Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting my act together!

It's springtime! For many, that means getting ready for planting flowers and gardens, cleaning up leaves, and digging out the mowers and deck furniture.  For me, that also means it's time to start planning my dogs events for the year!

Due to being the sole owner-operator of Courteous Canine Training, it's not often easy to book out time for dog sports. Often I'm either booked for clients, boarding others' dogs (so cannot leave the province), or simply have trouble actually convincing myself that it's OKAY to actually book a weekend away! Living in PEI, options on-island are limited for dog sports. We're getting better, year by year, but we are still lacking quite a bit compared to other provinces. Therefore some of those weekends need to be booked off-island, which also means worrying about accomodations and the like.

Not only does it mean planning the "what" (the event I want to compete in each month), and the "when" (which weekend is feasible for travel and competing), but also the "how" - getting back into the habit of making a plan for training! 

The winter time is often the time my dogs get a break from training - after trialling season I generally do at least 8 weeks off from any formal training, but that generally turns into 12-16 weeks as I get a bit hibernate-happy myself.  They still do lots of training, generally trick training and shaping for fun games, but my serious "planned" training takes a dip.  I'm not complaining, I think it's healthy for all dogs/handlers to take a break to avoid burnout. But it's come time to start making official plans and begin developing concrete goals that I want to achieve with each dog.

I'll take Kash, as a quick example.  This year I have the following hopes for him: 
- to complete his Rally Advanced title (he got his Novice title and one leg of his Advanced in one weekend last fall), and earn at least one leg in his Excellent title.
- Enter the Obedience ring and earn a leg or two towards his CD title.
- Enter agility when he's of age (September).  I don't care if we get far this year, as that's late in the year, but I do want to get him in at least one trial this year to assess his training level (he will be in that environment several times before he competes, as Shimmer will be competing).
- Possibly attempt his RPT (Retrieval Proficiency Test) for Disc Dog, and maybe, just -maybe-, get him to actually begin catching the discs mid-air (he can catch it from my hand, catch it while it's rolling, and retrieve it after it's landed, but he hasn't succeeded in catching one while it's airborne yet).
- Developing a more concrete fitness plan to ensure that he is getting properly stretched before and after training, and to continue working his different muscle groups to prevent injury. I generally create two "fitness" days per week where we simply do strenghtening exercises.  In the past this is the first area I tend to get slack with, and I need to make sure that it remains an important part of his training.  In a future post I will share what types of things I do (and will start doing) as part of his (and the others') fitness conditioning.

And that is just Kash! Shimmer has an agility season to plan as well, and possibly her final Rally title (we took a break from Rally to do agility, and as it turns out, Shimmer prefers agility to Rally, even though she enjoys both!), if time allows. Gaci will be doing her last season of agility this year before "retiring", but I need to consider her options and where she will fit into the equation.

So, that leaves me with lots to think about:
- If I do one weekend per month for dog sports, how and where am I going to split up my time for each sport and each dog? Can I reasonably get all of that into this year with only one weekend per month devoted to trials? Am I asking too much, especially since I have more than one dog?
- Developing a training plan in order to achieve the goals I have for each dog (I will elaborate in a later post to explain more about training plans and my individual dog's goals).
- Actually carry out that plan amidst teaching classes,  coaching clients, and running the business.

I haven't been one to blog about the training process of my own dogs, but this year I think I'm going to try to make it a (semi?) regular thing, so that others can read and understand just what training for dog sports can be all about (there's a lot of work that goes into what you see!).  If nothing else,  I'm hoping that somehow writing down my thoughts and plans makes me better able to stick to a plan, because now that the world can see it, I have to actually try to live up to it! LOL!

In the coming weeks I will share some of my specific training plans for each dog; what I hope to acheive, what specific behaviours I need to introduce and/or improve, and I'll share examples of what that process will look like for certain behaviours. I'll share what I decide to enter for the year (I think I have it almost finalized!).  I'll also share some of the things that I do with my dogs as part of their fitness building to keep them in shape and to minimize any chances of injury.  And I'll also share what we do in our "downtime" that still contributes to physical, mental, and emotional health - the stuff we do in between classes.  Stay tuned!

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