Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Self Control and Choice: what really does that mean?

        My journey of learning continues. This is what I love about doing competitions as it pushes you forward and above what you have done. Very rarely does a person get pushed to learn more and improve their handling and training skills on their own. There usually has to be purpose and goals. That will either be competitions or a working environment. Competition people strive to compete at the next level. In work, you need to earn your pay check. You don't cut it, you lose your job.

        Yesterday I spent some time with Kyle Rayon who has worked 10 years with the San Diego Humane Society and had the common sense in watching and reading dogs. Just watching her made me realize I didn't know what I thought I knew. Many dog classes, training seminars and workshops teach you to train in such a way that you are always keeping the dog busy. That when there is quiet time, the dog doesn't know what to do. If they get fussy, subconsciously, some trainers, namely me, want to do something so they a re not fussy. We think we are trying them out of being fussy. We are not. We are teaching them, that when they get antsy, that we will entertain them or keep them busy.

         All these years, I really thought I was teaching my dogs self control. I wasn't. Self control comes from the dog's decision, not me actively training them. Instead of waiting for them to show a self control behavior, I was keeping them busy with heeling, nose touch, sitting, downing, and any other movement or active behavior. Keeping them busy. Smothering them where they are not taking in their environment to know how to handle it.

         I took Mickey to a park today ready to practice for our upcoming obedience trial. I thought that I would work on self control and attention. That actually has been my biggest set back while I was doing Rally and some of my Beginner Novice class in a trial. When I tried a "run through" at a dog training facility, attention was terrible. I just scaped on by in Beginner Novice. I knew it was time to get to business. But after watching another trainer on basic puppy and dog manners, I had seen some great exercises in trying to get attention and teaching a dog to calm. That's what I set out to do at the park this evening. My outlook on training changed drastically. It is almost like starting all over again, fresh and new.

          My goal was to have a semi-tight leash, make sure Mickey checked in with me first before sniffing the grass or going on his own to do what he wanted. I have been horrible and laxed in this where Mickey has learned he can do what he wanted and pull. Yes, this is a shameful thing I allowed my dog to do and yes, disclosing this or admitting this is difficult. I have been training dogs for 25 years, I should be better right?

        The other goal was to have him do what is called, a "none behavior" as Kyle calls it. A none behavior is when they are just looking, but not tense or fixated on something. A chilled out mode. We then reinforce this behavior, being in this relaxed state. This eventually teaches the dog to be calm. The method also requires a connection between dog and handler be made. So the dog learns to check in and connect to the handler. Food becomes more of a reinforcer, rather than a fixation.

          After working with this concept for awhile, and teaching others, I'm really getting the meaning of what is choice. Choosing to chill out and being reinforced for it, teaches self control. Wait for the dog to do the behavior. It isn't about sitting and waiting, it is about allowing the dog to make choices. No luring, no prompting, just handler chilling out and waiting for that behavior they want to reinforce.

         When you tell your dog something, they are told, not learning on their own choice. Being told is not the same as being conditioned. Dogs don't learn self control from being told. That means a handler is the cue for the dog to do the behavior. They learn to wait, and sometimes that is with high anticipation. If the handler wasn't there watching the dog, they probably would break with excitement. Instead, train for self control, but having them choose the self control. This is done over time and increments of reinforcement training sessions. This change in my training has brought me into a new idea of training. Another step in getting better at what I do. It is so simple and I've been told this before, I just didn't have the details right to get the right results I wanted. Now I do and I see myself moving forward.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do things well. If you are going to really mess up, do a really GOOD screw-up!

    At my last workshop, Denise Fenzi mentioned how to get over ring fear. She said to write out the worst case scenario. This is to live it and think of it over and over to the point it doesn't really matter anymore. I thought this was rather crazy and I didn't want to go through this emotional roller coaster. So I didn't. I went to three shows and right in a row got my Rally Novice and Beginner Novice title. I was on a roll, I didn't have to do that writing of a crazy story.

      Nope, I didn't have to write the worst case scenario because today, at my first shot at my debut of my Novice A trial, I got to live pretty much the worst thing that could happen. Mind you, this is what I would have "thought" could happen, not that it would and guess what, it did, today!

      I have dreamed going into Novice A for 20 years. Thinking I'm now really doing obedience competition. Mickey a seasoned service dog who does so well with public access, awesome with loose leash walking in stores malls and restaurants where there are many people and food smells around. He's flown in a cabin with me, been on a train, trolley, boats, etc. He is a great service dog that does his work well. Now, let's put him into competition obedience.

       The temps were horribly hot today. When I got home at 4PM, my thermometer on my porch said 96 degrees. I got to the show somewhat early, about 11:10am. By the time it was time for Mickey and I to show, it was loosely around 2PM. Mickey was panting a little heavier and his tongue was hanging out longer. A week prior, I had e-mailed the show organizer about my accommodation with my microphone and today made sure that the ring stewards were aware. Judges in the past had worn my microphone with no problem and were told about it ahead of time. They were extremely willing. I thought today would be no difference. I told the judge about my microphone and he said he wasn't told about it and he wasn't going to wear it. I'm 5 seconds from going in the ring and this judge doesn't want to wear a microphone that I have used for an accommodation for the past 25 years at several college courses, lectures, business meetings and is a well documented accommodation. Who wants to argue with a judge? Especially when you are nervous and probably coming across a bit more frantic than normal. I told the judge that I'm not just a "little hard-of-hearing, but that I have a moderate to severe hearing loss." He still said he didn't want to wear it. I then said, "what do you do when someone is deaf?" He said I stand in front of them to make sure they will hear me. I said, "will you do that for me?" He then decided to wear it. The sad things was, I was so nervous at that point, I have no idea how I was coming off to the judge and of course this tension was most likely going right down to the leash of Mickey who was a little warmer than usual.

        We went to the ring gate and Mickey wasn't really paying attention and kept looking to the left of the ring where there was a light breeze. "Ut oh" I thought, he smells his Kong from the crate. We enter the ring and Mickey's attention was still left. We walked into the right and went into the corner to start our heeling pattern. It was hot. Mickey did a weak heel but was there, as we went further into our exercise he started shifting his nose in the wind as if he keeps getting a whiff of his Kong. Drifting 1-2 feet from me. It was as if he was air scenting. I kept going thinking maybe he will realize oh, let's work together. Things were falling apart more and more. I didn't want to get upset with him and just kept going. As heeling was non-existent and sometimes him heeling on the right side, I could see his mind was on that Kong, that smell that kept drifting into the ring. Many times I have had a Kong in the distance and he would check in with me to get it, but something else was up. The heat? Me still uptight for the challenge of my reasonable accommodation? Most likely the combination of the heat, me uptight and he wanted his Kong. Ok, at least I know what to do the next time.

