Friday, May 31, 2013

Evolutions and New Beginnings

About two years ago, I started branching out into other dog sports besides flyball. I had fallen madly in love with Todd Murnan (now my husband), and, like one does when one is madly in love, I agreed to give some of his hobbies a try. Luckily his hobbies included dogs -- disc dog predominantly, plus some dock diving, advanced tricks, and lots of natural conditioning (hiking, etc.). All pretty new stuff to me. Eek.
I also wasn't prepared for the fact that
Todd's cattle dog, Grit, liked to taco the
disc. Try throwing THIS accurately

I came out to San Diego to visit Todd one weekend, and he announced that he had signed me up to play with two of his dogs in a disc dog fun day that Saturday. I got a lesson from Todd in how to throw a frisbee on Friday, then Saturday off we went to the event. It would have been nice to know that the disc dog fun day included about five different games that all revolved around distance and accuracy type stuff. This meant I had to walk out onto the field about 10 times in front of a bunch of people I had just met, with dogs I hardly knew, and attempt to throw the frisbee. All while the announcer was introducing me and my dog to everyone, then counting down how much time I had left and what my score was. Mortifying. (Worse than the time I signed up for the Road Runner Sports VIP club membership and they rang the huge welcome bell and the whole store stopped what they were doing and applauded.)

I have always liked flyball for the team aspect of it, and for the relative anonymity that comes with that. We're all wearing the same shirt, we're all huddled up together back in the runback area, and all eyes are on the beautiful dogs running up and down the lanes, not on us. 

Disc dog is the exact opposite. Brave souls walk out into the center of the field with their dog, strike a pose, wait for their music to start, then put on a two-minute performance in front of a panel of judges, other competitors, and spectators. I haven't reached the point where I can do this (freestyle) yet. I do like Toss & Catch (or Toss & Fetch, or Distance & Accuracy, the name changes based on what organization you're competing in), and I have competed a number of times in that. Walking out onto the field gets a little easier every time. 

Dock diving also requires some time in the spotlight. You have to walk up a flight of stairs without tripping, get your dog to stay on one end of the dock while you walk to the other end, then you throw your dog's toy out into the water in a way that makes your dog jump as far as possible -- all in front of a bunch of other competitors and spectators. 

And that's sort of what this post is about. Getting out there and trying something new, even if you think you look stupid. So what if you look stupid. Our dogs don't worry about looking stupid, they just want to play with us. 

Todd with our border staffy, Glock, when Glock was a puppy (at the Purina Incredible Dog
Challenge in San Diego). As you can see, Todd doesn't worry about looking stupid. :)  His
self-confidence is one of his secret weapons and is one of the things I admire most about him.

There's a lot we can learn from dabbling in other dog sports and talking to competitors outside of flyball. 

For example, a few weeks ago on Facebook, a disc dog competitor asked a few flyball competitors for advice on teaching her dog a better recall, so that she could leverage this in her Distance & Accuracy game. In the disc dog world, flyball dogs are often envied for their fast recalls -- having a dog that runs straight back at you as fast as he can with the disc in his mouth could mean the difference between getting out five throws or six (in a typical toss & fetch timed competition), which could really affect your overall placement. We flyball people do know how to train a great recall. :)

Here's another example. My flyball team is currently working with a dog who clips the jumps/props a lot. We have started some exercises away from flyball where she's being clicked/treated for NOT touching a slat on the ground or a hurdle as she's going over it, but I'm sure there are some agility competitors out there who have dealt with this and have some great ideas for how to work through it. 

We have a lot in common, regardless of sport. We all travel with our dogs, we condition our dogs, we feed our dogs with optimal performance and health in mind; we all take our dogs to the vet and the chiro, we deal with injuries and illnesses. We all communicate with breeders and rescue organizations, we deal with drama and politics. All our dogs need collars and leashes and crates and toys.

In 2010, I started Flyball Prop-a-Ganda. Now it's 2013 and I want to write about more. So I'm starting a new venture called Prick Ear Media ( with my friend and flyball teammate Amy VandenBerg -- it will include a new blog about dog sports (including flyball!) with a corresponding YouTube channel for videos. The blog will cover training (especially for beginners), but also a lot of the other stuff I mentioned above -- conditioning, canine health, traveling with dogs, living with dogs, cool accessories/equipment, etc. Basically the dog sport lifestyle in general. (With that being said, my very next series of posts on Prick Ear Media will be about training a flyball box turn on my borderstaffy, Fringe, which I'm in the process of doing. You'll see what techniques I used, what mistakes I made, etc., including a lot of video.)

This will be one of my last posts on Flyball Prop-a-Ganda. I will continue to maintain the site so that everybody has access to the older posts and comments, but all new content will be over at Prick Ear Media. I hope you'll join me over there!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Flyball, Facebook, and Fitbit

Last weekend I attended my first NAFA tournament as a California resident. Most tourneys that we go to out here are U-FLI -- not because of any political sentiment, but because most NAFA tourneys on the West coast are held outside on grass while the U-FLI tourneys are held under cover on mats. Since we practice on mats and run for time at all tournaments, we prefer to play on mats. 

