Saturday, March 30, 2013

Happy Easter from my East County Buddy

All decked out in his Easter best.

Technically I'm supposed to be celebrating Passover but let's see, matzoh and gefilte fish vs. chocolate bunnies and eggs.  Ummm . . .yeah.  I don't think anyone in my family does a Passover seder anymore so I guess I'm safe from the horrors of gefilte fish. 

But have a good Passover anyway to any readers who are celebrating.  Have a matzoh ball for me.  Mmmm matzoh balls, maybe I can figure out how to make those with a vegetarian version of chicken soup.  Yeah, I'll get right on that, right after I have another chocolate egg.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Fire and Ice

Last weekend I missed a USDAA trial that I was really really looking forward to.  But with predictions of 10-15" of snow and 50 mph winds, blizzard conditions down in Castle Rock/Douglas County where the trial was being held I decided to stay home.  The storm wasn't so bad in Boulder and the roads in general were fine for driving on Saturday morning but I'd have to spend the night down in Castle Rock, drive 4 miles to get to the hotel as well as drive around to get food and I didn't feel like driving around in a blizzard.  The next morning was sunny but cold and the roads had iced over so I didn't want to drive 60 miles on a skating rink.  We ended up having a good weekend, went out in the snow plenty, but I was still disappointed at missing the trial.

Fast forward to this Friday and temps. were predicted to hit the 70's so Jonny and I decided to take the afternoon off and head up to Lory State Park for an early season bike ride.  The day started off nicely enough, a typical sunny blue sky day in the Soderburg Open Space parking lot.  I figured I'd have lots of nice, uneventful blue sky/red rock photos to post.

We climbed the small hill up from the parking lot to the trail where the view opened up to this.

And I knew right away it could be nothing else but a wildfire.  Sure enough the smoke got thicker and darker the closer we got to Lory.

And the view at the entrance to the park?  Crap.

Still it was hard to say where the fire was.  The winds were very strong, 35 mph or so, and smoke carries a long way in winds like that.  The fire could have been well north of the park for all we knew.  We kept going for about a mile or so into the park, turned a corner and saw this.

It's hard to tell from the photo but the line of flames extends down to the right for as long as I could see.  At that point the ranger was turning people around but I didn't need a ranger to tell me to turn tail.  My general rule of thumb is that if I can see flames I'm too close.  I snapped 2 photos and skedadled back to the car.  Thankfully I had the wind at my back and mostly downhill so even though the fire was moving quickly in the strong winds I was never in any serious danger.

There were no firefighters and the rangers still hadn't closed the trails so we had no way of knowing how close we were.  The rangers did close the trails as we were leaving and we had to hoist our bike over several crime scene tape closures to get back to the car.  We probably could have ridden on the Blue Sky trail further to the south but my legs were a bit shaky at that point and the ranger told us we could but strongly advised against it.  So once again denied by the weather.

The fire is at 800 acres and no containment as of about 5:00 this evening.  The winds are too strong to bring in air support.  Scary to think what July is going to be like.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Internationalization-Why Should the Europeans Have All the Fun?

“It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not” 

International style courses - love them or hate them they're here.  Personally I love them but I didn't always.  When I first saw courses from overseas I thought, ugh, so glad I don't have to deal with that.  Herky, jerky, trappy, de-motivating, why would anybody want to do that to themselves or their dog?

But then I started training those challenges in little bits and pieces.  And I worked on training and timing collection cues.  Plus a few more years of trialing, facing courses with the same old same old challenges and now I love the idea of something new.  I love practicing the tricky stuff and it's a great feeling of accomplishment when I do make it through a crazy sequence.  The courses aren't jerky or de-motivating at all if you have the skills to handle them.  The key is training and getting over the myths and self-limiting beliefs about yourself and your dog.

Think you need to be fit, fast and young to kick butt on international style courses?  Try telling that to this woman.

Think you need a Border Collie or herding breed?  Plenty of non-BCs/non-herders in this video and they look plenty happy, fast and motivated.  I train with someone who has an awesome poodle and you should see this dog's super tight turns, speed and enthusiasm.

Big dogs and inflexible dogs can't do tight turns?  Back sides, threadles, etc. are demotivating?  Try telling that to Silvia Trkman.

That last video is a trailer for a Foundations training program for crying out loud.  Baby dogs of a variety of breeds and sizes easily, happily doing threadles and back sides and tight wraps, no problem.  Again, it's all about training and attitude and breaking through those self-limiting beliefs.

Of course dogs need to be well conditioned and have a certain amount of athleticism and I don't think that's an unreasonable requirement.  This is a sport and it's called agility, seems like being agile should be a prerequisite no matter what style of course the dog is doing.  We have tight turns and wraps on our courses already, if a dog knows how to collect and the handler cues them properly for the turn it shouldn't be a problem and because of the collection they land lighter than if they were running flat out taking the jump in extension.  In fact I see a lot of dogs on wide open courses (ie DOCNA) getting no timely turning cues, taking the jump in extension and grinding into the turn on the flat after the jump as the handler yells at them too late.

I'm not sure what the future holds for these types of courses here in the U.S.  Locally we've exactly one UKI trial that was not very well attended which is a shame because it was so much fun.  USDAA has opened up their Masters Challenge courses to anybody at any level and I hear AKC is experimenting with an international style class.  I've seen a few backsides of jumps in DOCNA courses though not so much lately so I'm not sure where DOCNA is going.  If these classes were required for the ADCH, MACH, etc it would provide the motivation for people to ramp up their training but I don't see that happening any time soon.  Those titles are a great marketing tool, a way to get people hooked on spending their time and money on agility weekend after weekend and none of the agility organizations are going to risk driving away those $$$ never mind dealing with the uproar.  As well it's going to take a while for instructors in the U.S. to ramp up their training programs though with online training these days the world is your classroom so anybody keen to learn has plenty of options.  But until instructors start teaching these skills on a wider scale as part of a foundation program there's going to be a lot of fear and resistance to the new courses.

My plea here is to keep an open mind and don't let other people tell you who you're not, especially if you're new to agility.  These courses are a kick in the pants and a fun way to push yourself if you're willing to learn the skills and embrace the notion that you and your dog can do it and that it's fun.

This post is a part of Dog Agility Blog Event Day.  Click on this link to read more posts about Internationalization.