Pawsitive Vybe Disc Dog Camp
At the heart of the 3700 mile drive was disc dog camp with Ron Watson and Apryl Lea in Grand Rapids Michigan. As I mentioned before, I was usually a no to this kind of expedition due to the costs and we were not exactly rolling in it at the time. Thanks to Andrea’s enthusiasm and to the regular and inspiring talks with Ron, I saw that the cost was a small price to pay to pursue what we love. The opportunity to learn from Ron and Apryl and the adventure itself were worth more than whatever the expenditure would be.
It helped that I had been chatting with Ron for weeks about his mission, vision, dreams, philosophy and goals. I found Ron via a google search looking for some disc dog resources. Ron has a growing and interesting online resource, k9athlete.com. He has created a place for dog sports to co mingle. Agility, flyball, obedience, disc , any sport played by dogs is a welcome conversation on k9athlete. Consider that some of the biggest topics are about health, nutrition, and training and you can see how a community online for dog sports could be a valuable resource.
When he isn’t working on his websites Ron is doing dog training lessons and fits in some time to work with his own dogs, some bakers dozen of rescues and dropoffs that might not be welcome in most homes. These intense dogs become excellent disc dogs and often can be re-homed due to the care and expertise of Ron and Apryl. That kind of love and generosity was most evident at the disc dog camp. Outstanding hosts, Ron and Apryl cooked, cleaned, trained and shared from early in the morning till late at night. The camp was much less a course and more like living with the natives. Imagine the difference of learning spanish in class or living with a Spanish family. Our camp friends would agree I am sure that no other program would offer so much.
And while there is only so much you can cover in a few days, I feel like we were stuffed to the brim with lessons and concepts that we may not have have gotten otherwise. It’s almost a challenge to say what I learned because it was more like it became a part of us. We absorbed it more than we learned it, just like Ron planned it. I can tell you some of the highlights for me:
Long distance disc techniques
The Clicker Game
Ron and Apryl have some great drills like the “Look at That” game, as well as their “back up” and ball work. We learned a lot about training, our dogs, ourselves, disc skills, and so much more. And Andrea and I got a lot about how we interact with our dogs. We spoiled them a bit and since camp we get better performance from all our dogs by being less permissive.
Most important I think for me was transitioning into a “routine”. Prior to camp we had a number of skills that we attempted to chain together and it didn’t really work. The subtleties of disc placement, timing, and understanding the dog’s movement and jump skills really shone a spotlight on how much practice we needed to do. Today I can put a few sequences together and feel comfortable working with Lilli to see what works for her and how I can best implement the movement and disc management. I can adjust or adlib if I am jamming or reset if i am working on a specific skill.
My favorite day was going to Rockford, a small tourist town with a nice river and shops, a popular trail with crowds of people everywhere. We also enjoyed meeting Abby Cline, a previous intern and current rockstar in her own right. Her work with the cattledogs was inspiring to us. Apryl was amazing of course. We got to see her training with service dogs, preparing them for people with disabilities. She would train dogs all day, work with us all evening, make dinner, and do shaping with her own dogs. Not once did she not fully answer a question, and she got a lot of them. They didn’t hold anything back and they were nice every minute of every day. Some of you can imagine the patience that takes.
We will be returning to camp next year, and if possible we will go back for a bed and breakfast stay. The positive Vybe is still with us even if Ron and Apryl are 1500 miles away. We hope to see them again soon and enjoy chatting with them online and on www.k9athlete.com
Next post – agility with Susan Garrett