Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Last Beginner Agility Class

Today was week 6 of our beginner agility class.  I had felt some pressure that this was the make-or-break test night since it determined whether or not we'd be able to progress to the Advanced Beginner class, but by the time I got inside I felt much more relaxed.  Today we got to work entirely off leash once we had warmed up, and that is definitely more comfortable for both me and Jonah.

First we 'backchained' a little sequence.  We did a curved tunnel, which he went right in with no problem this week.  Then we did a tire to the tunnel.  The other dogs in the group would jump the tire and then turn to their handlers who would then direct them to the tunnel, but Jonah went straight for the tunnel, which was great.  Then we added the A-frame before the tire and the tunnel.  Jonah was perfect up, down, into position.  I'd treat the target at the bottom of the A-frame and we'd go on to the next two obstacles.  Finally we added a jump with a 90 degree turn to the A-frame to the tire to the tunnel.  Jonah was a total star, enthusiastic and really driving forward.  We even did a front cross at the base of the A-frame before the tire, which went nicely.  My only concern is that, after getting a treat at the bottom of the A-frame, he likes to sniff for more food before he goes on to the next obstacle.  I'm sure we'll address that, though, and he was definitely the best in our group for this sequence.

Next we went to the teeter.  The high end was about 2 feet off the ground.  We walked on it slowly and the teacher assisted it down the first few times, but then we did it totally on our own.  Jonah showed no concern at all, and my biggest challenge was keeping him slow enough that it didn't move too fast and make a big 'bang.'  That said, I had been worried about how he'd do with the teeter after last week's slight nervousness and the fact that they'd said dogs wouldn't pass to Advanced Beginner if they were afraid of the teeter.  Not a problem for us.

Then we did the weave poles, which were still in a channel about a foot wide.  We just had one target at the end.  This was pretty easy for us.  The other dogs were popping out and/or slow, and they needed a second target in the channel.  Not Jonah!

Then we came to a setback:  the dog walk.  Two weeks ago Jonah flew across the dog walk without blinking an eye.  Last week he was a little slower but still didn't seem concerned.  Today he would drive right onto it, but when he was getting up to the flat part it was shaking a little bit and he would jump off.  We had to lure him very slowly across it and he never ran or even walked fully confidently across it.  I'm not sure what was different about it this week.  Our teacher said sometimes dogs get worried on the dog walk when it shakes after they've been on the teeter because they're expecting bigger movement.  I'm not sure what was in Jonah's head tonight, but somehow I'm not too worried.  Hopefully next week he'll be back to normal.  I'm also thinking I might buy some boards, sand, paint and saw horses this weekend and make our own dog walk.  Then we'd have a great contact practice tool as well as getting over the fear of the dog walk.

After the dog walk we went through the chute.  Once we tried it completely closed and he started in but popped back out.  When the teacher would hold the end open even six inches and then drop it on him once he was on his way through, he had no problem.  None of the dogs in the class did it completely closed, so we're right on track with this one.  If it stops raining and dries out I'll get our 'chute' out and practice this week.

Our last task of the night was a line of three jumps to a table.  We set up in front of the first, I led out until I was between the second and third, and called him through.  He was awesome!  Jump-jump-jump, leap onto the table and bang right into a down.  Excellent boy.

To end the class the teacher gave a demonstration with her dog.  He was good, but I think in a few months Jonah will be able to give him a run for his money!  As soon as we master the chute, teeter at speed, get back to normal with the dog walk, and get used to 12 weave poles, and I get more comfortable with my crosses, Jonah will do just what her dog did.  He weaves 6 poles at a rate faster than her dog, so I'm feeling really good.  It was great to get to watch an experienced dog run a course and to see where we're headed.

So...we passed!  Now next week we'll go an hour later and start Advanced Beginner Agility.  We can't wait!  We have things to work on, but I feel good that we're right on track and I'm excited that we'll be doing more off-leash and more sequences in the weeks to come.  What fun!

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