Thursday, June 30, 2011

Handler Helper: Rally station practice

The goal of Handler Helpers is to improve my handling skills to take away some of the "variables" (i.e., handler mistakes) that are likely to contribute to a bad performance.

As I mentioned in my post introducing the thought behind Handler Helpers, I hate it when I make a stupid handler error - messing up my dog and/or losing points.  It's bound to happen, but I've tried to find ways to minimize these errors.

In Rally Obedience, this means practicing the signs.

I think one of the toughest things about Rally is the variety of exercises/signs.  In regular classes alone, the sign count is up to 50.  This means that judges have 50 ways to challenge you (aka, make you think or "trick you").

For me, just reading the signs description wasn't enough.  I needed to study and practice.  When I'm in the ring,  I want to see the sign and know what to do without having to think.  This lets me concentrate on my dog's performance.

To do this, I created Rally "flash cards."

  1. I started by printing a color pdf version of the signs and descriptions from the AKC website.  I can't seem to find them anymore on the AKC site, but I did find a site that has printable versions of the signs.  The descriptions can be found on the AKC website, in the rule book.
  2. Next, I cut out the image of each sign, and pasted it on one side of an index card.
  3. On the other side of the card, I wrote out the description.  This took some time, but it allowed me to customize that card if needed (e.g., adding the commands  I use for each exercise).  Writing the descriptions also helped me learn the signs.

Here's what the front & back look like
(note:  this is 2 diff cards - not the same exercise)

I use the cards a few ways.

Without the dog:
  • I read each card a few times, so I understand the "gist" of each exercise.
  • I use them to practice my footwork.  I grab a card, walk like I'm heeling my dog, and then perform each exercise in the deck.  
    • I use the same footwork, verbal commands, and/or hand signals I use in the ring.  
    • Between signs/stations, I take a few steps, walking with the same pace I do in the ring.
    • Most often I do this at the end of a training session, and put my dog in "Stay" while I work on each sign. Multi-tasking!
With the dog:
  • To practice Rally "courses," I mix up the cards, pull out 10-12, grab my dog, and practice those exercises all in a row.  
  • I also use them to identify and practice stuff we need to work on.  Occasionally I run through the whole deck, and pull out the exercises we're struggling with.  I'll set the rest of the deck aside, and work on these exercises during every practice session for a while, until we're performing those exercises better.

For my "with the dog" exercises, I use a bait bag as a card holder.  I got the bag from J&J Dog Supplies. It looks like they've changed the style a bit, but the one they have is only slightly smaller, so it should work.  

All of the cards fit in the bag. 
It has a velcro top to keep them from falling out.

It's got a belt clip on the back, so I have a place to store the cards while I'm training.

I know that all of this practice may seem like overkill, but it really has helped me feel more confident in the Rally ring, have smoother runs, and focus more on my dog.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Handler Helpers

One of the things that drives me crazy as a performance person is handler errors.  To clarify – it drives me crazy when make handler errors.  I feel empathy when others make them.   

In Obedience and Rally, handler errors most often mean points off.  Precious, lovely, points that just go away – never to return. 

If I’m going to lose points in the ring, I want to lose them for things I can’t control in the moment – like a hairball that looks like string cheese rolling in front of my dog just as I've thrown my dumbbell (guess which one Maggie chose to look at?).  

I DON’T want to lose them for things I can control in the ring – like failing to return to my dog properly after a stay, or forgetting what a Rally sign means. 

I’ve made more than a few mistakes in the ring.  In addition to reading the regulations and practicing exercises as if I’m in the ring, I’ve tried to figure out ways to improve my performance.  Probably none of these is a completely original idea, but I thought I’d share a few things that have worked for me.  I’ll post these “Handler Helpers” over the next couple of months.  Stay tuned for:  dumbbell throwing, Rally practice, figure 8’s, footwork, etc.   Hopefully the things I've worked on to correct my handler errors can help others....

I practice these things so I don't feel like this in the ring!
And trust me, this image isn't so far from the truth....

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Skinny, lanky & bald + unmotivated = obedience!

Here's the situation:

Right now Rip is going through a bit of a "phase."
  • He has been getting skinny - this one I can do something about - he's getting more food (which he LOVES)
  • He is looking a bit lanky/leggy
  • He is shedding strangely  - meaning his body hair is "gone" but his voluminous britches and neck fur remain.  Odd.  (puppy shedding?)