           Half way through the exercise my ear receiver for the microphone flew out of my hear and pocket. I fumbled to pick up the device. Judge was talking to me, not realizing when the device is out of my ear, I HAVE NO EAR TO HEAR! I picked it up and stuffed the ear piece in my ear and the unit in my pocket. Can we say, Comedy of errors? Who is putting on the show here? The ring nerves to the max.Yes, and here I am proudly writing about my worse ring experience. I lived to tell about it!

           Everything kept getting worse, I kept going. Tried the stand for exam and he wouldn't stop. I remember the judge saying earlier don't command them again when you stand them or you will get a disqualification or NQ, I didn't, but Mickey didn't want to stand. What? I can do this in a restaurant, Target, Wal-mart with screaming kids running around, but not in this ring!  I have been  practicing and he did such a beautiful job with this in Beginner Novice. It is like we haven't practiced for a year and just threw ourselves in a ring.

            We tried the heel off leash and well, there was no connection. A dog that I have awesome eye contact with where we gaze in each others eyes like a love affair, just not there today. WOW! I mean, we have been sloppy before and even with a practice run two days before, we weren't the greatest, but good enough to qualify. This just got so bad, Mickey tried to leave the ring and the judge excused me. In all honesty, I'm surprised he didn't dismiss me sooner. I was just a frozen walking person not knowing what to do when my dog just wasn't connecting. Oh I know, I can and will get a zillion words of advice, but I actually know what to do, but that's for another blog entry......

            I was numb and stunned as I left the ring. Did this really happen to me? It's what I get putting the pressure to get my CD before the end of the year. OK!!!! Guess what happens when you push. It blows up in your face. When you pace right, things work more like magic.

            As I walked back to my crate area, the steward brought me my microphone, he walked away. I looked in that case a minute later that had the microphone unit and then checked my pocket...OH NO!!! Where is my hearing aid!!! The thought of loosing a $3,000 hearing aid that your life depends to function, like looking your glasses, your cane, your wheelchair. My work really depends on me to use it. OH NO!!! I was going to run back to the ring because the visual person I am, envisioned the person currently in the ring stepping and crushing my hearing aid. As I was moving quickly, this root that was anchored in the ground that Mickey earlier tried to pull out was sticking up high and WHAM! I went flying face forward in the dirt. UGH! My leg muscles cramped BIG TIME, both of them. The fall didn't hurt, but the "charlie horses" sure didn't help me try to get back up.......BUT! as my mind raced as I fumbled with my legs to get back up on my feet, I need to hurry back to the ring before my hearing aid gets stepped on and CRUSHED! Doing poor in the trial didn't matter anymore, my ear was there. A co-exhibitor ran to me and said, "don't worry" I'm like yeah, she doesn't know what it is like to NOT have a hearing aid that I need for work, my livelihood and to communicate with people. She said she would run to the ring to see if they can find it. I decided to look in the case again, and sure enough, there it was. My hearing aid fine and all ok.

         I certainly could go through a long list of being grateful I didn't sprain my angle on that root, or Mickey didn't get heat stroke or who knows what else could have happened. I'm still alive and well, I didn't have a heart attack, etc. My hearing aid is just fine as it was when I started out the day,. I HAD a ring experience today. I got out today, which me fighting fatigue is good thing when I can get out. If you are going to do something, do it well and if you are going to screw up DO IT WELL!!! Nothing like experiencing to the fullest.

         I know people do not think the way I do, but for me, I really think I would rather get an NQ than a low score. I honestly would have felt worse with a low score. It is like I have another chance to really show the hard work we do. Mickey does have high penitential for getting a score of 196 again, like in Beginner Novice. I realize Novice A is harder than Beginner Novice, but he does have the potential to do that well. Now I have that chance to get it, that I don't have only 2 more chances, I have three. A chance to show what my boy is capable, which really is an exhilarating feeling! Yes I know, after qualifying, no one knows your score, but this is a dance to me. It means so much to me, if I can get my head right, we can work and achieve this. I do believe Mickey and I have that potential. Why sell us out short? It is my way of thinking. To want to show that some deaf-blind person and her quirks can actually succeed very well. No one understands that really.

          But I always remember my dad's advice that I carry with me. My dad always told me when I use to be so extra careful when trying downhill skiing, "you are NOT skiing if you do not fall!!!" YES! That means I'm now really doing obedience! Then when someone says "you don't know what it is like to do bad," I can say, "I have had all kinds of experience" with a big smile on my face. I have been seasoned well.What a great experience!!!!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Continueing my journey of learning...

       When talking to people new to dogs, I would give advice no tot go to a different trainer while learning all the ins and outs of how to work with your dog. However, for me, even though I am new getting into the ring for competition obedience, but have worked with several dog handlers and trainers the past 25 years, switching around now is ideal for me to get all the ideas. I also have an awesome dog that if I decide to change something, he will go with the flow and hang with me. I already have my basic foundation of my philosophy set, so anything I learn now is just adding to my toolbox, rather than creating a new one.

        I met a woman, Beth Andrews, who has been doing obedience for almost 40 years. She does both Shutzhund and AKC obedience. She has German Shepherds. I really enjoyed her teaching style. She mentioned she is a coach to help me. She's not there to tell me how to do it or give me a recipe. She is very open to work with what I feel comfortable within my personality and beliefs. Now that is the type of mentor I would love to be for others!  She saw that I know how to handle my dog, and noticed that I needed a little instruction of how to understand the ring. Her experience obviously was able to focus right in where I needed help the most because I did feel on many levels I was just winging it. You can crash learn at a trial, but it is nice to get some of the hints and tips from someone to help relieve the ring nerves and stress at a show.

       I haven't taken a competition obedience class for 20 years. A lot of what I was doing was relying on old 20 year memory. Which sometimes can be good, and sometimes, can cause problems. Especially when I went through a traditional choke chain obedience class. That was one of the reasons I quit the idea of ever competing, I just couldn't continue to yank on my dog to get a ribbon or title. I didn't feel it was wroth it to nag or drag my dog down like that.

      I have been to workshops on obedience handling here and there. The rest was me just trying to figure it all out. . Beth was incredibly gracious with her time and advice. She has established the El Cajon Shutzhund Club. She's not a clicker trainer and I didn't see how she works her dogs. I went strictly how she works with me. Because I'm strong and solid enough in how I want to train, I have the strength to use what I want and disregard what I do not want to use. I think this is healthy for both sides and I can tell Beth is very open to this concept. She understands people are different. Just as some other trainers I have worked with, they know I have a certain philosophy, but I'm not going to preach to them. My beliefs are for myself. My proof in how well I do with my dogs is what makes my philosophy shine, not how well I can argue my point. That usually only means you end up preaching to the choir. As my grandmother taught my mother, and as my mother taught me, "Actions speak louder than words."  I'm solid and secure enough to know in how I want to train. If someone shows me something I do not like, I learn, as that might either give me an idea to help someone else, or enable me to brainstorm to figure out a solution that works for me. I don't believe in shutting out a trainer because they do one thing I dislike. That shuts down learning for both sides. This is how secure I am in my own training. As time continues, it will be perfected even more and I will be able to demonstrate it. Training is a journey.