The Chino tourney site on Sat morning
This particular NAFA tourney, however, was at the Chino CA airport, and we shared the inside of a large hangar with funky little helicopters and planes. Two rings on mats, great tournament site.

Anyway, since I'm a newbie out here, I didn't really know many of the people or teams at this NAFA tournament, and that felt both weird and liberating at the same time. No drama (that I was involved in or even knew about, anyway)! No history! I'm totally anonymous! If I have little pieces of chocolate-covered espresso beans stuck in my teeth (which I was eating by the pound all weekend long), nobody will notice or care, because nobody knows me or wants to talk to me! 

My ignorance was brought painfully in check on Sunday, when one of the judges sauntered over to chat with me during warm-ups. "Were you here yesterday?" he asked. "Ummm...yeah...?" (I'm thinking, he must have me mistaken for somebody else. How does he even know who I am? Nobody knows me here!) He continues on, "I must have missed you! It's good to see you!" ("Oh shit!" I'm thinking, he really has mistaken me for somebody else!) At that point I asked him, awkwardly, "Who do you think I am?" and he looked startled and said, "You're Lisa." This guy, unlike me, was totally on the ball. We had met several years ago at Cynosports, and we were Facebook friends, and he actually knew who I was (I knew who he was, too, obviously --  he was the judge, there was no missing who he was ;)). He recognized me on sight and went out of his way to say hello. God, I hope there weren't any espresso beans in my teeth. 

Suddenly I'm wondering how many other Facebook friends were at the tournament that I didn't acknowledge or recognize. I wondered if they knew who I was, and if I should introduce myself, or attempt to chat with them, or what. Does anybody else deal with this at tournaments??? 

(In my defense, more than half of you have a picture of your dog as your profile photo, so I wouldn't be able to recognize you from that anyway.)

So I just wanted to say, for the record, that if i don't talk to you at a tournament, please don't take it personally! I am just awkward, and used to flying under the radar. I actually loved having somebody proactively come up to me and to say hello, it was awesome. I will try to do much more of that in the future, and hope you all will do the same with me. 

Facebook is a really great way to connect with the flyball community in general. All weekend long I was seeing updates from others in Chino, and for days after the tournament we got photo updates from Caroline Fenton, who took a gazillion pictures there. It all made for a nice post-tournament buzz. 

Not a lot of steps taken during blog writing...
While we're on the subject of social media and chocolate-covered espresso beans, does anybody out there use a Fitbit? (Fitbit is a tiny little gadget that clips to your pants or rides in your pocket and tracks your daily steps, floors climbed, miles walked, calories burned, sleep efficiency, etc.) I LOVE my Fitbit. When I first got it I worried that I would become too obsessive-compulsive about it and that it would make me feel guilty every day, but it has instead become a fun motivator. I like seeing how different types of days stack up against each other. On Saturday at the flyball tournament I walked 12,213 steps (a little over 5 miles) and on Sunday I walked 13,204 steps and climbed 3 floors (the equivalent of "The World's Tallest Corn Stalk," according to Fitbit). For comparison's sake, I walked 12,000 steps at Disneyland, and the most I've ever walked on it is 15,000 steps (on a Saturday that included flyball practice then a two-hour walk). A typical day at work and puttering around the house is about 4,000 steps. 

We were running three teams in Chino (I only had a dog on one of them, and took stats for the other teams), and we were crated indoors, not too far from racing. I bet there are some tournaments where we'd walk twice that much. Is anybody else out there tracking it? Also curious to see how flyball compares with other dog sports. 

Hope you all have a great week. Connect with me via Facebook or Fitbit anytime!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Free Copy of "Beginner's Guide to Flyball" for Tournament Raffles

Fringe would be happy to autograph the book
In my quest to help create/encourage as many flyball addicts in 2013 as possible, I would like to donate a free copy of my book The Beginner's Guide to Flyball to any flyball tournament host in the world who would like to use the book for their raffle.

All you have to do is email me at and include the following:
  • A link to your sanctioned tournament listing (with NAFA, U-FLI, AFA in Australia, BFA in Britain, etc.) or your club's website with the tournament information listed.
  • Your mailing address

I'll drop-ship it directly to you at no charge.  :)

This offer good through the entire calendar year of 2013.

Also: 50% Discount on Bulk Book Purchases 

If you're teaching a class, hosting a seminar or tournament, putting on a flyball demo at an event, etc., and would like to offer copies of The Beginner's Guide to Flyball, I will sell them to you at 50% off the $17.95 list price ($8.98 each) for orders of 10 books or more. It's up to you what you do with them from there -- you can give them away to attendees for free (included in the overall cost of the class/seminar) or you can sell them for any price up to the $17.95 list price and pocket the profits. 

I will ask that you pay the shipping costs for bulk orders, though. I will drop-ship everything through Amazon's print-on-demand company CreateSpace, which has very reasonable (and fast) shipping. 

Email me with any questions about bulk orders:

To everyone who has bought the book so far, thank you so much! I love seeing it get out there in the world. 
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