Friday, November 28, 2014

Miss Nelson is Missing! (and November Resolution Recap)

Barley and I got to agility class on Tuesday to find a substitute teacher in place of our regular trainer.

Our agility trainer (who isn't actually named Miss Nelson) wasn't actually missing--she was visiting her new grandson--and we and our classmates hadn't been naughty or disrespectful and our substitute wasn't as bad as Miss Viola Swamp, but I couldn't help but think of one of my favorite childhood books Miss Nelson is Missing while we did our drills.

What do you mean Ms. Susan won't be in class?
We've had this sub a few times before and she's tough. She's our trainer's trainer, so it was a little like walking into an English class your freshman year of college and being handed a copy of The Canterbury Tales in Middle English--except this time I couldn't just ignore it and hope there wouldn't be too many questions about it on the test. Our turn at the drills was going to come up whether I liked it or not.

It was hard. We were working on counter rotations--which Barley does very well--but it was a difficult exercise for me to keep straight in my mind. There were four jumps and two tunnels set up in a circle, so it started out easy. Jump one jump, go through the tunnel, counter rotation over the second jump and back in the tunnel. Then things got complicated--we came out of the tunnel, did another counter rotation back into the tunnel, then went over the next two jumps before adding in another one. We kept going in one side of the tunnel and then the next adding things on until we did the whole circle. For some people, it might have sounded easy. But I'm the girl who still has to hold up her thumb and pointer finger to make an L to figure out left from right.

Even though it was hard, I love when we get to mix things up a little bit. Each trainer has a different style it keeps us from getting too comfortable (and believe me, comfortable is my favorite thing--I have 3 different live versions of John Mayer's "Comfortable" in my iTunes library). Our regular trainer is wonderful and has a solution to every crazy pants thing Barley does, but it's always nice to get a new perspective and to have someone that pushes us. Our sub had a vague idea of what we've been working on, but it's been several months since she's seen anyone's performance, so she pushes us out of our comfort zones and challenges us and that's good.

Do you mean crazy pants things like dragging you onto a snowy playground for a good romp?

We only had two other classmates this week, so we had plenty of turns to try to get the drills right. Our substitute is also the kind of trainer who shouts commands out as your running the drills to help you out while our usual trainer waits until we've finished our turn and then says, "Let me show you what you were doing; here's how to fix it." So, we had a little extra pressure on each turn--which is also good for pushing us to be better.

The biggest challenge was having someone who doesn't know my Barley girl very well. The last time we had this trainer substitute for us, Barley hadn't started nipping at me yet (but, of course, she had plenty of other issues). We haven't had that problem in the last three weeks and a lot of that is because of our extra practice on the football field, but also because our trainer has given us other tools for squashing that behavior in class. Of course, tonight, Barley was a little high strung because we had a new trainer and she also had her dogs in the training center--and even though they were in a pen, they were still visible and Bar was interested. Since her normal routine was thrown off a bit, Barley was wound up on her first few turns and started nipping. When I started to put her in an immediate down, our sub said, "Oh no. That won't work. Do this," which of course was the opposite of what our regular trainer has been telling us (and the immediate down has been working!). I tried it anyway because the more tools I have for helping Crazy, the better, but it's always a little confusing for me--and I'm sure for Barley--to be told conflicting things, so I've found it's really just trial and error with some of our issues. The new techniques worked and by our third turn Barley was back to normal, but it wasn't as natural for either of us, so we probably won't continue with them.

I did feel like we had a small victory when our sub said, "I've seen you two a few times and every time you've done better than the time before. You did a great job getting her back to you when she just wanted to run." So, it was a really challenging class on a lot of levels, but I'm really proud of us and now I know we're capable of doing some challenging drills (as long as I can remember which direction I'm supposed to go next!). 

Are you sure this isn't the same as the teeter in class?
We didn't have the best week of walking, but it wasn't our worst either at 16.58 miles this week, which puts us at 982.79 miles with a month to go in our goal. We met our new goal of walking every day, whether that was a quick trip to the end of the street or a nice extended neighborhood stroll.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with family, friends, and food!


10 comments:

  1. We like being exposed to the various techniques of different trainers too, AND I know exactly what you mean by getting conflicting instruction. I've learned there are so many different ways to achieve the same thing and it's helpful to have all the tools. THEN, we decide which works best for us (because nobody knows your own dog like you do!). Sounds like you're doing great!! Which I could visualize your drill a little better. I need a map to visualize things! It sounds like a good challenge!
    Diane and Rocco

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    1. I need maps, too! Our first trainer used to give us maps, but our current trainer doesn't. Basically, there was a curved tunnel and at either end there was a jump facing the tunnel. Behind each jump there was another jump but they were perpendicular to the jumps and to a second tunnel, so there was a big circle. We started with the jump on the left side of the tunnel, went through the tunnel, went over the jump on the right side with a counter rotation back into the tunnel, another counter rotation back to the tunnel and then went over the right jump again and did a counter rotation over the perpendicular jump--and just kept going back and forth until we added on all of the elements and did the full circle of 4 jumps and two tunnels at once. It was a lot of turning and made me dizzy! It was a great challenge, though, and really helped us work on making tight turns.

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  2. That's a great amount of miles this year! *wags*

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    1. Thank you! I didn't think we'd actually make it through that many!

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  3. We get used to the same trainer and feel so comfortable but we purposely try to add some variety as everyone brings something new to the table. Our normal trainer is pretty tough and challenging which we prefer. If it is too easy, what is the point. Nice of her to point out that you are improving!

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    1. Our normal trainer is tough, too, but we're used to her version of toughness, so it's doesn't always seem hard. We're also ok with less challenging because we aren't training in agility to compete--we're just doing it to help with Barley's other issues, so it's great to get it right and master the skills, but we also want to keep it fun so that we can work on keeping her happy and calm.

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  4. We've used a couple of different trainers with Jack and Maggie mostly because things don't always work the same with different dogs - especially with such two different personalities. 16 miles is still something to be proud of.

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    1. We've got several different trainers for Barley, too. We have one for her reactivity and noseworks (who is also an agility classmate, so she knows Barley and triggers really well). One for our first level of agility and our current agility trainer. One for our obedience, Canine Good Citizen, and rally classes. It is really helpful to get so many perspectives so that we can learn which methods work best for us.

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  5. Sounds as if you are working very hard and doing well! Agility is too much for my brain. Gah. I tried it and though it was fun, I was usually the one messing things up! LOL

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    1. Oh, agility is too much for my brain, too! I'm the one who has to hold up my hands in an L shape to figure out my left and my right! It's not uncommon for me to turn around and realized I can stop, go over a jump myself, or run into it because I tend to lose track of where I'm actually at on a course. Barley would be much better with a less clumsy mama :)

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