          In my short session with Beth, I told her I do have a hard time keeping a straight line since I'm completely blind in my right eye. When I look down at my dog with my head turned towards him, I have no field of vision to see where I'm walking. My head is turned left, looking at my dog to my left, you use the corner of your right eye to see where you are going. I have nothing there. Beth recommended that I go to a parking lot where they have lines Start walking on the lines to use as a guide to keep me straight. Practice without my dogs. She said continue to do this over and over again until I get muscle memory. She is very big on muscle memory. Ahhh, I hear a little Bob Bailey there, although she has never trained with him, but "Training is a mechanical Skill." Yes, working with your dog, walking with your dog, is a mechanical skill. Get that muscle memory in there by repetition. Repetition is learning as Bob Bailey would say.

          Beth walked me through the exercise, minus the Sit stay and down stay. Some pointers she gave:

-Put toy behind you, just before you go in that ring, pass it onto someone, but let the dog think you still have it.
-Have your dog center between the posts for the figure eight, not you. Stand across from the judge.
-Watch your footing on your about turns. Not too short, not too long. Left foot turn 45 degree angle, pivot 180 degrees, right foot facing forward in the opposite direction you came, left food continues walking.
-Use treats outside the ring just before going in. Keeps dog focused (I found this out at the show as well, when I didn't use any treats before he didn't do as well, when I did use treats, that's when Mickey got his 196 scare and he was more focused on me).

        To have this run through with someone else is good practice for me. I was nervous. I'm still caught up with how I look and how well I can impress. Not only was I learning some ring advice, I was also teaching myself that you are here to learn Christy. The mistakes or not-perfect run is a good thing because I can practice working on the not so perfect run now before I enter Novice A. My nerves were shifting from being nervous to I'm in learning mode. That kind of stress I would rather have, then nervous, "I'm going to freak out" nerves.

        Beth made me feel that she was more assessing me, as a mentor should and her style and laid back attitude enabled me to do a lot of thinking and learning on my own. Which is what a good mentor is all about.
        In my fixing a front blog entry, it was spending that warm Sunday morning with Beth that enabled me to see that the passing me by during a recall problem was different than I thought. What a learning experience. It is humbling and when I'm humble, I learn better, I'm more aware, I have gotten over myself and I see how quickly I am moving forward. What an awesome journey.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Fixing a Front

       I had heard about a run through for the up coming show and took the opportunity. I now have moved up to Novice from Beginner Novice and will need to refine my skills even better. The practice is ON!

      In my second qualifying score, Mickey did an awesome front. One that just makes you cry. Maybe this emotion was too strong? The next day for qualifying score #3, during the recall he ran up, and went right past me. I thought he did this because I stared forward and didn't pay attention to him. But today, when I did the recall, he did it again, ran right past me while I was looking at him! WHAT? Wait a minute? Ok, we have a problem here. I realized that doing obedience is a journey. That you can practice something over and over, have it perfectly great for one show, then have if fall apart the next. What happened? I could spend hours to analyze it, but in the mean time, I need to practice. I did one more recall at this field and he passed me again.

        On the way home Mickey and I stopped by a restaurant and went grocery shopping. I could tell he was tired from the  practice. He was a tired hearing dog.

       When I finally got to my house, I got Mickey out and put him at one end of my yard, and I walked to the other. Yep, t hat's about the right distance. I called him. He went right past me! Whoa! Ok, we got something weird going on here. Again, I could spend all day analyzing this, but I'm going to train right now instead. I set him up, show him his Wubba, and left it right in the front of me, called him and he came straight on, dropped it in his mouth. YES! Ok, we are back on track and this won't be a long fix. I did it again, but I put the Wubba in my back, my hands to the side. I called and he stopped  4 feet from me. Hmmmmm, I thought, this is interesting. I put him back, called him and I had to coax him just a little. Set him up again, called him, perfect, pulled the Wubba from my back and gave it to him to play. Whew YES! Ok we are back on track with training.

        Life isn't over, he responded to a little bit of training and here we go. I found this all amazing since I practice fronts all the time. I do it in the kitchen, do it in practice, it isn't like we only did a handful of recalls. We have done a lot. Did something happen at that show? My emotions? Who knows and I could analyze this over and over, but the truth of the matter is, I have to change the behavior. Got busy with shaping back his correct behavior and we are back in business again.

        For anyone that says obedience competition is easy and they could title their dog, but don't want to show is just a bunch of talk and no action. Obedience is hard work and practice for both dog and human. It does humble you.

        A quote I have liked, "Life is a journey, not a destination" ---Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Our first title

        The night before my second and third showing for my Novice Rally A class and Beginner Novice A class, I was reading a book on "tips" that were sharing about reality. It shared that some of the best dogs and teams mess up. That I might not qualify at these two shows. I was humbled, but also nervous of the unknown. What will happen? But it gave me a sense of it is OK to not qualify. That alone reduced my stress.

         The morning of the show I woke up tired and dragged. I was trying to tell myself I had a show to attend and I better get moving. My body still dragged. I was cursing my fatigue and joint aches because I just couldn't move faster. I ended up leaving an hour later than I originally planned. I had enough time, but I wanted to be there extra early, since that is my nature. The extra early person to make sure everything is in place and ready to go. But with fatigue and health issues, this makes it much harder. I try my best. I left at 8:00AM. It was a Saturday morning. Driving north and through Los Angeles, from San Diego to Ventura was easy sailing.

          The three hour drive to Ventura County Fair Grounds gave me time to think of a lot of different things on my way.  My thoughts covered, what I read the night before on cloths to look respectful to a judge and how will I present myself, etc. I was driving nervously and with slight tension. Oh I know this is bad because any slight tension I have, goes right to Mickey. He's such a sensitive boy, that sometimes he doesn't know what to do. He will check out and go some where else. But in a truck it is hard for him to escape, he needs to stay there.

           As I drove north and passed the Ventura County line, it was overcast and cool. What a sigh of relief! When I arrived, I had 45 minutes before the printed time for my class to start. I looked at the map and started heading out towards where the map showed the obedience rings would be located. It was clear on the other side of the parking lot. As I hurried, I ended up in no man's land, going in circles, going right, going left, looking at the map. DANG! I need to find the rings to check in! Time is ticking away. It is now 30 minutes until my class starts. CRUD! Where are those rings!! I saw all the conformation rings and the concentration of people and dogs. I then went in buildings which had even more conformation rings. Wait a minute, I KNOW how to read a map! I really do! What is going on here. I ended up asking people. Turns out they had to move the rings to a different location. Ah HA! I knew I had map reading skills! So off I went into the direction the woman pointed. Turns out they were situated to the front by the parking lot!! I checked in about 20 minutes before the time for my class was suppose to start. As I checked in, turns out they were behind and I had some 20 more minutes to get my act together. Now to scout around for a spot to put my things. Another adventure!

