Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 Year in Review

Wow, 2010 has been nothing like I expected! Still, it’s been a great year, and now that it’s drawing to a close, I want to reflect on the past year.

Let’s start with the obvious, my 2010 goals. I just have to say… I was too ambitious. I set way too many goals, and while I think they were excellent things to work on, it left me scattered. Next year, I’ll have fewer goals.

Anyway, we made decent progress on the Relaxation Protocol, although there’s still plenty of work to be done there. I did a great job of increasing Maisy’s exercise. I think I made some progress on my ring nerves- they aren’t as bad as they used to be, although they still aren’t pretty. I did okay on improving Maisy’s stays, heeling, fronts and jumping skills. I think we probably made the most progress with heeling, but we’ve played around with fronts, too. Her stays and jumping skills are getting better, but still need work.

We failed utterly on completing the ARCH, and on getting one leg towards a CD from any venue. I don’t feel too bad about this, though, because I said at the beginning of the year that it was completely dependent on Maisy.

Trials and Accomplishments
Still, Maisy and I did well at trials before I semi-retired her earlier this summer. She completed her APDT Rally Level 2 title with an Award of Excellence, and picked up two legs towards her URO-1. We also had our fair share of placements, so I can’t complain.

Probably the biggest thing I did for Maisy this year was putting her on medication. I’ve written about this a lot lately, so I won’t belabor the point, but I’m incredibly pleased with this decision. It has made such a huge difference in Maisy’s life- she’s actually sleeping soundly for the first time! She seems so much more comfortable and relaxed, yet it hasn’t changed her personality or drive or enthusiasm for work at all. I just wish we’d done this sooner…

Maisy continues to love to train. As I already said, her heeling has improved a great deal, and she’s finally beginning to drive into about turns and the outside of figure-8s so that she doesn’t lag. Wonderful! We’ve also spent a lot of time working on moving downs (I can now cue a down and keep walking- they’re lovely!) and moving stands (again- I can cue the stand and keep walking). My husband’s jaw dropped when he saw Maisy do a moving stand, followed by a signals exercise, which culminated in a recall.

Maisy continues to grow braver. She is more and more willing to tolerate things moving- like when she learned to jump on the exercise ball this summer! She’s also more confident about pushing objects, and going into tight spaces in order to get her ball. She never used to do that!

My Education and Growth
I continue to learn and grow, too. This year, I went to a number of seminars, including
Suzanne Clothier, Pat Miller, a Control Unleashed seminar, and Ian Dunbar.

I also read a number of dog-books: Conquering Ring Nerves: A Step-by-Step Program for All Dog Sports by Diane Peters Mayer, Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin, For the Love of a Dog by Patricia McConnell, Bones Would Rain from the Sky by Suzanne Clothier, Play with Your Dog by Pat Miller, Just Plain Clicker Sense by M. Shirley Chong, Learning About Dogs: Teaching with Reinforcement by Kay Laurence, Control Unleashed by Leslie McDevitt, Chase! Managing Your Dog’s Predatory Instincts by Clarissa von Reinhardt, The Thinking Dog by Gail Fisher, Stress in Dogs by Martina Scholz and Clarissa von Reinhardt, and Dog University by Viviane Theby.

I think the biggest thing, though, is a profound shift in my relationship with Maisy. When I started this blog, I named it “Reactive Champion” because success in dog sports was important to me. However, over the past year, I have been less willing to jeopardize Maisy’s mental health for a ribbon. I didn’t have to semi-retire her when I did, and I think many people who know her were confused by my decision. Maisy is a great dog, and even when she’s stressed, she continues to work for me, to the point where she can both qualify and place.

I could have kept asking her to do that, but as the year went on, I learned that ribbons and placements and titles are not as important to me as having fun with my dog. And while I do hope to return to trials and fulfill the name of this blog, it’s no longer my first priority. Instead, I simply want to have fun with Maisy and enjoy the time we have together, no matter what we do.

Perhaps the best part of the year, though, has been all the new dog friends I’ve made this year: Elizabeth, Jane, Megan, Robin, and Sara. These are the people who “get it.” They understand why I love trialing, and why I’m willing to give it up. They share many of my philosophies and values regarding dog training, but they’ve become so much more than just dog friends. We’ve become a support system for each other, whether it’s troubles with guys, jobs, or just life in general. I am so grateful for you all.

I’m also thankful for all of my blog friends- there are too many of you to link directly, but your support and kind words have meant so much to me. I’m hoping to get to know some of you better next year, especially those who are local, but even a few of you out-of-towners.

And now… I’m looking forward to 2011!


Megan said...

"When I started this blog, I named it “Reactive Champion” because success in dog sports was important to me. However, over the past year, I have been less willing to jeopardize Maisy’s mental health for a ribbon."
That is precisely why I love you! You're unwilling to compromise your dog's wellbeing for a title.

I've been so impressed with how far Maisy has come, and how dedicated you are to helping her feel safe and secure and happy in her own skin. She is a very, very lucky dog to be living with you. I know we always end up with the dog we deserve, it just takes a while to figure out why we deserved that dog in the first place sometimes.

Happy New Year to you and Maisy (and Brian too).

Kristine said...

It sounds like you have had a great year! If I learn more about my dog and improve our relationship, no matter how many ribbons we win, that is all that matters. You are obviously very dedicated to Maisy and her well-being. It sounds like both of you are very lucky to have each other.

I look forward to reading more in the coming year!

Ninso said...

Congrats on all of your accomplishments this year! I can completely understand your decision to semi retire maisie. Lok participated in one rally trial, earned his RL1, got a first and a second place and the trial completely ruined him for obedience. I've never seen him so stressed or nervous. I spent some time trying to "fix" him, but he's never been the same and I finally stopped doing obedience with him altogether. He hates it and our relationship improved a ton when I learned to accept him for who he was. I may try to get back into it with him in the next couple years, but with no expectations at all, just to have fun doing something together.

Crystal said...

Ninso, I'm hoping that Maisy will be able to trial again, especially since she's done so well on the Paxil, but like you said- no expectations. Just fun. And it has to be fun for both of us.

Laura, Lance, and Vito said...

I think you had a fabulous year! You better start stepping up your game for obedience training though! Even if you don't trial anytime soon, I expect her to be fully ready for utility :)

Crystal said...

Hahaha, I love you Laura!!

andrea said...

oh fingers crossed - I may be able to comment again - finally ;)

Brody and Thea are both in Pat Miller's Play book ;)

What an amazing year you had :) lots of really good choices for you and Maisy ... congrats and keep it up

( I hadn't managed to open your goal post when I posted mine - but I saw the title - I think it's noteworthy that both of us have people goals listed :))
Happy New Years!!

Eliz said...

I think I got a little teary eyed. You know I really admire you. You and Maisy are a beautiful team. Furthermore, you've pushed me to be a better trainer and taught me that even though I can have fun as my ultimate goal, that doesn't mean I shouldn't have other more concrete goals. Its late, I just got back from plane ride, but I just wanted to say your a wonderful person, friend, and dog owner.

Crystal said...

Oh, Elizabeth. You know I love you! I think you're amazing, too. I'm so glad we're friends!

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