Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Mental Game of Agility

Agility can be confusing, to say the least....especially if you're competing. Do you admit you're IN IT TO WIN? Or do you say that you're training (and competing) JUST FOR FUN?  How do you mentally prepare for an agility trial?  What do you think about - winning? and/or fun??  (Because you can't deny that winning is fun...)

I think agility is a good way to discover the wonder and glory of teamwork with a dog. And entering a trial is a way to share your discovery.

Maybe we don't need to think of WINNING and/or JUST HAVING FUN. It's not always easy to develop and maintain the kind of 'mental game' needed for either one of those goals.  Sometimes we have physical limitations or family concerns. We don't always feel graceful. We don't always feel fun.

So maybe we can try to focus our mental game on SHARING. Our goal can be to simply share the beauty of our teamwork...AS IS. Because it's a beautiful thing - warts and all. Think about it! We have worked with our dogs enough to build this beautiful ability to get through an agility course as a team.

Even if you get clumsy and your dog drops a bar, or you don't run fast enough to prevent an off-course, you're still a TEAM. You were golden before you even stepped up to the start line.  Why worry about winning?  Instead, concentrate on your partnership with your dog.  Think about how lucky you are to be at the start line, and then go play for a minute. 

Another nice thing to think about - you can always BRING HOME COOL STUFF from an agility trial, without any ribbons or qualifying runs.

If you keep your eyes and ears open, if you figure out how to relax and listen while you "hurry up and wait", if you're willing to share the glory of your team, if you're willing to learn from the glory of the teams around get cool stuff.

A few examples:
1) Funny stories
2) Training ideas (you'll see some amazing runs!)
3) Smooth dance moves from a walk-thru flash mob
4) The brand name of a great folding chair
5) The chance to hold a new puppy (or a smiling baby!)
6) Laughter
7) Love

And for more totally cool thoughts on the mental game, check out
You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


(NOTE:  This topic is a "Dog Agility Blogger's Event."  See link below.)

When we found Keeper at the dog pound, she was just a little bipster. 

A sweet pup, she wanted (needed!) to PLAY, PLAY, PLAY.  She was my first border collie (at least "mostly BC"), and she taught me a thing or two. 

I was already firmly into my 50's when Keeper showed up.  On my 50th birthday I had happened to hear a series of "centenarian" interviews on the radio.  The interviewer asked several 100plus-year-olds how they made it that far. 

The answer that stuck with me came from a lady who was 104.  She said,

"It's easy.  Just keep moving."

That seemed a little more do-able than "Drink whiskey with every meal."  (Although I did feel strong admiration for that old fellow...)

So when I was fifty, I decided to move. (Honestly, the only time I felt OLD on a birthday was when I turned 25.  At the time, I just knew that was the beginning of the end.  Ha!)  

By the time Keeper was 1-year-old, we had discovered agility and she was teaching me what the word MOVING really means. 

By the time she was 2, we were competing in Performance classes at USDAA trials.  She's a big girl, with straight-ish shoulders and whompy hips, and I decided before we even started competing not to jump her at 26 inches. 

Part of that reasoning came from knowing my own limitations.  By the time you make it to your fifties, you realize that taking care of your body will buy you more mileage.  If you're put together too awkwardly to sprint, try jogging.  If your dog is put together too awkwardly to jump high, try jumping her lower. 

I didn't want my sweet Keeper to get hurt just because I wanted to be in the Championship classes.   So we did the next best thing....Performance, at 22. 

Still....once in a great while I'd slip her into an AKC class, and jump her at 24.  Those competitive feelings are difficult to deny. 

She was a great first agility dog.  Willing, reasonably speedy, and with a heart of gold.  She was that mixture of "tight" and "drivey" that everyone wants.  As long as I was watching her, she cleared jumps easily.  When my attention wandered, she knocked bars.  She and I were head-over-heels in love.

