a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Power Paws Camp Day 4 and Event Summary

Monday, April 23, 2007

Power Paws Camp Day 4 and Event Summary

SUMMARY: Day 4 photos and a comparison of prior (big) camps to this year's camp.

Sunday morning started with spatters on the windshield and wet roadways, but the sun working on breaking past a looming cloudbank.
Karen Holik discussing training your weave entries, showing how to place a jump as your training progresses. She recommended Rachel Sanders' article for Clean Run for specific advice.
Kathy Leggett's session was on walking courses, discussing options, and trying out handling skills.
Me and Boost.
Wendy (also from Boost's Thursday morning class) checking her voicemail and Renegade suggesting that it would be more fun to pay attention to him.
Another take at how stunningly yellow that field is on the way home on a sunny afternoon.

Camp this year is very different from past camps (in the Placerville and Turlock days) in many ways. Some of that is good, some bad, and some just--different. At the big camps, over 200 participants came and at least 30 volunteer workers who got to audit but who also "paid" for their attendance by being available to work before, during, and after each day. This time, there were 72 participants and maybe a dozen workers, if that many. Then, there were 18 instructors from around the country and the world; this time, there were 8, five of whom are local.

Then, there was so much to choose from. If you or your dog were tired, you could go to a lecture or audit a session that you might be more interested in than one of the ones you were assigned to. And instructors might each teach the same topic only 2 or 3 times in the weekend, so over the course of 4 days there were dozens and dozens of topic choices. The up sides to that were that it was kind of exciting to read through the course book and realize how much knowledge was out there and get to choose topics that might be more intellectual or conceptual than simply working your dog--for example, Kathy Keats' lectures on the developing science of timing obstacle and course-sequence performance, or John Rogerson's lectures on dog communication, behavior, and learning modes. The down side was that you couldn't possibly see everything that you wanted to see (well--maybe that was a motivator to keep coming to camp) and you couldn't really pick which working sessions you got to participate in, plus you had to read through the whole lise of sessions and lectures and plan your schedule for the weekend.

This time, there were only 8 rings, and the same instructor taught the same material 8 times, and there were 8 groups. So we all got to rotate through all 8 rings over the course of friday/saturday/sunday (the workshops Thursday were separate). For students, this was good because we got to see everything that camp had to offer. But bad for there being no choices or just sit-down lectures where you could relax and rest a bit. And bad for the instructors because it's got to be tedious, teaching the same 2.5-hour material 8 times in 3 days. (But maybe good because they didn't have to prepare for multiple topics.)

In previous camps, breakfast and lunch were in a communal hall and there was a camp-sponsored barbeque saturday night, so there was a lot of socializing and networking and meeting new people who were friends of friends and touching base with friends on what they'd been up to, what to look for, and what might be worth seeking out. In addition, there was a tricks competition, there was the famed 60-weave-pole timing event, and other activities. This time, no breakfast, no dinners, no communal dining place, no extra activities. You pretty much picked up your box lunch and sat with your session group, or maybe with friends and their session group. The down side was the lack of all the community building and info sharing. The up side for camp is clearly that it didn't take months of planning and tremendous amounts of energy at camp to keep things moving along. And less expensive in terms of facilities, I'm sure.

Then, you might get conflicting information among different instructors in what to do in specific situations. This time, the information was much more consistent. In some ways, this is good, especially for less experienced handlers and dogs. But I kind of liked seeing a variety of strategies and learning that one size doesn't always fit all. I mentioned that to Nancy, and she said firmly that that was a bad thing because what would happen is that everyone would start experimenting with all these different techniques and confused their dogs and it would take months (or longer) to fix everything that then got broken.

There's a lot that seems to have contributed to the declining attendance at camp. First, there used to be only one west coast camp. Then Power Paws started Winter Camp. Now someone else now puts on a camp in Washington. And three years ago Haute Dawgs and TRACS started their combined 4-day trial the weekend before camp, and not that many people can afford to take all that time off in a 2-week period (or at all).

I hope that camp continues to happen, although I just can't afford it every year. There is no doubt that I got a lot of valuable information and practice in my four days and that it will do me good not only with Boost but also (I hope) with Tika in competition. But there's also no doubt that it wasn't as exciting to be there; I didn't feel like everyone who is anyone was there. It was more like a convenient, extended 4-day seminar than like An Event. So it's sad to lose the atmosphere, but--having been somewhat involved in some of the previous camps by putting together their info-packed camp workbook--I can see that it's much easier to host something like this. And it still provides tremendous value.


  1. I still remember how excited I was to attend the first Clean Run Camp in VA. It was like attending a Hollwood premiere. I saw people I'd only read about and here I was brushing elbows with them.
    Even at subsequent camps it was exciting just being at an event like that. Plus I felt like I was getting an opportunity that I couldn't get any other way.
    I'm sure it's true that those camps were responsible for a lot of the confusion I caused my dogs but I lived in an area where there were no "experts" so there was really no other way to get any instruction.
    I miss the big camps, other than going to Nationals, there isn't another experience to compare.

  2. That's it exactly. And I'm a little amazed to keep hearing that USDAA has had trouble finding another venue with the features found in Scottsdale; surely there must be other gigantic athletic-quality fields with tons of parking *somewhere* else in the states (although there's also the issue of weather extremes--). But I sure can't think of anything in California that I've ever seen. And that means that access to Nationals is going to be limited to people who can get to Scottsdale.

    For lots of reasons, I hope that they do find somewhere back eastward. For example--it's expensive to attend the nationals, and I wouldn't mind an excuse not to go. :-)