Right now I'm feeling a bit "unmotivated" when it comes to competing
  • There's "house stuff" that seems to keep coming up 
  • I've committed myself to exercising more and eating better
  • My international travel schedule for work is ever-changing.  Each international trip requires one, if not two, weekends away from home.  When travel dates keep changing, my ability to enter shows and trials is messed up.


I've been working on stuff I  feel comfortable with and enjoy.  Obedience (mainly).  Since I can't quite bring myself to work on something else "new" (i.e., conformation) - especially when I have a skinny, bald dog - I shifted my focus with Rip back to performance for the time being.

It should come as no surprise that Rip really enjoys obedience.  And the good thing is that obedience work gets Rip out to new places, teaches him focus and attention, and involves learning some self-control.  All things that he needs for conformation, too  :)   

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Happy 12th Birthday, Maggie!

I can't believe that Maggie is 12 years old!!!

I'm thankful that she's still happy, healthy, and part of our pack.

To celebrate, she gets a bull-winky (her favorite treat) this evening.

Below are some pictures to show how Maggie spent her year:

Still one of Maggie's FAVORITE activities.
Unfortunately now a young-in' barks at her when she rolls.

Another of Maggie's great loves.
The Party Police especially likes to bark when the boys wrestle.
Keeps them in line, you know....

Joining in the fun on occasion.
Playing.  And still barking.

Reprimanding Rip.
Sometimes he just needs to know when play should stop.
At least play with Maggie.

Maggie loves to hike. 
Exercise, outdoors, REALLY stinky stuff to roll in...

Hanging out.
And looking sweet.  And somewhat expectant.

Laying on the sofa.
Where every Cardi should be.

Lounging in the yard.

More lounging in the yard.

Lounging in her favorite place in the yard.
Notice the lack of grass - due to all the lounging that happens here.


Monday, June 20, 2011

The Old Lady's Still Got It

Since it's Maggie's "birthday week,"  I'll do another post of my favorite girl.

Even though Maggie rests a lot more than she used to, the girl has still "got it."

Here's photographic proof from this weekend:

Mom threw the toy.
Who will get there first?

That's right - 
experience pays off you little whippersnapper.

But now I have the toy old lady -
I guess "protecting" it is just too much work for you, huh?

Not so fast!
A lady has the right to change her mind.
Learn your place young man!

One more throw.  
See, an old dog can still move when she needs to!

Caught on the fly!

Rip learned his lesson and didn't go after this one.  Instead....

Oh yeah, old lady, I'll tell you what I think of you having the toy!

But I don't hold a grudge.
And I know you'll leave the toy in a minute...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Starbucks Puppuccino

The Husband needed a break this morning, so I volunteered to take The Child to Starbucks with me to get the morning coffee.

As we were preparing to get in the car, The Child exclaimed, "We have to take Maggie with us!  She can have another Puppuccino!"

I eagerly agreed, as Maggie loves to go on outings, and now that she's not competing, she usually stays home while I take the boys somewhere.  And heck, now that Rip is in the house, the old lady earns every treat she can get.

Maggie's spot next to the boy in the back seat.
She's really much happier to ride in car than she looks in this picture.

We discovered the Puppuccino one day when Maggie was on errands with us.  As is her tradition when the car stops for a while, she puts her feet on the console between the two front seats.  The folks in the Starbucks drive-thru saw her and asked if she wanted a treat.  Yes indeed she did.

What self-respecting Cardi wouldn't want one of these?
Yes, a Puppuccino is a very small cup filled with whipped cream.


It does take a little work to get ALL of the cream out.
But Maggie is up to the task.

Needless to say, Maggie enjoyed her Puppuccino.  She then enjoyed licking a dab of whipped cream off of The Child's shorts.  She did such a good job that it looked like The Child had spilled water on his shorts.  Which we all thought was very funny.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Backyard Agility

This weekend we had really nice weather.  Not too hot, not too humid.  Perfect for outdoor activities.  I should have taken the opportunity to do some weeding.  That would have been the “responsible” thing to do.  Instead, The Child and I set up an agility course.

Here's our course for the weekend.  
Lots of work on front crosses.

Using a “Backyard Dog” course from a recent Clean Run magazine, this is the course The Child and I chose.  I would say we both built it, but he lost interest in course building about halfway through.