       People crammed in tight. As I scanned around, I realized there is no way I am going to be able to set up my canopy. Ok, so I will just bring Mickey's crate. It was a nice overcast beach weather and I can roll down my windows of my truck for Divine. It had a constant sea breeze to keep her cool. I dragged out Mickey's wired crate, grabbed my suitcase on wheels and off Mickey and I went. A nice woman helped carry my crate part of the way, I thanked her several times and thought she was so kind to go out of her way to help me. When I got to the ring area, I couldn't find anywhere to put my crate. I asked one woman who tweaked her nose at me and did not want me to put a crate next to her tent. Not that I like to "run away" but who wants to be around a person like that? I found a palm tree in the back, a breed ring away from the obedience and rally. Well, its a spot! I pulled out my blanket to cover Mickey's crate and put him him. I then got lunch. two little soft tacos for $8.00. Yep, fair food. Always highly expensive. Thought the tacos were just right, light, some vegetables, chicken and a tortilla for sugar energy. Just what I needed. I ate 1 1/2 of them.

         Went back to the Rally ring and discovered that I didn't get to walk the course. The judge was exceptionally kind to allow me to walk it right after Rally Novice B. I walked it two times and out I went, right back to Mickey. I took one more bite of my taco, took some water, put Mickey's special obedience show ring leash and collar on and off we went. Got to the ring and they said you are UP! I'm like REALLY? Three people didn't show so I didn't realize it was my turn THAT SOON. OUCH! I was late! What a painful lesson, won't do that again! Mickey didn't even get to walk around to get use to the area, boom we went right into the ring. Mickey instantly started to sniff the ground. Not because I was all stressed, but this area reeked of urine all around the area. Even I could smell it and it was a strong smell too. Because they moved the rings to a different location, that previous area was a potty area. When you watched many dogs, most of them had this issue with the smelly ground in their own way. Some sniffed, some rolled, some had to leave their handler and check out an area. Dogs will be distracted, but this was more than usual.

           As I walked Mickey through the course, there wasn't a lot of attention. I got nicked for a lot of "tight leash." It is hard when you go one way and your dog goes the other to check out all the variety pee spots. With about 2,500 dogs entered at this show, who knows how many dogs peed in this area before it became a ring area. A good guesstimate would be 1,000!! Could be more. I call this the good distraction show. A good place to learn. For Rally Novice A, getting Mickey's attention is harder. But, we ended up on the first day with a score of 81 and the next day 83. I really wanted to do much better the second day, but the same issue with distractions, bumping into Mickey and his attention else where. But we still qualified. Honestly though, my focus has been on obedience and the scores reflect that. Rally has been just a fun side thing to get Mickey exposure and ring experience for obedience. I think Divine will shine better in Rally than obedience. I will practice a bit more before entering Rally Advance. I most likely will not enter Rally the next show, I want to concentrate on the Novice class. My goal is I really want to get a UD on Mickey. Rally can wait. Mickey is 7 1/2. I saw one age charge for his size of dog to be like 55-56 years old. Honestly, Mickey doesn't act or function this old. He's more like a late 30's or early 40's. I will continue with him, monitor him carefully.

           My obedience experience was a good one. I did some warm up exercises with food and a little play. This was to help Mickey get engaged. My last show I had no treat warm ups. I learned from the first time to best have some kind of warm up to get him to remember we are going to heel here.

          We walked in the ring. His heeling had some issues and we did have some attention issues, but then the last half of the heeling we did much better and he started to get in the game. We then went to the figure 8 beautiful! IT was nice, nice eye contact and nice pivoting. The stand for exam was good, and the sit stay was good. Then, the last exercise. The recall. I set Mickey up, called him to me and I was in shear delight! He did it perfect. What a gorgeous straight front! This is what you want to see in a Utility class!!! I just loved him for this and we ran out of the ring and ran to play with his Kong. He deserved it!

           We were called back in for the awards. Six people were in this class, only two of us went back in for qualifying. I was stunned when the other girl got second place and then when the judge handed me my ribbon and medallion, she said the score was 196. I was utterly shocked and said, NO WAY!!!! and the judge responded YES WAY!! in her dynamic fashion. The judge was Bonnie Lee from Las Vegas, NV. That evening I was just so happy. I just couldn't believe we could get such a score. Will it happen again? We are in beginner novice. Can I do this again in Novice? Open? Utility? To think! But I need to get there and work, work, and work! I don't want this to be a one time excitement, but it gives me hope that if I keep working, it can happen. I also have to be careful with emphasizing "work" as this also needs to be a FUN dance with Mickey and myself. Our love affair when we lock our eyes with each other and gaze like love birds. This magic is what I awlays want to keep. I don't always get it, but boy when I do, scores show it!

           The past week I had worked with Mickey and took him every place I could think of to get him out and exposed. I took him to two new parks. I took him shopping. I knew this would make a difference because before our debut show, I didn't do this. Mickey is no longer my 24/7 service dog. I forget that he's at my house A LOT. I have to really put conscious thought and effort that when I get home from work, I need to take him out and about. This method I think worked.

            Next show day at the Ventura County Fair grounds: the sun was out, but about an hour before my Beginner Novice A obedience class, the wind was really blowing. Score sheets flying every where and blowing all over the ring. Tarps and table covers flapping. Even I started to get cold. But, I thought, we could get a 200 score today. We could. Then I told myself, don't do that to yourself, you might not! Don't get cocky, just blend and work with Mickey. I had to really work on my frame of mind. This is about you and Mickey in your love affair with each other, not stinking POINTS! You go there and you will loose.

            We got in the ring, some goof ups on the heeling, the wind was blowing so hard the signs turned and fortunately I remembered what one sign said. I took two steps past that sign and because I walked the course several times prior, my memory kicked in and said, "YOU MISSED A SIGN!!!" I took another step and my brain remembered, "SLOW!" and I started the slow part of the heeling. Whew, that saved me! The figure 8 had a little bit of issues, and the recall he ran right past me. What happened! MICKEY! Wait, yesterday you did it as well as a Utility Dog and just now, you ran to the fence and sniffed, just like that German Shepherd did earlier in The Novice A class. We got a 188 1/2. Not that bad really. That is a score to be happy with, no it isn't highly competitive, but it is good.

            As I was driving home, I shifted that Mickey screwed up to realizing what "I" did. I turned into the stiff soldier and looked straight forward slightly above normal. What happened is I  didn't connect and look at Mickey. Mickey interpreted this as, "oh, you are not connecting or paying attention to me, I can wonder as pleased."  But what an awesome lesson to learn this early in the game. What an awesome thing I realized it was me, instead of blaming my dog. That was growth. Now I know how to get that gorgeous recall. Remember that Mickey is STILL THERE, this isn't about standing tall to over impress a judge, it is how well Mickey and I connect and work together.