She did well, for a dog that didn't trial much.  She got a few AKC titles, and a whole slew of USDAA titles.  Over the years we made it into Regionals finals, into the Nationals, and onto a few USDAA Top Ten lists.

And she talked me into getting another dog.  A Border Collie, of course.  :-)

Keeper was retired one snooker-superQ short of her PDCH.  She let me know it was time when she started getting up stiff and sore from her naps after agility practice. 

I never gave her Rimadyl or any other drug to try to get her through practice or through a trial.  I took plenty of Advil at trials, but I long ago decided not to show any animal with a drug masking its pain, therefore masking its ability to favor a leg if need be.  (In my youth I watched plenty of competitive horse people go that route...and, in my humble opinion, it's not a good route to take.) 

The jump heights had something to do with her retirement from agility.  But it was the A-frame that really got to her.  She had a tendency to hit that steep up-contact with gusto.  It was hard on her front legs.  Although I tried to figure out a way to soften her approach...I tried too little, too late.  She developed arthritis in her "wrists" and started showing stiffness after a series of training sessions.  We trained less.  We trialed less.  And, after winding down her agility activity to No More, she was retired in 2010.  The same year I turned 60.

If I could figure out how to explain to a dog why he's being given a painkiller to run as fast as possible at a competition....and then figure out how to explain later why he is so stiff and sore...maybe I would've kept competing with Keeper.  She was that good.  But.  What do you do, hold up the blue ribbons and say, "See? This is why!"?   Is there any dog that would understand that?  Nope. 

If carefully calibrated warm-ups, cool-downs, and massages can't get your dog through low-jump training sessions and/or trialing, then it's time for him to retire. 

We all know that animals don't care about certificates and titles, so many of us say that we don't care about them either.  Ha ha ha...but I DO care!  Or I wouldn't be competing at all!  I'd become a worker bee, and just hang around the trials and watch these beautiful teams run.  (In fact, that may be exactly what I do, when it's time for me to retire from agility....)

I'll admit it is damn difficult to give up a run for a title when you're so close to it.... 
But you've got to watch your teammates, and take extra special care of them.  You're the one in charge.  They're the ones unwittingly putting their retirement years on the line. 

Dogs live IN THE MOMENT.  You don't want their old-age moments to be any more painful than they would be naturally.  You want your dogs to have active, healthy lives...but you don't want them to hurt in old age any more than you want to hurt in old age.

The advantage you have is that you can picture the future, and make reasonable choices.  Your teammate just follows your lead.  If you have a teammate like Keeper...she will follow you to the ends of the earth and beyond.

So I bear that in mind, while I try to play this wonderful game of agility.  I try to figure out what it means to age gracefully.  While I deal with my own injuries, I plan how to keep my teammates fit and happy.

Keeper taught me a lot about patience, about enjoying each present day of my life, and about planning for the future.  She is happily retired.  She doesn't move like she used to, but she moves pretty well.  We enjoy daily walks and occasional hikes.  We play controlled games like "find it" and "wait/fetch."  We enjoy each other's company. 
I take her out to the agility field once in a while, and we play on a "jumpers" course, with the bars set on the ground. She loves it.
In the meantime, Riff and I are learning how to be a good agility team.

He is teaching me what MOVING really REALLY means.   

Sometimes drinking whiskey all day doesn't sound so bad. 

PS.  Want to read more blogs about Agility and Aging?  Look here:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

On Good Days...


...even the clouds are beautiful! 

This photo was taken during my drive home from agility practice on Tuesday.  The clouds had silver linings, and my heart felt full of happiness.  Good days are just darn nice!  Riff was great at practice.  Although I made plenty of mistakes, it didn't bother me.  I'll always have room for improvement, and on good days that seems like a good thing.  What better way is there to learn?  

This feeling of joy started as a little seedling at the July 4th Bay Team USDAA trial in Prunedale.  I was a goofy mess, getting ready for that show.  For two days, as I checked my camping supply lists and readied the van, my thoughts circled around the vortex-phrase "I don't want to go.  I don't want to go.  I don't want to go."  The local weather was wickedly hot.  My back hurt, my knees hurt, I didn't want to drive that far by myself, and the friends I'd planned on meeting weren't able to go.

