Talk about getting your money's worth. I joined an agility club just so I could get a working spot in this seminar and being a member meant I spent only $40 for a 1/2 day Intermediate Handling spot. Two hours into the seminar I was dripping with sweat and Strummer was panting. Panting I tell you. Do you know what it takes to wear Strummer out? Frankly, I didn't think it possible. But Marco's got this super efficient way of running things so you get lots of turns and you better get your butt on the line ready to go when it's your turn or else. Now I knew what I was signing up for since Cody and I attended one of Marco's seminars a few years ago and this fast paced training environment was great for Strummer since he didn't have a lot of down time to get worked up over the other dogs working without getting to work himself. I wish most classes worked this way, I'd get a lot more out of them. Strum did great with this format and didn't start going over his excitement threshold until the 2 hour mark and though I certainly had some moments with keeping him from losing it when dogs were going over the contact equipment he was much improved from his behavior in indoor classes last year at this time.
The seminar focused on setting lines to achieve the most efficient path. He also had us working on using the outside arm to get collection and tight turns. I remembered a lot of things from last time and I had incorporated some of his ideas into my own handling but it was good to get a refresher course and to see the concepts being applied to different situations. I know some people aren't a big fan of setting lines but I can tell you I owe one of Lola's Super Q's to setting a line. We beat out a boatload of way faster dogs because they had a wide turn coming out of a tunnel into a serpentine and I set a line for a nice tight turn. I don't do a whole lot of it but there are times when it comes in handy. Same for the outside arm, I don't think I overuse it but every once in a while it makes all the difference, especially with a dog like Strummer.
Now you would think that with all the experience I've had with these ideas that I breezed through the seminar, everything right the first time and gold stars all around. Instead I felt like the slow kid in class, having to do things a second and third and maybe even fourth time and getting pointed out to the group as an example of how not to do something. I had a few depressing moments of thinking 'Uh, how many years have I been doing agility now?'. On the plus side I got a lot of personal attention, solid helpful feedback and a lot of practice. Part of the problem for me was that we weren't able to walk the course for the small 4-5 obstacle exercises so I couldn't easily visualize in advance where I needed to be or how I needed to move, where to speed up, slow down, etc. I had to figure those things out on the fly and with a speedster like Strummer that's no easy task. I think it's good to work on this visualization skill though and maybe if I do it more it'll help in a more global sense. And let's face it, I seemed to be the only one having this issue so let's not blame it totally on the format and maybe some of my bad habits like trying to outrun the speeding bulletdog rather than thoughtful handling came into play. The good news is that I was able to do the exercises correctly eventually after screwing it up the first time then being told what to do and maybe screwing it up again then finally getting it right.
The first 2 1/4 hours of the seminar were devoted to short exercises then we worked a full course, running it ourselves with no feedback the first time then a discussion about it then the chance to run it again, this time with feedback if needed. Once again we needed. The interesting thing that came out of this was a suggestion to abandon the running contacts. You can imagine how I felt about that given all the work I've put into them. I explained my issues with Strummer potentially ruining his shoulders with the 2 on/2 off method and Marco offered to show me his contact method if I was willing to stay after class and of course I was willing. It was an interesting method and I'll give an explanation of my understanding of it in a separate post.