Clean Run - November 2012 - (Page 44)

I’m a former horse person—hunter/ jumper, speci cally —so when one of my agility instructors (also a former hunter/jumper person) said to me, “You no longer have a practice dog,” I knew exactly what she meant. She said this during what I now call “diagnosis hell,” the months during which we were trying to find the cause of my Bernese Mountain Dog’s on-again, off-again pain and jumping issues. But what she said then holds true now and forever: this is no longer a dog that can practice until I get it right. This is a dog with a finite number of jumps left in him, so it’s up to me and my wonderful instructors to manage every one. Practice Dog Anymore crazed owner, the line is a little blurry!) and I documented every move he made. In the end, my obsession led to me finally being able to describe—in really bad stick drawings—exactly what I was seeing. Nuances sometimes so subtle that no one else would have noticed. These stick drawings led to a visit to my vet’s backyard agility jumps then to a specialist, to a MRI machine, and finally to the neurosurgeon. By Julie Bacon, photos by author ditioning. What he can do, what needs to get stronger, what will have to be managed. Those words from months earlier flood back often, “He’s not a practice dog.” Nope, but let me toss in another variable for consideration: He’s my first agility dog, meaning I need lots of practice. Our timing on course isn’t where it needs to be. So how do we get back to where we were, and then progress to where we need to be? I knew once Karma came back to work I would have to make the most out of every training session, and I would have to let him tell me what he could and couldn’t do anymore. I also knew I would have to find a new way to prepare him for the ring without doing a bunch of full courses across multiple classes at our training facility. And so, it would all be about the basics, the fundamentals. I admit there were a few things we glossed over as we were learning the ropes, excited to move up to the next class, to start doing “real” courses. All of those foundational elements—one-jump work, end behavior on contacts, grids— would not only be perfect for a dog coming back from injury, but become the basis of our training plan forever more. Not a Diagnosis Hell It really was hell. To put it into a nutshell, one day at a trial in June, Karma went into the Standard ring and came out with 19 MACH points. Forty-five minutes later he walked into the JWW ring and couldn’t take the first jump. This was the pinnacle of the madness that had started four months earlier. I had been seeking a diagnosis from professionals, and I had become obsessed with how my dog moved in every possible way. Seven weeks after that trial the neurosurgeon cleaned up a bulging disc, saving 80% of it, and calling an end to his Lumbosacral disease. Let’s skip the part about the guilt I felt about realizing I was running my dog while he was clearly hurting. In truth, some of the best veterinarians, chiropractors, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and rehabilitation professionals all tilted their heads in confusion at one point or another until the MRI silenced the questions. But in the meantime, I learned one unforgettable lesson: listen to my dog. A simple and obvious concept, perhaps, but when everyone we met had a different educated opinion, it was hard to block it all out and just describe what I saw in my dog. I became Karma’s advocate (or 44 Forming a Training Plan This article is not about the diagnosis, it’s about how I manage the jumps and obstacles Karma still has in him. But all those subtleties I saw during “diagnosis hell” have served me well during his rehab and conditioning. As Karma moves forward and gets ready to go back into the agility ring, it’s those little signs that show up and tell me, “He’s had enough for today,” or “He might be a little sore tomorrow,” and cause me to make adjustments to his plan. Here’s an easy example: curved tunnels. While in “diagnosis hell” I would notice him being a little slow going into and/or coming out of a curved tunnel. Back then I wrote it off to a big boy compressing into a tight space. Wrong. It was a symptom, a sign telling me that tunnels were hard on his back. Fast forward to a seminar in December. During our third run he went into a tunnel fine, but trotted out. We stopped for the day. He was tired and I was asking a lot from his state of condition in that moment. He got his jackpot, I cooled him off, and I audited the rest of the seminar. It’s still an important piece of information; it’s not a symptom now as much as feedback about his state of con- There’s a Grid for That When Karma was cleared to start jumping, one of his rehab professionals cautioned me to just do a single jump or two until he could do more. Flawed thinking, it turns out. What Karma needed was grid work. He could actually jump flat across a jump quite easily—that just required launching himself off his forehand. But doing grids requires him to use his whole body correctly: rock back Clean Run | November 12

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Clean Run - November 2012

Clean Run - November 2012
Editorializing: Sportsmanship Is Not Just About Being Nice
Tip of the Month
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Agility...
Backyard Dogs
The Four Agreements
Power Paws Drills: Working Opposites
Training with the Stars: Jeannette Hutchison
What’s in Your Toolbox?
Being a Good Student, Part 1
Analyze This!
Tips for Weave Pole Entries
Not a Practice Dog Anymore
The 2-Minute Warm-up
The Worrier: Solutions for the Dog That Is Worried or Afraid
What Is a Ketschker Turn?
Agility Mind Gym: Persistence and Determination
Building Blocks: Building a Better Lead-out

Clean Run - November 2012