Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween and Goal Check-In

Well, Jonah had plans to dress up as a large fish so that he could be 'Jonah in the whale.'  His parents really let him down on that one, though.  We are currently waiting in the kitchen for any trick-or-treaters who happen to come our way.  We usually get quite a few, but nothing so far tonight.

Since this day marks the end of the month, I figured we should update our goals and think about how to move forward from here.

These were our October goals:
1.  Consistent, fast contacts on the dog walk.  By this I mean not stopping and then repositioning, but running down the ramp immediately into the contact position.
Grade:  A-      I'd say we pretty much achieved this goal.  There's always room for improvement, but he does go directly into his contact position these days.  In general, he's not really driving up, over or down the dog walk, but he's putting all his paws in the right places.  I can't remember the last time he just ran off the end, which is good.  I do still think he could speed up his performance of the whole obstacle and really 'hop' into the contact position better.  Overall, though, he loves the dogwalk (he still will do it on his own without me telling him to), he performs it accurately but he could get faster.

2.  Consistent 9 weave poles without popping out and reasonable speed.
Grade:  A+     This has been a MAJOR success.  Jonah is consistently hopping through 12 straight weave poles.  He rarely pops out and his speed is very good.  I haven't timed him again, but I would not be surprised if he's in the 3 second range now.  In the last few days he's been better about me not needing to 'cheer-lead' him through them, and he's going fast without much from me.  I'm so thrilled he even weaved at class on a different set of poles.  He's above and beyond my expectations for weaves.

3.  Immediate down on the table
Grade:  A-     'Immediate' might be an exaggeration, but I'm pleased with his performance.  Also, I'm a bit at a loss as to how to speed him up.  Getting him excited doesn't seem to make him faster.  I'll have to think about this and ask our teachers.

4.  Figure eight over a jump.
Grade:  A     Yep, success.  He knows exactly what the pattern is and does it speedily and accurately.  Good boy.

Here's a look at our longer-term goals:
1.  Consistent, fast contacts when I can be at a distance, not right at the foot of the dog walk.
     This is definitely something we will keep working on (actually, I have to admit that I haven't really been working on the distance at all, so it's time to start).  Consistency is there, but speed and distance can improve.  I'd like to be able to be 15 feet away by winter.

2.  Performance of the chute, once we get it
     Yes!  Jonah loves his chute at home.  I pulled it out again this weekend and he had a blast  with it.  I'm a little miffed that he ran out at the chutes at class last week while he loves it so much at home, but I'm not going to worry about it.  I'll keep doing the chute at home and give him a big reward when he does the chute at school.

3.  12 weave poles, with no popping out and reasonable speed
     Yes!  Definitely something we will keep practicing, but I am totally thrilled with his performance.  If he went to trial right now, I would be pleased and I'd think he'd be at the faster end of dogs he'd compete against.  I don't know if he'll ever transition to the one-paw-on-each-side technique, but if he's quick and consistent with the two-paw-hop method, I'm totally happy.  I'll keep encouraging him to drive through the poles full speed, but this is the skill I'm most pleased that he's learned.  My big thing now is to balance how often I ask him to weave so he keeps his skill sharp but doesn't get bored.

4.  Basic front and rear crosses.
     Well, basic, yes.  He's definitely better with landing side rear crosses than when I do them before a jump, but generally he's doing well.  I need to learn how to handle the crosses better, which we're starting to get at class.  I just need to be patient when class isn't moving as fast as I'd like.

Where does that lead us?  I'd say Jonah is doing fantastic.  Unfortunately Jonah is rapidly catching up with my limited agility knowledge, and I'm running out of ideas for exercises to set up for him.  I know the handling techniques are a big weakness, but I don't know how to do them correctly, so it's hard to practice.  I feel like a lot of how we'll move forward from here will come from what I can learn at class.  After watching video and reading some rule books, I think he's pretty close to having the skills to compete at the lowest levels.  That said, I don't know anything about how to get into the competing, and I would want the help and blessing of our teachers.  Since he does so much at home that we don't do at class, the teachers don't even know what his skills are.  We have three more weeks in Advanced Beginner class and then we'd move on to intermediate, which says it does novice course work, so maybe that's when we'll start talking about competitions.

Anyway, here are our updated goals for November/the rest of this season:
1.  Faster speed and distance up to 15 feet for dog-walk contacts
2.  Fast down on table
3.  Front and rear crosses
4.  'Passing' the advanced beginner class, having a plan for moving up to intermediate
5.  Attend a trial without competing (we'll see if my schedule at school gives me enough time to get to one).

Wish us luck!

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