The deck seemed stacked against having fun.  My husband said, more than once:  "You know you don't have to go if you don't want to."  Riff and I were getting along great at the practice field, and our last trial (at the end of May) went well...but I was stuck on the idea that trialing is strictly for the Handler, rather than the Dog, and that trials are too risky.

Still.....I wanted to share the joy Riff and I have had recently at the practice field.  So I decided to throw away all the negative thoughts I had about Prunedale, and Just Go.  Call it an adventure.  Prove to myself that I CAN drive south for three-to-four hours, and then set up camp and stay in my van for three good nights.   

The weather in Prunedale was great (coooool).  Lots of slow traffic on the drive down, but I had mix CDs from my oldest son, so sang my way through the boring bits.  (Which I could never do if I was with anyone else, since my singing

The lovely Camping Czar gave us a terrific spot near the Starters/Advanced ring.  Set-up was easy (I'd already arranged my cot, Riff's big bed, and the ice chest in the van).  I used a photography drop-cloth stand to hold my shade up.  Thank god I remembered to bring clips this time.  I had screens for all my windows, and plenty of air circulation in the van.  The camping part was quite nice, as it ended out.  The trial was on the small side, and everyone was friendly.  My cot was comfortable for reading.  (Honestly, I'm happy just about anywhere, if I have a good book to read.)  There were good trails for dog walks, and a nice exercise field.  A great neighbor shared some "aged grape juice," and the Czar invited me to dinner in her RV.  Sweet.  Even though we had a couple of nights of fireworks noise from the valley, Riff and I slept pretty well. 

My goal was to be proud of my dog as we went to the start-line, because just getting to the USDAA Advanced class start-line is a terrific accomplishment in-and-of-itself.  Out of ten classes, I reached my goal ten times.

I was determined to FOCUS on each obstacle during my walk-thrus and runs.  I still got lost in one class.  And in another I had a twitchy mental moment during my lead-out.  Riff pushed off early, dropped the first bar, then leaped the A-frame down contact.  Oops.  Done.  (Breeeeathe.....)  But it really does help to stay focused!  I was also determined to help Riff as much as he needed at each and every obstacle.  Treat him like a baby dog.  He's not a baby anymore, at 4.5 years old...but he's had very little trialing experience.  It worked. 

Riff enjoyed seven qualifying runs out of ten classes.  He won four firsts, two seconds and a third.  Wowsers!  He was even well-behaved when we ran Advanced Pairs with Liza and Monty.  Niiiice.  Riff won his Advanced Agility Dog title and now qualifies for all Masters classes. 

Good boy!!

At the Prunedale exercise field

Are we going to the SMART trial this weekend?  Nope.  We're leaving the following Wednesday to visit family in the San Diego area, and that's enough traveling for the four of us this month. Jeff made reservations at a couple of dog-friendly places near the beach.  Yippee!  We get to stay in motels!  Swanky. 

I think the next USDAA option for Riff might be the Regionals, in Prunedale over the Labor Day weekend.  But...that's a big five-ring circus.  Are we ready to tackle Regionals as our first trial at the Masters level?  Argh!  Maybe not.  Oh, well.  Doesn't matter.  It's still a good day.  Yay!

Ever onward....

Monday, July 15, 2013

Polarization (plus A Few Thoughts on Stalking)

Riff likes to get through the weave poles as quickly as possible.  He puts his nose down and reaches ahead with his front feet, as far as he can, while staying as close to the middle of the line as possible.  His tail looks like a rudder, curling around the path he's taken, fluffing the air after he cuts through it.  Once he's entered correctly, Riff has great weaves.  I can get as far lateral as I need to, and he stays in.  And he's quick.  Good boy, Riffle!