           I have the most awesome dog. He is capable of doing it all,  its up to me how I work in our dance.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Mickey's Nose knows his birch odor

       Last night I had Mickey tested for recognizing Birch odor. The Odor Recognition Test (ORT) is a test to show that my dog understands and can alert to a specific odor for trialing. This will save many people and spots from making the mistake of entering a trial when their dog is not ready. However, just because a dog passes their ORT, doesn't mean they are ready to trial.

       My experience with the ORT was interesting. As I walked into the building, my excitement escalated. I was even surprised I was able to walk forward as I felt like I almost was going to freeze like a deer in front of head lights. Mickey and I went into the room,, made a circle to the right to calm me down, then stood behind the line. I felt like I was there for awhile but it probably was only 8 seconds. My head was getting light. I had previously did the "test" run and Mickey spotted the odor. I'm so glad I did that as that dropped my anxiety down a few notches.

        Mickey kept looking at me while we stood behind the line, I was waiting for him to look forward on his own, but he was intent in waiting for me to tell him to "go find it!" He knew what we were doing, he knew there was birch some where out there, he was just staring at me "come on already will you just tell me to GO!!! I cued him to find it and he probably nose touched about 4 boxes, then tapped his nose on a box that I "almost" was going to say "alert" but he nose touched the box next to it. I had to hold back to see where he was going to indicate. He went to that first one he tapped and indicated strongly that was the box. I said, "ALERT!" they said yes, I rewarded Mickey. I was still in shock that I was like, "did he pass?" I think I asked two or three times as I couldn't believe it. It happened so fast. I didn't even know my time. They probably said it and I didn't hear. I said I have to leave, they gave me my booklet and I couldn't stop staring at it, like Mickey just got a big beautiful ribbon. As I walked out the doors to go back to the parking lot, I sniffled about ready to cry. I just couldn't believe reality happened. I knew he could do it, but reality hit! I went up to Kim and said, "You see that show 'So you Think you can Dance" where they come running out saying they are going to Vegas? I could see her and everyone else's face going "well, did you pass?" I then said, "I'M GOING TO VEGAS!!!!" Then everyone knew that we passed. I almost was going to bust out of the doors waving Mickey's book saying WE ARE GOING TO VEGAS, but I wasn't sure if anyone had seen "So you Think you can Dance" show.

        When I finally got in my truck and going on the road, a pure calmness came over me. With being so stressed in my life of having a lot of trouble of achievements in other areas, passing this ORT was a good thing. A great streak of getting a leg in Beginner Novice, Rally and now passing the ORT. I'm feeling rather accomplished, and now I can really start getting to work on real training and rising above :-) I'm so fortunate to have an incredible dog! He's got the stuff, now it is all on me.

Now we are really going to start!

     Last Sunday I was finally able to debut in obedience. I did Beginner Novice A and Rally Novice A. It was held at Southwest College in Bonita, California (small town near east Chula Vista in San Diego County.) It was a very warm day. I had watched other dogs in the higher classes where their handlers were pleading to their dogs to do certain tasks. The dogs would phase out, and turn their heads away. It was hot. From experience, the more your dog turns from you, the higher your stress level goes. You have eyes watching you and when your dog doesn't perform, you become more stressed and exasperated. The handlers are thinking  "Oh NO! not NOW!" Seasoned competitors have been there many times.

      For Beginner Novice A, I got a score of 187 1/2 out of 200. Not too shabby for the first time out. Mickey certainly could perform better, but he wasn't completely engaged on me. He did his heel fine, but didn't look up at me. Although some will argue why do they have to look up at you? I find that when Mickey looks up at me, he's more engaged, and focuses on my body movements ready to move smoothly with me when I make turns. Dogs read our shoulders well in what we are going to do. Head down and looking forward he will not catch as quick, unless my feet tell him.

      Mickey and I need more practice. Not drilling, practice. He needs to realize that we will be doing these activities in high distraction places. The more I get him out to places, the better he is in focusing. In the past month, I have been taking him out more and I've seen a huge improvement.

       For Rally, my score was 70 out of 100. I just passed. Several times he and I bumped into each other. His focus was less. Was it from high distraction? Too hot? who knows. We need more practice. Not drilling, but practice. More fun games. I will break down the signs and do 5 at a time, then play, 5 at a time then play. We have always done the course in a row. My principles of training are kicking in here of bring down the criteria.

       I am very proud of Mickey's performance, I couldn't be happier. He received a first place ribbon in Beginner Novice A and a white ribbon in Rally. Our next show will be July 7/8 at the Ventura County Fair Grounds.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Almost Show Time!

      The past several months I have been reading "Breath" by Willard Bailey. An older book on competition obedience. It is a story format, not a "How to." It really had helped me get through my 20 year fear of going into the obedience ring. This Sunday I will debut. I'm not anxious at all, I'm looking forward to it with excitement. Mickey and I have had some good practices. I'm reading my regulations and reminding myself that this is my debut, not a performance that people paid to come see you. If I mess up, there are no consequences, just learning. If people laugh at me or think I'm terrible, no worries, just keep practicing as I wrote in a previous blog entry. They don't matter, what matters is Mickey.

      Mickey and I have been bonding more lately. We have been going out more together, even this morning I took him out to Starbucks with me. As usual,he's flirting with people standing in line with me. Ahhh that's my Mickey! It doesn't matter if we are at a park, him being a service dog or what ever, getting him out is crucial at this point. I think the key to his success in the ring.

      Before I go in the ring, I need to do a decompressing time. Let him sniff everything, be a dog, look like he isn't trained, be goofy and the likes. Then, like a play, or a performance and we go into the ring, voila! We are on. He can transform just like that when I work on getting him in the zone. It takes focus on my part. Sometimes when I'm in my class, my energy level is so low I don't work on it, just go through the motions. Our connection is a little less connected. When I feel better and I take conscious effort to connect, Our are locked on to each other like two love birds gazing in each other's eyes. I send off the aura to Mickey of "you are such an awesome dog." I know he feels that peace from me as he stares in my eyes more. Such a love affair. Beginner Novice is a short course. I think this will be a really nice transformation before going into Novice A. Ironically I"m the only one entered in this Beginner Novice A class. Maybe a good thing since this is our first time. I won't have that "competition" tension. Just do your best.

        Later in the day I will have rally. It will be a little more relaxed since I can chatter to my boy love talk. Although in Beginner Novice A, I can touch him between exercises and a gentle stroke on the side of his head he just loves. I think we can succeed in both with the two different kinds of reinforcements I can give in the ring. I don't expect to be perfect on the rally course. But watching a lot of videos of Rally Novice A, I'm not all that worried.

