Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Advanced Beginner Class #4

For some reason, only 4 of the 7 dogs in our class came this week.  We still had the two teachers, so it was two dogs in each group, which was fantastic.  Unfortunately, the other dog in our group (our new friend from yesterday!) got scared of one of the other dogs' barking, and so she spent most of the night being very cautious and uninterested in doing agility.  Poor thing.  I was impressed with how both the dog's person and the teachers managed to stay super positive and made small goals that she could accomplish and be praised for. 

As for us, because the other dog in our group was doing her own thing, we got to have our exercises tailored to us, as well.  We did a bunch of sequences and worked on lots of front crosses, rear crosses in the tunnels, and other general body positioning. 

First we did the teeter to a U-shaped tunnel to the channel weave poles to a jump.  The teeter was free-standing but not full height.  The high end was probably about 2 feet off the ground.  Again Jonah was very enthusiastic about getting on the teeter and I worry that he's going to scare himself, but I just let him go and stay a little behind him as he reaches the tipping point.  He never showed any sign of concern.  I'm really proud of him.

Anyway, on one of our sequences, we did the teeter with Jonah on my left and then went straight ahead to the tunnel which curved to the left.  I pointed to the tunnel and stopped, waiting for him to pass me so I could move to the left and pick him up coming out.  He stopped, too.  Oops.  Our teacher was great in explaining what had happened and let us try it again so we could get it right.  When I fixed my handling, he went perfectly.  It's so neat to see how closely he picks up on my body language even when what I'm doing is unintentional.

Next we did a sequence of a jump to the chute to the A-frame to a jump.  Our work with the chute at home paid off, and he didn't hesitate at all this week at class.  On the A-frame, he was doing things correctly but he wasn't really driving up and over, so we played with different ways to get him excited.  In general, I think he gets a lot of his speed off of my running, but on the A-frame I get him on and then run to the end and stop, waiting to treat him for his contact performance.  Here are some of the things we played with to get him moving faster: 
1.  Rope toy.  He loves to tug at home, but in class he's pretty disinterested.  Actually, whenever there's food in the picture he loses interest in playing with toys.
2.  Baiting the target.  This worked pretty well, but in the past when I've baited he has run right off the bottom of the obstacle.  Maybe his contacts have gotten good enough that I don't have to worry about that any more. 
3.  Recall over the A-frame.  Our teacher held him at the base and I went to the end and called him over.  He was a little worried when I gave him to a strange person and then went out of sight, and while he did run a little faster, I think it was more to get away from her than to get to me.  That's something I'd like to work on, since it's definitely nice if I can hand him off to someone else to hold from time to time.
4.  ''Roughing him up.' The most successful thing we did was to push him around a little bit (playfully, of course--I wasn't hurting him) and then sprint off away and get him to chase me.  Of course, in competition I couldn't do that because you can't touch your dog, but it was a good training idea.  I brought a rope toy but he was pretty uninterested in it. 

Next we put the sequences together and did the following:  teeter-tunnel-weaves-jump-jump-A-frame-chute-jump.  It was probably the longest consecutive sequence we've done, but Jonah was awesome.  So cool!

After that we switched to the other teacher and did sequences with jumps, a pause table, a tunnel, the dog walk and the tire.  Jonah didn't have any trouble with any of the obstacles (except for one brain fade when he went under the tire rather than through it), so we really got to work on handling technique.  I practiced getting to the right place for front crosses, making my footwork clean and not running backwards, and walking a sequence and then handling it.  We also worked on jumping on angles and leading out farther and on angles.  It was great to be able to go at our own pace, practice hard things a few times and really get them right, and to have an instructor who is great at explaining what I'm doing (because I often have no idea) and how to improve it.

Overall, I'm thrilled with our teachers and couldn't be happier with Four Paws.  The instructors stay so positive but give feedback to push us to get better.  They answer questions thoroughly and make me feel good about having asked them.  I'm so glad we've found such a great place.

I'm also thrilled with Jonah.  He is just eating up anything we put in front of him.  I'm so proud and I can't wait to keep seeing how to work with him along the way.  Who knows where this agility will take us, but even if he never earns a title I'm loving the process of getting to know how to work with him in a fun, high-paced game.

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