'd intentionally entered only the first 3 classes of the day reasoning that it likely wouldn't be too beastly hot that early in the day. As it was I finished at around 12:15 pm, still not too bad and it never got hot enough to make the dogs unhappy (high 60's or so I'd guess). In fact the dogs loved the cool weather and had great runs. Best part about DOCNA-no table! Both dogs got to fly through their standard runs without having to stop for the evil table.

The highlight of the trial for me was Miss Lola. The last few trials seemed challenging for her and it seemed to take a lot to get her excited for her runs but I'm suspecting this was because of the heat because she was raring to go this weekend. She had nice clean runs in one of her standard runs and the North American Challenge (yeesh what a mouthful) which is DOCNA's version of USDAA's Grand Prix. I think this qualifies her for 2009's Champs but I doubt we'll go. We're going this year though, will be fun to see what it's like. Anyway, she was out there running her buns off and looking like she was having a blast. She hit all her contacts, did all her weaves, really her only 2 mistakes were brought on by poor handling. That idea that I have that yes I can make that front cross, well, it works o.k. in USDAA but not so much in DOCNA. I found myself behind after a straight line of jumps and had to throw in a late rear cross on the fly and the end result was ugly for both dogs. She was slow on her dogwalk but not nearly as bad as she's been and she trotted through the contact rather than leaping. Maybe the plank work is working? Maybe just dumb luck. I think the leaping is more a stress thing and she didn't seem at all stressed this weekend.

Cody did well too, got a Q in masters standard, had a nice run in the NAC/Grand Prix thingy but leaped off the A-frame and took an off course jump, his only mistake. He took a flying leap off the dogwalk in one of his standard runs-naughty boy. I was not at all happy and afterwards I was kicking myself for not making him go back and redo it since DOCNA allows training in the ring. Then I thought about it and I was glad I kept going. He was happy and having fun, he's so close to retirement and I've let the problem go so long that it seems unfair coming down on him about it now. Plus I've tried this before and clearly it doesn't seem to be working. I remembered something from the Susan Garrett seminar too, that giving a dog a cue is reinforcing in itself so asking him to repeat the obstacle isn't necessarily teaching him anything. She gave an example of a trial where she saw the same dogs blowing the contact the first time then doing it perfectly the second time for several runs throughout the trial. So I'm not so sure I made a wrong decision there. Better to work on this at home and if it never gets fixed, well, oh well, he's got how many trials left? Probably not the best attitude if we're going to do well at Championships but I'm not going to go crazy with training a 10 year old dog. He made all his other contacts, had nice weaves in 2 runs and ran right past the poles at the end of a standard run but that was a handling issue and maybe even a little bit of a stress issue since it was the same run with the blown dogwalk contact.

As for myself I had one minor triumph with my handling. In recent lessons Joy has pointed out my terrible habit of running with my arm up all the time and sometimes even pointing at random things that have precious little to do with the course at hand. I don't even realize I'm doing it. It's hard to send your dog if your arm is up all the time. Cody doesn't seem to notice but Lola finds it horribly confusing. I managed to remember not to do this for all my runs and it felt so much better, Lola was sending so nicely. I'm sure this had something to do with how happily she was running.

I think I need to stop trialing in hot weather. The dogs are so much happier and faster when it's cool, why make them suffer in the heat? So many of our USDAA trials are outdoors on potentially hot days though. The trial this weekend could easily have been in the 90's. So hard to predict the weather here. Maybe I need to take the chance and eat the entry fee if it turns out to be too hot.

Next weekend is USDAA up in Laramie, WY. All the hotels up there that allow dogs are so skeezy I couldn't bear the thought of spending 1-2 nights there and paying $90 or so for the privilege so I opted for only 1 day. Cody needs 1 pairs leg, 1 standard leg and 2 Super Q's for his champ. title and we're entered in pairs, standard and snooker so maybe we'll get just a little bit closer. Maybe we'll be able to pull it off before it's time to retire. If not, no big deal but will be fun to try.


  1. Sounds like DOCNA courses have more wide-open running straight out sequences than USDAA usually does at the masters level? That was one thing that I always thought was fun in NADAC, just turning on the dogs' afterburners and figuring out how to manage that while enjoying their speed.

    One thing about not keeping your hand up all the time is that maybe the dog can pay less attention to you and feel more confident about being faster and doing the obstacles. Good luck with that. It never stops, finding what you're not doing optimally and trying to fix it!


  2. "One thing about not keeping your hand up all the time is that maybe the dog can pay less attention to you and feel more confident about being faster and doing the obstacles."

    Absolutely! It's funny, I didn't realize I'm running with my hand up all the time, it was something Joy pointed out to me (I'm pretty sure Stacy pointed this out to me ages ago as well). She's been awesome about pointing out bad habits that I don't even realize I have. Now if I can just remember not to do them now that I know what they are.

    DOCNA courses are just like old school NADAC courses before they dumbed them down for the bonus boxes. They're a lot of fun and some of the clubs are replacing their NADAC trials with DOCNA trials. It's great as well to see some of the top handlers that stopped doing NADAC coming back out of the woodwork to do DOCNA. There are 2 really good handlers from my training field that are also going to DOCNA Champs this year, one of them being someone like me who'd been to USDAA Nationals for a couple of years but chose DOCNA this year instead because it's so much fun.