We started with the 2X2 method of training, then segued into using a few channel weaves, along with a few runs through "caged" poles (a set of weaves with full-sized guides around them).  We also tried putting cable guides on the first couple of gates, before going back to 2X2 exercises to polish up his entry.  I really like the fact that Riff has always looked for his reward on the line, somewhere beyond that last pole - credit goes to Susan Garrett's Weave Training DVD and her 2X2 advice.  Riff is crazy about toys, so seeing that floppy old toy thrown down on the line is his idea of heaven on earth.  Garrett emphasizes that the toy needs to be ON THE LINE, so I had to find a toy that landed instead of bounced.  And I had to practice toy-tossing for a while, because I throw like a girl.  (Wait, did I just say that??!  Erase, erase!)  It was worth every moment.  Riff stays in those poles, and travels smack dab down the middle of the road.  It was the entries that set us back for a while.  But we seem to have corrected those, too. (Yay!)  (Knock on wood...)  Practice makes perfect!

I wish we had a fix-it DVD we could hand to some of our countrymen Down South.  I am a Californian, but both of my parents were from Louisiana, so I used to spend a fair amount of time in the South.  I heard "Bless your little pea-pickin' heart" countless times in my youth, among many other Southern sayings.  I remember being "hit up the side of the head" by one of my aunts, for using the word Negro, when I was seven.  She then taught me the "right" word.  Back home, at our grammar school in California, I was "rapped on the knuckles with a ruler" for using the N word during my "What I did this summer" speech.  The world can be incredibly confusing, when you're seven years old.  Or thirty-seven.  Or even sixty-seven. 

"Crabbing" in Louisiana

I wish the jury had found Zimmerman the very least, of manslaughter.  He was guilty the moment he checked his gun then got out of his car and started following that young boy, against the advice of the 911 operator.  Acquitting him will polarize our country even more than it already is.  Life is very different in the Southern states.  Anyone who says "Jim Crow is dead" has not spent time in the deep South.  

One day, a little while after Zimmerman shot the unarmed teenager named Trayvon, I was driving home behind a white SUV-type vehicle.  When the SUV turned left onto my street, I looked at the long line of oncoming traffic and judged that I had enough time to also make the turn.  I followed the SUV somewhat closely through the turn...and then it suddenly stopped dead in the middle of the street.  I stopped too, no problem.  No screeching of brakes.  Easy stop.  I was just happy that the tail-end of my van wasn't still on the busy cross-street.  As the SUV crept forward, I decided he must be lost, or looking for a specific address.  I waited, driving ever-so-slowly behind him.  When he stopped again, I carefully went around him.  As I went around, the SUV driver honked his horn.  I thought maybe he was picking someone up. 

I drove on, but the SUV settled in right behind me, on my bumper.  I started to get nervous, he was tail-gating so closely.  I continued to drive - slowly, inviting him to go around me - a half-mile up the street toward my house.  On a hunch, I turned on one of the streets prior to reaching my house.  I turned left.  So did he.  I turned right.  So did he.  He was obviously following me.  My thought: "Is he trying to find out where I live?  Why?  What's wrong with that guy?  What's he trying to do?"  My blood pressure went up about a million points. So I sped up and tried to lose him.  He sped up and stayed right behind me, through several semi-wild turns.  It was like a movie, except I was driving a mom-mobile mini-van, and feeling decidedly unsafe.  "What does he want?  What is he trying to do?"  Finally I thought I'd lost him.  Just in case, I pulled over to look for the cellphone in my bag.  (Note to self:  Leave your cellphone on your console, where it is handy to reach in emergencies.)  I speed-dialed my husband, who was expecting me home.  I thought Jeff could give me advice on what to do next.  At that point the white SUV showed up, coming around the corner like a shark from Jaws.  The SUV driver pulled up, penning me next to the curb, and rolled down his window.  My window was already down, as it had been during my drive home.  My first thought: "Does he have a gun? Should I duck?"  The SUV driver was a middle-aged white man, with a crew cut.  He leaned out of his window and cursed me loudly, and at length.  He said "I know you're one of those rich fuckers from up the hill, you think you can do whatever the hell you want, like following people too close.  Where do you live?  I'm gonna find out where you live, you fucking bitch."  He said he needed to watch me.  He said me that it was his job - HIS JOB - to protect "the flats" neighborhood from "rich assholes on the hill."  It was his DUTY to watch the neighborhood, and to PROTECT THE NEIGHBORHOOD from people like me. 