        I tend to be so fixated in being perfect, a long life problem of mine trying to succeed having a disability. That I have always felt pressured to succeed beyond logic to over come my disability. I've programmed myself this way too much and too often. Very few people understand and if they grew up with a disability, trying to fight for everything to be normal, they would understand. But now is the time to focus on Mickey and I as a team. Not think of proving myself. For 25 years I have wanted to prove myself as a dog handler, which has held me back in many ways So fearful to perform in front of people. now that is all going to change. My perspective is different, my fear is nearly gone and I now get it that it is about giving Mickey an awesome bonding experience. He's a working dog and will work as long as I don't stress out. Stress will ruin this opportunity to succeed. This doesn't mean I'm not going to be nervous. I think being nervous is a good thing, stressing out is not.

         More each day I admire Mickey and his capabilities. I"m so blessed with this dog. He impresses people where ever he goes. I have the dog to perform and make me look good, now it is my turn to be right for Mickey so he can perform well. I can't wait for this Sunday.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Rude awaking that moves you forward

I've been involved with training and handling dogs for 25 years. So what gives? Sometimes I feel I should be much better than I am. I know there was a time I was a good handler, doing right by positive reinforcement training. However, in the past four or so years, I have dwindled. I had been fighting fatigue. Gradually and surely, I reverted to old handling habits that were not so great.

When I'm fighting fatigue, it just isn't about tiredness, my brain is half shut down. I have less energy to think, see, hear and function. Its like being a zombie, but trying to do what you need to get through life, waiting for the next day that your energy comes back. You wait for the moment to sleep or just sit or just rest. When I'm in this state, my handling skills really go down. I recently had a horrible discovery, I am heavy handed on the leash again. I knew it was there, but I thought it was a once in a rare time fluke. Then I found out it wasn't. How heavy my heart became. It was like, what happened!!! I thought I kicked that habit and was better with the leash! I realized that I had been fighting fatigue for so long that I just went into automatic mode. I now steer with my leash. No wonder when Mickey comes to the store with me, he's more like a robot than a happy dog. When you are fatigue, you are unaware what is happening around you. This includes what your dog is doing. You jsut think he's quiet.

At a Denise Fenzi seminar a few weeks back, something hit home while she was talking about motivation. Make yourself more interesting. I realized that I make going out in public very boring for Mickey. I never really talk to him. I get into reading labels and shopping dragging him along. Now I see why Mickey would solicit attention from people around me. They were more interesting and Mickey was trying to balance BORING with some affection. He would bat his eyes as people would walk past him and they would think he's so cute. Of course this would just reinforce Mickey's behavior even more with the attention, while me the Zombie was just trying to get a boring errand done. Of course Mickey wanted to be with me, but it wasn't as fun as it use to be in the earlier days. So he's going to solicit from others. This seminar made my light bulb go on. Like DUH! My poor dog. Since then I now make me a little more interesting in the store.

Also at this workshop, I realized I've been very stuck. I think Denise has felt the same as if, what can I do for you? The past few have seem like repeats. Fighting health issues put me in a weird funk and certainly enabled me to move forward. I thought with some practice we would be decent. Not really. I thought our first time with her about a year earlier was better. At that time I was spending more time with Mickey. I realized, I need to come home and get Mickey OUT to parks, store and just getting out. The boy had cabin fever. The ever so often once a month or less Rally class just wasn't going to cut it. So now Mickey's life has more activity. I see our bond coming back.
Four years ago, Mickey was with me 24/7. We had a stronger bond. He use to side step with me so ever nicely. I thought it was a cool thing, but then as my health dwindled and I became more fatigued, I just drag him along. I was so unaware of what was happening.Those past years were just a fog. They were not torture for Mickey, just boring.

But with recent training and the recent workshop, I realized it is time for me to have awareness that I have seriously slipped with my dog handling skills. Yes, even with the occasional dog class. I had slipped. Time to reassess what happened.

As a child, I learned very poor riding habits. I use to be really hard on a horse's mouth. I was heavy handed and learned the push, shove and compulsive way of training. Force training. Of course it was very well justified why we trained or interacted with our horses that way. I didn't know any better, I was just a kid.

I developed serious eye problems and it was best for me to stop being around horses. About 1984 was the last time I have ever ridden a horse, but all those years of yanking on a horse's mouth and developing bad habits have stayed with me years later. My first learning in dog training was leash correction with a choke chain. Snap pop and release. After awhile I realized I didn't like this. This is why I never went into the obedience competition ring. I just couldn't pop a leash that many times to get a dog to heel. Let them walk naturally. That's all I needed from my hearing dog of the time. I then learned clicker training and slowly transformed to a fairly decent handler with no heavy handling. Even though I have recently slipped, I'm no way the heavy handler I was back 20 years ago. When it comes out now, it is considered wrong to the positive reinforcement world, but rather mild compared to what I use to do.

The more I turned Zombie, the worst my handling got. The more I was on autopilot, the worse my handling became. The more fatigue I got, the worst I got in connecting with my dog. Life was a fog of trying to get to the next day.

Focusing on competition obedience, I have been slowly trying to get my skills back. I now can leave frustration behind and work on creating behavior. Frustration only leads to force. I also want to bring joy back in Mickey's travels out in public with me. I am now talking to him, petting him, and saying what a good boy he is instead of just going in motion to do errands at a store. I stop and look at those beautiful soft precious eyes. He really does want to please me with all his heart. He wants connection and craves it. Yes, this is anthropomorphizing, but also my gut feeling.

I'm starting to get back my handling skills again. I try not to be hard on myself, but I do shake my head and wonder. How could someone like me who had dedicated so much time in trying to learn positive reinforcement skills fall? It is rather humiliating since I have put up such a strong stand and support for positive reinforcement training. Newer people see mediocre handling skills. They don't see how I use to handle my dog. They just see my sloppy, nagging handling skills. Fortunately I'm changing and I'm more aware to shape myself away from this. Self awareness is important.

It is easy to get into a cycle of beating myself up. But what a waste of energy. How does that move me forward to better handling? What brings me to better handling is, hug my dog, and we move forward today. The exciting thing is, recently I have surpassed some of my better handling in the past. I'm moving forward. I'm doing better and that is a very peaceful thought.

As I become more comfortable video taping myself, I will be able to look at myself to improve, not look at criticizing myself. will disregard what I don't like, and focus on how to improve. Watch my dog and watch myself in a positive way. As much as it has hurt to see some old habits come back. Thank goodness it isn't as harsh as I use to do and thank goodness I am working to go forward. Thank goodness my management skills of myself is helping my fatigue. I still have the ups and downs, but just a slight burst of energy lasting a few extra days is a gift. I'm fortunate and I'm so grateful that I can actually improve and look forward to doing better.

