A bit of a year in review.
In January, I started the blog, deciding I needed somewhere to rant about my (then) 4 month old
bundle of energy puppy. I didn’t anticipate that I’d post so regularly, or actually end up with followers. Hi, all of you. Thanks for sticking around.
Even from March I started talking about playing with Lu. In my mind, I hadn’t played with her enough as a younger dog, but here in March I was saying that she isn’t that into it. Seems like this is an ongoing theme, but I feel like we’ve made great progress. Really great. At home, she is a play FIEND. She plays with me at every chance she gets. She’s learning to do personal play with a toy in her mouth so I don’t get bitten as much, and we’re working on just enjoying playing together at the field. This requires more attention and focus from me, too, as even I get distracted and too ‘thinky’ a lot of the time. But she’s tugging now, she’s bringing balls back instead of chasing rabbits or horses. We’ve had a lot of progress here, so I’m really pleased.
I’ve been working on her drive and motivation for a long time, and this is another thing that I think has really improved. I see her speed increasing now with jumps and I think having running contacts will help her too, because she won’t be able to do anything but BE FAST – and once she gets fast, I think she’ll see that going fast in the rest of the course is more fun. But she’s cautious- so it will be about building her confidence with jumping (another thing I’m still working on, and in fact, have gone back to working on more) so she CAN go fast. And then the fun will begin.
Lu and I went to heaps of ‘dog things’ to socialise her, and as a result, my prone-to-be-anxious pup loves crowds and crowded situations.
In April I signed up for Silvia’s Foundations Class, and although I think it was a good learning experience for us, it was also, in hindsight, not a great idea. It put a lot of pressure on me, and therefore on Lu, to ‘get it right’, to be fast, and tight and to look like a border collie. I know Silvia is all about play, but that’s not how it worked for us. I became disappointed, disillusioned and desolate about my dog. How would we ever do agility if she didn’t love it, and wouldn’t do it fast? The more down I got, the less she loved it, and that, my friends, is a hard road to come back from. I told myself on the blog to just be ok, to let it go, to just have fun, but my brain doesn’t work like that… and it’s funny, looking back on the videos now- she was fast enough! She was! She was trying hard! She just didn’t feel fast, and she doesn’t run fast and rushed like a BC- she takes long, flat strides, but it didn’t fit the idea of ‘fast enough’ that I had in my head.
In May, we began free-running the dogs, and this was a fairly pivotal moment because it changed how I now view conditioning my dogs, and it lead us to meet Penny. It also opened a whole new world of adventures for us over winter-spring, and has given Lu a kind of muscle tone that Mal never had.
In June, I began training at The Field, which has been so amazing – it’s meant we’ve been able to do sequences, running contacts, weaves – whatever we want, whenever we want, and all throughout winter because of the lights. I’ve been able to hold class there and therefore pay for a nice set of weaves with that money. It’s taught Lu how to ignore distractions (rabbits and horses, and sometimes even people) and has seen us training in a place that she doesn’t consider ‘very exciting’, which means when we do get somewhere exciting, she should get more amped.
In July we really ramped up the free-running thing, with Penny and Kim getting in on the action. Somewhere between June and July Penny must have seen my photos of Tallarook, and she’d made a Facebook group for dog conditioning walks, and they were going to the beach so I asked to come along and now we’re all friends, yay!
It was July that Lu really began to show issues with her jumping and I signed up for Hit the Ground Running (which I haven’t finished but may go back to do the last module still). We also went up to the snow for the first time, opening up a new Free-running area. I also started getting more serious about RC- moving off the carpet and onto our original wooden plank. We went on heaps of adventures- to the beach, to Tallarook… I suspect we were adventuring nearly every weekend over winter, it was amazing. We took the huge pack up to the snow and it was so amazing to see them running around in it. Lu also went in her first dog show, and we decided that one was probably enough- it’s not for us, and anyway, she doesn’t look like a normal Aussie, she’s too athletic. 😉 We also took her herding for the first time since she was a young pup, and she really enjoyed it. Having done it again a month ago (and I did with her instead of Nic)- I quite enjoyed it too. It’s not going to be my first love, but certainly something else I can spend money on!
In September/October, Nic and I went away for a month and I met Silvia Trkman and went hiking in Slovenia and came back with a renewed sense of hope and vigour and excitement. I think this has helped us so much, just to reconnect and find the fun a bit more. Sometimes it’s easy to forget, but having a full running dogwalk now gives us something really fun and exciting to fall back on, which is good. It was also Lu’s birthday, which we missed cos we were overseas. Just recently, we finally got to full height dogwalk with running contacts, which is an amazing achievement for us and makes me feel like we’ve ‘conquered’ an obstacle- one that I was filled with trepidation for because everyone I spoke to (Penny excluded) said that RC was hard, and I got told at least twice that “Aussies can’t do RC because they have such a long stride”. Well, I can’t wait to start competing to show those people how a super long-strided Aussie adjusts her stride in order to hit the contact.
I feel like this year has taught me so much about training dogs, about myself, and about Lu… It has given me a whole new insight into my obsessive mind which, even though I was competing at a high level with Mal, I never had. I never obsessed about things with Mal the way I do with Lu. So his contacts are crappy? Eh, I’ll half-heartedly train RC and see how it goes. Y’know, there was never the… urgency that I feel with Lu. Maybe because he was so easy, he just got it, and he tried his little heart out, and just loved it. Lu has never seemed like she loves it the way he does, so everything has felt more difficult – I’ve had to work to get her to play, she can’t jump well, she doesn’t go fast through tunnels. Nothing with Lu has been straight forward or easy, nothing. Lucky for her she has a stellar personality and is super adorable, so I still love her to bits, but jeez it’s been hard work.
It’s been a year of amazing adventures and new friends, which I’m so, so grateful for. I find it really difficult to make friends, because people already have friends and they don’t need more, or they’re not into the same things as me, so to have found a couple of new friends is so cool, especially ones who come adventuring with you.
I hope that dog training in 2014 is easier, or less ‘work’, and more sorting out the fun stuff. We should be starting to compete at some point, assuming she can jump and weave eventually, and then we can use challenges from courses to practise. We’re looking forward to winter and hitting up the snowy state-forests that we’ve found, and getting back out into the bush without worrying about the snakes. There’s a possibility that by the end of the year I’ll be looking at breeding Lumen, but we’ll see how that all goes- my concerns being that if her jumping thing is from an eye issue (who knows?) then I don’t want to have to go through it all over again… if it’s structural, well.. same issue. So, we’ll see if I can sort it out, and go from there.
New Year’s Eve should see us on our favourite dog beach with friends, food and a fire, watching fireworks on the island across the bay. Weather permitting!
Hope you all had a fantastic 2013, thanks for sticking around. See you in the New Year!