All my Trayvon bells were going off and I didn't know what to do.  I was absolutely panicked, and I started crying.  Such a girly moment!  (There it is again...)  I was crying so hard that Jeff couldn't understand what I was saying on the phone.  He understood just enough to say "I'm calling the police." So I told the SUV driver, through my tears: "I'm talking to the police," and the driver laughed and said "And I'm gonna make sure they arrest your ass."  And I said, "You're stalking me, you're scaring me, and you're stalking me, and I'm reporting you."  Jeff heard me say these things.  The man heard me too.  He cursed loudly, "I'm not stalking you, you dumb bitch!" and then drove away with a squeal of tires.  I sat by the side of the road for a few moments, to stop crying enough to drive home.  Jeff tried to find out exactly where I was, so he could come get me, but I said "I'm a big girl, I can get home."  (Girls can do anything!)  But I kept watching my rearview mirror. 

I watched that mirror for many, many weeks after the incident.  Every time I saw a similar SUV, I felt nervous.  I was worried about being seen leaving my driveway.  If a white SUV drove up behind me anywhere in the neighborhood, I worried about driving home.  I didn't want that man to know where I live.  It took me quite a while to get over it.   

In retrospect, I should've driven straight to the police department, instead of trying to go home.  I should've called 911 instead of driving around like an idiot.  I wasn't thinking clearly, because I was scared.  I'm a mature woman.  I've seen a lot during my life, but I was really scared.  Can you imagine how that young black boy felt with Zimmerman following him?  I did actually leave a report with the police, but I doubt they did anything.  Police are fine, as a general rule, but they have their priorities.  Some nervous older lady who was followed for ten minutes by a white guy in an SUV is not at the top of their list. 

The point of the story is that there really are vigilantes out there, and they are frightening.  We have one - somewhere - in our own neighborhood.  "It's my JOB," he said.  His job is to scare the hell out of a lady who drove her van a little too close behind his SUV while making a turn?

People don't seem to know how to compromise anymore.  EVERYONE makes mistakes.  We need to practice compassion.  We need to figure out how to talk to one another with an open mind, and with understanding and forgiveness in our hearts.  We need to try to help one another be NICE. 

Sometimes it's difficult to know what to do, because the world can be far too complex and confusing.  But I still think that if we look for a way to be helpful instead of vengeful, that the world would be a much better place.  I think the path to kindness is through education.  We need to keep learning - wherever we are, whatever we're doing.   We need to try to keep our hearts open. 

So I don't know what's going to happen, in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.  I am dismayed, because he got off scot-free.  It seems to me that vigilantes (who seem to be geared toward self-absorbed righteous indignation and thoughtless revenge) should not be allowed to roam neighborhoods with weapons (be they loaded guns or big SUVs), looking for trouble. 

No one should ever stalk another person, simply because they "look suspicious," or because they made a harmless mistake while driving.  It seems to me that the Zimmerman verdict may give a lot of vigilante-types a big green light.  I hope I'm wrong.  Being stalked is a frightening experience. 

I try to keep my heart open.  Understand we all make mistakes.  Understand we all have a lot to learn. Try to be nice.  Give each other space.  Allow each other basic freedoms.  Give each other a little understanding.    

The world is not a black and white place.  It's filled with color.  Beautiful, beautiful colors and textures.  Look around you.  Beauty is everywhere. 

