Posted by: allstaragility | April 25, 2011


It is hard to believe that Solei has been trialing for just over 6 months now!  In some ways, it feels like it was just yesterday we had our first novice run.   In others, I feel like we have been running together for years.  I guess that is just a sign of us “gelling” as a team.  I was just talking with somebody this last week about the process of starting a new dog in competition and how we babysit more and don’t expect too much, too soon.  We help with weave entries, don’t try to ask for too much on lead outs, contacts, etc.   Mistakes happen, we laugh, we learn.

Then, at some point there is this magical line that is crossed; often even without us knowing it.   It is that line that takes us from the grey areas of how I should best handle my dog to the black and white of how to best handle the course; two completely different concepts.  One is to the benefit and continued growth of my dog and our teamwork while the other is all about us taking on the challenge of kicking the course’s ass together!

I feel like Solei and I are at that magical point.  In many aspects, we  are pushing the barriers of that line.  Give me a jumpers or steeplechase course and I am confident that we can take on any challenge.   This course requires a long, lateral lead out in order to get a front cross between 4-5?  No problem!    How about a hard rear cross of the poles?  Check!  Oh, here’s a place needing a tight wrap? Sweet!  Hey, that looks like it could be a tricky line to serp?  Bring it on!  We may not always be 100% in our teamwork yet, but it is so fun to give it all we’ve got.

There is just one thing that still perplexes me and keeps us from crossing over that line into total agility bliss-dom…the darn dogwalk!    Don’t get me wrong, I am so happy with Solei’s dogwalk performances the last few trials.  I am seeing that growth in her confidence that I was told by many would come with time and experience.   This venture has taught me it isn’t all about training the dog.  There is a lot of mental re-training we have to do in gaining confidence in ourselves and our ability to know what we are and are not capable of as handlers.  I remember this feeling with Skye when we first did a running A-frame years ago.  Oh the fretting that was done on making nice approaches and all the handling options I felt limited to in order to ensure his striding was correct!  Now, it is the same thing all over again with Solei’s dogwalk.   It has made me question why I chose to take on this challenge.  It has made me question if I can be where I need to be to handle it.  It has made me doubt my ability as a trainer and competitor to deal with cueing for discriminations, turns, etc.  All these things considering… I still wouldn’t have it any other way!

We are getting there.  Just yesterday, we had a c-shaped tunnel off of the dogwalk with a straight shot to the off-course end.  I stewed over how to handle it for way too long.  Pull or front cross?  Can I get there for the cross?  Will it change her stride if I try to pull too soon, causing her to miss the contact?  All these questions swarming in my mind that would not be there at all if I had a stop at the bottom.  I had decided the cross was not an option and I was going to have to pull.  Low and behold, when we got to that part of our run, my subconscious over-ruled my plan and here came this beautiful front cross into the correct end of the tunnel!  It worked, the run was flaw-less and I think we stepped over that magic line… with at least one foot and paw!

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