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!


Patty said...

I am looking forward to your new venture! Especially as i just adopted a young lab and need to start training in flyball again!

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