Try to be kind.  Practice patience.  Practice peace. 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Practicing / Trialing

Riff and I love to practice agility.  It's fun to run through the world together.  We love the green grass and blue sky...and the sheer challenge of taking obstacles.  Whenever I'm at an agility field, I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time.  That can be a mighty rare feeling on this earth, and it's magical.  Riff and Keeper seem to agree.

Practicing a short sequence of obstacles is as much fun as running a longer course.  Actually I think shorter sequences are more fun.  Riff and I really enjoy "going back to basics." We like bursts of speed, and the can-do moments.   We love figuring out how to get through a "tricky bit" by working a few obstacles, then stopping for treats or tug-toys or doggy hugs.  FUN FUN FUN!   Sometimes I think we'd be perfectly happy just practicing.  Our sessions keep his active border-collie brain engaged, and give both of us an avenue toward staying healthy.  Exercise! Woohooooo!  

Then the deadline for an agility trial approaches, and I'm back to making the choice.  Go?  Or...not? 

It's no secret that I worry about competition.  My tummy gets funny.  I start chewing my nails.  I wonder if we're ready.  Jeez.  Are we ever really ready?  I wonder if I really want to drive all that way, and spend all that money.  Sleep in the van or rent a room.  Deal with crowds.  (At heart I'm an old fuddy-duddy homebody.)

And then there's this issue:  Are agility trials too dangerous for dogs?  Watching some of the videos online gives me pause.  It's easy to see that agility CAN be dangerous.  Sometimes an agility accident is obviously bad luck.  But sometimes your dog will crash into a jump or fall off the dog-walk because you were reckless.  Maybe you were running as fast as possible in order to win, in spite of obvious risks.  Maybe the grass was too wet.  Maybe you yelled at the wrong time, or swung your arm up too far or too quickly, or turned your shoulders too soon.  These things happen to the best of us, and we continually - always and forever - learn from our mistakes.  Hopefully, please! not at the expense of our precious dogs.  We quickly realize that we should never let the idea of a blue ribbon sweep away our caring, well-thought-out, and often-practiced approach to an obstacle. 

Hmm.  Remembering accidents.  Feeling sore.  Thinking about how much I enjoy winning.  Worrying.  Do Riff and I really need to go to another agility trial?  Ever again?  Is the expense and effort worth it?  Is the risk worth it?

This morning I read a Georgia O'Keeffe quote that someone posted on Facebook: 
“Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing.”

Since I don't know the context of that quote, I can only guess what O'Keeffe was thinking about. 
From what little I know about her, she just wanted to stay at her home in the desert in New Mexico, painting sensuous flowers and animal skulls.  Popularity and paid commissions were not important to her.  She thought of those goals as fleeting concepts, at best.  But seeing and recognizing beautiful moments in the world around her was important.  And, by painting those moments, she helped other people share the beauty she found.  THAT was important. 

So now I'm thinking that one big reason we compete with our dogs at agility trials is to give other dog lovers a chance to appreciate our team work.  If I didn't bring Riff to the public setting of a trial, very few people would be able to enjoy how prettily he jumps. Another reason to go to a trial is to watch how prettily other dogs jump.  You can't fully appreciate it through videos.  You need to be there, with the grass beneath your feet and the sun warming your back.   

In the long run, it doesn't matter if we win or lose. Do we even remember which team won the 22" Masters Standard class on March __, 2013?  Do we remember how many yards-per-second that dog ran?  Nope and Nope. 

What DO we remember about that trial?  

We were out at a beautiful agility field with a bunch of friends, enjoying our dogs.   We saw some great teams.  We felt like a great team, for whole moments at a time...and some of those moment were even nicely strung together!  We hugged friends and played with dogs.  We laughed.   

What's important to us?           Yeah!  Okay! 

So...   .....    .....following that line of thought....

At the next trial we'll walk to the start-line filled with pride because we've already accomplished much, just getting to the start-line.  We've worked hard, played hard, and we've become a unique team, with a unique perspective.  We're like one of Georgia O'Keeffe's many paintings.  While at the start-line we are sharing a glimpse of something beautiful.  We're sharing the happiness we found at every practice session.  We're letting the unknown be known.  What could be better? 