I look forward to my debut of showing June 17th. I'm getting out there and I'm at the stage in my life that I'm happy about my handling skills again. An uplift, and this uplift will carry into the ring. Mickey and my love affair will be stronger than ever. We have now put it all together, the good parts that I had been writing about, and dropping the bad. We are moving fast forward ahead. I love my boy Mickey.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The sloppy wanna be trainer

I didn't know if I should write this entry in my "Between being deaf-blind" or write my experience here in Dancing with Mickey. I figured because I had Mickey with me at this workshop, it would be more appropriate here. Although it is more about me growing as a trainer and handler.

For twenty-five years I have worked with dogs. Inspiring to be a dog trainer/handler. I wanted to be respected in my niche. My name has gotten around some, but to reach the level of achievement I inspired, just hasn't happened. Maybe I can hope and instead say I haven't reached the level of achievement I inspired yet. For about twenty years I have wanted to get into the obedience ring. I have had to get over many mental blocks and fears that I have developed over the years. Fortunately, I have recently worked through this and I have decided to enter the local show. I will debut this June. I had worked through a lot of stress issues to get to this point. Ok, got one problem out of the way, the next one appeared clear as a blue sky at this workshop today. Was it a slap of reality, a realization or an epiphany?

As I listened to Sarah Mullen today, I realized how sloppy I have gotten as a trainer. I have been to workshops with the best, and for awhile there, my handling skills were not too shabby, but year after year they started to deteriorate. I always thought I just need to practice. But my technique and fine tuning has disappeared from the channels of my synapses in my brain. I couldn't think of the next step and was making sloppy mistakes. I needed a reminder. I needed guidance. The past four years I have had my world change. A stressful job, health issues, fatigue, being overwhelmed with life and trying to keep my head above water kept interfering with my focus to train. I would do a good job of training for a few weeks, then cycle in a slump of fatigue and other things. Time would pass, I would get my spunk again to try again, train for a few weeks, see improvement, then slump again. This cycle has been really heart breaking. I thought try something new like K9 Nose Work, I would do the activities for a little bit, then have a dry spell of no training. I found that using a toy with pairing odor with Mickey was just too much for my aching joints. I switched to food.

Sarah talked about the basic principles of getting attention. She reminded me of the high rate of reinforcements that Bob Bailey taught her. I learned that too. Oh I would watch her. Visualizing how she was doing it. Some dogs need variety, so having a variety of treats for some dogs is a big plus. I realized this while Nan was cutting some dog treats right in front of Mickey, a chunk rolled off the table and Mickey walked forward to try and get some. I was in utter shock! Oh my, my precious service dog was not acting so service dog! Mickey and I have some work to do. He use to be good. Mickey wanted that "other" smelly treat. Ah yes, as Sarah said, variety. Mickey was tired of what I was giving him the past 3 hours, he wanted this new smelling treat. The value of variety for your dog.

Another point that hit home with me is teaching a release. That has been my biggest oops and mistake with Mickey. I would get lost in my thought and Mickey has learned to create his own release. Shoot, I should know better than this, but there is no use in beating myself up, that doesn't help me, what helps is take what Sarah shared today and build a training plan to take care of this issue. This will help focus, this will help from him checking out. Break down all the criterion. Break it all down. The basics that I needed a reminder.

Sarah also touched on stimulus control. When you give a cue, the dog immediately does this cue. She mentioned that once you start using the cue with the behavior, after building the behavior, only reward if you gave the cue. You want to start out with knowing for sure they are going to do the behavior.

As Bob Bailey has always said, "Training is a mechanical skill." This is very true. I have let myself get sloppy, a lot of it unconscious. I have fallen back into bad habits of what I learned so many years ago with leash jerking. It isn't completely back, but a little tug here an there does come out. It is reflex that is way deep inside me and, just like if I haven't trained a muscle or an idea for awhile, it will also become out of shape. My training skills are certainly out of shape. The focus on stimulus control, breaking things down and using a release with help me to get back on that finer training again. This will allow me to succeed in the ring. I have had this knowledge already, so now to pick myself back up, take this refresher and a few little tidbits and move forward with success.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Ring Nerves

What is it about having such intense ring nerves that I won't even try out a fun match? I attended one, and made the excuse that I was tense and Mickey was checking out by sniffing the ground and not listening to me. I knew if he did that in the ring, I would get more tense, making this not a good experience. So I just walked around the fun match area. Haven't seeked a fun match since.

What is it that we can psyche ourselves up so much that we do not move forward? I won't die in the ring. I'm not going to get physically hurt. What is the fear? Why is judgement such a major factor to us? They claim that the biggest fear in people is being rejected. Is this an inherent trait for survival? If we are not accepted, in times of danger or need, these people watching me at an obedience trial will not be there to help me? I don't really think that me performing bad in the ring is going to be the determining factor in what people do or don't do when you need their help.

What is it that I work myself up to the point I won't do something. I freeze like a deer in headlights. If I fall or do bad, haven't I heard of get up, brush the dust off and try again? Haven't I realized that I can't expect myself to be perfect the first time, second time, maybe even the third time or the several times after that? Each time however, I will get better with practice, exposure and experience.

What makes me think I'm so special that I can't make mistakes? Some of the best handlers out there had a disaster at one time or another in the ring. Like one teacher I had for another subject said, "the reason I can give you all this great advice and information is because I did all these mistakes!" If I don't get 170 or higher is it really the end of the world? Or getting lower than 190 the end of the world? I'm only going in Novice A.

Is it that I'm worried I will have to spend a lot of money just to get the first title of CD, Companion Dog? Is getting a title what this is all about? Does Mickey really care about a ribbon and a score? No, but he does care about how I react and how I feel.

Do I fear that all the people on the side lines are going to say, look at what a horrible handler she is in that ring? Why is she even in dog training or why does she think she can even train a dog? Like who really cares!!! If they really do say that, that means they are your competitor and trying to psyche you out. Don't give them the satisfaction! Does Mickey care about what other people think? No. He only cares how I feel and prefers me to be happy and relaxed. So, looking at everything here, what is more important? It is Mickey, not the people on the side lines watching. If they do snark at me, I just pretend they are snarking because they have something stuck up th eir nose. Just as I train my dog to focus on me, I need to focus on the greatest thing inthe world, those beautiful brown eyes.. He's more important than anything. Then of course I have to focus on the judge to know what I'm doing.

How about looking at the ring as an evaluation? Failing I won't loose my job, I won't loose my house, I won't loose my dog, I will just have an opportunity to learn.  I need to remember to tTake each step and criteria slowly, just like you do in training. I will get there, I will get the CD only if I progress forward. The more I put mental barriers in front of me, the more I am not going to get that CD. Mickey is now 7 years old. If procrastinate even more, he will be too old to show! Then I have accomplished nothing other than training in my living room and never knowing how well I probably could have scored. I also can't keep passing dogs up year after year. I wanted to show Rubi, my Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever. I lost her in June 2008; got her in August 1997. Another great dog passed by. Jewel, my previous Malinois, I lost her in a tragic accident in 2004. I could have gotten a CD on her, but didn't. She had potential. Right now I have the dog with the most potential, Mickey. He's fabulous. He can take it and he can do it. So what am I dawdling about?