I love that the open space in my back yard is big enough to accommodate the “Backyard Dog” courses.  These courses are perfect for at-home practice, as they require 40’x50’ worth of open space , and weaves, jumps & tunnels are the only obstacles required.  They can also be run multiple different ways, so one course can stay up for days!

Maggie studies the course.
She seems to be eyeing up the tunnel.

 Each of the dogs got to run the course. 

Ziggy got to run the whole course.  I was impressed that he still remembers how to weave (albeit slowly), and his weave entrances were very good.  He even did a bit of cantering between obstacles.  Unfortunately he decided that a couple of runs were enough.  At that point, he merrily trotted away back to the house – tail up and wagging.  I did bring him back to the course and had him do a short sequence (with lots of praise at the end) before “officially” releasing him.  I don’t want the boy to get the idea that he can dictate the terms of work.

Meanwhile, I had to stash Maggie and Rip in the house.  I tried using an expen as a gate to keep them on the deck.  The two of them were having none of that, and knocked it down straight away to get to the fun…

After Ziggy was done I let Rip out.  Since Rip just turned 1 year old, he’s not doing agility “for real.”  Instead, he and I worked on sending to the tunnel, some “one jump” exercises with the pole on the ground (mainly sending him to the jump), and some flatwork in the form of circles and front crosses.  Needless to say, Rip LOVES agility.  Action!  Food!  Running!

I couldn’t forget about the Old Lady, Maggie.  I mainly couldn’t forget about her because of her incessant “I want to work” barking.  She and I worked on tunnels and a few jumps with the bar laid on the ground.  Maggie loved it, and I loved working with her.  Working with an enthusiastic, well-trained dog just feels good.

Not to be outdone, The Child ran the agility course without a dog.  He jumped over the jumps, went through the tunnel, and weaved.  I was particularly impressed that he got the right weave entrance every time!  I also chuckled because every time The Child went through the tunnel, Rip would spot him and run full tilt into the tunnel.  This resulted in a squeal from The Child as Rip got in more than a few good licks.

A good way to spend an afternoon.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Rip is on Facebook

Rip mentioned to me that he was tired of sharing the limelight on this blog with boring things like my travel, the other dogs, and worst of all - the cats.

So The Husband created a Facebook profile for him.  Now I help Rip by posting his thoughts on life periodically.

Here's a link to his profile.  He loves friends!

Rip Cannon-Fry

Create Your Badge

And yes, I realize that this is "over the line" behavior on my part ;)

Monday, June 6, 2011

UK Trip 2011 - Around London

On this trip, we made an attempt to do more "touristy" things while in London.  As you know, I went to the Flower Show.  The Husband, The Child, and I also went to the London Eye and went to see The Lion King on stage.

Here are some pictures from our wandering around town

Here's the London Eye.  
It's the most visited tourist attraction in London.
If you're a kid, you want to go in the red car.
Then you ask your parents why you didn't get that one.
Your parents explain the "luck of the draw" and how,
if you inherit their luck, you'll never get it.

Great views of London are what makes the Eye so popular...
A view of the Houses of Parliament  and Westminster Abbey.

We decided to take the bus around London.  Buses are less crowded than the Tube (underground trains).  They're also cheaper, The Child loves sitting up top, and you get to see a lot more of London.  Here's some of what we saw:

Isn't the view from the bus great?
The Child and his stuffed cat love the front of the bus.
Here we're headed towards Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

The River Thames, the Houses of Parliament, and Big Ben

The back of Westminster Abbey

The front of the Abbey

Big Ben!  With the London Eye in the background.

Headed towards Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
Note the road sign...

Now look what it says.
Isn't that polite?  That's so British!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

UK Trip - More Chelsea Flower Show

I've finally been able to download all the UK pictures, so I thought I'd share more from the Flower Show

One of the small gardens.
Doesn't this look like a relaxing place to sit?

Another of the award-winning show gardens.
I love the paths through the plantings.

I love the woodland feel of this garden.
It made me want to take a walk in the woods.

I thought these large rattan planters were fantastic.
This was all on a hard surface.
What a great alternative to terra cotta pots or barrel planters...

Now for some of the more "whimsical" aspects of the show

What is a flower show without somebody dressed up as...
just what is she dressed up as...?
A flower bride?
Fun nonetheless.

How's this for a floral seat cover?

This display was fun.  
All-floral jockey's silks.
Note the horse clearing the hedge in the background.

How's this for a chicken coop?
If you want a happy hen, you'll order one...

I even found a dog in one of the gardens!

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