                                               (by Georgia O'Keeffe)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Up and Down, Around and Around

It's been a while since I've been able to take a photo of four USDAA 1st-place Q ribbons. Good boy, Mr. Riffle!  After all the set-backs, we're starting to click as a team.  Sweet! 

These Advanced level ribbons were earned at the Bay Team trial last weekend in Petaluma, after Riff and I finally got that last Starter's Standard leg for our AD title.  I didn't pick up his ribbons, but stole these from Keeper's bulletin board, just to take a picture.  (Winning has been a rare occurrence.  Maybe I should keep track of these moments?)

The BEST PART of the weekend, by far, was the encouragement we received from some onlookers. We heard clapping and yelling!  People said "beautiful run" and gave us high-fives. 
Very kind.  Maybe it's the old theatre-girl in me, but that encouragement goes a long way toward keeping my "handler motivation" in gear. 

People love smiles and encouragement just as much as their dogs do.   

Riff has a great smile. 

Putting up a theatrical production is a lot of work.  Usually about three-to-six-weeks of rehearsals, then another three-to-six weeks of performances.  Working a production can be a solid three-month commitment - and that doesn't begin to count all the time you spend at home, memorizing lines and blocking (as an actor) or preparing paperwork and/or plans (as a stage manager or director).  It doesn't count the years you spend in classes, and/or working backstage jobs, building your resume.  Theatre people do all of that for the energy coming from the audience, and for the applause at the end of an evening.  That is our Big Reward.  Some plays are good, some not so good.  But the mere possibility of positive feedback from an audience keeps us going.  (And yes, there is money involved - for the union folks - but it pales in comparison...)

Agility takes a lot of commitment, too.  And a LOT of practice.  Most of the agility people I know love to learn, which seems to be the key to their success. 

Agility people learn, all day every day, from dogs.  Our dogs teach us much, if we pay attention.  We also learn by taking lessons from professionals.  We watch YouTube videos on-line, read training books, go to seminars, try to keep our memories sharp, and study.  Study, study, study.  Practice, practice, practice. 

We learn from our mistakes.  We probably learn more from our mistakes than anything else.  (But that's the hidden beauty of making them.  Mistakes are worth their weight in gold.) 

We do our best to stay fit, too, so we can keep up with our dogs on the agility course.  (For some of us, that's a huge part of the challenge...!) 

This agility life-style has its ups and downs.  "Clapping onlookers" is Up.  "Injury" is Down.  There are many kinds of Ups and Downs in agility, but it usually works out to Good Times, in the long run. 

Up and down, and round and around we go....experiencing ripples and waves of satisfaction and fun....learning something new every day....with smiles and words of encouragement keeping us afloat. 

So.  Yeah.  Ever Onward...!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

One of Riff's Tricks

This trick is all about Patience.  I saw a video on FB, and decided this would be a good thing for Riff to learn.  He's so FAST all the time, and all-too-quick to react.  Sometimes he's moving so quickly he forgets to think. This is a great trick for asking your dog to slow down and think.

Interestingly enough, it's also a great trick for practicing PATIENCE.  You need to be patient, while you're teaching your dog to think about it.  The only way this trick really works is if you dog is happy to do it.  Riff enjoys this trick, and I'm grateful for it.  Each step was a lesson in patience for me.  It surprised me, how much patience (and time) it took.  (For instance:  the first step was "do not chew up the rings.")

Now we've got it down to where I keep this little toy in the car, and pull it out wherever we go.  He learned this trick in our living room, and it was challenging to move it out into "the world."  Now he can do it anywhere.  At an agility trial, in the park, on a sidewalk, in a mall.  And the whole time I was teaching him, he was teaching me.... 

Some people say that if they had to describe "love" using only one word, it would be "patience."
Interesting thought.   

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