I'm reading a book, "Remembering to Breath: Inside Dog Obedience Competition" by Willard Bailey. He talks about his ring nerves and his failures. This is exactly what I need to read. I can't be so egocentric or so narrow minded that I am the only person that has ring nerves. Doesn't everyone? The difference is they are able to move forward and realize what they want in life. Willard Bailey did and wrote a book about it. So am I just really remedial to realize this? Am I still clinging on like a child that doesn't want to go out in the real world? What is my hang up for goodness sake!

Is this why I haven't been training that much either? The more I train, the more I will eventually have to get into that ring? I don't plan training. I actually love to train, but why do I not want to do it? It's kind of like getting into the shower, I hate doing it, but when I'm in the shower, I LOVE the warm water and I feel so good afterwards. Go figure! But as a side note, my training frequency has gone up. Good girl Christy, keep it coming!

To get anywhere in life, we need to get out there and get out of our comfort zone. I can criticize others for not getting out of their comfort zone, and here I am a hypocrite! For 20 years I've put barriers in front of me to get into that ring, but have dreamed about it for a very long time. Mickey should have already had his CD and CDX by now! But nope, I put barriers. I put FEAR in the way......F.E.A.R. as I learned years ago, False Evidence Appearing Real.

I need to put one foot in front of the other, make a plan, spend 2-3 minutes to train to make it short, and move forward. Can I do it, I'm here at my last hope. My last chance. It is time to move forward and get going. I will do it, here I come!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

On the Road Again...

     Yesterday, I attended another Denise Fenzi workshop with Mickey. My ups and downs of health, and trying to keep up with life have been a major factor of me not keeping on track. Of course I'm always highly critical of myself, that if I just would have practice and not use health issues as an excuse, Mickey and I would have been so much further along. Being under the weather shouldn't interfere with my training. If you can sit up, you can train. Denise joked that while I had Vertigo, lie there and train your dog. However, I could barely stand up long enough to feed the dogs, hardly fed myself. Not sure if I could have thought of what to train with my mind set. But, how do I get around this? This is what I have to figure out. Not let the barriers laugh at me and get the best of me, but figure a way out around the situation. That's what life is all about right? No one cares that you have one hurdle to get over, or even 50 more than the average person. They only see your result. That's what really counts. Did you get there? Rewarding for effort just leaves you there, just trying, not succeeding. Chewing myself out for not getting there doesn't help either. However, setting a plan and sticking to it, making a plan what to do if I'm sick, what to do if I'm dizzy, what to do if.....? I can always revert back to Debi Davis' "Training in the Loo" idea. In other words, made good use of my time.

     What right is happening? I am doing some tidbits of training with Mickey, just enough to show everyone there is some improvement in us. Mickey is coming along nicely. He did some of his best heeling I've seen yesterday in this workshop. His eye contact with me held longer, which even overwhelmed me. The length we locked eyes together was a realization this boy really wants to put his heart out for me. I got the dog, now where is my part in the deal? Let's keep our locked eyes love affair going!

     So what other barrier I can whine about? I need to overcome my fear of doing activities or performances in front of people. I realize I'm not the only one who has this as a challenge. I thought being a park ranger, where I am giving presentations to an average of 40 people up to 100+ visitors, would cure me. Nope. Life is managed, not cured. We can psychoanalyze, but in the mean time, I want to get where I'm going. So, focus forward to my goal. It is all about shaping behavior right? Each new environment is like starting all over again. For example, my first try giving a park ranger presentation in class, I was nervous. As I stood frozen as everyone watched me, I had the feeling of a waterfall pouring down my back as I stood frozen. I eventually was shaped, practice and worked doing better presentations to where I was fairly decent. I got over my fear of speaking in public, I certainly learned from that experience, and need to take the steps I took then, and apply it to this setting of performing with my dog. I have to remind myself "GET OVER YOURSELF!!!!" OK? Enough whining? Enough fretting on stuff that just doesn't get you ANYWHERE? OK? Over yourself now? GOOD! Now let's get to work.

     Some subjects covered in the workshop:

     Frozen Deer in Headlights - As I walked around the field in front of Denise, it was obvious I was focusing so hard on what to do, that I was stiff, unnatural and not being able to focus on all aspects of what I was doing. Mickey was doing his best to heel with me. What a good dog and a good sport he is! This is when Denise knew the Metronome needed to be brought out.

      Metronome - I need to keep an even pace. Denise put her metronome at 120 and had me walk around the field. Everyone noticed a big difference in my walking. Prior I was heeling with Mickey and falling all over my feet, wobbling and trying to figure where I was located. With the Metronome, it keeps me focused and moving forward. It is more assertive, shows more assurance and keeps me on pace with my dog. Gives my dog better signals and allows for me to demonstrate better leadership.

        Feet Work - what my feet are doing, also communicates to my dog what we are doing. When making about turns, keep feet together, it helps slow the dog and helps them know what direction then need to turn or keep with your body. Keep that straight line while turning. Keep legs together when making left or right turns. I tended to go wide.

         Drifting out on right turns around figure eight - Turn left when Mickey drifts, this brings him right in. Sometimes throughout the figure eight, do left turns to make this interesting so it doesn't become to automatic. They will pay more attention to you this way.

         When Judge asks "Ready?" - This is not a statement, but a question. They really are asking if you are ready to start the exercise. Most important, make sure your dog's attention is on you before you say "yes" to the judge. If not, say not yet or wait a minute, get your dog set up and say, OK, I'm ready. Don't wait for the judge to ask again. Be respectful of everyone's time, get your dog focus immediately.

          As I was going through my run with Mickey and listening to Denise instructing others, I reflected on Bob Bailey's "Think, Plan, Do!" That one of my major problems is putting a training program together. Think about what I am doing, plan what I am going to do, and do it. I have the tools to succeed and have the knowledge to succeed, I need to organize myself in putting it all together and putting it into action. Organizing my time, spend less time on the computer or goofing off. I joke that I need to buy myself a computer tablet to keep me on track to tell me what to do.Hey, and I can even put a metronome on a tablet computer too. Since I goof off on a computer too much, maybe if I used a computer to keep me on track with training.

          In college I use to print out my plan charts with carefully blocked off times in what I should do. Since I have gotten away from that schedule, I have drifted off into a free spirit of going with the wind. What ever happens, happens. How can I get anything done with that type of approach to succeeding with training two dogs in precision obedience? As I always remind myself, life is managed, not cured. It is like painting the Golden Gate Bridge, you start at one end, when you finish painting the whole bridge, it is time to start over, maintenance and progression on a project is something always in motion. Regardless of what I use, an old fashion hand written date book or a fancy tablet computer, the bottom line is I need to Think, Plan and Do.